By Pete Bingham
Having worked in design for over 20 years (and digital marketing for 10) I’ve encountered a fair number of product pages in my time – bearing witness to the evolution of eCommerce you might say. From the primitive (and fairly dodgy) early days of the internet to the user-focused sophistication we see today.
In that time I’ve worked on a huge variety of online shops including home appliances, shoes, coffee subscriptions, audio equipment, tools, chocolate boxes, bespoke gift wrapping, doors and windows, sofas and more.
And one of the most significant things I’ve noticed is that every business’s product pages need to be tailored to their industry, and that default theme or plugin you’re using will only get you so far. Just like every shopper is unique, so too is every shopping experience. The way you shop for bananas is not the same way you shop for a car.
The purpose of a product page is to “provide enough detailed information about a specific product to convince potential customers to make a purchase”.
So it all boils down to having “enough information” on your pages. How much information do you need to buy a banana?
The truth is, that’s not enough, it assumes so much. Sure, you won’t need as much information as if you were buying a car, perhaps, but what if you’d never bought a banana before? Or what if you’d never bought a banana from that particular website before? What if you only bought organic, or fairtrade bananas?
All of a sudden selling that banana has become more complex. But it needn’t be.
There is plenty of evidence that the amount of information a customer needs in order to purchase is relative to how much they’re about to invest. And it makes sense, if I’m going to buy a banana for the first time, I might take a risk and spend a few pennies, what the hell – I’m worth it. The same could not be said for a car, or a TV, or a holiday.
But the truth is people won’t buy a speck of dust from your site if they don’t have the right information, because the sales journey for any item doesn’t begin on the product page.
The starting point on the user buying journey is usually the need or desire for a particular item to solve a problem. Sometimes that problem is FOMO, sometimes that problem is a genuine need-case, e.g. their TV is broken, other times it might be just the day-to-day purchasing of groceries.
The consumer will usually begin by asking friends and family for recommendations or opinions. Sometimes they will already have some brands, or ideas, in mind. They will casually window shop for a good long time (again, relative to urgency). They will keep an eye on sales and adverts until they are in active buying mode.
So, in isolation, a product point is only the endpoint. There is very, very limited criteria for a consumer to start their product research on a product page.
Let’s look at a (very simplistic) scenario where a person is looking for a new television. Let’s see if he ends up as happy as the chap in the photo above.
“My current TV is ten years old, and the technology has moved on. I’ve bought a new games console that doesn’t take advantage of newer features and my kids want to be able to watch Netflix and Disney Plus. Where do I begin?”
In the scenario above the consumer has a few ideas of what they want but hasn’t bought a television in a long time, which means their knowledge in that sector is limited and outdated. They will need a lot of help and information.
As mentioned previously, they’ll probably start by asking for recommendations from their social circle, whilst also looking for reviews and social proof on review sites and social media. At this point they’ll likely set a rough budget and begin to build up a list of requirements.
The consumer by now will likely have a few brand recommendations, so this is where brand search comes in. Perhaps the user has been told to give LG TVs a go, or avoid Sony (for example purposes only, I’m sure both brands are fantastic!). At this point, they’re relying on how good your site’s content (and SEO / paid marketing) is.
“Ooh this one is OLED (what is that?) and this one is 2 years old, but comes in a bigger size.”
You can see that as the research evolves so does the user’s confidence in decision making. They will eventually narrow it down to a few brands, or models. By this point they will be comparing prices and features, weighing up what matters most to them. Size, or specifications? Price, or delivery dates? And so on.
To be clear, if your site doesn’t display these things clearly, you are not in the race. The site that will win will depend on the type of shopper, but usually it’s a combination of:
Again, it depends entirely on your product but the key features any product page should have is:
Information comes in many forms, and you’d be surprised at how many are forgotten, neglected or discounted.
Take for example the importance of good product photos, how many times have you been to a website and not been able to get a clear shot of the product, maybe you need to see if it has a certain finish, or feature that can only be determined visually. One product photo is usually not enough, and you can also consider videos, 360° shots, and don’t underestimate the value of a lifestyle shot too: humans buy from humans.
The most important information comes from copy, so having a clear product name as well as references to serial numbers, or other identifying information is important. Your product description needs to be clear, concise and well-written – this is not a sales pitch: ditch the flowery rubbish and concentrate on clarity.
Technical specifications are not always required, it very much depends on what you’re selling, but remember your potential customers will use this information to compare against other models, so any relevant information you have you should display. Also, consider the hierarchy of information: what are the most important specs? Size, features, compatibility? Have them right at the top of any table.
Another thing to remember is users will be comparing delivery information, warranties, reviews, and all of these should be clearly signposted on your site.
Competitive or cheap pricing is, of course, going to attract attention. There will always be bargain hunters, and everybody looks for a good offer. But the cheapest isn’t always the best, and besides many sites offer the same product for the same price, so why should your site win the sale?
Value. Value doesn’t just refer to price. To quote Mr Money himself, Warren Buffett: “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.” And your customers are smart, they will look beyond the price. They will be thinking a few things – what do I get for that price?
All of these factor into whether a visitor considers your product a worthwhile investment. If the user thinks they’ll have an easier, safer, quicker experience elsewhere they’ll likely ignore a small price difference.
I’ve written about trust signals before, because they’re a huge part of any eCommerce experience, and are so often overlooked by businesses, but they’re at the heart of every buying decision: we’ve all been burned before by a business, and we’ve all heard scam horror stories. The modern online shopper is vigilant, and expects a minimum level of trust signalling.
Examples of trust signals you can easily implement on your site include:
This article is not a definitive guide to designing your product page, indeed there’s a lot we haven’t covered, but at the end of the day, your product pages should be considered your best final say in the products and services your business offers to its customers. Whilst the user journey very often starts a long, long way from a product page, ultimately, the decision a consumer makes takes place there.
Are you confident you can provide enough information, value, and trust to make them push that “add to basket” button? If you’re considering a new website, or perhaps just some advice, please get in touch and speak to our friendly team today!
Part of The Digital Maze Group