How important is the homepage on ecommerce sites?
An ecommerce homepage has a number of tasks to perform. It should tell users what the site is about, as well as providing an easy way for customers to find what they came to the site for.
There are also secondary goals like promoting latest offers, new product lines, and email signups.
I’ve been asking two ecommerce experts about the value of the homepage and the most important features for retailers.
James Gurd, owner at Digital Juggler:
Very. The root page is typically the primary landing page for direct traffic as most people type the domain name in, not a deeper level URL.
It acts as a gateway for visitors who need further signposting and direction, for example new users who don’t yet know the brand or the website. As a brand marketing and visitor funnelling tool it’s incredibly important.
Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh:
Importance is a subjective term, but perhaps the numbers speak for themselves:
Dan Barker, Ecommerce consultant:
People have been predicting ‘the death of the homepage’ for more than 10 years. I still think they’re very important, particularly in Ecommerce (I suppose you could argue in publishing a little less so – as the bulk of shares/entries should be on individual articles).
I think for Ecommerce, the homepage may even be a little more important today than a few years ago, as ‘homepage landing visits’ tend to overindex on mobile and tablet.
Here are seven reasons I think homepages remain important for ecommerce sites:
It does vary considerably, depending on the volume of targeted marketing campaigns a site is running that deep link people to deeper pages.
Some retail sites I’ve seen get around 30% of landing page traffic to the homepage but some content driven sites get far less, around 10%, as a lot of the traffic is driven to specific content pages e.g. Blogs, videos. So the split really depends on your site and marketing mix.
This depends, mostly, on the loyalty of your customer-base, on the ‘recurrent’ elements you add to your homepage (eg. a frequently updated news section, regularly changing products/promotions, etc), and – in particular – on the marketing channels you choose to focus on.
In general it’s rare to see a site where homepage landing visits is not in the double figures, and equally it’s sad to see a site where homepage landers are greater than (say) 80%, as it usually means that category/product pages aren’t working as well as they could.
Only way to decide is to test and learn. There’s no right answer. The important thing is to not see the homepage as one size fits all.
Learn to adapt content to suit the visitor profile. For example, it may be better to show different content to the new visitor than the signed-in user sees. Tailoring content can be very effective.
Typically you’d expect to see key marketing campaigns and brand messaging in the primary content zone and then other content types like social proof, customer reviews, product merchandising zones etc.
It helps to learn from competitors and leading ecommerce sites but the best way to know what works is to adopt a test and learn approach and continuously improve the page.
Unsurprisingly, site search is one of the most common features interacted with and in fact is around three times more likely to be used on the homepage versus one of our category pages.
Homepage banners get a fairly even spread of clicks.
Our homepage gets refreshed every week, although I do think we should change our thinking on this a little bit.
We should be assessing banner performance more and test whether longer support for better performing banners would be effective.
It’s easy to get in to the habit of changing the homepage constantly, but content editors visit the homepage much for frequently than the average customer, so it’s possible that important content gets missed as it is refreshed too often.
Testing is the key here, as well as looking to techniques such as serving different content to new and returning customers.
I had a look through old blog posts I’d written about homepages, and found these six ‘purposes of the homepage’ from a February 2007 post.
Strangely I still think they make a pretty good list:
Additional to that, it’s useful to organise the information so that “Information it’s crucial the majority of users see” is toward the top, “additional, non-crucial info” next, and then “nice to have” stuff below that.
Number 6 there – ‘Get permission to speak to your visitors again’ – is something that’s resurged over the last couple of years, with email signup overlays growing, and the occasional social sign-in option direct on the homepage.
As an example of why that’s important: If you’re advertising heavily on TV or radio, it’s likely you’ll get a lot of response traffic direct to your homepage (or rather, via a google brand search & then to your homepage).
It’s unlikely that traffic will convert immediately, and therefore it’s useful to try and ‘smooth’ the journey, and try to extend the relationship. Some do that by featuring the products/messages from their ads on the homepage at the time ads go out, some do it by heavily encouraging sign up very prominently.