Consumer expectation is set by industry standards, and e-commerce buyers have become accustomed to high-quality experiences as retailers have slowly learned to cover the basics on a consistent basis. What counted as a standout UX a couple of years ago might seem quite average today — and this makes it much harder to be exceptional.
And if there’s something you need to be exceptional, it’s the product page. It remains the key to the e-commerce journey. The last stop before action. The punctuation mark at the end of a drawn-out argument. It’s the one place you can be confident that any interested shopper will reach, and it demands polish.
So what makes a perfect product page by 2019’s standards? Let’s take a look at some of the distinguishing factors that set the best product pages apart from the rest of the pack:
Rich product content
Reasonable product images are ubiquitous today, so while there’s a lot to lose from not providing them, there’s also little to gain relative to other large businesses. That said, the options for product content have greatly expanded over the years, and you have a wide range of viable routes to take.
Consider the rise of 360-degree video and AR/VR content. It’s hard to overcome the trust gap innate to e-commerce, particularly for expensive high-end products, but complex content that shows something more about your product can prove quite effective.
When a prospective customer can fully rotate your product, or even preview it in their own home through an AR-compatible app (as with IKEA Place), it can improve your reputation, demonstrate that you’re forward-thinking, and help you pick up some extra sales. And while it can be somewhat tricky to create such content, it isn’t particularly expensive these days — and pairing an app like Magic 360 spin with your e-commerce platform will allow you to roll it out at massive scale without much effort.
Of course, video content in general is extremely powerful. It grabs attention in a way that text simply can’t, and when a shopper is rapidly ratting through pages, a useful video can give them sufficient reason to stop what they’re doing and settle on your site for a spell. Watch a video that explains a product and you’ll be 73% more likely to buy it.
Leaping on that particular stat, Apple provides an informational video just below the fold of each iPhone page. The iPhone Xs page goes even further — it provides links to a couple of relevant videos (including the keynote introduction) to lead into an embedded video entitled “The new generation of iPhone.” If a shopper somehow made it to that page without knowing what an iPhone is all about, they’d easily be able to learn it there.
Trust is everything in the e-commerce world. When you buy from a brick-and-mortar store, you have the option of inspecting the item before you leave, and the knowledge that you have a specific location to revisit if there’s a problem. Buying online, however, requires you to trust in the dedication and competence of a store in a much deeper way — once you order, most of what happens is out of your control.
Winning trust online isn’t easy, though. There are simply too many options out there for a shopper to be won over by a run-of-the-mill level of customer support. To make our lives easier, we’re all looking for online stores that we can return to again and again, always trusting to have good prices and reliable service. You need to pull out of all the stops to earn trust.
A great product page must radiate trustworthiness through a variety of relevant features. Social proof is a huge part of this: believable and in-depth reviews of both your business and your products will help shoppers believe that you’re worth investing in. In fact, around 95% of online shoppers will read product reviews before buying. 95%.
Then there are variable trust indicators that reinforce the quality of your store in general. A top sales-targeted page will typically be scattered with tiles and badges designed to demonstrate trustworthiness: one tile listing a high-profile customer, another offering a badge showing that the business is overseen by some kind of security regulator, etc.
If you’re interested in learning more about using feedback to your advantage, growth consultant Ken Courtright talks at length about the value of social proof in his Marketing Speak interview entitled “Lessons from a Thousand Revenue-Generating Websites”, saying “When a group of people says it’s so, it must be so. If one person says it’s so, it’s probably not so.” It’s so valuable to have a good mix of specific and broad reviews from customers, partners and experts because it takes the pressure off any given testimonial.
You must also be clear about your terms and answer any pertinent questions. What’s your return policy? How long does your shipping take? What do you do if a customer is unhappy? If you can demonstrate through your copy that you genuinely care about providing a great customer experience, you’ll be able to mitigate the primary concerns of buying online.
Intuitive on-site search
When you’re really trying to succeed in the e-commerce sector at the higher end, you want every one of your product pages to be a utility page as well as a destination page. If someone chooses to visit your page but decides it doesn’t offer what they need, you can help them to find a product that does suit their expectations, keeping them on your website (and in your sales funnel) in the process.
In addition to products, you can offer up guides, FAQs, blog posts, and resources in general, all accessible through a clear search bar. Perhaps someone unsure about buying a product doesn’t feel that the price is too steep or that they can’t trust your business — perhaps they just need a little more convincing through relevant materials from experts in the field.
You must also be aware of the rise of semantic search. Older search functions (the kind still used by many e-commerce sites) require specific keywords or phrase to get results: typing in synonyms, ambiguous phrases, conjunctions or typos will lead them to return nothing of relevance. But search engines are becoming capable of so much more — using semantic webs to adeptly parse natural language.
Consequently, you must ensure that your on-site search function is capable of handling long-form queries natural language searches. Returning relevant results for “dresses without sleeves under $100” or “dresses for the holidays in mauve or burgundy” will help you retain interest from those less inclined to speak the language of keyword search.
Imagine someone arriving on your product page only to discover that it isn’t the right product for them. What’s their next step? They could backtrack to Google, but then your business will once again be just one option among countless contenders. You want to keep them around. It doesn’t ultimately matter to you whether they buy that particular product — just that they buy from you.
To that end, you must do all you can to suggest that they’ll find what they’re looking for on your site. Present a clear and intuitive search bar, and provide relevant suggestions. At the very least, this will make shoppers more inclined to view your business positively in the long term — and if the suggestions are tempting enough, you’ll pick up plenty of bonus conversions.
The beauty of luxury retail has always stemmed from the experience more than the products. The feeling that you’re the most important person in the room, that your purchasing choices are highly consequential, and that you have real options for shaping your time in the store. Want something packaged in a particular way? Delivered in a certain type of vehicle? If you have the money, the store can get it done for you.
This is something that you see from high-end companies with in-house production processes and products that are inherently modular. Two industries that spring to mind are the footwear industry and the personal computer industry. I’ll give you some examples:
While many footwear companies provide custom shoe services (including Converse and Nike), Vans has a particularly great approach. Its custom shoe designer is attractive, intuitive, and allows plenty of creative experimentation. Since shoe aficionados will readily pay exorbitant sums for the latest limited-edition ranges, it makes all the sense in the world that someone would stump up the money for a one-time personal design.
In the PC world, Alienware products are exceptionally expensive, but they clearly sell in solid numbers. The company, a subsidiary of Dell, is all about the experience of stepping up hardware performance — you choose a basic configuration, then get to work selecting the specific components you want. It’s ideal for upselling: if you’re paying a certain amount for this level of performance, why not spend 30% more to get 60% more performance? At a certain point, you feel, you might as well go all out.
This way of thinking (catering to every whim for the right price) may not be directly compatible with any but the most exclusive commerce companies, but you can still achieve a lot by giving potential customers options. Delivery options (when and how they receive their orders), packaging options (plain boxing, luxury boing, etc.), and even pricing options (order product Y to get 10% off product X, recommend a friend to earn a referral discount, and so on).
If you can offer any other kind of customization, such as adding a personal logo to an item of clothing, providing something in an unusual color, or having a special size produced, then even better (though this won’t be possible for many businesses). As long as you can work in a few meaningful choices, you can make the purchase of a popular item feel like a unique experience.
Tasteful and thematically-appropriate typography
Typography is the sort of thing that can (and should) be given little attention when you’re just starting out and trying to get your business off the ground — but once you’ve achieved a significant amount of success and you’re aspiring to outperform heated competition, it gains a great deal of rhetorical importance. Interestingly, a 2012 experiment found that picking the right font can give you around a 1.5% boost in the believability of your copy.
The fonts you select will play into how your page and brand come across overall. Choose poorly, and your design ability will come across as amateurish. Choose well, and your content will radiate clarity, credibility, and trustworthiness. It’s strongly advisable to use no more than a couple of font families on a given page, though you can certainly mix up the colors and styles.
For some pointers, try this comprehensive guide to selecting fonts, and give a lot of thought to the products you’re trying to sell. A luxury brand might benefit from using a serif font, sacrificing some visual crispness for the high-class connotation, while one selling child products would get better results from using pastel colors and sticking to handwritten-style sans serif fonts.
Owing to a need for brand consistency, don’t forget to select your fonts for your entire site. It will look much sharper to those navigating from page to page if they aren’t subjected to an ever-changing aesthetic.
Succinct and punchy copywriting
Like typography, copywriting is something that only larger businesses typically invest in, but top copywriters know that the most succinct ideas often take the longest to produce. Think of any of the most memorable slogans and catchphrases from brand history, and a little research will likely reveal that hundreds or even thousands of hours went into it.
When you see another slick product page from a brand like Apple, carefully review the copy. Note how everything extraneous has been removed, leaving only the essential parts that clearly communicate significant benefits. Compare and contrast with lesser e-commerce sites that fill their product pages with chunky paragraphs and dense lists of features.
So in your quest to perfect your product pages, don’t think that you must constantly be seeking to introduce new elements. Sometimes the best thing you can do is trim the fat, allowing the valuable parts left behind to shine that much more brightly. According to a 2016 piece from Bizrate Insight, a mobile shopper is 5% more likely to be frustrated by elements (text and images) being too small than they are to feel that there isn’t enough content.
Also note the nature of the copy: how it dwells on the life-changing properties of what’s on offer, as opposed to its dry characteristics. You don’t buy Nike shoes because they’re 30% more water-resistant than similarly-priced alternatives. You buy them because you want to do it — take the next step in life, pursue a goal, reach new heights.
Think of the perfect sales professional, and how their patter flows. The key is leaping upon the fundamental drives of humanity. Talk to someone as a company, rattling off logical justifications for choosing your products, and you’ll get nowhere. Talk to them as a person, showing your humanity and speaking to theirs through offering them a brighter future, and you’ll achieve an emotional resonance that will be hard to shake.
Going above and beyond what you get on the average product page, these features (challenging as they may be to include) can elevate your product page to something exceptional.