Get ready. The following statement might rub you the wrong way. Here it comes…Today, there is very little happening to compel customers to buy a product on a major corporate ecommerce site. One more time… Today, there is very little happening to compel customers to buy a product on a major corporate ecommerce site. Some of you are probably already thinking, “Get real. The major corporate ecommerce sites are making millions. What are you smoking? I’m not reading any further.” Well stick around, because there is something going to be revealed in the paragraphs to come that will have some shock value and a solution. Let’s now get to the point.
Some large ecommerce sites like Staples, Lowes, CDW, and Kohl’s have embraced lean UI front ends so much that the product page now only gives product name, SKU number, product image, and a price. This has been occurring for quite a while. Question: What is compelling the customer to buy with such a stripped down product preview on our ecommerce store front? Is a product image and price enough? If you are selling a commodity like coffee, paper, and tin foil, or items you can find easily somewhere else, then price will surely be a focus. Why spend valuable time providing extra info about the product? This brings us to the point that is being made here. Copyright is often tossed out when you have a product nobody needs an introduction to. Remember the long time marketing saying: Facts only tell, but stories sell. In our quest to perfect the user experience, have we focused too much on making shopping easy? If a customer does not want the product, will it matter how easy our site is to do a transaction? For the customer to buy, they first must want the product. Yet, many large online commerce sites have taken out the story from the product page or preview. If we were shopping for green tea on a major ecommerce site, we could expect to see a product preview in the search results to show four things:
- Product Name
- Item Number
- Product Picture
These are facts about the product. These are usually the only things making the cut because real-estate on the screen comes at a premium. This is especially true in the world of mobile ecommerce where the practice of lean UI design has been the rule of thumb when putting together the mobile store. If we were to click or tap on the green tea product, it would take us to the SKU page. This page would have the same four points of info as mentioned above. However, we would see details about it being caffeinated or decaf, cut of leaf, manufacturer’s name and perhaps the weight of the carton containing the tea bags. There would be info about how many bags come in a carton. So far, these are facts about the product. Next we might even see more product images showing the box label or pictures of the tea bags themselves. Most SKU pages often have a tab called Specifications. Here we would see nutritional information or the type of fiber the bags are made of. Again these are more facts.
Where is the product story?
As of late, the customer might see just one sentence of copyright in the Description section of the SKU page. It might say something like: Get the healthy benefits of antioxidants found in green tea. Beyond this statement, the amount of sales copy could be few and far between. Why? As we pointed out earlier, this commodity type of product can be easily found elsewhere. Many ecommerce managers have come to the opinion that, if you need more info about green tea you can find it elsewhere on sites like Wikipedia or a review site. While this is true, the problem with this thinking is the willingness to give up a customer to another site. If they leave our site, is there a guarantee that they will come back to buy the product? Not likely. Think about this, what did it take to get them to our site in the first place? We might have obtained this online customer from an SEM PPC ad on Google we just paid $5 per click to get. Not to mention all the UI and UX work to drive them to our green tea section. Bottom line: We have invested money to get this customer here. We need to keep them and convert them. Give them what they want, not what you are simply offering.
It has been often said that people come to the Web for only three things: Entertainment, Information, or to Socialize. Before they buy, they need information about the product. We want to convert them into a paying customer. Simply offering facts is not quite as compelling as reading something that draws in somebody’s emotions. This is hard to measure. In this day and age of analytics, SEO, A/B testing, and big data, ecommerce executives want something they can set metrics upon. Simply stirring emotions runs counter to today’s online trends in conversion techniques. If it is not easily quantifiable, then it is sometimes categorized as risky by managers. In this case we are talking about providing a story about the product, re-iterating the brand, or providing copy that can get attention with a call to action. If we provide these elements on the SKU page it gains several things that help our chances to convert.
- Story Telling – Our description section should have great copy that gets attention, shows an advantage, provides proof, gets the reader to grasp the advantage, and finally asks them to buy. If our green tea was grown from the farthest reaches of Earth by the most caring of people, it should be stated. If our green tea leaves are cut in a certain way by hand, that should be stated. If our green tea has the highest amount of minerals and
produces a calming effect, it should be stated. It is more about the story the customer tells themselves. We merely want to give them the ideas to form the story.
- Search Engine Content – The more that is said about the product the more relevant content the search engine will find on our store pages. This is going beyond SEO tags and keywords. It is truly information about a subject (or product in this case) which is what customers need before they buy a product. Content is still king.
- Yes Question Headlines – Instead of having a simple product title on the SKU page or product title found in the search results, preface the product listing with a question. As an example instead of having “Lipton Green Tea” as the product title, make it say, “Looking for great tasting green tea?” This is not only a question, but a question with a “Yes” response attached to it. Sub-consciously it weighs much better than a question with a “No” response.
- Keeping The Customer – The customer only buys two things: Solutions to their problems, and good feelings. Good feelings come from trust and credibility. Sites that are information rich are notoriously high in credibility scores. Think Wiki-like sites and their ability keep people coming back for trustworthy info.
Online ecommerce stores that pride themselves in having easy navigation and smooth checkout often misplace this as the core of conversion. While it does play an important role, one must remember this rule of thumb: If the customer does not want the product, they are not going to buy it no matter how easy it is to buy on a site. While sales copy is not the latest and greatest in ecommerce trends, it should not be discarded. Particularly in this era of information hungry consumer who love a great story about a product. In the end, a customer does not need a product from your site, they have to want it. Give them what they want.