Pay Attention to the Item Detail Page

Thanks to savvy shoppers and the search engines, not all your prospects come through your front door.

While judging this year’s Multichannel Merchant MCM Awards, I saw many a glorious home page. But as I clicked deeper into these sites, it became apparent that their graphic designers cared less about the deeper pages than their home page.

Has anyone kicked off their site redesign by working the item detail page first? Well, you should. Almost all visitors – and likely all purchasing customers – use your product detail page.

Why the item detail page is most important.
Simply put, the item detail page is the most vital because it gets the most page views. Log into your Omniture or Google Analytics and look at page views by URL or page template type.

When you sum up all the page views for all item detail page URLs, it may likely exceed the page views of the home page. Smaller retailers should definitely see this trend. That’s a pretty compelling argument for why the item detail pages are so important—eyeballs.

And why do so many people use your item detail page? Because that’s where Google will send your customer. Google wants to drop searchers off at a relevant page. And if you’re shopping for a DVD player, the relevant page is an item detail page, not the home page of

On the other hand, larger retailers may find that their home page still gets more visits than all product detail pages combined. This is likely because they have brand awareness that causes customers to type the URL directly in the browser and because Google is more likely to send shoppers to those retailers’ home page.

But look at a click-path report for customers who enter your website via the home page. This report shows you what they do when they land on the home page, and you will likely see that they go to utility pages such as order status, my account, returns, and help. They can’t buy anything on these pages and therefore these visitors are not likely in the market to purchase. So when you remove these visitors from your page views, you are in the same boat as the smaller retailers—more “in the market” eyeballs are on the item detail pages than the home page.

So what should a good item detail page look like?
It should look like Musician’s Friend, which was a 2011 MCM Awards winner.

A great item detail page like this does two things: First, it convinces you to purchase this item. Second, if this isn’t the exact item you’re looking for, this page gets you to other relevant choices.

So if this is the item you actual want to purchase, the item detail page should reflect that and seal the deal. Musician’s Friend does this with a variety of merchandising tactics including promotional offers in the header (free shipping, no sales tax); prominent product review rankings; our promise tab: price match and no hassle returns; discounts/savings; financing offers; free gift; availability and international shipping; warranty; detailed item description and specs; videos; buyers guide; trust and security logos in the footer. With all these best in class merchandising tactics in place, how could you say no to this keyboard?

But it’s also possible this isn’t the exact item the customer wants to purchase. Google (organic) is often randomly choosing the page to send the customer to, and it might not be the exact product the shopper wants. So have options for getting the customer to more merchandise like an obvious header with navigation to other categories; an obvious search box (which is lacking in this Musician’s Friend example); a bread crumb trail so customers can browse to similar items; and a “similar Items” tab.

Ian MacDonald (, a judge for the 2011 MCM Awards, is the former is a former vice president/general manager of, and former director of ecommerce of The Pond Guy.

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