Digital customer experience specialist, Greg Randall, talks home page best practice in the lead up to his Power Retail book release.
After 15 years of watching e-commerce teams suffer from the same dilemma, Randall decided it was time for him to offer his advice on a larger-scale.
“E-commerce teams know they need to apply change, but [they] don’t know where to start or what best practice looks like,” he says.
“They are unaware of the science (best practice) that can be applied to establish a foundation from which to evolve from.”
In the first instalment of a four-part series, Randall takes his extensive theoretical and practical e-commerce knowledge to educate retailers on what does and doesn’t work in the realm of online.
“This first book calls out the impacts of understanding the science and then moves into a detailed analysis of the home page for desktop and smartphone screens,” he says.
Using a mix of resources, Randall looks at what some of the most prominent retailers from across the globe – and Australia – are doing well, and what they’re doing wrong.
“Due to the nature of my work (leading transformations), I have access to consumer behavioural data from hundreds of retailers. This access provided me with the ability to analyse millions of consumer paths (or consumer journeys).”
Here, Randall shares some of the exclusive insights that are available in his Home Page Best Practice book, which is published exclusively by Power Retail.
According to Randall, very few retailers actually get their home page design right, which is why it becomes problematic when companies use their competitor’s site as a reference to make change.
A classic example of this is Appliances Online. While Randall praises the company’s use of category content in the homepage, he questions the visual treatment of the e-tailer’s header which reduces the visual impact of the site search box, a critical page element that is proven to contribute to creating amazing online experiences.
He also believes retailers make a number of classic mistakes when designing their home page. This is the act of placing brand value above consumer needs by trying to be visually creative at the expense of ease of use and adding value to the consumer journey.
“Retailers assume consumers will apply extra effort to find what they are looking for on the home page just because the retailer is a “brand”. If a competitor makes things easier for the consumer, they will move to the competitor,” he says.
“Consumers want to engage with as many navigational elements as possible to assist them with the next step in his/her journey. This is not the time to try to initiate engagement. Engagement opportunities come when consumers move deeper into the site indicating, more accurately, the type of intent or need they have.
“It is only once this need is identified that retailers have the ability to introduce relevant content.”
Cross-Device Home Page Best Practice
Across the board, Randall says retailers are not hitting the mark with their home page design across mobile, tablet and desktop devices.
“The visual treatment of the smartphone version of the home page is typically to a low standard. Retailers do not take an empathetic view of the increased effort required by consumers to engage with their site on the smaller screens. This combined with retailers thinking consumers won’t purchase on smartphone screens (which is incorrect) creates a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he says.
As functional home page elements evolve over time, Randall believes these issues could start to be addressed, allowing retailers follow best practice guides.
“The purpose of the home page will remain unchanged, but the evolution will come in the enhanced treatment of specific functional elements.
“One example is the enhancement in site search functionality and auto-suggest presentation on smartphone screens. Another example is the improved methods to introduce category content into the body of the home page.”
According to Randall, regardless of what type of online offering businesses are presenting, best practice is important. However, he also notes that best practice isn’t a one-size-fits-all model.
“Best practice is a tool to enhance customer experiences and there are different ways to leverage science. This is why this book provides multiple examples of best practice in action.
“Best practice can and should inter-mingle with “brand” DNA. If applied correctly, best practice does not make a site ugly.”
Further insights into how to get the most out of your website’s home page are available in Home Page Best Practice, written by Greg Randall and published by Power Retail, which will be available for sale soon!