Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Web site review: Go beyond initial conversions to make longterm customers

In every issue of our print publication, we review a Web site.

How often do you click away from a site that has what you want because you couldn’t find detailed info, enough photos or specs?

That happened to me recently when I searched for two outdoor fans with lights for our front porch.

I'd found a model at the right price and with the right features on some big sites (for example, Hunter Fan had what I wanted but it had so little info it was a joke. Sadly, that's common for companies like Hunter that rely on resellers and distributors).

Many other sites didn't give me the info I needed (and that my husband demanded) like whether it came with a remote control (he has dreams of sitting with a beer and The Economist and not having to move to adjust the fan) and a dimmer (we love to eat on our porch and hate bright lights because we are getting older and uglier by the minute.) Did these cost extra? Some sites didn't say.

My search led me to HansenWholesale.com, a light and fan company selling to businesses and consumers.
Hansen's site isn't very pretty but it sure is helpful. It does everything to capture refugees like me from other sites. And what I liked was that it had a long-term view of online marketing: It wasn't just trying to convert visitors but turn them into loyal repeat buyers by making sure they got what they wanted by providing more images, charts and info than other sites.

Make the first purchase great and others will follow

Hansen’s marketers appear to have taken a long-term view by:

  • Minimizing mistakes and returns. It offers a free service, Shop with an Expert, that lets prospects view the same pages, in the same way and at the same time, as a rep.
  • Eliminating nasty surprises. Hansen doesn’t just tell prospects what’s included, it spells out what’s not included. Every product page has diagrams, drawings, charts and photos to show dimensions and details.
  • Educating customers. Experts may understand industry acronyms, but this site explains what they mean and why they’re important. For example, a fan with a high CPM has the coolest breeze. It provides guides explaining how to read product comparisons and what’s important. You can shop by the coolest breeze, too.
  • Adding value with useful tools. Every product page contains a calculator to work out the cost. It also has this tool to let you compare selections.

HansenWholesale.com’s strengths are its enthusiasm for its subject matter and the extensive content written by an expert on ceiling fans.

But small spelling mistakes and grammatical errors take a little bit of the shine off this site’s excellence.

How do online visitors respond to spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or factual mistakes?

They dismiss what you say, thinking you can’t be bothered to take the time to get things right.

That means fantastic content and advice is devalued. To keep prospects’ trust, avoid errors by:

  • Using tools like NetMechanic to check spelling and links of live pages.
  • Reading each page on hard copy. In the same way prospects skim pages, we do the same thing when we read online. The only way to catch sneaky mistakes (like words with two meanings) is to read each line on paper.
  • Asking someone else to read your copy before it goes live. Nothing works like a fresh pair of eyes.
  • Reading the copy out loud. If you don’t have access to a printer, read each word out loud. That forces you to pay attention to each word. I can tell you from experience that finding all the mistakes on screen is very difficult. This blog is testimony to that.
P.S. I still haven't decided what to buy, but Hansen's site has swayed me to spend a bit more on one of their fans and skip the basic Hunter model we were originally considering.

Posted by Julie Power, editor in chief of the Internet & Marketing Report. Follow me on Twitter at JuliePower.


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