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Site experts share 3 tips for increasing conversion

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It's no secret - a website that's packaged with seamless navigation and a beautiful design goes a long way in boosting conversions. But when the time for a site redesign comes calling, what elements should merchandisers focus on first? At the Online Merchandising Workshop later this month, retail attendees will get the chance to meet individually with industry experts for one-on-one website critiques to discuss just that. As the panel gears up for the Doctor is In sessions, we asked some of the experts to share their top optimization tips.

Here's how a few of the experts leading the critiques answered the question: What's your number one website design or usability tip for helping retailers drive conversion?

David Brussin, Founder and CEO, Monetate, Inc.: "You can't purchase what you can't find, so a huge opportunity for retailers is to change the way they think about, and use, internal site search.

On some retail websites, 50% of visitors never make it to a product page. And that happens for generally one of two reasons—first, your search box is quite difficult to spot on the page, and second—the results pages are poor and probably rank among the website's top exit pages.

So often the first thing a merchandiser can do is test different designs, sizes, and locations for the search box. And then from there, you can start thinking about how to deliver better results. For example, product search should be visual and highlight the names, descriptions, and other attributes of what you sell. And you should always, always, always eliminate "no results found" pages. Send the customer anywhere, because "no results found" is basically just an invitation to leave.

It's all part of this larger 'search ecosystem' that's meant to put the right products in front of the right visitors, every time."

Sue Chapman, Director, Merchandising Practice, Demandware: "Search refinements, or narrowing down to the perfect product choice, immediately come to mind as an easy fix. A shopper navigates to a product category or does a keyword search and hundreds of products are returned. How do you help them narrow those choices to find the right product they are ready to buy? Well-defined and well-placed search refinements are the key. Here are a few best practices:

  • Don't overwhelm them. Industry reports indicate that shoppers cannot absorb more than seven results per search.
  • Provide some standardization your customers can count on by putting similar refinements at the top such as gender, category or price for all categories and search results.
  • Place those that are critical to the buying decision second, such as size and color for fashion. Also, make sure that category specific ones come next. For example, if the category is 'bedding,' show thread count.
  • Above all, make sure all of the important refinements are above the fold so the user does not have to scroll."

Olivier Silvestre, Director of Revenue Optimization, Certona, Inc: "The 'don't make me think' rule is THE most important rule when it comes to design and usability. Companies who make this rule a core principle will reap huge benefits. Engagement, average order value, conversion rate, and lifetime value will ALL increase as a result of designing online experiences with this essential rule in mind.

To achieve this, retailers must put themselves in the shoes of their target customers and look at all the pages and content available on their site as if it were the very first time they've visited it. In the end, questions like, 'What does it exactly mean? Where do I find XYZ? What happens if…?', etc. should never pop into your visitors' minds. Clarity, simplicity, relevancy and confidence are the cornerstones of the "don't make me think" rule. Succeed at it, and reap the rewards; but create doubt in your visitor's mind, and lose them forever."

While site redesigns don't happen overnight, these assessments can go a long way in determining which design and usability components can help turn your conversion strategy around. These experts and more will be on hand to critique retail attendees’ websites, go over ideas, discuss problem areas, and present new tactics – all in a 20-minute, one-on-one session. Register to attend the workshop, July 16 to 18 in San Diego, and schedule your one-on-one before Friday, July 6.