The following is a guest post by Melissa Tsang from ReferralCandy.
A successful and enjoyable shopping experience doesn’t just come at the point of sale. Shopping strategy can be different for different customers. Some people hunt for bargains or the perfect shoe, others want latest items. Knowing how to engage customers, with all their varied tastes and preferences, is the challenge that all business face.
The longer you can keep your potential customers on your site, the likelier they are to buy.
These graphs and numbers from SumAll illustrate this well.
Customers spend an average of 2.8 minutes on site per visit.
You need them to spend 1.9 minutes on your site to earn a dollar.
The sweet spot is at the range of 3.2 to 7 minutes (customers who stay on site beyond 7 minutes are probably window shopping).
Here are 6 must-haves to help you keep your customers’ attention (and money):
1. Seductive product images
An image can boost the sales of an item by as much as 30%.
Images help customers see your product at work and imagine possibilities with it. Not everyone knows how to pair ham with grilled asparagus, or how to look fashionable in a denim jacket.
In Nasty Gal’s old days on eBay, founder Sophia Amoruso called thumbnails “the smallest real estate on the web” – “A Chanel jacket has a $9.99 opening price. It could sell for just that or for $1,000. You have to prove it is worth more.” And she did, by selling a thrift-store neon sweater for $550.
Now, Nasty Gal is still obsessive about its product images – According to a Forbes interview, when a wrap dress was getting just one sale a week, Amoruso insisted it be put on a popular model. The dress became a top seller at 400 buys a week.
Nasty gals love it. The store enjoys the stickiness of an online fashion magazine –
25% of its 250,000 customers visit the site once a day for at least seven minutes.
The top 10% visit the site more than 100 times a month.
In a focus group, a Nasty Gal confessed that she refreshes the site “every 20 minutes.”
More than 50% of Nasty Gal’s sales come from just 20% of its shoppers.
Further reading: On the exact science of product photography:
ConversionXL’s “How Images Can Boost Your Conversion Rate”
KISSmetrics’ “Principles Of Good Product Photos” (in this piece is also a list of resources on product photography)
2. Compelling brand stories
A brand story can potentially increase product value by over 20X.
Significantobjects.com was a study done to quantify the impact of a story on a brand’s bottom line. Researchers bought thrift store items at $1.25 per piece and composed stories for each of them. The products sold on eBay for a total of $8,000. Check out this monster toy:
Example #1: You could sell beard care products, or you could assemble a Beardsmen’s revolution.
Beardbrand wrote an epic and humorous (if melodramatic) tale about the underserved community of beardsmen. Founder Eric Bandholz starts with how he came out as a beardman, to become an activist of sorts “to unite beardsmen and build a community”.
Beardbrand is not even about beard care products, it’s about a revolution started by a frustrated and dedicated beardsman. Some choice quotes from Bandholz’s story:
“The shaving fad is ending now, and Beardbrand will be leading the charge.”
“We were tired of beards being left to kitschy, cheap products.”
“There is negative terminology used towards beardsmen that still lingers in our culture. For instance, the term “clean-shaven” should be “completely-shaven” or “beardless.”
“We can’t do this alone, and we need you to help us change society. Connect with us by joining the mailing list below, and most importantly – beard on!” (Nice link to their call to action!)
Example #2: Zappos doesn’t sell pizza, but they have a great story of how they delivered it.
Zappos likes to differentiate itself on its service – and it spends a lot of time articulating its dedication to customers: “We just care about whether the rep goes above and beyond for every customer. We don’t have scripts because we trust our employees to use their best judgment when dealing with each and every customer.” (Tony Hsieh, Huffington Post)
But Tony Hsieh also knows how to tell a story that leaves an impression. In a piece for the Huffington Post, he recounts in detail a story of the time a woman, on a dare, drunk-dialled Zappos trying to order pizza late at night. The rep on the line was very helpful, and that caller became a customer for life. Tony Hsieh doesn’t want you to start calling Zappos for pizza, but he does have you interested in a brand that you wouldn’t check out otherwise.
Further reading on brand storytelling:
Jon Thomas’ “The Art and Science of Great Brand Storytelling” (if you’re still trying to unearth your story)
Quicksprout’s very comprehensive guide to brand storytelling
3. Juicy content
Content is absolutely critical for SEO.
Shopify explains why content is king – “Google is getting better over time at focusing and understanding the content of a page. Back a long time ago all you had to do was fill out some meta-tags, fill out your title tag and your site would get ranking. But now Google is very good at evaluation.”
Write content that would inform, excite, and inspire your target customer – not just on your store site, but on your blog as well.
Example #1: Beardbrand documents the “bearded lifestyle”.
I’ve already mentioned Beardbrand, but felt that its zine deserves special attention. Not only does Beardbrand feature Instagram pictures of beardsmen, tagged #beardbrand, it also produces its own zine, titled “Urban Beardsmen”. Beardbrand is literally converting hesitant beardmen to Beard Pride through its irreverent content.
Example #2: HelloFlo talks like the big sister you never had.
You might be more familiar with HelloFlo’s amazing and viral ads (Camp Gyn0 and First Moon Party), but their site and blog also exemplify helpful and well-targeted content. The section “Ask Dr. Flo” brings expert advice to any and all questions about your uterus, from postpartum depression to putting in a tampon. Over at the blog is content like “Ada Lovelace And 14 Other Women Who Changed The Internet” and “Dilbert Pokes Fun At Sexism In Tech“.
HelloFlo know their readers well – not just any women who experience periods, but women who are passionate about self-care and body positivity. And its content reflects the kind of readers it wants to convert.
On the fine details of writing good content:
Copyblogger’s “5 Ways to Write a Damn Good Sentence”
Bonus – Moz’s “Is that Mind-Blowing Title Blowing Your Credibility? You Decide” (because titles matter)
4. Personalized store experiences
Personalized content does 42% better than static content.
According to a 2013 survey by Adobe and Econsultancy, 52% of marketers consider personalized content fundamental to an online strategy (27% disagreed). SalesBenchmarkIndex, a successful customer of Hubspot, wrote about personalization and its effect on SBI’s conversion rates.
Here are a few examples of ecommerce sites delighting customers and helping them find the product they want:
Example #1: Shoedazzle first gives you a style quiz.
That is the first thing you see when you land on Shoedazzle’s site. During the quiz, you pick your favorite shoes/style/outfit out of three options, and that helps Shoedazzle get to know your taste.
After you take the quiz, you’re redirected to the store, where you’ll learn that you have an hour to use your “VIP offer” of a 75% discount and free shipping. You also get to live chat their stylists.
Example #2: Warby Parker’s virtual mirror takes the anxiety out of buying eyewear online.
Since customers would naturally be wary of making a $100 decision before trying it on, Warby Parker’s virtual try on fits its glasses over a picture that you upload. It’s a lot of fun to try out, even if you’re not serious about buying right now. Personally, I could spend hours putting different pairs of glasses on my profile picture.
Hubspot’s “The Marketer’s Ultimate Guide to Using Dynamic, Personalized CTAs” (the screenshots walk you through how to use Hubspot’s tools)
Magento User’s Guide to Personalization (you’ll need to provide your details to download it)
5. Site search (that actually works)
Site search delivers 1.8X more conversions than websites themselves, and 13.8% of the revenue.
In the same study by Econsultancy, 30% of visitors use the search function on an ecommerce site.
Yet most ecommerce sites provide dismal support for site search.
Baymard found that even the top 50 US ecommerce sites aren’t user friendly – 60% don’t support thematic search queries such as “spring jacket” or “office chair”, and 60% don’t support symbols and abbreviations, resulting in users missing out on perfectly relevant products if searching for inch when the site has used” or in.
This means that most search bars aren’t helpful unless you already know what exactly you’re looking for.
Example: ModCloth suggests results as you type – complete with product images.
As I type “Burgandy” (deliberately misspelled), ModCloth displays all the burgundy-colored dresses, so I can see what they’re called and what they look like.
A very helpful search bar – and it helps that ModCloth titles their products for easy search. Dresses that are burgundy colored actually have “burgundy” in their product name, and clothes that are office-appropriate also have “office” in their names. I don’t feel like I have to bounce to Google to help me out.
Find out more about site search:
Baymard’s “The Current State of Ecommerce Search”
Unbxd, who help transform your store’s site search (they will assess your search for free!)
6. Product Recommendation
Conversion rate for recommended products in the shopping cart was 915% higher than the average.
The MyBuys study also found:
474% increase on recommended products displayed on category pages
411% on product pages
307% on order confirmation pages
248% on home pages
192% on search results pages
Remember, product recommendations only help if they’re context-appropriate.
For example – if I’m looking at an acoustic guitar, I’d like to see other acoustic guitars. It’s not helpful to see “other customers who bought this also bought…this guitar case”. The appropriate context for guitar cases is after the acoustic guitar has been added to my cart.
Example #1: ASOS’ “buy the look” takes the hassle out of assembling an outfit.
Aside from Amazon’s “also bought” is the “complete the look” commonly used by fashion ecommerce sites like ASOS.
When you’re viewing a product, ASOS recommends accessories and shoes to complete the look. You can see how all the components of the outfit fit together, and it’s extra easy to purchase the entire look. This drives up ASOS’ sales because it eliminates a lot of guesswork for customers who welcome a little assistance.
On the nuances of product recommendations:
Econsultancy’s “Six different approaches to online product recommendations”
Exact Target’s guide to evaluating product recommendations vendors
Unbxd, whose recommendations are personalized for every visitor on your site (they’ll grade your product recommendations for free!)
Seductive product images that help your customers imagine themselves using their product
Compelling brand stories that your customers will want to be a part of
Juicy content that teaches your customers how to solve their problems
Personalized store experiences that make your customers feel specially attended to
Helpful site search that lets your customers find what they want
Do you use any of these tactics to engage your customers? If not, then what other tactics help you retain customers on your site? Do let me know in the comments below.