Last week we looked at the similarities in brick and mortar retail and digital strategies. This week we’re going to look at how digital strategists can improve their website performance by leaning on some concepts used in retail.
In-Store Conversion Paths — What Retail Does Better Than Websites
Retailers, especially big retailers, make the path to the back of the store very easy to find. Usually, it’s right at the entrance, you can walk in and walk all the way to the back of the store.
Some stores, like Target, tend to have you enter the store off to one side. That main aisle leading from the entrance goes all the way to the back of the store, then turns and loops around to the other side of the store before turning and coming back to the front.
Additionally, retailers tend to keep essential items at the back of the store. Grocers tend to put milk and eggs in the back of the store with a clear path leading to them. They do this because they know that these are essentials that are needed more than they are wanted.
Along the path to the back of the store, we see items in the middle of the aisle that are on sale or seasonal.
Ever notice that these items are usually things like chips, cookies, candy, or bottled drinks of some sort? You never, or rarely, see essential items that you simply need here, like garbage bags or dishwasher detergent.
Retailers have created a conversion path that visitors need to follow to get to what they need. Then, on that path, they add items that they don’t really need, but they might want.
What Digital Strategists Can Learn From Retail
It’s very important that website content is relevant to visitors. Indeed, we should change how we think about human/website interactions.
It’s not about what our goals for the website are, but our visitors’ goals.
Focusing in on those goals will allow us to make a clear conversion path to support them, while improving our conversion metrics.
Now, structuring the website to support an optimized visitor path without sacrificing the ability to generate other conversion points can be done methodically in just a few steps using a card sorting program.
- Make cards for the different subject matter on the website. Keep this as simple as possible and make it so each page has one main focus.
- Then, create cards for the users’ goals with the website.
- Lastly, send this card sorting exercise to as many people as possible. If you already have a database of engaged contacts, that’s a great place to start. Even i you don’t, you can still get cards sorted. Offering gifts to participants can be a good way to get people engaged.
There are tools that have tons of analysis functionality built in. You can find the most common website information architecture that people think make sense. With this data, you basically have a conversion path established.
Now We Can Put Our Conversion Path to Use
There’s really no use in having a conversion path if it isn’t going to get used. So once we have this, we can set up our website to support this visitor flow.
Think about the path this way, if the goal page of the website is like those essential items towards the back of the grocery store, then those center aisle displays in stores are like pop-ups, sidebar CTAs, or subscription forms.
As we measure our website performance, we might make adjustments to the layout and conversion path a little. But, this is a good starting point because it gives us an intentional foundation to gather strong data to make informed decisions as needed.