Beating Big Retailers at their Own Game

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Beginning Black Friday, November 27, brick-and-mortar retailers will see a deluge of consumers, ready and willing to buy merchandise. Beginning Cyber Monday, November 30, online retailers will enjoy a similar spike in visits and purchases. Most of those consumers will make purchases through large online retailers, like Amazon.com, Overstock.com or BestBuy.com. But, smaller online retailers and affiliates don't need to get left behind. Let's look at a page optimization tip to help turn browsers into buyers this year.

Large retailers (like the three mentioned above) have thousands of products to sell and countless pages that a user can browse to find what they want. Your site (and products) might be slightly more limited in scope. But the big retailers also share a common strategy that any Web property can employ - product and user recommendations.

Take advantage of the fact that, at this time, users are shopping. They are likely not quite sure what they want to buy yet. Help them get there. Overstock.com's home page prominently features navigation and browsing based on "Buyers' Picks," "5 Star Reviews," "Top Sellers" and "Clearance Items."  BestBuy.com's page is featuring "Door Busters," "Featured Offers" and "Outlet Center," where users can find new arrivals, reduced cost items and deals of the week. Amazon.com's page (while dedicated to the Kindle) also features personalized recommendations, "Most Wished For" items, and "Bestselling" items.

It's your job to steer consumers in the right direction - and you can do it on one page. Look into your data and optimize your landing page based on your products. Instead of a giant "featured item," consider breaking your page into easy-to-view sections like "best sellers," "highest rated," "clearance," or "online bargains." Find out what your consumers are recommending to each other - both on your site and industry-wide - and get those items front and center. You might be featuring fewer items per category, and some consumers might see fewer items overall. But, you are also increasing the chance that particular items are purchased - and that's the bottom line. By giving browsers a look into immediate benefits (popular and highly-rated items, best bargains, etc.) and providing a way to shop with minimal effort you can accomplish the most important task to online retail success - shortening the distance to a sale. A strategy like this reduces clicks - therefore reducing the chance the consumer gets lost on your site or becomes distracted. This becomes particularly important when designing your PPC creative for searching shoppers. Give the shopper a reason to click, then an immediate reason to purchase without any further searching or dawdling.

For example, let's say the following is a PPC ad (click the link):
"Give the best keyboard for your busy Web professional this holiday!"

What do you notice after clicking? Limited but good choices, with clear explanations and benefits - making a quick decision easy. The consumer is immediately presented with clear choices, and not too many of them that could potentially become distracting or overwhelming. What that means to you is a better chance at an immediate sale.

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