July 2, 2009, 12:00 AM

When it comes to designing an e-commerce site, it’s all about the content

To create a compelling site that draws shoppers in and lures them to buy, e-retailers should choose their web site content carefully, one expert says.

When designing a retailing web site, the rules of brainstorming do not apply. Quality is more important than quantity. To create a compelling site that draws shoppers in and lures them to buy, e-retailers should choose their content carefully, Lauren Freedman, president of research and consulting firm the E-tailing Group Inc., said at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition in Boston last month.

First off, Freedman says, merchants should know their brands and how to best bring them to market via the content on their retail sites. For example, apparel retailer Wet Seal, which targets young women and teens, sports snazzy copy, contests and events on its e-commerce site. By contrast, Baby Universe, which caters to mom’s–many of whom are on a tight budget-offers a prominent free shipping promotion smack in the center of its home page.

Another tip Freedman suggests is to “embrace the human factor.” People miss chatting with store associates or even fellow shoppers when they shop online. E-retailers can help fill that void by posting profiles of employees, such as customer service staff, to help consumers establish a human connection with the company and brand. Another warm and fuzzy tip is to play up any charitable endeavors to help build a sense of trust with customers.

Freedman also suggests e-retailers offer content to help consumers go behind the brand and get the inside scoop. She calls this creating an “insider’s” strategy. This could take the form of a blog or a tips or how-to section.

However, no matter how connected consumers feel to a retailer or how much advice and information a retailer offers, if shoppers can’t find what they are looking for, they won’t buy. And, so organizing content is a top priority, Freedman says. Guided navigation is a good way to help consumers find what they want fast, she says. The feature allows consumers to drill down by attributes like color, price range and brand and style to find exactly what they are seeking rather than requiring them to enter a term into a search box. Many times, consumers don’t know exactly what they want, do not know that brand’s name for a product or only have a rough idea of what they are looking for. Guided navigation can help in those instances.

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