Putting Your Product Pages to Work

Visitors to your site’s product pages want to achieve certain goals. Make it easy for them and you can increase your sales. Many of the tweaks and changes mentioned in this article owe as much to good web site design as they do to SEO. We’ll look at how successful ecommerce companies such as Amazon and Dell pull it off.

Look at your product page through a customer’s eyes. You may want to buy a digital camera, for instance, but you’re still not sure which model would best suit your needs. So you may still be gathering information. How does this camera stack up against a less expensive one – or one sold by your competitor? How much are the delivery costs? How good is the warranty? What is your company’s return policy? And perhaps most important: can I trust you?

Your product page should answer these questions and any others a visitor might ask. If you’re starting out with pages that sound like skeletons in comparison to this description, don’t panic. I’m going to show you how to put some flesh on those bones. You might not have to change as much as you think.

I’m going to start with the most obvious item: the call to action. Every product page should have one of these. Visitors aren’t going to forget that you’re selling something, but you’re not going to get a sale if you don’t ask for it. You can do it implicitly, the way Amazon does in the screen shot below:

Amazon tries to convince you to buy by telling you how soon it will deliver the item if you order by a certain time, how much you save off the list price, and more. I’ve cropped the page so you don’t see some of the options, which are also important – and even if they don’t result in outright purchases, they do count as conversions of a sort. So let me show you the right side column, which you don’t see in the above shot.

There’s an add to shopping cart button right at the top. You’ll notice that Amazon includes other choices as well, so you can buy something else if this product doesn’t suit your needs. You can order it used, sell yours, add it to your wish list, shopping list, wedding registry, baby registry (all of which seem to be different forms of wish lists), and – not visible in this screen shot – tell a friend about it. Every one of these actions may lead to a sale.

{mospagebreak title=Give Them Information}

When visitors are still gathering information, you don’t know whether they’ll want a brief overview or detailed specifications. So you need to provide both, and you need to do it smoothly, so those that want the brief overview don’t feel like they’re wading through tons of confusing data, and those that want the detailed information don’t feel like you’re wasting their time with something superficial. The overview should be “above the fold,” while the detailed information can be below it. Here’s a simple example from one of Dell’s product pages; the actual laptop highlighted changes whenever the visitor hovers his or her cursor over it.

In addition to the image, Dell offers a one-sentence description, five important specifications, and the lowest price at which the item sells. Your product overview will of course look different depending on the kind of product you sell. A book overview might start with “Award-winning author X continues her beloved series about two children caught between worlds in ‘This Book Needs a Title.’ Jimmy and Judy meet an ogre who says he will give them the secret to returning home…if they do him one little favor…” Well, you get the idea.

What does a detailed description look like? The one that Amazon includes for the digital picture frame I showed you in the first screen shot was too long to include here. It included the manufacturer’s highlights covering the features the company really wants to emphasize, and a very lengthy list of specifications.

As with an overview description, a detailed description is going to vary depending on what you’re selling. For a book, the “specifications” might include reading level, page count, publisher, publication date, language, ISBN number, author, and so forth – and many readers might not pay as much attention to that as to a plot synopsis or reviews from other customers (yes, you may want to include those as well; I’m getting to that). For SEO purposes, having both an overview description and a detailed description gives you a chance to use keywords appropriately.

There’s one other thing you might want to include on your product page: reviews. If your product has been reviewed by one of the many web sites that write reviews for their readers, you might consider linking to the review and even using a few quotes from it. You might also want to consider allowing reviews directly from customers on your site, as Amazon has done. A visitor is more likely to believe what another person who bought and used the product has to say about it than what you have to say about it. You have an ulterior motive after all; you’re trying to sell them your product. But customers are just like them, and inspire more trust.

{mospagebreak title=Give Them Options}

I don’t have the slightest idea what kind of laptop would suit me. Dell doesn’t either, but that’s not a problem for them. They’re not even worried about you going off and comparing other laptops side by side with theirs, because you can already do that on their own web site:

From this section of Dell’s site, you can use their selector to help you figure out what kind of laptop you should get (it asks you four simple questions), chat with a live person, and configure laptops from two different product lines (gaming laptops don’t seem to be a different line so much as the XPS line with some special features).

You’ll notice also that Dell includes pricing on all its products. Laptop prices vary wildly, and laptop shoppers weigh their purchases carefully based on many factors, price being one of them. The price of a laptop changes depending on its exact configuration, so Dell can only include starting prices on this page. If you sell products with customized pricing, you should at least include price ranges or “starting as low as” information.

A potential customer might not be ready to buy then and there. If they’re still searching, they may want to refer to the information they’ve obtained from you later, next to information they’ve gathered from other web sites. Do them and yourself a favor by including a printer-friendly option button on all of your product pages. If they print out your product information, they’ll know where to go when they’re ready to buy.

{mospagebreak title=Show Them Something Pretty}

I haven’t gone into much detail about images and layout. Yes, you should have images. You should use alt tags on your images, and use keywords appropriately with them (no keyword stuffing; just use them neatly in a sentence or phrase). Keep in mind that this may be the only view your visitor has of the product before purchase, so make sure that your images are as clear, high-quality, and accurate as possible. Quality images convey the idea of a quality product; poor images convey the opposite. 

You may want to include several images that highlight different views of the same product – the front and back of a digital camera, for example. You can also include close-up images if there are certain features you wish to highlight. You can even include video of the product in action. This can work fairly effectively with software. With a digital camera, you might want to include images shot with the device to show what it can do.

You need to be consistent in the way you lay out your product pages. Visitors will expect to find certain information in specific places. After they have visited even one of your product pages and seen, for example, that you put the product image on the upper left, the “add to shopping cart” button in the upper right corner, the product overview next to the image, the specifications just under that, etc., they’ll expect ALL of your product pages to be laid out the same. If they aren’t, your visitors will feel frustrated – and a frustrated visitor is not going to buy from you.

Finally, you should show potential customers something that will be a sight for sore eyes for many of us: contact information. Some customers will happily fill out a web form to make an online purchase. Others prefer to talk to a real live person on the phone. Still others prefer to use email to get their questions answered. And some, as we’ve seen in the Dell screen shots, appreciate live chat.

Your product page should help you sell your products, but online sales are different from in-store sales. Since visitors can’t handle the merchandise, they need as much information as possible to help them make their decision. Provide them with what they need, and you should see your conversions improve. Good luck!

[gp-comments width="770" linklove="off" ]