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Issue 2002 1 - Thursday, January 31, 2002

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  Homepages that sell  

A homepage is a showcase for the products offered on a website, and is one of the key factors in determining its success.

In just a few seconds, a visitor should be able to tell who you are, what you are offering him and what differentiates you from your competitors.

If any one of these factors is not clear, the user is quite likely to end his visit right there and will probably never return.

A simple parallel can be drawn with a real-world store. Would you want to go inside if the window display didn't show you exactly what kind of store it was, what products it sold and what it could offer you if you went in?

This is exactly how Internet users react, with one major difference, though: they don't have to walk from store to store - a simple mouse click is all it takes to get to competitor's site.

The quality of your homepage is therefore a vital ingredient in the success of your website.

Although its main function is to entice the user to visit the rest of the site, the homepage is also the site's navigation center, a showcase for special offers and, on more sophisticated retail sites, a control panel for ordering and tracking goods.

In order to convert browsers into buyers, the homepage not only needs to be harmonious and coherent, but it must work thoroughly efficiently too.

However, this efficiency depends on more than just the site itself.

Nowadays, users are accustomed to finding certain services and features at specific places on a homepage.

If a homepage does not adhere to the standard practices users have come to expect, they will feel disorientated and will probably leave the site; they won't want to waste time trying to understand how the page works.

Users these days are increasingly demanding and they don't have much patience either.

And who can blame them? They are used to surfing the net and buying from quality sites, so why should they make any special efforts if they don't immediately understand the way a homepage works.

Starting from this established fact, we carried out our study "homepages that sell" by constituting a panel of the best-performing retail sites.

Why eRetail sites?


These sites are, in our opinion, representative of the majority of merchant sites today.

Of course, it's true that an eRetail site has certain characteristics that an eTourism site, for example, does not have and vice-versa. However, the wealth of elements and features on the homepages of eRetail sites mean that they are first-class objects of analysis for determining what the ideal characteristics of a homepage are.

Finally, we considered that the know-how eRetail sites have acquired over the past few years was yet another good reason for focusing our analysis on them.

We therefore chose 100 eRetail sites with a browser-to-buyer conversion rate of 2% and above.

In addition, to determine the criteria of success in choosing and positioning homepage features, we split these sites into 4 separate groups (about 25 sites in each):

- Group 1, composed of sites with a browser-to-buyer conversion rate of between 8% and 30% (

- Group 2, composed of sites with a browser-to-buyer conversion rate of between 5% and 7.9%.

- Group 3, composed of sites with a browser-to-buyer conversion rate of between 3% and 4.9%.

- Group 4, composed of sites with a browser-to-buyer conversion rate of between 2% and 2.9%.

We looked at each of the elements found on homepages, and determined what the standard conventions used by the 100 sites are for each one. We also pinpointed the differences between the 4 groups, when these were significant.

We established statistics not just for how frequently various categories and features are found, but also concerning their position on the page and their size in pixels. Where relevant, we have also added information about the choice of terms used for naming features.

This enabled us to map out the features that add up to a homepage that sells.

As far as navigability is concerned, in addition to the intrinsic analysis of the top, left, bottom or center menus of these homepages, we also determined what were the sections most commonly used in a menu located at the bottom of the page, not only in relation with our study group as a whole, but also within each of the four groups.

We also noticed that the sites with the best results made their main shopping sections available right from the links located in the menu at the bottom of the page, as shown in the chart below.

On the other hand, as far as the return policy link was concerned (that tells users how to return faulty products), this proportion was totally reversed.

Nevertheless, some of the sections located at the bottom of the page are more uniform between the groups. This is how there are fewer differences between the groups as far as the direct relational elements (contact, email, feedback) are concerned, even though they are more frequently displayed on the sites in the first and second groups than on the sites in the third and fourth groups.

And finally, we noticed that 51% of the sites in our study customised their homepages according to the season.

And yet, this customisation greatly depends on the sector of activity of these sites. This is how:

- 80% of the beauty product websites customise their homepages according to the season.
- 75% of the general interest web sites
- 50% of the sites selling books
- 47% of thesites selling computer products
- 42% of the sites selling sports goods
- 40% of the sites selling clothes

Of course, this is only a very small part of the study we just carried out that involves over 100 different criteria of analysis and gives, for each of them, the standards adopted by the 100 best-performing retail sites (size and position expressed in pixels).

To view the full contents of the study, please click HERE.




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