Key Steps for Optimizing Your eCommerce Website Homepage
Looking to Get the Most Out of Your Online Store? Here Are Some Things to Think About When Building Your eCommerce Homepage
Last week we posted about the benefits of opting for custom eCommerce website design and development over a more templated approach.
This week, I’ve got the task of sharing some insight into things you should incorporate on your homepage to make it as effective as possible.
Know Who Your Target Demographic Is Before You Begin
Before you start on any design or optimization efforts on your eCommerce website homepage, it’s important to first get the information you need to make smart decisions about visuals and functionality.
Now is the time to go through your analytics, feedback surveys, market research, and other available data to learn more about your customers. If you haven’t yet created customer personas, there’s no time like the present to figure out the following information about your target demographic:
- How did your customers come across your site in the first place? What kinds of technology are they using (what browser/device/etc.) and what keywords, terms, and phrases were they searching for?
- What are your most successful products and product lines? If some products are less successful than others, is there a clear reason why (is it an issue with the product or an issue with the marketing)?
- What are the values of your current customers? Are those the same as your target demographic?
- What kinds of companies are your customers and target demographic following? What kinds of products are they purchasing?
Before you can structure a homepage around the needs of your customers and potential customers, you’ll need this kind of information to guide the decisions you make about what kinds of content to feature and highlight.
Make It Clear From the Get Go Who You Are and What Makes You Different From the Competition
Straight out the gate, your homepage should have some kind of hook in place that gets visitors interested in what you do. In order to grab the attention of new users, you may want to feature carefully crafted brand messaging—or a tagline—somewhere close to or above the fold.
Then, throughout the homepage, make sure your copy is catchy and concise, making it immediately clear to all visitors what what separates your products from those of the competition. And remember—all written content should reflect your brand personality (if you’re not sure what that personality is or should be, we can help).
Strong and cohesive messaging plays a critical role in guiding your users down your homepage—and when done well, can inspire them to both get shopping quickly and develop a lasting connection with your brand.
Consider Spotlighting Categories Instead of Individual Products
It’s pretty common to come across eCommerce websites that feature specific product callouts either above the fold or immediately below the masthead area. But unless you have a very strong idea of what your visitors are looking for (or have a limited product selection), showing arrays of specific products can be a distracting feature on your homepage. And what are the chances you can guess the exact products your visitors will want to see (especially when every visitor is liable to have different tastes and needs)?
The reality is, homepage space is tight (more on this below), so you’ll need to cast as wide a net as possible when first introducing visitors to your brand. Showcasing specific product images may lead to users to make assumptions about everything you’re capable of and, in turn, “pigeon-hole” your brand (which is damaging if those users are unable to visualize themselves as a part of your niche market).
As an alternative, show off product categories and collections instead of individual items to provide visitors with a broad understanding off all you have to offer.
Don’t Overload Your Masthead Area
While you don’t want to get too specific with the products you put on display above the fold, you do want to use this space to make a bold statement about your eCommerce business in as few words as possible. Avoid trying to make the above-the-fold area “everything to everyone”—chances are you’ll just overwhelm the space with clutter and distracting content.
Your homepage should offer a cohesive narrative as to what you do and who you are. Each section should seamlessly guide users to the next (or, better yet, inspire them to head to the product pages). Trying to do too much at once will confuse this messaging. Stick to key taglines in the masthead area, and if it features an image slider, don’t add more than three slides to the mix.
In other words, keep your homepage messaging, graphical elements, and calls to action as easy to digest as possible—you can do a deeper dive into anything and everything about your brand on about, history, and news pages.
Make Sure Users Have Access to a Search Bar
If you want to keep visual clutter at bay but are concerned your users will immediately want to find specific products once they’ve landed on your eCommerce homepage, there’s an easy solution: Make sure there’s a search bar available for your customers to access easily at all times and from every page (a good place for this is in a “sticky” main navigation menu).
Providing users with an ever-present search bar has a number of benefits, including improved conversion rates—according to SEO specialist Neil Patel, “On average, 30% of e-commerce site visitors will use the site’s search functionality. And, more importantly, visitors who find what they’re looking for become customers.” He suggests that there’s a whopping 216% conversion rate for users that access the search bar.
In other words, a third of users know what they want, and if they can find it via search, they’re incredibly likely to make a purchase.
Section Off Areas of Your Homepage with Calls to Action that Your Target Demographic Will Appreciate
Deciding what call-to-action areas to include on your eCommerce website homepage is one of those processes that benefits from having thoroughly researched customer personas on hand. While it’s true that you don’t want to do too much on any given landing page, well-planned calls to action are important tools for establishing a brand narrative and providing signals for the user’s journey.
If you know your customers are always on the hunt for a deal, consider including incentive, sale, or promo information in a banner or section located toward the top of the page. Alternatively, if they’re wanting info on the latest and greatest in your industry, make sure you have a “New Arrivals” section present on the homepage to keep loyal customers coming back for more (and showcasing to new customers that you’re on the cutting edge of what you do). Similarly, you may include a “Best Sellers” section for customers that are on the lookout for what’s trending—many customers may feel more confident making first-time purchases based on your brand’s most popular products.
Put Search Engine Optimization Best Practices into Place
Homepage optimization isn’t just about taglines, user journeys, and what looks good. It’s also about getting found on the web. Taking the time to make sure your website is optimized for search engines will make it easier for users interested in your industry and products to find your brand when searching for relevant keywords.
The following items should be accounted for when implementing search engine optimization best practices:
- Website security (ie, have an SSL certificate in place)
- Metatags (title and description)
- Heading tags (H1, H2, etc.) and content structure across the entire page
- Keyword-rich copy (especially in the headings)
- Image alt tags and optimized file sizes (large images make pages load slowly, and search engines do not like slow-loading websites)
- Clean and simple navigation options in both header and footer and throughout the homepage
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to optimizing the above, it may be time to reach out to the pros.
Test, Test, Test
Before you launch ANYTHING on your eCommerce website, test it out. At efelle, we do thorough quality-assurance testing before allowing any new website to “go live.”
And testing doesn’t stop with launch. While it may be tempting to assume you’re done with market data gathering and discovery once you have your customer personas in place, the only way to actually know what works best for your homepage is to test out different strategies.
For example, if you’re in the process of reworking your brand messaging and aren’t quite sure on which way to go with the tone of your copy, try out A/B testing; this process can help shed light on things like which styles convert the best, whether that homepage masthead video really is more effective than a static image, and which of your taglines is the most enticing.
Be a Little Bold—And Make Sure Your Audience Remembers You
Your eCommerce website homepage is one of your greatest online assets when it comes to showing off your competitive edge, who you are as a brand, all the processes and materials that make your products what they are, etc. As Kevin mentioned in his post on custom design last week, one of the benefits of going custom is that it lets you stand out from the competition—playing it safe with what may seem like a “tried and true” template is unlikely to leave a lasting impression on your visitors.
Remember, your eCommerce website is going to be the first point of exposure many users have to your brand—and it may be the only chance you get to leave a lasting impression. Make sure it counts.
Not Sure Where to Start with a Website Redesign? Let Us Help!
At efelle creative, we’ve been designing and developing highly persuasive eCommerce websites for almost 15 years. We get no small pleasure from crafting homepages that sing with narrative and inspire conversions. If you’re looking to up your online marketing game—and rev up your underperforming eCommerce website—reach out to our team today and let’s chat about how we can help. You can call us at 206.384.4909 or connect with us via our online contact form.