Zoom? Reviews? Hotspotting? Figuring Out What Web 2.0 Can Do For You, Part 1
"Just don't destroy my brand!"
That's the line I hear most often when talking with online retailers about integrating Web 2.0 capabilities into their Web sites -- features like those that enhance the user experience or those that introduce a social commerce element to the retailer's online community.
That reaction reveals an element of fear shared by most retailers. It's the fear of spending money on technology they're not sure they need, and the fear of what will happen if they relinquish control over the content enough to let people have free-flowing conversations about their products and their brands with each other on their sites.
But research shows these capabilities will keep buyers coming back. Guidance Solutions recently conducted a survey to determine what makes people return to a given shopping site. More than one-third (35 percent) of respondents said they're most likely to return to a Web site if it makes recommendations on products or services for sale. Another 26 percent want "a unique experience each time" they shop, and 18 percent said they're more likely to return "if the site solicits their feedback" on its products and services.
The key is providing a rich shopping environment; one that makes it easy and intuitive for consumers to find and configure the products they're looking for, and to discover some that they didn't even know they wanted.
No matter how complicated the online landscape can get, with an ever-growing list of "must-have" features and technologies, the basic rules of retail and marketing still apply: Know your customers and give them what they want.
Here's a checklist to make sure you're doing all you can to make it easy for people to spend money on your site.
Searching for and finding products: make it fun, intuitive and easy.
Don't lose sales simply because shoppers couldn't find or get a good view of what you're selling. Try the following:
- Make your search box prominent, and be sure it's functioning. It should accommodate misspellings, and include similar or related products in the results.
- Offer multiple ways to find products. Apparel sites might organize categories by men's and women's, or by brand or size. A secondary structure might be by lifestyle -- outdoors, indoors, etc.
- Use enticing images. If you're selling furniture, for example, offer large, high-quality images with multiple views. For luggage or jewelry, consider features like zoom and 360-degree views. "Actual size comparison" images allow users to compare the size of an item against popular objects, such as a digital camera beside a deck of playing cards. If appropriate, consider using video.
- Create "lifestyle merchandising zones." Such zones are designed to help your customers see multiple products in action. These are areas on a retail site (usually showcased on the homepage or a category page) that often use interactive images to show products under a lifestyle scenario. Make the visual serve dual purposes with a feature called "hotspotting," which allows users to click individual elements of a video or image to get more information or to make a purchase.
- Use a product configurator tool. This lets customers build their own items by making feature selections. Well-known for computers and cars, this type of tool also is useful for helping people match apparel, accessories and shoes into a complete outfit, or choose furniture and decorations for an entire room.
- Use previews/search inside/virtual tour capabilities. These capabilities allow users to learn more about an item by previewing what's inside it. Commonly used for books, they also can be useful for travel destinations, hotels, restaurants and movies.
Next week, eM+C Weekly will run Part II of Meugniot's article, where he discusses a checklist of best practices around product recommendations and reviews.