Studies show that an online store with a well-defined path-to-purchase can sell two- to three-times more than a site a with poorly-designed purchase process. However, unlike shoppers at an Ikea store who are led down a predetermined path through the store, online shoppers typically follow a round-about, nonlinear path that, at first, can be hard to predict.
Wouldn't it be nice if you knew something about how they happened to arrive at your site, and what they're looking for? Did they just miraculously land on your shore, or did they intentionally chart their course? Are they looking for a specific product by name, by general search, or were they referred from other site?
You can find the answers to many of these questions by using your web analytic tool of choice, including the top traffic sources and key words people use to find your site. For example, the Traffic Sources section of Google Analytics shows the source of all traffic to your site, including the percentage that originated from Direct Traffic, Referring Sites, and Search Engines. It also includes the keywords people used to arrive at your site. The report reveals how many people are making general category search, as compared to products by name.
Landing Pages and Paths to Purchase
In addition to the Home Page, your site has many other potential points of entry with distinct paths to purchase. You can think of each path as a "funnel" that starts out wide and tightens up as people move closer toward making the purchase. Any page in your site is a potential landing page. Don't overlook any miscellaneous content pages that you may have produced. You can refer to your Site Map for ideas. Here are some for starters:
- Home Page -> Category Page -> Product Page -> Shopping Cart -> Checkout
- Home Page -> Product Page -> Shopping Cart -> Checkout
- Home Page -> Shopping Cart -> Checkout
- Category Page -> Product Page -> Shopping Cart -> Checkout
- Category Page -> Shopping Cart -> Checkout
- Product Page -> Shopping Cart -> Checkout
- Content Page -> Product Page -> Shopping Cart -> Checkout
- Content Page -> Shopping Cart -> Checkout
Use Sign Posts to Direct Traffic
Once people arrive at your site, which paths are they most likely to follow? How can you encourage them to go down a particular path? You can encourage them toward the next logical step in the sales process by leaving sign posts along the way. Think about the kind of information the customer needs, according to wherever they may be in the sales process. They might be on a simple fact finding mission, or are seriously evaluating solutions and close to making a decision. You need to be ready to address them all. Here are a few things you can use as "signposts" to direct traffic:
- Product Images: Always use high-quality photography for your product images, because it is a direct reflection on your business. That doesn't mean you have to pay big bucks – as long as it looks like you did.
- "Owned" Media The term, "owned media" refers to banners, video, and other elements that you place on your site to promote your products.
- User-Generated Content User-generated content includes customer reviews, ratings, and tags. Although some online retailers hesitate to implement consumer reviews, a study by eMarketer shows that a review can be nearly twelve times more trusted than a product description from a manufacturer.
Make Your Call to Action!
Because you don't know where a visitor may be in the sales cycle at any given moment, every landing page should have a "Call To Action." For example, you can place a Buy Now! button directly on the Home page -- or any other landing page, for that matter. If they already know what they're looking for and you've got it, make it easy for them to go for it! Other people will still want to look around for awhile.
Use your web analytic tools to find out which pages are getting the most traffic. You can follow this up with some A/B Testing to determine which "sign posts" are most effective. For example, the Content section of Google Analytics shows which pages are getting the most traffic, and which are used as landing pages -- and equally important, as exit pages. Also included is a navigational summary that shows how visitors found your content and the paths they took to get there. You can use the Content Drill Down feature to learn more about how people are using each part of your site.
Identify the Purchase Triggers
A purchase trigger is something that moves someone to make a purchase. It could be a deliberate "Call to Action," a review, or well-written product description. This is something you can really identify only after the fact by analyzing the actions of visitors to your site and their patterns of conversion.
You can use your web analytics tools to see how the purchase triggers map back to points on each path to purchase. Then, you can determine which elements in your site are most effective for each path.