Years ago, we thought of the Web as a new medium, not as a new economy. But when you read that by 2014, 53% of total retail sales (online and offline) will be affected by the Web as consumers increasingly use the Internet to research products before purchasing (Forrester, March 2010) you realize the internet has become a new economy.
But there are challenges. Sophistication and searching experience of the internet has allowed consumers to come and go as they please. They visit a website without any commitments or urgency to act. Internet users may visit up to 15 websites before returning to a favorable website hours or even days later. Unlike a visit to a mall that in most cases is accompanied by a need to buy and “a shopping mind set”, searching the internet can happen at any time and requires no effort, no push, no sales force, and no action. With that said, we do see website visitors taking away with them smart headlines, elements of the page, and prices/sales when they are attractive, yet visitors still have no sense of urgency.
Is the Internet turning into the ultimate window shopping experience? In many ways it is. This “websites window shopping” behavior has been evolving over the last five years. Over 50% of the visits on a website occur without anything being read within the first 30 seconds of the visit. Over 50% of visitors visit the home page or landing page and close the website. At most, users read 28% of the words during a visit. The least we can do is to provide key headline and elements to memorize. Website merchants, owners and design companies must rethink their strategies, tactics, and development process. How can we improve though?
We must address very seriously these first 3 to 30 seconds of the visitor’s website visit. Are we providing a pleasure website visit? What will the visitors do? Where will they click? Where would we like them to click? What will trigger the visitors’ clicks? Are we offering a real added value in the eyes of the users? And finally, does the website promote the company objective?
The answers to these questions as a whole are one of our – Top Points of Discussion – (TPD) when we plan for a website design. After the TPD, there must come a “plan B”, which has to do with what happens if our assumptions are incorrect and the visitors act differently. This is also one of the main reasons why we as a company committed to staying on top of websites during the development process and after posting the website.
When we evaluate visitor responses and actions, we find that customer demographics, brand recognition, design, navigation and competitors online are all factors that will determine the length of visits on a website. Naturally, the longer the visit, the stronger the relationship and the more possibilities we have to interact and convert the visitor. This idea is the same as a typical business meeting; the longer we meet the more chances we have to interact and do business.
Shopping carts have a story of their own when it comes to this topic. Mistrust and any tiny discomfort can be a cause to abandon the site. Focus groups showed that visitors are not interested in building a forced relationship with the brand during their time on your shopping cart. Visitors just want shopping carts to be quick and easy. Any unnecessary requirements, such as logins or inputs of additional personal information, may be a good enough reason for one of your visitors to leave the shopping cart and the website.
As mentioned before, many times we find visitors using website tools differently than what was planned by the website design company or the website owner.
A good example is our idea of connecting social media to a shopping cart. For a retail website, we offered the visitor an additional discount if they posted the purchased product to their Facebook page. The transaction was simple and quick, and over 80% of the visitors used it, but we saw that often users would first post the desired product to their Facebook page, ask friends for their opinions, and then come back to the website for a second look. We learned from the users, improved this feature and used the visitor to show the products to his social community. This attracts more visitors and reduced the cost-of-sale tremendously.
Other factors are trust and security. Most website operators focus on trust and security within the shopping cart. Trust and security are essentials that must be built gradually from the first minute within the mind of the user throughout the website visit and reinforced within the shopping cart. Trust in the eyes of the visitor comes from being transparent. Fast loading, website appearance, easy navigation, relevant information, clear headlines, support, online chat, push to call, etc. are all elements that take part in what we describe as the website visit experience, and when they function properly, they plant a sense of trust and security within visitors of our website.
These factors are what your visitors expect from you, and also what you should be looking at when getting your website designed and developed.