May 28, 2003, 12:00 AM

Who Knew?

(Page 3 of 3)

It’s not uncommon for an e-retailer to have as many as 40 or 50 links on a home page, including those on drop-down menus. Net IQ Corp.’s Brent Hieggleke says he’s seen clients with 100 or more links off the home page. Retailers’ thinking is that the home page is the first and possibly the only opportunity to win a visitor’s business, but analytics have shown that putting too much on the home page has the opposite effect.

Analytics showed Hieggleke’s client GeoPassage, an online travel company, that its home page was one of the top exit points for visitors. That finding indicated that the page wasn’t performing its function of drawing people deeper into the site, and in fact, was overwhelming them with too many choices that caused them to flee.

“The company needed to understand that while someone coming to a retail site is going there to purchase something, they are probably not going to purchase anything on their first visit. The scenario for a first-time visitor is very different than for a repeat visitor. You have to make sure that you design the home page for both scenarios: the first-time visitor and the one who is returning to buy something quickly,” Hieggleke says.

The key is to arrange the page so both customer segments can immediately find what’s relevant to them, he adds. For example, that could mean a concierge button targeting new visitors that unfolds content in a logical progression instead of displaying everything the visitor needs to know all at once. For returning customers, it could mean navigation that highlights a quick path to checkout so they can skip what they don’t need to see. By simplifying and reorganizing its home page, and testing successive iterations, GeoPassage arrived at a page design that featured only the top destination countries. In short order, this increased the number of return visitors by 30% and eliminated the home page from the list of the site’s top exit points, increasing the average length of time visitors spend on the page by 33%.


Where the bottleneck is

There’s at least one choking point in every retailer’s online shopping process-often more, according to Brent Hieggleke, director of WebTrends marketing at NetIQ Corp. “There’s always a spot in the purchase process that drops out more customers than other spots. Once you identify it, you know where to attack,” he says.

One of Hieggleke’s e-retailer clients discovered that its shopping process was taking too many clicks and too much time. It identified exactly where in the process it was losing shoppers, then reconfigured the steps to reduce clicks and shave off about 30 seconds. Conversions jumped 25%-from 4% of shoppers to 5%. “That’s like free money,” Hieggleke says. “They didn’t have to spend anything or drive any new marketing campaigns to get it. They just had to get more efficient.”

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