Products: From Paper to Pixels
A customer’s online and print product experiences can be summed up as the difference between two words, according to Bridget Fahrland, executive creative director at e-business consultancy Fry Multimedia.
“The Web provides proactive shopping, while a print catalog provides reactive shopping,” she explains. “On a Web site, you’re allowed to play more with what you see.”
But make sure to play by the rules; a balance of romantic (read: promotional) copy and helpful product information is key to keeping a user’s interest, and consequently, business.
Petra Schindler Carter, director of consulting services at Fry, points out that consumers don’t have to make cognizant decisions when looking at catalogs; they just flip through. But on the Web, they must choose which pages to click on. Once users make their selections about which products to view, it’s up to you to keep them on your site. While strategies for product presentation vary according to company size and type of merchandise, a few general guidelines apply.
What to Keep in Mind
Fahrland and other industry experts say keeping all pertinent product photography and copy “above the fold”—viewable on one standard-sized computer screen—is becoming a common practice. Only cross-sell items should appear below the fold, advises Ken Burke, founder and CEO of consultancy Multimedia Live. And they should not compete with the item being viewed.
Also, when designing your product pages, consider the navigation capabilities of your target market. Miriam Frawley, president of consultancy e-Diner Design and Marketing, points out that while most newer computers employ an 800 x 600 pixel default screen, some people prefer an 800 x 640. If your site is designed for the former, those using a 640 screen will have to scroll sideways.
Additionally, she continues, test on different Internet browsers. She cites the example of a marketer whose site has a shopping area that can be viewed through Microsoft Explorer but not Netscape 4.7.