Shoppers abandon category pages, not product pages.
There's a section for abandon rates, or where people exited your Web site, in nearly every Web analytics package. Online retailers often believe people abandon their sites on a product level. Yet abandonment typically happens at the category-page level. Why?
For each type of perspective, profile, or persona on your Web site, the category page's job is to help the consumer find the right product. Ask yourself, "What information does each shopper need to find that right product?"
To dig even deeper, each perspective, profile, or persona has different needs at different stages of the buying process. Retailers must account for these as well.
Three Potent Questions
Last year, I shared the framework we use for analyzing conversion barriers and creating powerful category pages. It may seem simplistic, but it's über-powerful when you commit to answering these three questions:
Let's start to actually use this framework by creating an example based on a rather simple buying process, such as buying movies:
In a recent screencast, I explain the good, the bad, and the conversion-friendly elements of Target's category pages:
You'll find as you shop around that some stores do one or two things well, while ignoring other buying processes. Target did a great job of leading the design-conscious buyer through its category pages by allowing them to shop by color but did very little for those who want to shop by other criteria.
Some other questions Target could have answered on its category pages:
These questions represent only a few buying perspectives and only imply suggested solutions. They are a result of using of our three-questions framework.
So if your category pages are giving you grief or you're struggling with what to do with them, you're failing to correctly answer at least one of the three questions. When you ignore any question, you fail to create compelling, relevant category pages.
Here's another screencast demonstrating this common problem, this time with Luggage Pros:
It's not for a lack of effort that most category pages don't make the cut. Instead, it's mostly the lack of the persuasive framework needed to create a page that moves prospects forward in the buying process.
The solution is simple in theory but difficult in practice. Great companies will always struggle to know more about their customers and never stop trying to meet and exceed their expectations at every step of the buying process.
Persuasion is always hard work, but it's always well worth the effort.
Share with me your category page struggles or successes.
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Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.
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