20 July 2024, 17:57
By Darren Bull Jun 16, 2014

Renewing your e-commerce website

Customers are becoming far more precise in their shopping habits, and the e-commerce developments made last year only reinforce this fact. The rise of showrooming, the growing influence of social media and the popularity of customer reviews all demonstrate that consumers now expect to receive a far superior level of service when shopping and browsing online. According to Darren Bull, there are five key areas furniture retailers should focus on to make sure their website continues to drive sales this year …

Whilst your e-commerce site is obviously a valuable part of your business, for furniture purchases it is most powerful when utilised as a tool to drive footfall into your stores, rather than a main sales channel.

To return to the impact of customer reviews, the influence customer-generated content has on buying decisions is huge. Furniture purchases don’t tend to be impulse buys – they are the result of careful research and consideration on the part of the customer. In fact, consumer reviews are trusted by customers 12 times more than the descriptions provided by a retailer, and a whopping 78% of UK shoppers admit to researching a product online before making a purchase in store, showing just how significant this research period has become in the sales process.

So how can you optimise your website to accommodate this growing trend?

1. Make your website tablet-friendly

You might be shocked to hear that 28% of total website traffic in 2013 came from smartphones and tablets, and even more surprised to know that this was a 67% increase on 2012 – so a responsive website is a must for 2014.

The popularity of mobile devices means consumers are now free to carry out their research anywhere they want. In most cases you only have a matter of seconds to engage a customer on your site, and if you’ve ever tried to view a non-responsive website on your mobile then you’ll understand how frustrating it can be.

Being forced to scroll back and forth and zoom in multiple times to find what you’re looking for will only turn a customer away from your site in despair. But by making your website tablet-friendly, you can deliver a great user experience that is perfectly designed for a smaller screen, and ensure any potential customers can access everything they need to reach a decision, anywhere they want to.

2. Improve your service with personalised recommendations and faceted navigation

There are so many factors to take into consideration when choosing an item of furniture, and your site search facilities can also be optimised to provide the customer with a great range of options based on their specific interests and search terms.

Personalisation modules and intelligent faceted navigation allow you to pre-empt what a customer might be after, and provide suggestions to encourage additional purchases. For example, if a customer is searching for ‘red sofa’, your system might overlook ‘burgundy’ or ‘garnet’ items if they aren’t listed as ‘red’, meaning you could miss out on a sale. To solve this you can set up colour collections that can be grouped together under key search terms.

“If you’ve ever tried to view a non-responsive website on your mobile then you’ll understand how frustrating it can be”

Personal recommendations are another great way to provide additional options based on a customer’s initial search criteria. These can be set up to include items from the same product category, ie ‘sofa’, but you may also want to include complementary items from the same furniture range, ie ‘footstool’, to cover all possibilities.

3. Roll in your new season designs

Be ready to implement your new season design as soon as your New Year sales have ended. This is a great time to give your website a total refresh and get customers interested in your full-price stock. Showcase your new season products on the home page to really draw attention to them, and take this time to address the important calls to action on your site.

Are they as prominent as they should be? Sometimes a small change, like altering the colour of your ‘Buy’ button, or placing your reviews nearer the top of the page, can have a big impact on purchases, so make sure you don’t overlook these elements in your design planning.

4. Show off your stock with great product photography

Product images have a big part to play in the research stage, and good photography will only ever improve your chances of reaching a conversion. Furniture purchases are usually an investment, and consumers need to be able to imagine how the piece will fit into their home.

Your product images need to inspire customers. Providing one poor-quality stock image of a recliner is never going to encourage purchases, but a bright image gallery incorporating stylised images of the recliner in a beautifully decorated lounge, showing the true size of the item and the quality of craftsmanship, will be sure to trigger customer aspirations and capture their interest. You need to make sure the images are also of a high quality to make your products look equally fantastic on tablet screen resolutions and smartphones.

5. Increase engagement with social share buttons

Adding social share buttons to your product pages helps visitors to easily share your content with their networks and communities. Not only will this increase your reach, improving your brand awareness, but you should also notice an increase in customer interactions with your accounts as a result. And if you don’t have social networks set up for your company yet, then this is a must!

Social media has now become another vital part of the purchase journey, and a recent survey reported that 72% of followers are likely to purchase from your company in the future. If you’re not sure where to start, Facebook and Pinterest are great networks to encourage image-sharing, making them the ideal platforms for showing off your new product photography.

I always recommend that retailers carry out regular reviews of their e-commerce sites to keep them performing at their best.

I hope these tips have given you some food for thought regarding the changes you’ll need to make to keep up with consumer needs in 2014. Of course, it goes without saying that any changes you do decide to implement should undergo a suitable testing process to make sure they are right for your goals, and will give you the results you want to achieve this year.

Darren Bull is a founder of Metakinetic, an award-winning full service e-commerce agency. With a team of 20 specialists, Metakinetic provides creative, technical and marketing services to a wide range of online retailers including Fairway Furniture. This article was published in the January issue of Furniture News magazine.

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