Every shopkeeper, from the smallest grocer to the largest supermarket, knows that how you present your produce matters. It’s the same for online merchants. Customers may not be able to handle your goods physically, but that only makes presentation more important. In e-commerce, product listings are both your store window and a sales assistant.
Get them wrong and shoppers will give their business to your competition in a couple of clicks. Follow these seven tips to maximize the effectiveness of your listings and see your sales soar.
1. Pick a product name that fits.
The product name is the most important part of your listing. Thanks to search engines many shoppers will read it before they even visit your store and getting it right can be the key to driving traffic to your site. Keep it clear, concise and descriptive so it tells the customer all they need to know in as few characters as possible. While it’s important to stand out, don’t waste space on empty words (Wow! Amazing!) or convoluted adjectives that confuse the message. Search engine optimization is important, but remember to think like a human, not an algorithm. The best way to move up the page rankings is to use keywords that your customers actually use when searching for the product you sell.
2. Make sure the price is easily visible.
What’s the first thing you do when something attracts your eye in a store? Check the price tag. That frustrating feeling if you can’t see it? Imagine that online when there’s not a sales assistant around to help. Make sure your pricing is as prominent as the product name – and if you’re offering a saving on the product, draw attention to that. Even if you don’t compete on price, that’s no reason to apologize for what you’re charging in a tiny grey italic font. Bargain hunters will shop elsewhere anyway. Simply match the prominence of your price with the benefits of the service you provide, such as free delivery or a no-quibbles returns policy, or appeal to impulse shoppers by displaying how quickly they could have their hands on the goods if they ordered straight away.
3. Include a photo or video.
At its most basic, e-commerce is mail order for the digital age. And there’s a reason the old Sears or J.C. Penney catalog was so thick: it was stuffed to bursting with photos. Your product listing should be just as glossy. Nobody wants to buy from an inventory list. Even if you’re selling stationery, a picture of the box of staples will help the customer visualize what they’re getting and be reassured they’ve selected the correct product.
Quality and quantity both matter when it comes to pictures. Show the product from all sides, in all available colors, and zoom in on details. Unflattering photos can be a deal breaker and affect your reputation as a retailer. If it looks like your pictures we’re taken in the back of a truck people will assume the goods fell off the back of it. If you have too many products or too small a budget to engage a professional photographer, consider investing in quality gear before you do it yourself. A digital SLR and a light cube (a pop-up tabletop studio for taking well-lit shots of small items) won’t cost the earth, but is a world away from snapping pictures with your phone at your desk.
If you’re really confident, making a short video product review can be even more powerful, with many websites reporting significant spikes in conversion rates. Video can make your product page stand out from the crowd and can drive traffic right to you from sites such as YouTube, where potential customers might find it as they research a purchase.
4. Don’t forget the description.
Photos are a must, but don’t be blinded by the old adage that each is worth a thousand words. Virtual customers still need an informative description to fill in the details and convince them the product is worth buying. Mix facts with emotional benefits. If you’re selling a scarf, stating it is 100cm long and 10cm wide is a start, but also spin a yarn about how the soft alpaca wool feels like a warm hug on a cold day. If you’re not great with words, consider using a copywriter. Online wordsmiths-for-hire can add polish and punch to your listings, but keep them tightly briefed: you want a focused piece to help make a sale, not a lengthy piece of creative writing from a frustrated novelist.
5. Leverage user reviews.
While customer reviews can be both used and abused, they can’t be ignored. Shoppers use them when researching a purchase, and e-commerce websites that show them regularly claim increased sales. Good word of mouth is something even the Mad Men of advertising place huge value on, so don’t pass up the chance to get glowing reviews of your goods and services right beside the “Buy” button.
Less positive reviews can still have their upside. Customers are sophisticated enough to consider them in context and may use them to decide which of your products is best suited to their needs. The impersonal nature of the Internet means people are more likely to moan online than call to complain, but that valuable feedback can be used to improve your offering. A public resolution to any complaints can also be reassuring for potential customers. Unfair or malicious reviews are a definite problem, but you’re the gatekeeper as well as the shopkeeper and can scrub them from the site as easily as you could graffiti from your storefront.
6. Organize your inventory.
Your product name should be in plain English, but backing that up with a unique product code for each item will help you run your business. The code can indicate important information such as the line, size, color and so on, enabling you to better manage inventory. Showing it beside the product name can also help when answering questions from customers, so you can be sure you’re talking about the exact same item. Dovetail this level of order behind the scenes with the product listing itself and you’ll make shopping easier for your customers. Rather than having a separate page for every SKU, group product options such as sizes in dropdown menus so shoppers can pick what they want and click “Add To Basket.” If you can, show up to date inventory levels. Customers love to know up front that the product is in stock, and a countdown showing you’re running out can spur them to buy before it’s too late.
7. Think mobile.
Online shopping is increasingly moving away from the desktop. Mobile devices already account for more than half of the time U.S. consumers spend interacting with e-commerce stores, according to comScore. If you’re not already using a website platform that caters to mobile shoppers you’re missing out. Be sure to check how your product listings look on a small touchscreen and see if you need to edit them to maximize their impact on mobile devices. Having text that’s too long to read and options too fiddly to tap will just make your prospective customer move on to another store with the swipe of a finger.