Welcome to the fourth part of our best practices in eCommerce series. In previous articles, we discussed category page design, product pages, and cart optimization. In this piece, we will review eCommerce homepage UX.
The homepage is the basis for your entire eCommerce website. It is often the first page you design and the most viewed page in your analytics. Despite this, the homepage is often overlooked. We tend to take for granted that the homepage looks fine and only needs minor updates to products, offers, and sales. However, there’s much more to it. Keep reading to learn why you should care about eCommerce homepage user experience (UX) and how you can optimize yours.
Why Should You Focus on Your Homepage UX?
We often focus on optimizing landing pages and creating better experiences for users who hit these URLs directly. After all, driving traffic to landing pages can reduce confusion and friction in the buying process, increasing conversions. However, the vast majority of your site visitors likely aren’t going to land on a niche page. The first page they will see is your homepage.
According to SEMrush Traffic Analytics, almost half of all retail traffic comes direct, with the vast majority of these site visitors typing your homepage into the address bar.
“This can be explained by long-term brand familiarity, repeat visits for regular purchases, and good brand awareness — this is what all the leading websites have in common,” Anna Lebedeva explains for SEMrush.
Your homepage customers are your loyal customers. They know to go directly to your website because they are familiar with your brand, love what you do, and want to explore more. This means it’s in your best interest to create a homepage that brings these loyal customers in and makes them want to convert.
Your homepage is also the first impression that your brand makes with new visitors. When people find your site through organic search, friends, or social media, they will make snap judgments about your website within the first few seconds of landing.
Through web user data and eye tracking research, we know that customers form first impressions about your website within 1/10 of a second of seeing it. Within 2.6 seconds, customers see something that most influences their opinion. All this is to say that your homepage UX needs to be really good or you could drive away potential customers.
Saying you need a good homepage is one thing, but actually developing a strong design is another. Below are six tips you can use to guide your homepage design to win over new customers and convert loyal ones.
1. Choose Function Over Fashion
Before you consider any element of your homepage UX, remember to prioritize function over fashion. It can be tempting to embrace the latest design elements that catch your eye on other websites and jump in with complex videos and graphics; however, you could end up confusing your audiences. People could become distracted, frustrated, or even motion sick just looking at your homepage.
Focus on the function of your homepage first. Tie all of your design elements back to your overall goals. This will prevent your design team from going overboard and creating something a large part of your audience can’t use.
2. Welcome Loyal Customers Who Are Signed In
In earlier parts of this series, we discussed how customers are likely to bounce if you require them to create an account. One of the best ways to reduce friction can be to allow people to check out as a guest; but guest checkout isn’t always the better option.
If you are building your membership base and encouraging users to create accounts, incorporate ways to show the account value to your customers. One way you can do this is by simply greeting signed-in members on your homepage. This personal greeting makes their online experience feel exclusive. They will feel like they are getting a better deal or seeing better products than non-members.
Footlocker is a strong example of this. Their sign-in request acts as a VIP portal. This way, signing in isn’t a chore, but rather an opportunity for loyal customers to set themselves apart from the rest.
3. Make Your Shipping Thresholds Clear
There are a few universal questions that customers will have about your brand. New customers want to know where your shipping thresholds lie and if they meet their expectations. For example, 91% of customers say they would consider buying from a brand again if it offered free shipping. Additionally, only 25% of customers say they are willing to pay more for fast shipping, a number that continues to decline.
Make your shipping threshold clear as a way to bring customers in. Even if your threshold is high, most shoppers will tend to focus on the word “free” over the actual dollar amount they need to hit.
Look at how DSW displays its shipping threshold. Not only is it placed clearly on the homepage (without distracting from their top offers), but it also encourages customers to become VIP and create accounts. If you are spurred by shipping costs, the solution is simple: become a loyal member and the shipping fees disappear.
4. Test Different Items to Promote
Look at the demographics of people who land on your homepage. What percentage are returning visitors? What percentage are loyal customers? This data can help you determine which items that you promote on your homepage. If you look across the retail spectrum, you will likely see three sets of items across various homepages:
- Bestsellers: these are popular products and crowd favorites. They have several reviews from years of sales. These products can win new customers over because they have a proven track record, reducing the risk of trying a new brand.
- New Releases: these are the hot and exciting items that just landed on your website. Your loyal customers love these items. They regularly visit your website and eagerly await new items that they haven’t seen before.
- Collections: these are groups of items that go together. If you are trying to create a look or define your brand, share these items. Collections are meant to elicit feelings and creating experiences for shoppers about your business and products.
If you look at Sur la table’s homepage UX, you can see a few of these different items in action. You can see their latest collections selling customers on the idea of Mediterranean dining by the seashore, then hitting loyal customers with new items that align with their brand design. These images make you want to click deeper into the website.
5. Add Call to Action Events
You might not think that small calls to action would have a big impact on your homepage UX, but they can help drive new customers deeper into your retail experience. Think about this from a human perspective: what do you do when you enter a new place for the first time? This could be a retail store, or airport lounge, or restaurant. You immediately look for guidance on where to go. This is why stores like Starbucks have big “Order Here” signs and retailers display information about different departments. Your website is your room, and you need to orient customers and send them in the right direction.
Look at how JCPenney displays items on its homepage. There are Shop Now icons on several images, but the eCommerce brand also uses arrows to encourage users to click. These icons are small, but they are more effective at encouraging customers to click than simple labels would be.
6. Focus On Your Customer Navigation
In the same way that customers respond to CTA buttons telling them what to do, your navigation improves your homepage UX by guiding customers to the right department. This is most often where designers get carried away with the fashion of a website and forget the function. They assume that site users can figure out where your navigation menu is and tuck it away in the corner.
If you want to see how your customers navigate your website without a clear navigation bar, set up some user testing that records how customers click around your site. You can watch videos of customers on your landing page and see where they get tripped up. If the vast majority of users bumble around until they find your navigation, you need to make it more prominent.
For example, Bath & Body Works doesn’t have a complex product line. They’re not a department store with thousands of SKUs. However, they still have clear navigation at the top of their website. They design it to match with their brand but also guide customers to their body products, hand soaps, and home products.
How would you rank the user experience on your homepage? Is your website easy to use and optimized with these best practices, or does it need work? If you want to review your homepage UX and other elements of your eCommerce brand, sign up for our free 25-point user experience checkup. We can look at your website objectively and make suggestions for improvement and growth.