Sharper search means shoppers are skipping home pages and going directly to product pages. Is your site prepared for the change in traffic flow?
"Checklist for Comprehensive Content," adapted from the "ARS eCommerce/e-taling group Online Content Impact Survey"Text/Image
According to the "ARS eCommerce/e-tailing group Online Content Impact Survey," more than half of consumers spend six or more minutes on an individual product page when deciding whether or not to make an online purchase. During that time, they spend 43 percent of their time reading text (product-specific information), 31 percent of their time looking at images (preferably with alternate and zoom views) and spend 26 percent of their time using on-page tools (such as customer ratings and reviews and comparison guides). So what text, images and tools do consumers consider "very important"? According to the survey, the Top 10 must-haves were:
- a product overview
- a merchant guarantee
- stock status/availability
- a high quality image
- customer service links
- product-specific information
- a long (detailed) description
- a size chart
- a toll-free number
- customer ratings
Another common mistake online merchants make is that they don't include a toll-free number on their product pages, which shoppers like because sometimes they want to talk to a person to find out more about a product. "In terms of other things that go wrong, a lot of times it's too much clutter," said Freedman. "You can't find what you need or the right images to make a decision." Bayshore's Mansueto agreed. Your product pages, he said, shouldn't look like a page from a print brochure or catalog but be geared to an online, interactive audience, with bullet points and short paragraphs and interactive tools. Product pages can also suffer from the opposite problem, not enough information. For example, said Freedman, merchants will often advertise a sale price (versus the regular price of an item), but they don't let shoppers know how much they are saving and shoppers, particularly women, love to know how much of a deal they are getting. Similarly, online merchants often wait until checkout, which is too late, to note special offers (such as free or discount shipping) and cross-selling or up-selling opportunities, which should appear right on product pages. Another problem, which may be harder to address, is speed, or lack thereof. "Speed is king," said Mansueto. "Any time you have to wait for a page to display, it opens you up to lost visitors." Stand and Deliver: Anticipate and Address Visitors' Needs
"Understanding and addressing visitors' needs, so that they can get what they are looking for [quickly], is very important," stated Mansueto, who cited Amazon.com and Dell.com as good examples of e-commerce sites with excellent product pages. (Freedman also is an Amazon fan and likes eBags, Victoria's Secret and Pottery Barn's sites, too.) Your "Web site [needs] to establish an online conversation with the visitor about your products and solutions," explained Mansueto. And the way online merchants can and should do that is by showcasing each product with helpful, search-engine friendly product descriptions, a great picture and ratings and reviews from fellow customers. "Search engines are now defining what the home page of a site is," reiterated Mansueto. "So optimizing product pages for search engines, for the different types of traffic you are trying to attract, is critical." Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a freelance writer who covers issues and technologies that impact small and mid-sized businesses.
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