Every potential customer is different. There are about 7 billion on the planet right now. That doesn’t mean you have to design 7 billion websites, or prepare for 7 billion contingencies. There is really only one kind of customer you have to worry about: the kind that ultimately buys your product.
However, that one kind of consumer goes through a number of phases before his money can be converted into boat fuel for your new yacht. Becoming familiar with all the parts of the consumer buying cycle is the key to designing a website that takes a person from curious shopper, to enthusiastic, repeat customer. Here is a brief look at those phases, and how you can capitalize on each of them with your site:
It will most likely be your Home page to which search engines and other sites link. This is the stage where BEST SEO practices are key. Because they are not aware of you, they are not looking for you. Therefore, they have to be able to stumble upon your site. It is a little like having a storefront in the town square. Getting awareness is the hardest part. It gets slightly easier as the cycle progresses.
You’ve got 8 seconds. That is about the length of the average, human attention span, it is slightly shorter than that of goldfish. The successful telemarketer is one who can capture attention an interest within the first 8 seconds. As a telemarketer, the point of the first 8 seconds is to buy yourself another 20 seconds, and so on…
The same is true for your website.
There should be nothing on your Home page that does not grab attention. Videos are great. People love clicking on videos. Once awareness turns into interest, you are a lot closer to the cash register than you think.
Now that they have shown interest by clicking on at least one link, you can start the process of educating them about the benefits of your product or service. If they clicked on a video, you have already begun that process. You have already used pictures and videos to get them to this point. Now is the time to use words. Tell them about the product. Show them the features. Make tasteful comparisons. You have their interest. Give them a reason to become a customer. They will never be more open to your pitch than right now.
Up till now, it has mostly been a one-way street. They have shown minimal buy-in by clicking something. Now, it is time to ask for greater participation. In sales, this is called a test close. The intent is not necessarily to close the deal, but to evaluate where you stand, and ferret out objections. On a website, it is more about evaluating the intent to purchase.
One of the best ways to do this is through a well-designed contact page. The web hosting service FatCow has produced a video (conveniently placed on their homepage) showing the steps to creating an appealing, yet simple contact page. But making the page is not enough. You have to give the visitor a reason to use it. You can offer them a free ebook related to your service for which they will need to fill out some information. You can offer answers to questions about the product. At this point, you just want to get them to participate in the process.
This is where you need an ecommerce mechanism in place. Now that they are actively participating, it is time for you to ask for the sale. You have to ask for the sale. Otherwise, you won’t get it. The commerce portion of your site has to look professional, and inspire confidence. This process is, more or less, the same for all 7 billion of your potential customers.