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Think Festive Web Sites Will Attract Shoppers This Holiday Season? Think Again

  • Written by  Robert DuRoss, Lochbridge

VP Lochbridge head shotDuring the holiday season, it can be tempting to create flashy designs and creative displays to attract shoppers away from competing sites and onto your page. But in reality, overly creative web sites can lead to performance issues on your site during the critical November-December shopping period. And with a record 56% of consumers expected to shop online this year, spending more than $616 billion — you can’t afford to let fonts, images and more stand between you and crucial holiday revenue.

The truth is, today’s shoppers don’t need to be enticed to visit your online store — they need to be strategically directed to the merchandise and offered speedy purchase options. Design tactics can create performance issues that, in turn, deter the consumers on which you depend. Online retailers must create the most relevant, personal and fulfilling online shopping experiences possible. This means web sites must function at all times, while also loading quickly.

How quickly must your site load? Consider this: As little as a two-second delay during checkout can increase shopper abandonment rate. Up to 44% of shoppers think something has gone wrong when an online checkout page is slow. And Forrester researchers estimate that 70% online shopping carts end up being abandoned — and that adds up to billions of dollars in lost revenue. 

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So during the holiday season, keep it simple. Here are several ways to do just that:

Make it easy to buy online: Registration, login and checkout processes must be as easy to do as possible or you face the prospect of shoppers giving up and migrating to a competitor.

Keep the holiday feel festive, but modest: Avoid complex technology that will slow down page loads. Shun the use of carousels — those series of rotating product or marketing images that seek to tempt shoppers — because they can destroy your web site’s performance. Their technology is more complicated than straight HTML and, therefore, requires several seconds more to load than a static image. If you do employ carousels, use just a few images and skip the elaborate rotation effects and content. Speed is the word!

Still, keep it fresh: Update content and presentation to entice shoppers who may return several times during the holiday season. Just don’t overdo the display with unnecessary flair that will slow users down.  

Deliver what visitors want, where they want it. Put navigation thumbnails above the fold of a web page so users can get to them quickly. Ensure that navigation menus and the display of tabbed content are available without delay. Also, keep in mind that video streams or too many product photos may annoy shoppers even if they take little time to load.     

Skip the animation: Animation may be okay during slower shopping times, but during this peak season, shoppers want to navigate your site, easily purchase goods and leave the animation to a children’s Christmas special on TV. Typically, when users see animation moving on a laptop or smartphone, they think content is still loading. Animation also contributes to poor performance — and most shoppers could do without it, anyway.

Don’t get fond of fonts: They might brighten a magazine but, again, you don’t want shoppers mesmerized by, say, the Magneto font when a web font — or a custom font for your brand that can download and install on demand — can have the impact you want and get shoppers over all the hurdles to their victory in placing an order. Further, if you use three or more unique fonts (including normal, italic and bold versions), your pages will load erratically. If you wish to get creative, use a native front in the design phase and if doesn’t fit your brand aesthetic, try one or two web fonts.

Test continually: Tweaking font size, color and content can impact revenues immensely, so test different variations to determine what sparks the best results. In a related issue, considering the crucial importance of speed and precision, think about retaining a web site monitoring service to ensure the best web site performance during the holiday season. These services can enhance overall site function by working to reduce site errors, speed up page load times and more.

Marketers and merchandisers often point to design as a motivating factor for grabbing a shopper’s interest and enticing them to buy. But too much design can prove off-putting, especially when fickle shoppers increasingly judge a retailer’s web site by how smooth it was for them to locate an item and then purchase it online. Remember: The customer comes first — especially during holiday season.

Rob DuRoss is a digital performance consultant at Lochbridge, a provider of enterprise and emerging technology services.

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