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This post was written by Kirsten Knipp – VP of Product Marketing & Brand at Bigcommerce

In our first e-commerce post, we took a deep dive into maximizing your product pages. Your products are truly the foundation of your online store, and now that you have those optimized, it’s time to take a step by and tackle your the overall look, feel and user experience of your homepage. At Bigcommerce we’re all about selling more, not spending more. Don’t invest any money in paid search campaigns, display advertising or social media ads until you have your homepage and site architecture down cold. No matter how much traffic you drive, you won’t get a return on that investment unless your site is designed to convert shoppers into buyers.

Begin at the beginning with the three-second test

To get the most out of this test, you need to forget everything you know about your business. Pretend a friend told you about a great new site, gave you the URL and you’ve typed it into your browser. You don’t know anything about this store or the people running it. Looking at your homepage through these eyes, ask yourself two questions:

1.) In three seconds, can you tell exactly what this store is selling?

2.) Would you trust your credit card and personal information with this store?

You better answer a confident YES to both. If not, it is time to get to work, and the best place to start is with design.

Go clean and make it all about your products

Visitors should be able to instantly identify your product when they land on the homepage. The best way to do this is keeping your store design clean, professional and focused on high-quality images of your products. Cluttered designs with unrelated graphics or confusing CTAs will merely distract shoppers. Your homepage should serve the singular purpose of getting consumers to view and ultimately buy your awesome products.

You can see this principle in action by comparing these two examples. Both stores are selling the same product, but they are doing it in very different ways.

bad ecommerce homepage design good ecommerce homepage design

The first one is almost all text, which means you really have to look to see that they sell bicycles. Who wants to buy something they can’t find? You don’t have that problem with the second example. There are big beautiful bikes all over the place, plus it is referenced in their logo, tagline and supporting content.

In a consumer study by Oneupweb, 70.8% of shoppers said that having products displayed on the homepage influences their purchasing decisions. When choosing images to feature, it’s a proven best practice to display your most popular products. It may be tempting to promote products that need more love, but you want to show off your top sellers to pull people into the shopping experience. If you don’t know which products are your crowd pleasers, use a tool like SumAll or Google Analytics to dig into the data and figure it out.

Another important difference between the two sites is that Example 2 has a much more professional design. Not only does it focus on the product, it also looks like they spent some time and money on their store. That same Oneupweb study found that 76.5% of consumers rated a site looking credible and trustworthy as important, and 66.7% said that a site needs to be visually appealing to get them to buy.

Finally, the second homepage has easy-to-use navigation, featuring a few major categories on the top nav row that expand to show all the related subcategories. That is a huge advantage over Example 1, which throws every subcategory in a left-hand nav column. It looks messy and turns simple browsing into manual searching.

Be trustworthy and make it easy to call 

Back to the fact that 76.5% of shoppers said a credible and trustworthy look was an important factor in their buying decision. One easy way to improve your credibility is by borrowing some from trusted organizations. A study by McAfee shows that online conversions can increase by 12% when a retail site displays familiar trustmarks.

Trustmarks are usually logos from groups like VeriSign or the Better Business Bureau that represent security or ethical business practices. Don’t be afraid to display these logos prominently on your header or footer. You can also add logos of the major credit cards, PayPal or other payment methods you accept. Those are major brands with positive reputations that can rub off on your store.

Another way to increase your credibility with shoppers is displaying a phone number prominently on the homepage, or even on every page via the site header. Fly-by-night operations usually don’t want you to get in touch with them, so this helps people know you’re a real business they can purchase from with confidence. It also lets them know that help is just a phone call away in case they ever need it.

Be upfront and address pain points

You may have noticed that many successful e-commerce sites call out certain policies or features, like free shipping or a return policy. That’s a great way of addressing possible objections people have to buying online before they even think about it. Here’s a great example:

ecommerce policy callout

See how they mention free shipping and their easy return policy right at the top of their site? A little further to the right they even have a low-price guarantee. Those are all potential pain points that visitors can stop worrying about so they can focus on shopping.

A little more on the importance of shipping costs. Did you know this is the top reason people ditch their full shopping carts? A Forrester study showed that 44% of carts are abandoned due to high shipping costs. If you offer free or low flat-rate shipping, make sure to display it loud and proud on your homepage. And provide as much detail as possible. It’s much better to say “Free shipping on $99+ orders” than just “Free shipping*.” Be clear about your consumer-friendly policies so that expectations are properly set before checkout.

Be open and share customer testimonials

It’s been shown that more than 80% of consumers consult reviews when making a purchase, and adding them to your site can help lift sales by as much as 18%. Back to thatOneupweb survey, customer reviews and testimonials are considered an important purchasing factor by 40.9% of respondents. Usually these live on the product pages, but you can share the goodness on your homepage too

Pull a few of your most effusive reviews and put them on your homepage in the form of testimonial quotes. Bonus points if you can get a photo to go along with the quote and customer name—seeing that real people have purchased and liked your products or services will increase your credibility. We actually do this on our very own homepage and have found it to be a solid driver of conversions.

Be proactive with a homepage promo

Another way to entice shoppers to buy from you—especially new customers—is to give them a deal right on your homepage. Everybody loves a good coupon code, and when you offer a percentage off certain items or free shipping, a new customer is more likely to take a chance on you. After they experience your amazing service and delightful products, the hope is they’ll come back for more and become a loyal shopper.

If you have a homepage carousel, it’s easy to create simple graphics that display your special offer. If the offer is a percentage off items in a certain category, make sure you link to that category from the image so shoppers know what the discount applies to. If the offer requires a promo code, display that text in a large, eye-catching way right in the graphic. This is a good example:

ecommerce homepage promo

Another type of promotional graphic that’s become increasingly popular is a promo strip. The nice thing about this option is it sits right under your main nav bar, which means it follows the customer around your site and is visible from every page.

No matter how you decide to display your offer, picking the offer itself is a critical step. How do you choose? Test, test, test. Start with something you know you can afford—like 20% off one of your high-margin products—then test multiple variations until you find something that converts for you. Really focus on sales from new visitors, since that is the prime target of homepage promos. And even when you find something you like, continue to create and test new deals, you never know if some better is waiting for you.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully these tips will give you plenty to work on while you build a new store. And don’t forget that GSB participants can try out Bigcommerce free for 45 days.