Creating Content that Turns Browsers into Buyers

by Michelle Megna

Quality Web shop content is critical to closing sales and covers much more than product descriptions. We provide tips from industry experts on how to employ essential elements at your site.

While the products you sell are clearly the focus of your Web shop, and likely your energy, the content — and how it's displayed and organized — at your site is also a critical component when it comes to closing the deal. Content covers much more than product description copy; it also includes all of your Web page elements, from zoom views to guided navigation. It can be a bit overwhelming when trying to prioritize what to cover. And since shoppers rely on quality information about your merchandise and your business to make buying decisions, it's an area that can't be dismissed.

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To help sort it all out, Lauren Freedman, president of the e-tailing group inc., and Scott Todaro, senior director of product management for Demandware, recently held a Webinar, "Building Content You Can Bank On," outlining strategies for e-tailers who want to create content that translates into conversions. In fact, the price you pay for having mediocre content is significant — 72 percent of shoppers surveyed say they abandon a site for a competitor, despite price if they encounter incomplete product information, said Freedman.

She went on to outline the basics of successful content management, starting with the product page, which now functions the way home pages used to because many shoppers enter a site by landing directly on these due to more sophisticated search. Each product page should incorporate the best in text, imagery, tools and customer service information. Fifty-two percent of shoppers spend six minutes or more on a product page, according to Freedman.

She presented the following stats: "Confirming the need for qualitative text, the most highly ranked is the product overview at 76 percent, merchant's guarantee at 73 percent, stock status at 69 percent and image quality at 67 percent."

Product Page Basics
As an example of a site that has an outstanding product page, Freedman pointed to BareNecessities.com, showing that the company has the following elements in place: a "more views" feature, close-up view, fabric content, matching styles, available colors, other products from the brand and customer service links.

In another instance of successful product page elements, she outlined CircuitCity.com's inclusion of the following all on one page: ratings/reviews, specifications, product description, discussion forum, accessories, warranty information, installation and set up, how to get the product, return policy and special offers.

In regard to images, it is important to show photos of related products. Seventy-two percent of shoppers surveyed by Freedman say that this is "very-to-somewhat" important to their shopping experience.

Creativity in content deployment also persuades shoppers to buy. For instance, Freedman said in addition to reviews and multiple views, a "Why We Love It" description for an item helps the shopper see how a particular items stands out from the rest.

Rich Media and Shopping Info Tools
In terms of so-called rich media, it's no surprise that shoppers demand high-quality images, alternative and zoom views, but what is interesting is that women ranked such tools as more important than did men. Freedman said that QVC's online store does a good job of showing products, for instance a blender, in different colors along with an audio and a product tour.

While using video doesn't make sense for every Web shop owner, for those it does, it can boost conversion rates and average order size. For instance, Sephora has make-up application "how-to" clips at its site that do well.

As for how shopping tools rank with consumers surveyed, Freedman said ratings and reviews were ranked most important, followed by product guides and comparison features.

Another way to provide quality content is through the use of learning aids. For instance if you sell gardening merchandise, including plant and soil guides makes sense.

To increase average order value, e-tailers can also include tools that save time. A clothing site can do this by showing all the pieces of an outfit on one page, including the accessories, thus encouraging customers to buy the entire outfit.

On the customer-service front, Freedman said that shoppers rated merchant's guarantee, customer service links and stock status as the most important information they want to see on a product page, followed by size charts and toll-free numbers.

(Continue to Page 2 for Five Merchandising Tips)

Five Merchandising Tips
Todaro focused on five merchandising steps that he said help increase conversions:

  1. Provide easy access to products through search engine optimization and guided navigation
  2. Categorize and segment content for accuracy
  3. Create content to set your site apart from others
  4. Use visuals such as video and virtual modeling
  5. Allow customers to generate content for the site

He outlined the following as key SEO tasks: monitoring the search terms used on referring search engines, updating product attributes and building external links.

Guided navigation, or letting customers refine a search, is critical. Todaro cited Dutch Gardens as a good example as the "plant finder" lets you filter by color, growing zone, height, light requirements, season of bloom and special attributes including drought-tolerant.

On his second point, Todaro suggests that you organize your product catalog with category names that are "clear and mutually exclusive," and that you use language, graphics and icons that are easy to understand. He also advises using text from the manufacturer to ensure accuracy.

Thirdly, he echoes one of the tenants of e-tail success, which is to use your knowledge, or that of others, in a particular area of expertise in how-to content and guides to make your site a destination for those who want to learn about the products.

As far as using visuals, Todaro cites toy sites that use Playmobil and use animation and video to demonstrate products while promoting sales. He also said social merchandising can be achieved by including user-reviews, blogs and forums at your site to create a community that visitors want to participate in. Finally, he advises the use of A/B split testing to track what's working and what isn't when merchandising your site.

For more help on merchandising, or to download the entire Webinar presentation, visit Demandware's Resource Center.

Michelle Megna is managing editor of ECommerce-Guide.com.

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  This article was originally published on Thursday Apr 24th 2008
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