SIGNS YOUR SITE NEEDS A MAKEOVER (PART 2 OF 2)
Creating an eCommerce site is a big undertaking for distributors. Many organizations spend a good amount of financial and sweat equity to get an online storefront up and running and then, once their site is live, they think they’ve reached the finish line – when, in reality, they’ve just begun. That’s because eCommerce is a journey; one that involves periodic updates and refreshes to ensure the site is continually meeting customer expectations and bringing ROI.
In this second installment of our white paper series, we discuss must-haves for smooth and efficient on-site functionality and explore the best design elements to enhance a company’s brand and boost its site visibility. Our best practices are relatively simple but, surprisingly, many businesses don’t take the time to implement them. Are you willing to lose site visitors and potential sales by not updating your site’s design and usability?
Website functionality and design are key factors in attracting, engaging, and converting site visitors to buyers. The old adage “form follows function” was originally coined in the architectural industry with the precept that a building’s shape should be based on its intended purpose or function. This popular idea that an object’s function is more important than its form applies to other fields as well, including software development. For B2B digital commerce, periodic functionality and design enhancements help keep a website fresh and functional, and make it that more appealing to online users.
38% of users stop engaging with a website if the content layout or images are unattractive.
MAKE YOUR SITE EASY TO USE AT EVERY STAGE OF THE BUYING CYCLE
Due to an influx of sophisticated B2B buyers with higher expectations, today’s eCommerce platforms require, at the minimum, the following functionality:
- Fast-loading pages
Buyers don’t have time to wait for slow-loading pages; they are accustomed to consumer websites where they can find a product quickly and access product details easily. When a site’s speed is lagging, visitors become frustrated and lose interest. KoMarketing validated these sentiments in its 2015 study of B2B buyers. They found that 75% of respondents resort to using the “Back” button if a site page is too slow to load. What is considered too slow? Experts say a page load that takes more than five seconds is definitely too slow, and anywhere between one-and-a-half and three seconds is optimal. Research conducted by Aberdeen Group shows the snowball effect slow- loading pages create for business: Every one-second delay in page load decreases customer satisfaction by 16%, page views by 11%, and conversion rates by 7%.
- Intuitive search and clear navigation
The easiest way to get buyers to your products is by providing a clear path to them. Understand how your site visitors look for items and adjust your functionality capabilities to cater to their needs. Don’t base your search and navigation on how your internal organization identifies and groups your products. Instead, use research and reporting to determine how buyers search for your products. Some may search by its part number, others by the manufacturer, or even others by product or category name. The point is to make your site search flexible enough to accommodate multiple types of searches so that no matter how they search, it will lead them to the right product.
Wholesale products can come in a multitude of sizes, colors and materials, which is why filtering tools are a huge advantage to buyers. Once customers get to a product page, give them the option to choose the specific size and specs they need for their application with attribute filters. An aluminum, 1/0 AWG, 1/2-inch stud compression lug is much easier to find with a filtering tool than by clicking through multiple pages of a product category.
- Flexible ways to transact
Distributors have a wide range of customers: from big spenders to those who make minimal but regular purchases. As a result, buyers require unique purchasing options that meet their business needs – options such as a choice of payment terms, contracted pricing, and punchout catalogs. These transactional methods and tools are necessary for B2B buyers, so they are essential for your eCommerce site.
Automated account management and payment capabilities give customers the opportunity to manage authorized buyers, credit applications, purchase orders, payments, and more in one place online. The result is a one-click, no-pay checkout experience.
Punchout technology adds even more simplicity by providing a connection between the buyer’s procurement system and the supplier’s website, which allows the buyer to search for products from different vendor catalogs and add them to his shopping cart. When the buyer is ready to check out, his shopping cart automatically transfers into his company’s procurement system and the order is submitted to the supplier using its normal procurement methods. With seamless communication between systems, punchouts make the buying process more efficient and accurate.
- Omnichannel shopping
Wholesalers run a multichannel business when they have both a brick-and-mortar store and an online storefront for buyers to place orders. But a multichannel sales strategy is not enough. B2Bs must graduate to an omnichannel strategy if they want to provide a consistent and positive experience across every sales channel. A successful omnichannel business integrates technology, processes, and people in order to make the same data available to internal and external users. This requires a flexible cloud- based computing system that can support numerous users, a central product information management (PIM) tool to maintain up-to-date, reliable data that can be used across the organization, and an informed staff that has the latest tools and resources available to meet every customer’s needs, regardless of the sales channel used.
In this digital-savvy world, omnichannel is synonymous with a consistent user experience, which means providing buyers with the same shopping experience across different technologies. The look, functionality, and options available on your site via a desktop computer must also be available on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. A responsive design is the perfect solution for creating multi-device consistency because it adapts a site’s layout based on the type of device on which it’s viewed, making sure the structure and content remain the same.
MAINTAIN A FRESH, CLEAN LOOK THAT INVITES AND ENGAGES USERS
Functionality plays a key role in the user experience, but following closely behind it is the look and feel of a site. A site’s overall design may not seem like an all-important factor in website success, but research shows otherwise. According to ResearchGate, first impressions on a website are 94% design-related. Furthermore, Adobe’s 2015 State of Content report found that 38% of users stop engaging with a website if the content layout or images are unattractive.
Busy backgrounds, disorganized content, and even typos can annoy and detract site visitors. Take a closer look at your current website and ask yourself if your site meets these essential design standards for a positive user experience:
- A clean, modern interface
Don’t lose buyers to a busy-looking site that has too many graphics, loud backgrounds, and too much text. Instead, offer a clean, streamlined design that’s professional and sophisticated. Businesses have a better chance of drawing people’s attention using a subtle “less is more” approach versus a cluttered, graphic-intense page that slaps people in the face, like this site below.
- Consistent branding
A company develops brand guidelines for a reason: to maintain a consistent, professional look across an organization’s collateral to promote brand awareness, strength, and value. Brand perception, many times, starts and ends with a company’s website, which is why brand guidelines must be incorporated online. Rules around logo size and placement, typefaces, and even color schemes are integral to developing and reinforcing a consistent brand identity.
- Straightforward pages and headers
Website navigation is based on a site’s five or six core pages, which house the most beneficial information for buyers. Feature these main pages as headers on the home page, as well as every other page of your site, to provide buyers easy access to this information.
Be clear with page names or headers by taking a “does what it says, says what it does” approach. For instance, if a buyer clicks on a site’s Products page, then he should see actual products for sale – not a general line card with descriptions of the types of products sold. Usually, if the page content doesn’t reflect the page header name, the buyer will be hesitant to click around further on the site to find the actual product items.
- Professional, meaningful visuals
Choose website images carefully; photography and graphics can have an impact on a company’s brand as well. In order to create a strong visual brand that complements your organization’s overall brand, invest in professional images and graphics that serve a purpose, tell a story, and best represent your company. Generic or amateur photography only devalues a website and disinterests people. Conversely, web pages without any graphics or images are not only boring, they become indistinguishable. Consider how the addition of images could bring this manufacturer’s page to life:
DESIGN AND FUNCTIONALITY REFRESHES HELP BOOST TRAFFIC AND CONVERSIONS
A website’s overall usability can make the difference between losing a sale and gaining a loyal customer, which is why a site’s design and overall functionality are so important. To ensure a better chance of turning your site visitors into buyers, pay attention to customer needs, invest in a better commerce platform, and schedule periodic updates to keep your site fresh and engaging.
As a company grows and customer needs change, its eCommerce site must also evolve to stay relevant and competitive. Unilog helps distributors maintain a competitive edge with its all-in-one digital commerce solution, CIMM2. A cloud-based software platform, CIMM2 offers top-notch functionality like advanced search and filtering tools, an in-built PIM for data management, and a user interface design that’s both easy to use and navigate. Powerful and flexible, CIMM2 integrates with many ERP systems and gives buyers the personalized experience they want with the customized payment options they need.
Whether your site needs a minor tune-up or a major overhaul, Unilog can help. Its leading digital commerce solutions and product content services can transform your website into a successful e-business. Contact a representative today for more details and to see CIMM2 in action.
Unilog is a global technology company that delivers powerful, affordable eCommerce solutions for the B2B marketplace. Our cloud-based eCommerce platform and product data enrichment services help distributors, manufacturers, and wholesalers increase online sales, reduce cost to serve, and enhance their digital channel. Unilog is an ISO 9001:2008- and ISO 8000-certified company with North American headquarters outside of Philadelphia, PA and international headquarters in Bangalore, India. For more information, visit www.unilogcorp.com.