Getting Experiential Online

Store shopping is all about the experience. So how do you create that retail experience online, starting right from your landing page?

The online shopping experience is based on design, content, navigation and reputation, according to John Tawadros, chief operating officer of search engine marketing firm Speaking at Internet Retailer’s Web Design conference in Miami last week, Tawadros offered some advice on improving the e-commerce experience.

For one, online merchants must define their audience and market to customers accordingly. “Stop trying to get them to buy—they need to want to buy,” Tawadros said.

The site’s design should be consistent with an in-store experience; it needs to be kept fresh and move quickly. And beware the big, bold “add to cart” button, which is awkward on a landing page, Tawadros said. “When you go into a store, a rep doesn’t come up to you and take you to the cash register!”

Content has to be consumer friendly, with helpful features such as related products, cross-sells, ratings and reviews and appealing visuals and copy. Tawadros used the example of spare, standalone shot of a television stand, vs. a lifestyle shot of a TV stand in a decorated room. “When you’re looking at pictures online, think of that in-store experience,” he said.

And with merchandising, keep in mind that related products are not the same as cross sells, Tawadros warned. A customer buying a jacket may want to see other jackets—not items like shirts and ties.

Your reputation is another factor, as customers will want to know why they should buy from you, Tawadros said. And simply saying something like you’ve been in business 25 years isn’t going to cut it, as “longevity counts for squat,” he said. “Good for you, but it means nothing to consumers.”