Much has been written about optimizing your Web site to grab the attention of search engines, and that’s certainly a key component of Web marketing. The cyber robots can bring you potential customers. But they don’t actually spend money on kitchens and baths. Real-life flesh and blood consumers do.
So it’s essential to make sure your Web site is delivering an optimum experience for people who have the potential to buy from you.
A lot of Web site advice is geared toward businesses that sell online, or for retailers who have daily or weekly purchasers. It’s more tricky in a business like ours where the purchase cycle is much longer and more infrequent, and when discounts, coupons and other techniques are not as relevant.
What do we know about consumer behavior on the Web as it applies to the kitchen and bath industry? First, a reality check: Consumers are clicking fast. A look at statistics for some dealer sites in our industry indicates the average time on a site ranges anywhere from about 43 seconds up to about 2 minutes and 35 seconds. That means you have to grab attention quickly.
What’s the first thing consumers think when they arrive at a Web site? They think, “Am I on the right site? Did I get to where I thought I was going?” That’s why it’s so important to have your company name, address, city, state and phone number on every page of your site. It sounds basic, but so many sites fail to do this, leaving a visitor uncertain if this is the Signature Kitchens they were hunting for. And they may wonder, “Am I at Signature Kitchens in New York, New Jersey, Charleston, Memphis, Petosky, MI, Lake Mary, FL, or Perry Hall, MD?” Reassure users they have arrived at their correct destination.
APPEALING TO WOMEN
Then, engage them immediately with the right environment. In her book Why Women Buy, Bridgett Brennan stresses that women like a “clean” Web environment. “Clutter online makes women shut down,” Brennan notes.
Too many Web sites fail in this area, cramming way too much on the home page, resulting in a chaotic jumble of logos, buttons, type and pictures. Resist the temptation to put everything on the home page. Clean and simple works better.
Too many Web sites also ignore time-tested basics of good graphic design. Large amounts of white type dropped out of a dark background is a graphic no-no. It’s hard to read and slows people down.
The same holds true for italic type, which has been proven to slow reading. Or a hodgepodge of bold and italic and color and a melee of type sizes. According to studies by Gloria Moss, reported in the book Gender Design and Marketing, women prefer graphics with rounded shapes, lots of white space, as well as color, especially brighter colors.
Men are more likely to prefer a site with a technical look.
Talking about home pages, why would you go to the trouble of designing one and then invite visitors to “Skip Intro?” Don’t waste any of your precious 1-2 minutes asking people to skip something.
Analytics of kitchen and bath site traffic generally indicate that visitors tend to spend the most time looking at pictures of kitchens (or baths, if that is the emphasis of the site.) So put your best efforts into the portfolio section of the site. Copy – yes copy is important here – should point out interesting features. Tell the story of the project…what was the design problem and how was it solved? Women especially love to hear stories about how other women created their kitchens and baths.
Then offer a “share” option. Women faced with a big decision such as a kitchen or bath purchase will want friends to weigh in. Make it easy for her to send your kitchen onto a friend for an opinion (be sure there’s a watermark so your work doesn’t get forwarded without credit.)
Pay attention to page view stats of your site to determine which ones get the most traffic and how much time visitors spend there.
What else should your site have to be user friendly? People. Women, especially, are drawn to faces. Show yourself and your staff. No, it’s not egotistical. Rather, it shows that you are open, friendly, approachable and accountable. And it helps people remember after they’ve visited seven or eight showrooms that yours was the one where they talked to that nice, helpful blonde lady whose name they can’t remember now.
Consider using some stock lifestyle photos to add more people to your site. They are inexpensive and can give a site a lot more personality and mood. Add videos of projects with homeowners telling what they love about their new spaces, to bring testimonials to life and add more faces.
Include photos of your showroom to entice people to visit and also to help them remember, after shopping around, what they saw in yours.
Information on budget ranges can be valuable content for many reasons. It helps pre-qualify prospects in a neutral environment. If they are looking to spend a few thousand dollars on a makeover, and you are in the business of doing full remodels at $50,000+, it’s better they find out online rather than wasting your time.
Another reason this content is valuable, according to Brennan, is that women are often reluctant to bring up the subject of money. “Western women are taught from an early age that talking about money publicly is inappropriate, and this can make discussions about pricing uncomfortable for the female buyer,” she explains. Her recommendations are to be specific about why something is priced the way it is, offer good, better, best options, and bring up price yourself. What better place than your Web site, where a potential client can see this information in her home?
The contact page should not have an anonymous email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. It feels as though you’re trying to hide from a prospect. Asking someone to fill out a long involved form, then email it to cyberspace, sends an impersonal message. Many users are skeptical that they’ll ever get a response. Have the email go to a real person. In fact, why not have emails for all your staff on your contact page? The more reasons someone has to return to your site, the better.
Web professionals frequently recommend some kind of call to action such as a coupon or “call now for a special discount,” etc. That’s fine for some kinds of businesses, perhaps a DPH showroom, but often not suited for full-scale kitchen or bath design firms. Depending on what suits your business, you could offer a call for a consultation. Or a free seminar. Or perhaps offer the opportunity to sign up for a limited, finite number of educational kitchen planning or bath planning e-newsletters. If prospects know they are committing to receiving only four to six emails and the content is valuable, you’ll stay top of mind.
What should you avoid on your site? Cool for coolness sake, such as flashy twists and turns of copy or graphics that take time and add no value. When the Web was new, everyone was trying to out-hip the competition. But today consumers want clean, friendly, uncluttered, user-friendly and easy- to-navigate sites with valuable content.