Live from ACCM: Is Your Web Business in “Jeopardy”?

Boston—E-commerce isn’t always fun and games. But consultant Amy Africa tried to make it so during here at ACCM, staging her Tuesday afternoon session as an episode of game-show “Jeopardy!”, complete with contestants and buzzers.

The three attendees who were selected as contestants could choose to provide the questions to answers in categories such as e-mail, metrics, and navigation. For instance, the correct question to the answer “24-35 characters” was “What is how long an e-mail subject line should be?”

Among the answers and advice provided during the episode—or rather, session:

· C navigation—with nav bars and columns along the top, the left, and the bottom of the Web page—is optimal. Users are familiar with it, Africa said, and when it comes to e-commerce, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt but rather sales.

· Marketers should analyze the pages from which visitors are exiting the site. “Very few companies, even those with sophisticated analytics, are looking at their exit pages,” Africa said.

  • You should have in place e-mail programs that respond to and follow up with visitors who abandon shopping carts, abandon search, and abandon the site from any other page.
  • The ideal Web page layout consists of three columns, with the middle column wider than those on either side.
  • Half of all e-mail recipients stop reading a message after the first two lines. “The purpose of an e-mail is not to be read,” Africa noted. “It is to be clicked through.” Therefore you should have your call to action—the link to click through to your Website—at the beginning of your message.
  • Only about a quarter of Website visitors will see what is below the fold—beyond the first screen—of a Web page. As a result, you need to have your shopping cart appear prominently near the top.
  • Once a visitor adds an item to the shopping cart, a red “checkout now” button should appear next to the cart and should stay with the cart if the visitor continues throughout the site without checking out. “You need to assume that almost 40% of users forget they put something in the cart,” Africa said.
  • The more “buy now” buttons you have on your pages, the more conversions you’ll reap. A “buy now” button—also red—should be on every page view.
  • Repeat visitors should account for 40%-60% of your traffic. You should also look at the cycle of how long it takes the average visitor to return so that you know how frequently to modify, even slightly, your pages. If your average visitor returns eight days after his initial visit, Africa suggested modifying pages every four days; if the average time between visits is 12 days, modify pages every six days. And the modifications needn’t be major—even just changing the date every day will help. What not to change: the C navigation.
  • Be sure to have plenty of pictures of people on your Website. Visitors stay on a site longer if they see photos of people, Africa noted, “and the more they stay, the more they pay.”

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