When it comes to your website's landing page, there are two fundamental questions: how do you make it easy on these prospective customers and, more importantly, how do you get them to buy?
“The presentation and technology have matured as has the speed of communication but,” says Stuart Mackintosh, CEO and founder of a software company OpusVL, “the fundamentals of merchants have not really changed.”
Mackintosh has been building ecommerce sites since the 90s and he has seen the back-end elements - the arcane technical stuff that means little to people like you and me - progress significantly. But the customer, he says, still wants the same thing: “To be able to browse, understand what you offer, decide if it is right for them and check out.”
In user experience (UX) design they frequently speak of the ‘user journey’. In a recent blog on BusinessZone, Shaz Memon, the creative director of media agency Digimax, used the term ‘purchase beacon’. Speaking to BusinessZone, Memon explains: “A purchase beacon is something where, if I’m on your site browsing, how fast can I get this product? How quickly can I see on the site where the element is if I want to buy it?”
Purchase beacons range from obvious indicators like price, fast delivery, affordability, or even website security assurances. And importantly, they make it as easy for as many users as possible. For someone who’s ready to buy, a purchase beacon could take them to the checkout. For another user, a purchase beacon like fast delivery or price could drive home the sale.
You want to facilitate a journey that doesn’t have unexpected elements to it.
This point was particularly important for the luxury textile supplier Vision Support Services after they acquired another brand called Hilden. “This meant that we had to go through the process of ensuring all the existing Hilden customers and our new customers were made aware of the overarching Vision name and what we offered,” says Thomas Mulrooney, the SEO executive at Vision.
Vision ploughed a lot of work into making this customer transition seamless and have had some impressive results: website visits have gone up by 150% from January 2016 whilst page views have gone up by 270%. “We’re targeting achieving over £1m turnover from our online shop alone this year,” says Mulrooney.
There are some clear rules of thumb that Vision adheres to. “Your brand story being clearly visible is extremely important. We produced pages that clearly explained our brand values and our extensive history on Vision and its product brands, which also adds a lot of trust value to your site.
“You should also ensure things like delivery and returns, terms and conditions, privacy policies etc. are all present on-site and easy to get to. People want to know they’re buying from a brand they can trust that has a history of delivering a high-quality service.”
On the product level, Mulrooney explains that Vision has focused on making their product descriptions as descriptive as possible. “The images are of high-quality, we also try to show them being used in real world settings, such as a hotel room, and the technical information is in-depth so customers know exactly what they are buying,” he says.
Vision is quite fortunate in that its product is fairly straightforward. But if your product is innovative or has a cool catch, then the narrative becomes more important. The digital florist Bloom & Wild sells flat packed flowers that can be put through a letterbox.
According to Bloom & Wild's UX designer Vicky Fox, explaining this innovative proposition is at the forefront. "We keep it simple with just five words ‘Flower Delivery, Through the Letterbox’," she says. "Then expand further on this as users scroll down the page."
“You want to facilitate a journey that doesn’t have unexpected elements to it,” explains Tom Spooner, head of content and SEO for Digirank, a digital marketing agency. “But there are proactive things you can do, too, like making sure you have clear trust signals on the site. That means the site itself looks trustworthy,” says Spooner.
“That is, not a lot of ads or pop ups, especially above the fold advertising is really bad. Asking for info without a clear reason or justification, that sort of thing.” This trust is a crucial part of driving the user towards the sale. Many ecommerce solutions integrate external trust signals like user reviews and active and clean social media accounts.
Vision, for instance, allows customers to leave reviews on all their products. “Having reviews from people who have already bought and used the product is always a boon to your conversion rate,” says Mulrooney.
Bloom & Wild have gone one step further and integrated reviews from an external source. "We're proud of our customer satisfaction rating and place independent reviews from reviews.co.uk front and centre so that new users can immediately feel comfortable with us," says Fox.
This comes with another consideration, though. While embedding these on-site is a great way to build trust, it should be carefully managed. As Mackintosh points out, it now takes just a few hours for a merchant to become popular or unpopular through the power of social media and review sites.
A live chat option on the website could play a key role here, says Mackintosh. “If you provide a channel for a customer to vent at you, they may choose not to publicly vent,” he says. “Equally, if they have good things to say, you can encourage them to leave a review or a positive social media statement.”
Epilogue: the data issue
Another vital - if somewhat less sexy - issue for your landing page are changing data laws. In May 2018, the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will roll out. Despite the UK leaving the EU, the changes will be still be implemented.
Any information you take in from potential customers - emails, for example - will be subject to new, stricter regulations. “The regulations will enhance consumer protection but place strict rules on anyone who stores or processes personal information,” explains OpusVL’s Mackintosh.
All the information you receive clients will now fall under this stricter data framework. “I think of it as the maturing of the digital marketplace,” says Mackintosh. Check out the EU’s official GDPR resource to get ready.