Converting Visitors to Buyers

» Applying Basic Marketing Techniques to Site Design

When you walk through the local mega-mall, what attracts you to one store over another? Is it strictly your needs at the moment, or is there more to it? Are you more likely to enter a store that’s light, airy and inviting, or one that’s kind of dark with narrow aisles and cluttered shelves? Eye appeal counts and there’s science to back that up.

For decades, marketing specialists have studied the buying habits of people shopping in brick-and-mortar establishments using everything from focus groups to 20- cent-off coupons on Nut Fudgies to see what works — and based on the accumulated data, these sell pros know what works. For example, you know those displays at the end of the supermarket aisles? They’re called end caps and they’re considered prime real estate on the shopping floor. In fact, manufacturers pay stores, or provide other incentives, just to get their ketchup displayed in an end cap the week before the 4rth of July. The store sells more, the manufacturer sells more and you’ve got 12 jars of ketchup in the cupboard. See, it work?

Marketing experts also know that products at eye level sell more than products on the bottom shelves and, again, eye-level shelf space comes at a premium. The next time you’re in the supermarket, notice where the Coke is shelved. It’s at eye level and the Coca-Cola Company knows it and offers stores a better wholesale price to get that shelf space.

Everything from the lighting (soft and natural, even if florescent) to the music playing in the background (tunes that wouldn’t offend my aged grandmother) are all intended to entice you to buy at the supermarket, jewelry store or any place else that takes plastic (or cash, for that matter).

Well, check this out: these same, time tested principles can be applied to e-commerce sites, and when they are, you create an on-line environment that not only delivers the products visitors are looking for, but provides a pleasant experience as well. And, guess what? When that happens, the visitor-to-buyer conversion rate increases — and you start showing more profit in less time. So, what can you do to make your site more tempting, more attractive and more user-friendly?

Let’s start with the basics. Know your buyer. If your target demographic is senior citizens, the dripping red pentangle against a black background is probably not your best choice of color motifs. Perhaps something in the pastel area, soft colors. On the other hand, if you’re targeting the 18 — 35 male buyer, hey, go with the pentangle. It’ll be something most of your expected foot traffic will recognize, and it definitely makes a statement. Colors count. Younger buyers want them bright, day-glo and totally wicked. The over 30 crowd wants something a bit more…mature.

Text should be easily readable by anyone. This involves three considerations: font style, font size and text/background colors. Choose an easy to read font — Arial or Times New Roman fit the bill. Looking for something with a bit more zip, try Verdana. It’s easy on the eyes and readable by people with vision issues.

Consider font size. Banners should be at least 16-point, 20-point if it’ll fit. And, use this as a general rule of thumb — any font size less than 12-point is strictly off limits — except for the fine print, legal, mumbo-jumbo which can be in 6-point to save valuable screen space. Who cares, as long as your site is street legal?

Finally, the combination of font color and background color is critical. Recently, we’ve seen a lot of light greens, pinks and other great colors but placed against a blizzard white background, causing the type to virtually disappear. You kind of have to guess where each link is taking you. Very frustrating.

Keep your home page simple and inviting. A cluttered home page or landing page can quickly lead to sensory overload and send any buyer screaming for the virtual doorway a mouse click away. Use large, well-labeled links buttons for ease of use. That’s what people want — ease of use. Forget your ‘artistic vision’, and forget everything you learned in graphic design for print. Keep it simple, understated, well labeled and well organized and visitors will be more inclined to stick around, browse and, ultimately, buy.

A site map is a useful tool, especially if you’ve got multiple links off the home page, followed by assorted drill-down screens before the user finds the product s/he’s looking for. A site map is easy to build — basically a plot of the site, with direct links to specific features.

A secure checkout is a must, even if you have to go the PayPal route. I-buyers are a savvy bunch so, no encryption, no sale. Your site should make it easy to shop with a checkable shopping cart that can be changed with a click, fast secure checkout, an invoice in the e-mail box (with conformation number, please) and you’re building a base of buyers who will be back because you had the goods and you made it easy, convenient and fun.

Give ‘em something free. Check out sites selling e-books and other niche information. You’ll often find a FREE 10-page report on “EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE BUYING A TURTLE FOR A PET”. Naturally, the teaser provides just enough information to let the buyer know she now needs the $19.95 download on the ABC’s of Turtle Care. This also provides potential buyers with the opportunity to ‘opt-in’. The 10-page teaser requires the buyer to enter an e-mail address, thus opting in for additional e-mail from you in the weeks and months to come. That’s what the auto-responder business is all about — keeping your site’s name before the buyer.

With an opt-in, you can deliver a monthly newsletter, the tip of the week or even the daily horoscope, thus providing useful (or at least entertaining) information to keep your visitors’ awareness of your site high, and their feelings about you good. After all, you’re giving them something for free in the hope that they’ll be back to buy. Good will goes a long way, even in the cold, transistorized world of e-commerce.

Eye-catching, convenient, uncluttered, easy-to navigate, easy-to-read and something for free — it’s like a trip to the old local, corner market where Mr. Mishkin would give you a free Fireball when you came in with your mother.

There aren’t any tricks or secrets to increasing your conversion rate. Ask yourself what you expect from any store you visit. Then, translate your wishes to site features to accommodate even the fussiest buyer. After all, even in cyberspace — the customer is always right.

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