Articles by: Lexie Lu
Photographs of before and afters allow you to highlight the difference your product makes in the lives of your customers. They serve as a visual testimonial of what you can accomplish for the consumer as a company.
If you aren’t already using some form of visual content marketing, you’re missing out. Most people skim over the text on a page, reading only 20 to 28 percent of the words. However, a visual makes an impression in milliseconds, so adding before and afters makes a quick impact on your target audience.
Other reasons your site needs before and afters include the following.
1. Earn Social Media Attention
There are about 1.96 billion people on social media. Although not everyone will be interested in your product, a portion will be. Before and after photos give you the opportunity to showcase what your company can do on social media. The side-by-side look at before and after is a powerful testimony about your brand.
2. Give Customers Creative Ideas
Before and after photos can help your target audience be more creative in the ways they utilize your product. For example, if you sell a home improvement product, you may offer a lot of different options for the homeowner. By providing before photos of how bad a home looked and after photos of how fresh and new it is, you also offer ideas for how the customer can apply your product in the best way.
Take a look at how Global Home Improvement integrates before and after photos to show what adding new windows to your home can do for your home’s overall curb appeal and interior design. Some of the photos are quite dramatic, showing a home go from outdated and drab to modern and amazing.
3. Provide Weekly Reveals
You can create a lot of excitement by doing a weekly reveal of results as time passes. This strategy works particularly well for sites that focus on weight loss or other big image changes that take time to accomplish.
For example, if you sold a weight loss product or service, you would ask one of your customers to share weekly photos of their progress. You would then do a weekly or even monthly photo reveal of the results. This method can get other users excited about what’s possible with your product.
4. Showcase Inspirational Results
Another way to utilize before and afters is by sharing dramatic photos that show inspirational results. The best photos to use in these cases are ones that show a dramatic difference. If the difference is only slight, then the before and afters might not translate as well for the first-time site visitor. On the other hand, if the results are dramatic, that same visitor will be wowed. Online before and after photos are one of the top things that inspire people to lose weight.
Take a look at the dramatic before and after photos used on the Anderson Dental website. In the first image, the person’s teeth are yellowed and uneven. In the second image, the teeth are white, straight and nearly perfect. This type of dramatic imagery shows potential patients what the dentist can do for them as well.
5. Excel in Your Industry
Some industries lend themselves to before and after photos more so than others. However, any type of business can utilize before and afters. If you sell a weight loss product, provide medical procedures or complete home improvement projects, before and after photos may seem almost integral to your website. Other industry experts who might benefit from before and afters include website designers showing a site before and after fixing it.
Another idea is to dig a bit deeper and provide customer testimonials and case studies that highlight just what your business can accomplish for customers. Sometimes, the before and after photo will be obvious, such as showing the improvement in a newsletter’s format. But sometimes it won’t be as obvious, such as displaying a simple photo of a happy consumer after your company has helped them.
6. Create a Connection
Before and after photos can help forge a connection with the consumer. People tend to look at photos and put themselves in the same situation as the people in them. This process creates an instant connection between your website and the consumer, allowing the potential client to see how your product might work for him.
Merrie’s Organizing Mania features photos of homes before the organizer began her work and after. This side-by-side shows a dramatic difference in cluttered garages and rooms in the home. Imagery like this shows the consumer what the service might do for their home as well. It allows them to picture how their house might look after being organized.
7. Gain Interest
Without visuals, your website can turn pretty bland. Visual elements enable the consumer to skim and still gain valuable insight without stopping and reading every bit of text on the page. Before and after photos add a lot of interest to your website and give the user something to share with others.
Should You Add Before and Afters?
Whether before and afters work best for your site or not is ultimately up to you and based on what your site visitors respond to, but most people find them helpful. Look for creative ways to show off what your business provides. Even if you share only one or two before and afters, they’ll act as a testimony to just what you’re capable of accomplishing for consumers.
Website color choice is never an easy decision. Do you stick with your company colors or go with a color scheme that has maximum impact on site visitors? There is a science to figuring out the psychology behind various color choices and the impact they have on people.
The hypothalamus reacts to color, and hormones release which trigger emotions. The emotions, in turn, impact your behavior, including shopping behavior. Somewhere between 62 and 90 percent of the decisions to purchase something is based solely on color. Using the right colors can increase your conversions and help you make an emotional connection with consumers.
Of course, different industries should focus on different color choices. The right choice of color can create a tone, a sense of trust or even lend credibility to your website. While you can experiment with different combinations to stand out, it is important to know which colors associate with an industry and how to create a sense of trust in your brand from the minute a user lands on your page.
Here are five industries and the best color choices for those industries:
Most restaurant websites stick to a basic color palette that includes colors such as brown, red, white and black. You will see these colors appear over and over on food-themed sites. Of course, some trendy designers work in additional colors to grab interest, and this can work well, especially in such a crowded marketplace.
Food photographs tend to really pop on a black or white background, which is often one of the reasons for the choice of black and white. Red has long been associated with enticing people to hunger, although there is some debate about how effective that choice is today with more and more people aware of such tactics.
Experts advise staying away from the color blue for anything food related as it is a color often associated with poison. There are not many naturally blue foods, which may be why it doesn’t work well for restaurant websites.
Fig restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina uses the basic approach of a black and white base. They add a pop of color through the image of one of their dishes and also show an image of a chef cooking and using a kitchen tool. The use of black and white lends a sense of trust in the establishment as it is a color scheme people are used to seeing and the pops of red and green in the food photograph draw attention.
Hospitality can encompass everything from hotels to salons. Hotels can actually increase bookings by using color psychology. The color brown lends a sense of comfort and home, but adding a pop of blue to the CTA button can draw visitors to book a room.
If creating a website for a salon or spa, using colors that put the person in mind of health and nature is a good choice. Consider using colors found in nature, such as green, brown and sky blue.
When creating a medical website, you want to evoke feelings of security and trust. The color blue is often seen as trustworthy. In addition, blue is a good choice because it’s a favorite color of both men and women. Many medical sites use white and blue color schemes. This keeps things simple, and the color blue makes the person feel secure.
For example, you wouldn’t use the color red, because people might associate red with blood. A color scheme of red and white might even scare potential patients away.
Beltone, a hearing aid provider, uses very traditional colors of white and blue with a touch of gray to lend a sense of credibility to their website. A visitor can immediately see that this is likely a medical type website. Even the colors in the photograph mirror the blues and grays in the overall design. This works well for a site providing a medical device.
Construction websites tend to gravitate toward brown, orange and blue. While you do have a bit more of a range of colors you can utilize, it’s smart to think through the message you most want to convey. If you want to convey energy and excitement, then orange is a good choice. If you want the site visitor to think about the earth, then browns work well. If you want a more generic color choice that is fairly safe, go with blue, which also lends a sense of trust in you and your work.
Don’t be afraid to add plenty of white to any design. The use of white is fairly neutral. You can then add pops of color with your headings, photographs and your CTA.
Have you noticed that a lot of banks tend to use blue and white similar to what the medical sites use? Again, this invokes feelings of stability and trust. When you place your money with an institution, you definitely want that feeling of stability.
Green might seem like a natural choice when talking about money, however, people tend to associate green with nature. So, unless you’re an environmentally friendly banking company, you might want to utilize other colors.
Note how T. Rowe Price uses a variety of blues to add a sense of credibility and stability to their website. Even the image that takes up the background is fairly neutral, which places the emphasis on the pops of blue and the single CTA in orange. Note that the orange used in the CTA is rather subdued instead of a bright color that might appear more youthful and less serious.
Best Color Scheme for Your Industry
To figure out the best color scheme for your industry, spend some time studying competitor websites. You’ll likely begin to see a pattern. Combine that knowledge with the psychology behind color choices to come up with a scheme that works for your target audience. Don’t be afraid to add a pop of color on a CTA button and to do split testing and see what works best for conversions.
Knowing when to increase your design budget
The graphic design of your business is intricately tied to your overall company’s image and branding strategies. The last thing you want is to use outdated logos or designs that make you look unprofessional. Let’s face it, though — design work can be expensive. You may already have a design budget and are wondering if or why you should increase it.
Designers spend untold hours creating the perfect balance for your brand. Most businesses are on a budget and working in the extra funding for design is tricky. There are a number of reasons why you should increase your graphic design budget, and things you should keep in mind as you make this important decision about where to spend your business’s cash flow.
1. Branding Matters
You might be able to hire someone off Craigslist to do a logo design, but how will it tie into your overall branding plan? You also may not know how skilled the designer is until you receive the finished project. Good design takes into account every aspect of your brand and your goals for your business. It costs more than just a one-off logo design, because that logo is going to perfectly match all the other aspects of your branding.
For an agency that creates a design focused on your branding, expect to pay between $15,000 and $50,000. Costs might be slightly lower if you hire in-house or use a smaller company or freelancer to do the work. You’ll need to increase your budget to reflect this price range, but understand that you’re paying for more than just a design. You’re also paying for branding, which ties into your marketing.
2. Hourly Rates
Whether you’re hiring a professional agency, in-house designers or contracting a freelancer, understand that these services require a lot of skill and are in high demand. The median hourly wage for graphic designers is $22.90 per hour, and one with added experience or skills will command top dollar. Plan to pay the hourly rate that will allow you to hire a designer with at least a few years of experience in the industry. In design, you often get what you pay for.
3. Don’t Underestimate Time Involved
Non-designers sometimes have a hard time estimating the time it takes to create a truly brilliant design. There is far more involved than simply throwing a logo together, for example. The designer must spend time studying the brand and getting a feel for the overall messaging and style of the business.
The graphic designer then searches for the perfect font or unique designs for the client. Other elements must be pulled in, and then the entire design will go under a microscope to see what elements need adjusted, how well the positive and negative space balances, and if colors and styles match. Allow the designer to give you a ballpark estimate instead of guessing how much time a project will take.
4. Make a Good First Impression
It takes a lot of work to get visitors to your site. From the second they land on your home page, they are evaluating everything — from how visually pleasing your site is to whether or not you seem trustworthy. In one study, it took a mere 50 milliseconds for people to decide whether they liked the look of your site.
Well-done design explains what your company is and does and leaves visitors with a positive impression. Pay for the best designer you can afford, so your first impression has power.
5. Value Your Time
Imagine that you’d like to create a design for a new website, but you have no idea how to put one together. How many hours would it take you to come up with the perfect design? You’d have to learn coding, figure out how colors work together, choose a palette and a hundred other little things. Your time is worth a lot of money. How much do you value your time? Consider this when planning your graphic design budget. An experienced designer can complete the work in a fraction of the time it would take you to learn how to use Photoshop.
6. Consistent Look
In today’s competitive marketplace, brand recognition is vital. A brand that is presented with consistency is about three to four times as likely to be seen, likely due to the number of times a consumer has to view your brand before they remember it. Spending more on your graphic designs allows you to ensure everything has a consistent look that aligns with your brand’s goals.
7. Count Design as Marketing
The typical established business sets aside about 10 percent of income toward marketing, and design should be included in that budget. New businesses may want to allot more of their income toward marketing as they work to build a base. One way to increase your graphic design budget is to look at it as part of your marketing efforts.
8. Color Matters
A professional designer understands the psychology behind color and how people come to recognize and relate to your brand on a subconscious level. Color impacts brand recognition by as much as 80 percent, with colorful logos being more memorable than ones with little personality.
If your brand doesn’t yet have a basic brand color palette, then you’ll want to work closely with a team made up of graphic designers and marketers. This will allow you to choose the color that shows your company’s personality and also speaks to your target audience.
Graphic Design Budget
It’s challenging to figure out how much you need to set aside for graphic design. Costs can vary widely by project type. Make a list of the high-priority projects you’d like completed first, so your graphic designer can focus on those. Adjust your budget as you go along and keep in mind that a designer is experienced at estimating how much time should be spent on a specific project.
A navigation bar is common across nearly every site on the Internet today. It is the way that site visitors orient themselves to what is on your page and where to find it. It can set the tone for your entire landing page. One could argue it is one of the most important elements on your website.
Upon reaching a company website via referral, about half of site visitors use the navigation menu to figure out where they are and where they want to go next. There is no denying your site’s navigation is one of the most important features of your website.
However, your nav bar might lack in a few key things. Below are six possible ways in which your navigation might lack and how to fix any issues. Your site might be lacking:
1. Search Box
The search box is a handy tool for those who know specifically what they are looking for and don’t want to go through several steps to get there. Around 59 percent of website visitors state they use a site’s internal search engines to look for something specific. A search box keeps the site visitor on your page instead of them hopping away to Google or some other search engine.
TD Ameritrade offers a search function right at the top of their landing page. This is an excellent way for users to find information on a specific stock. Think about some of the big websites you visit and how they use the search function to help you navigate their site. Some big ones that come to mind include Facebook and Amazon.
It might be tempting to add all types of fancy designs and tools into your navigation bar, but for something that should simply be functional, the basics are often the best. Place the bar in an easy to locate spot and keep the colors and designs simple. Even the font you use should be easy to read and should translate well on different screen sizes. You’ll also want to narrow your categories down to as few as possible. You can always add sub-categories under your main category headers.
3. Easy to Find
As people navigate through your website, they’ll want to know they can count on a couple of elements to move back to previous pages or to choose other options. Your navigation bar should be located in the same location every single time and quick and easy to find. Things such as linking up your logo to your homepage or adding a sticky bar work well to keep the user organized as he or she navigates your site.
When people read on the Internet, they use an F-pattern where they scan across the top of the page horizontally and then down the page on the left before returning to the middle of the page. This means your navigation bar needs to be near the top of your page at all times.
Take a look at the Reynolds’ website navigation menu. Not only does the website and their 24-hour emergency services toll-free number appear at the top, but as you scroll down the page, it becomes sticky and follows along making it easy to find as you navigate through various elements of the website.
4. Distinct Wording
It can be tempting to try to turn to words that are creative and cute. Naming different areas of your site might seem like a fun way to draw in users, but the truth is that not everyone will get your humor or sense of style. It is better to stick to the basics when choosing the words you use for your navigation headings.
Instead of calling your online shopping area, the “Fashion Zone,” simply title it “Shop” or “Products.” Once the user lands on that page, you can show off your sense of style and creativity, but until the user navigates to where you want it is best to keep things simple and to the point.
5. Mobile Responsiveness
Ninety-five percent of Americans today own some type of cellphone, and 77 percent own a smartphone. That means more and more people use their mobile devices to browse online. When designing the navigation for your website, have you considered how that navigation will function for those using smaller screens?
Ideally, your navigation will become condensed. This will likely mean limiting yourself to a couple of categories and then adding a hamburger menu that the user can expand if needed. This type of style allows even those on very tiny screens to move around your website easily.
Disney’s website is a great example of taking the same information and condensing it for mobile. At the top of their mobile website, you will simply find three choices and a search function. There is a link to each major theme park in the United States and a link to shop. They then present the hamburger menu at the top left, near the logo, so you can make additional choices. Or, you can use the search function to navigate where needed.
6. Images Paired with Words
When a relevant image is added to words, 65 percent of people remember that information as much as three days later. If you can add images to your navigation, not only will the overall affect be visually appealing, but your site visitor may be more likely to remember your site and return again. Consider adding a small flat icon along with the words for your content areas, for example.
Improving Your Navigation Bar
Even though it is smart to try new colors, designs, different wording on your call to actions and other elements within your navigation bar, it is equally as important to be a bit predictable and simplistic with this important feature. Place the navigation where it is easy to find and make it as intuitive as possible for that user.
Always test any changes side-by-side with the old version to see how they are converting with your target audience. With a little forethought and care, your navigation bar will serve its purpose and help drive conversions.
The social proof of testimonials lends a lot of credibility to your brand. It also allows people who might not be familiar with the work you do to see that you have happy customers. When it comes to content marketing, customer testimonials and case studies are considered the most effective forms of content. In fact, 89 percent of marketers indicate that testimonials are a necessary part of their overall content strategy.
You’ve probably already learned that testimonials are an effective way to reach new customers from the minute they land on your website. However, there are many different ways to implement testimonials into your content strategy. Here are the best types of testimonials and what they bring to your business model:
Taking the time to feature a customer does a couple of things for your brand. First, it helps you get to know your target audience better, which in turn will allow you to perfect your marketing to this demographic. Second, it shows potential customers you have satisfied customers who are already using your product or service.
Your first step is to recruit customers to interview. One easy way to do this is to choose customers who’ve written a positive review recently. Ask them if they’d be willing to be interviewed about their experience. However, don’t overlook customers who’ve complained, but whose issues have been resolved. Your ability and willingness to strive for perfection can be a powerful testimony.
Software AG offers an in-depth look at some of its customers. For example, it tells the story of how a Chinese automaker utilizes its business software platform, how one retailer uses it to build a model for customer success and how it has simplified data-reporting for another company.
2. High-Profile Testimonials
When you think about sharing a high-profile testimonial on your website, your first thought might be using an influencer or a celebrity to tout your brand. While a high-profile testimonial can certainly encompass those elements, another way to show you are an up-and-coming brand is by using big-name companies for this purpose. As a result, you’ll gain the halo effect, where a big name makes the things they endorse look better.
Take a look at your client list. Choose your top five clients as far as how well known they are. As your company grows and you gain new, bigger clients, you can revamp this testimonial list from time to time. One creative way to use this method is to do a case study of how you’ve helped said company and then take snippets to show this to the reader, such as how a campaign helped XYZ Co. increase its conversions by 1,500 percent.
If you aren’t already using video testimonials, this is something you can easily add to your brand to better engage your site visitors or your followers on social media. About 78 percent of people online watch videos every week. Creating a video testimonial does a number of positive things for your brand, such as forming a better emotional connection with your readers and lending a sense of credibility to your marketing efforts.
Hubble features software with real-time reporting that allows for data visualization and integration. It features a video of its customers describing how they personally use Hubble and the benefits. The video features people from different industries to show how flexible the software is.
4. Social Media Posts
If you plan to share testimonials on social media, there are a couple of options. First, you could reach out to customers with a large following and simply ask them to give your company a shout-out. This is likely the most effective way to add a testimonial, because it looks more organic. About 80 percent of Americans look for a recommendation from someone they know before making a purchase.
Your other option is to add short snippets and combine them with a photo of the customer or the product to encourage shares and retweets of the post. If your customer is online, it is also a good idea to tag them in the post.
You don’t have to use a long testimonial in every instance. Creating blocks of quoted text that highlight a small part of what your business does is a smart tactic. You can pull these from a larger testimonial or case studies, or you can simply ask your customers to give you a short, one-line review.
Today’s average person is extremely busy. They might have 10 minutes on the train to work to glance at your website or social media page. If you provide them with snippets of information that can be quickly scanned, then the testimonial is likely to stick with them.
Vanderbilt University’s MBA program does a good job of highlighting students and professors who make the program memorable. Note the short snippet from one of its students who earned an MBA. This allows potential students to see what the program did for someone similar to them.
Reviews are a form of testimonial if you think about it. They highlight a customer and what that customer thinks about the product or service. The last time you booked a hotel, what did you do first? More than likely, you checked out the online reviews. Make it easy for your customers to review your product by adding a review form to your website or sending a push on social media asking for their feedback. You can then pull short quotes from these reviews to highlight elsewhere as testimonials.
Best Types of Testimonials
Companies that were centered on the customer were around 60 percent more profitable than companies without this focus. The benefits to your brand are that you’ll lend credibility to your claims, show you are focused on the customer and reach new customers you otherwise might not have found. Take the time to make testimonials a part of your marketing plan and you’re certain to see positive results.
Improving the CX of your eCommerce Site
More than likely, you truly want to provide the best customer experience (CX) possible to the visitors who land on your website. However, in a rapidly changing digital world, it can be difficult to know just what strategies you should use to create a positive experience.
Experts estimate by 2020, CX will be the most important factor in branding, even topping price and the product. Seventy percent of why customers decide to buy a product is based on their perception of the way the company treats them. Taking time to invest in your customer service model is one thing you can do to stand out from the competition.
1. Consistent Experience
Whether you’re conducting business online or offline, offering a consistent service experience that spans the reach of your business allows customers to embrace your brand, no matter how they prefer to shop. For example, if you have an email list, you might send out a coupon code people can use either on your website or in a store. If a customer comes into your store and you are out of their size or the color they want, you provide a kiosk they can order from.
AutoZone has gotten on board with that consistent user experience. If you go in their store, they can help you, but you can also go online, figure out what you need and pick it up in the store the very same day. Customers can quickly see which locations near them have the part they’re looking for.
2. Target Audience
Before you begin to focus on CX, you must fully understand who your target customer is and how to meet their needs. You can figure out the demographics of the people visiting your site by studying analytics, taking polls and studying buying patterns. Once you have a grasp of your typical site visitor, create a user persona based on that model. This persona is who you will plan everything around. You can have more than one persona for your brand, too.
3. Anticipating Customer Questions
When a consumer chooses to visit your site, he or she likely has a specific purpose in mind. Think through what the different purposes might be and how you can anticipate any questions the user will have. If you get a lot of emails asking the same question about your products, or if you offer a certain feature, this is a good place to start. You’ll provide the answer before the customer ever has to ask you.
Notice how Nitterhouse Masonry Products anticipates customers visiting their site might have one of three product types in mind: architectural, contractor or residential. By narrowing down the choices, they anticipate their different users’ needs and direct them to more information on the specific area.
4. Omni-Channel Customer Service Reps
When someone visits your website, you likely have a variety of options for contacting your company. You might offer live chat, email and even a toll-free number. Is a customer who calls your company getting the same answer you provide via live chat or email? Making sure you not only provide consistent answers, but that you keep a record of customer contacts, is vital to making the customer feel valued.
Customers get annoyed when they must repeat a problem they have with your product to three or four different people. About 89 percent of customers state this frustrates them, and about as many feel brands should try harder to create a consistent customer service experience.
5. Mobile Matters
You’ve heard this one before, but it is worth repeating, because more and more people are using their smartphones to access the Internet. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, or doesn’t provide the main features of your website, you are going to have a lot of irritated users. If the mobile site is not up to par, about 52 percent of consumers are less likely to engage with the brand.
Elf on the Shelf is one of those trends you either love or think is creepy, but their website is a good one to study for how to create a great mobile CX. When you land on their page, you have two choices based on whether you are an adult or a child. Their landing page is very simple and to the point.
6. Customer Service Philosophy
Train your customer service reps thoroughly in your customer service philosophy. It can take an additional 12 positive experiences to make up for one bad experience with service. If your customer is dissatisfied, hurry to minimize the damage and turn a negative into a positive. Make sure everyone who has any contact with your customers understands the value of every customer. Likewise, that they reflect that in their interactions.
7. Social Media
If your site isn’t integrated with social media, you might be missing out on traffic. More than 62 percent of people in North America use Facebook. Integrating your e-commerce site with social media is simple. First, you need to mention your social media channels and make it easy to access them. Second, point your social media followers to specials, sales and new arrivals on your site. Of course, there is a lot more involved with marketing on social media, but understanding the importance of a presence is enough to get you started.
8. Gain the Consumer’s Trust
One of the key components of successful CX is that customers feel they can trust your brand. If you receive a question, do you answer promptly? Did you make your contact information easy to find? Other things you can do to gain consumers’ trust is to add any certificates you hold or positive ratings, and adding customer testimonials.
Optimizing your site’s CX takes time and perseverance. Pay attention to any complaints you receive. When do consumers bounce away from your website? Can you improve their experience and reduce your bounce rate? Putting the time and effort into continually improving your CX will pay off in happy customers who frequent your business time and time again.
Eight B2C Website Benefits
As a business to consumer company (B2C), your audience range is much more extensive than if you were merely targeting business owners in a specific industry. There are between 2 and 3 million e-commerce companies around the globe, with 1.3 million of those located in North America. Knowing your target audience becomes extremely important to delivering information in a way that speaks to them.
Your business is different than any other company out there — the key is in figuring out how to convey that to your potential customers. Fortunately, there are a few key things you can do to ensure your website is built precisely for those people you most want to reach. When a visitor lands on your page, they should go through a funnel that creates a conversion.
Here are eight tips to follow to ensure your company’s website is benefiting your audience:
1. Realize You Can’t Compete Financially With the Big Guys
Small and mid-size businesses need to understand they can’t compete with the big box retailers when it comes to price or advertising budget. However, you can compete in other areas, such as by offering better customer service or personalization options.
Figure out how you’re different and inform your target audience about it. Many customers abandon a purchase because of a bad customer service experience — in fact, 78 percent of people don’t complete a purchase of something they intended to buy due to poor service.
Warby Parker is an eyeglass company that offers glasses for half or less of what you would pay at most vision stores. For example, a simple frame for a woman is about $95, and that price includes the lenses. They have earned a reputation for their outstanding customer service from patrons’ stories about the store going above and beyond.
For example, one man left his glasses on a commuter train, and someone who worked for Warby Parker found them. When he got home, both the originals and a new pair from Warby Parker were waiting on him. That type of experience is one that stays with the consumer.
2. Personalize the Customer Experience
One way you can compete with the big guys is by personalizing the experience of your customers. Customers care about the time they spend on your website. So, improving the experience a customer has on your site improves customer retention by about 42 percent and customer satisfaction by 33 percent. Also, you’ll increase your up-sells and cross-sells.
There are many ways you can improve the experience visitors have on your website. Boosting your site’s speed is one of the best things you can do. You’ll also want to make navigation intuitive and limit the information on your landing page to just the most essential elements.
3. Anticipate Your Audience’s Needs
What are the things the typical person landing on your website is looking for? If you can anticipate the needs of your site visitors, you can deliver what they want.
The best way to figure this out is by first studying analytics for your site. Who is the typical person visiting? Moms? Millennials? Baby Boomers? Armed with this information, you can figure out why that user persona is on your website, as well as what you need to deliver to satisfy their needs. Next, study heat maps to figure out which areas on your landing page your visitors use most frequently.
Look at what Clopay Doors does to anticipate the needs of their site visitors. The company understands the average visitor is coming to browse through possible door replacements for their home. So, they show some of their more popular styles in an easy-to-digest grid layout. Then, they allow the user to choose a few styles to compare. They’ve anticipated their target audience will likely want to look at several options, and in turn, have given them the tools to do just that.
4. Use an Aesthetically Appealing Design
Is your site visually appealing? It might seem like a minor factor, but your site’s appearance has a significant impact on your site visitors, particularly the average consumer.
A site that is visually appealing has a delicate balance of positive and negative space — people tend to shy away from sites that are too cluttered. They also expect specific features to be in certain places, such as a navigation bar near the top of the page and your logo on the top left. These little touches can mean the difference between a site visitor who converts into a customer and a site visitor who bounces away.
5. Localize Your Business
If you run a small business, localization is one of the critical components of a successful online strategy. The best way to achieve localization is by integrating how your site performs with the IP address of the site visitor. This allows you to direct the person to the right landing page that will best meet their needs.
Look at the Living Social landing page. The site uses your IP address to figure out approximately where you are. Then, they present deals for that area so you can shop for local restaurant certificates and activities. This highly targeted, localized B2C marketing is much more efficient than showing the site visitor items that don’t apply to their shopping needs.
6. Include Video Content
In a survey of B2C marketers, 34 percent felt video was a key component of marketing success. Video engages the site users and allows you to deliver content to answer any questions they may have. With higher Internet connection speeds and more people accessing your site via mobile devices, adding video makes sense for most businesses.
7. Integrate Your Website With Your Social Media Profiles
About 81 percent of Americans have at least one social media profile, so integrating your company’s social media accounts into your website can create a rich experience for the consumer. It’s essential that people can quickly follow and engage with your company online. One of the simplest ways to achieve this is to include a link to your social media profiles on your homepage. You should also provide visitors with easy ways to share articles and other content from your site on social media.
Sky’s Guide Service offers a feature at the bottom of their page that instructs visitors to “find us.” This works well because users will then recognize the icons for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo. They’ve also focused on social media their typical customer is likely to use. If you navigate to their blog, they’ve further integrated Facebook with the site by throwing up a feed of posts and inviting you to like their page.
8. Display Visual Data
You may be tempted to fill your site with mostly text and fewer images. After all, the page will load faster, and isn’t speed essential? The problem is that people respond to images better than text. So, while speed is important, it’s better to compress images, add caching features and figure out other ways to speed up your site than by not using pictures.
Using visuals to display data is an efficient way to deliver information to your site visitors. For example, when people follow directions with both text and illustrations, they complete tasks about 323 percent better than people without the pictures.
Back to Audience Demographics
Of course, every marketing concept always comes back to audience demographics. Who is your target customer? Once you know the ins and outs of their needs, you can customize the content you deliver to their needs. Your website should be an ongoing petri dish, where you try different tactics and continually improve the experience for your average site visitor.
Using Visuals and Boosting Engagement on your Site
Getting your site visitors to engage with your website often means the difference between developing a loyal customer and losing that person to a competitor. There are many factors to consider when boosting engagement, but one area you can directly control is how and where you utilize graphics on your website.
About 63 percent of marketers state that improving customer engagement equals customer retention and repeat purchases. It costs more to gain a new customer than to retain a customer you already have, so boosting engagement through strategic use of graphics is a smart way to grow your revenue. Keeping the customers you have allows you to focus on developing stellar customer service and refining processes. Below are six tips to get the most from the graphics you add to your page:
1. Where to Place
There are many schools of thought about the best placement for graphics, how many you should have on a page (too many can reduce page speeds) and even what size those graphics should be. One place to consider putting a graphic is across the top of your post in place of a headline. It’s been said that a picture is worth 1,000 words, and apparently, this is true because using a graphic above or below a headline can be quite effective.
Mashable is a good example of using a big graphic under the headline to help tell the reader what the story is about. In the screenshot above, the article is about Amazon’s new ability to deliver Whole Foods groceries to some customers. The image makes it clear that the article is about Whole Foods. Providing a quick graphic that helps the user process what the piece is about is particularly useful to mobile users who are likely to skim through articles.
2. What Graphic to Use
Figuring out what type of graphic to use is just as important as including graphics to break up some of the text. When it comes to using graphics, you have several options. You can include an infographic, a smaller data visualization that shows just one key statistic or fact, a photograph or a drawing.
Your best bet as you learn your audience’s preferences is to try different types of graphics and do some split testing to see which performs best for your particular industry.
3. Provide Information
A good graphic choice enhances the content on your page. It provides additional information or presents the information in an easy-to-understand way. Researchers have discovered that the brain processes an image in as little as 13 milliseconds. If you want to get a message across fast and effectively, then using an image to provide information is your best course of action.
Take a look at the way The Exterior Company uses a graphic to provide information to the user. The user can quickly check the area they are interested in learning more about and then find the matching key on the list to gather more information. This is helpful because the user can enhance their knowledge visually.
4. Reduce Load Times
It is important to remember that when you use graphics, you don’t want to allow them to slow down the load times on your page. The time it takes your page to load impacts everything from conversions to bounce rates. For example, mobile users indicate they’ll wait six to 10 seconds for a page to load and then abandon a site. You can help your images load more quickly with image resizing, compression and using CDN technology.
5. Use Unique Images
One of the trends for 2018 is using custom images instead of stock or generic photos. A custom image fits the topic perfectly, rather than being a general image. Since people form an impression of your site within the first 10 to 20 seconds of landing on your page, you can see why every single element must work seamlessly to draw the user in and engage them. Using custom images shows the user immediately that you’ve put thought and care into which images will have the most impact.
An example of a site utilizing custom images is Square. When you go to their landing page, you see a very specific image in the background of the header showing a point of sale system that works with a smartphone. However, if you change the options for the type of business, then the image changes. If you choose food, the image changes to a cashier and customer. Choose service, and the image changes to a person in home construction. This engages the exact target audience that lands on the page.
6. Optimizing for Mobile
Ninety-five percent of adults in the United States own a cellphone, and 77 percent of them own smartphones. More and more people are using those smartphones to access the Internet. However, the way a mobile browser looks at your site is a bit different than the way a desktop user does. The screen is smaller, so they typically aren’t doing in-depth reading but are skimming through material. You have an opportunity to present condensed material in a graphic form.
Make sure those graphics resize appropriately for mobile devices. You don’t want an image to take over the entire screen, but you also want the user to be able to decipher what the image is. You can use options such as only loading select images on mobile or resizing images so they load more quickly.
Visuals Tell a Story
Remember that people process visual elements much faster than text. Making sure the images on your site are highly relevant and optimized for all types of users will create stronger engagement. The right graphic can add to the message you are trying to convey and draw the user into your site. Visuals tell your site’s story much faster and better than even words can.
Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to show some love — to your small business. Owning a small business is a labor of love in many ways. There may be times when you love it more than others, of course. However, to really show that love and passion you have for your biz, you’ll want to demonstrate it to both customers and employees.
1. Find Your Passion
You’ve probably heard it said that before you can love others, you have to love yourself. This is true for your business as well. Before you can show your customers and employees that you adore them, you have to appreciate what you’re doing and remember why you started your business in the first place.
There are things you can do to help you remember why you love your business. Look back and photos and reminisce about the beginning. Find supportive friends and a mentor. And take an occasional break — too much time together can wear you out.
Have you seen the Peloton commercials on TV lately? It is readily apparent to anyone that these people love their business and have a passion for helping people get fit. There is an excitement surrounding the product and about where they are heading in the future.
2. Offer Customers a Discount
Once you remember why you love your business and your purpose for doing what you do, it’s time to let your customers know you love them, too. There are many ways to show your love to your customers. We’ll discuss more in other sections, but one way is by offering them a discount. Everyone likes a gift. It shows that you appreciate the person and what they have to offer. Offer your loyal customers a discount on new items or services.
3. Give Your Employees a Shoutout
Your employees help your business run from day to day. It’s important to show them how valued they are. Your employees don’t just impact your business though. They also impact your customers and any suppliers you do business with, as well as other partners such as delivery service companies.
About 48 percent of employees say they are only somewhat happy or even unhappy at their jobs. Some of the reasons that employees are unhappy are lack of career development, work encroaching on family time and poor treatment by upper-level management. These things are directly under your control, especially showing employees they are appreciated. Think up creative ways to say thanks and give them a shout out.
4. Create New Website Content
It’s never a bad idea to update and/or create new content for your website, and Valentine’s Day is the best time to do so. Consider adding content that provides helpful advice to your target audience that also has visual appeal.
An infographic is the perfect way to display data in an image-friendly format. Take a look at the example above of B-Air and notice how they play on the “cuteness” factor of animals. Not only are most users instantly engaged with the graphic because of the dogs, but they learn the proper ways to drying a dog at the same time.
5. Reinvest in Your Business
Just as you invest in a child both with your time and money to see that child grow and thrive, so should you invest in your business. Love your business, by investing in training and growth. Many experts advise putting as much as half of what you earn back into your business each year. You might choose to spend more on online marketing, training for your workers, a brand redesign or a larger space.
6. Interact with Your Customers
If you want your customers to feel valued, you need to interact with them. When a customer has a poor service experience, that information can reach double the number of people as a positive experience. Your goal is to make every experience amazing for your customers. So, if a customer posts a complaint on social media, reach out and ask to talk with them. Always speak with respect and really listen to the concerns.
JetBlue Airways does an excellent job of reaching out to customers on Twitter, trying to respond quickly, answer questions and resolve issues. In the example above, a customer was upset about a flight and complained, and JetBlue had a quick and friendly response.
7. Create an Open Company Culture
Employees are happiest when they are engaged and involved in the company. If you can bring your employees together and make them feel as though they are part of a family, then they are naturally going to be more engaged. There are many steps you can toward creating an open company culture.
First, have an open door policy where employees can stop by your office and talk to you about ideas or concerns. Second, host quick meetings at the start of every workday. These will allow you to get everyone on the same page and headed in the same direction. Finally, plan company events and teambuilding activities.
8. Get to Know Your Staff
Another idea is to get to know your employees better by interviewing them. You can create videos of these conversations and share them online so that your customers and potential customers can get to know the employees too. This type of storytelling is helpful for showing people what your company is about and who the people behind it are.
Engle Dentistry takes the time to interview their employees and shares the videos on YouTube along with other video clips. The clips share who the person is, what they do at the dentist office and some fun facts about their daily lives.
9. Customer Appreciation Night
Host a night to show your current customers how much you love them. Your current and loyal customers are worth more money in your pocket than new customers. With a new customer, you have to invest in reaching that potential customer and building the relationship. With a current customer, the connection is already there. Your event can be as simple as early peeks at new products along with serving some snacks and playing music. The key is to make it as special as your customers are.
Small Business Love
Running a small business is no easy task, but with some determination and by reminding yourself why you love doing what you do, you can find success. Take the time to invest in yourself, your business, your customers and your employees. You should show the love all year long when it comes to your business, but Valentine’s Day is a perfect reminder of where to focus your efforts.
Crucial Elements of An Engaging Website Design
Most elements of good web design are reliant upon one another. For example, higher engagement and more interactivity usually mean lower bounce rates. Compelling content and visuals translate to higher engagement ratings. Fluid and convenient navigation is conducive to the user experience, encouraging visitors to move around your site more freely. And, of course, all of this is what factors into whether or not your site is successful, along with whether or not your design is a good one for you and your customers.
Customers who are satisfied and enjoy their experience(s) tend to stick around. The longer they stick around, the more they’re willing to buy your products and services. It’s a cyclical pattern that feeds into the success of your business and the growth — or decrease — of your bottom line.
Creating a Website That’s Mindful of Audience Needs
The trick is getting to the point where your website serves your audience efficiently. To build a compelling site, you first need to understand what it is your customers and audience want from you and the experience you have to offer. Then, it’s a matter of delivering, which is never as simple as throwing up a live site with random elements and design components.
How do you get there? To the point where your site is ideally functional so that it’s serving the demands of your entire audience?
1 – Navigational Flow
You know what a sales funnel is, right? Even if you don’t, the concept is relatively simple, and you probably understand the foundation. It’s essentially optimizing the flow of a site, a page or navigational elements so that your users end up where you want them to. More specifically, a sales funnel is leading customers to the point where they either reach out for more information from a sales rep, or they flat out buy a product.
Customers get around a site using the navigation. They move from page to page through a concept called the flow, often designed using an initial sitemap. It all ties back into the concept of “navigational flow” or how freely they can move about your online portal. Take a look at how Paris-based Dataveyes presents their site navigation panel and important content.
Step one to ensuring your site needs the needs of your audience is fine-tuning the flow. Can they find your most important pages easily? Are they landing on the right pages or content? How long does it take someone to find what they’re looking for when they reach your site?
2 – Keep It Simple and Responsive
Online users have an eight-second attention span, sometimes even less if they’re browsing on mobile. You only have a small window to hook them and keep them engaged. If you take too long, they’ll leave and may never come back.
That’s exactly why your main landing pages should be simple and responsive. Not just responsive in terms of operation — where they adapt to meet the viewer’s device resolution — but responsive regarding how fast it is to move around and find what you’re looking for.
A viewer should land on your page or site and immediately see what they’re looking for or how to get there.
3 – White or Negative Space
Minimal, understated designs are all the rage these days, and for good reason. Negative space is invariably used not just to make a page aesthetically pleasing, but even to highlight important elements and other content. Don’t clutter your pages with content, visuals, buttons, elements and everything else that goes into a design.
In our example from the La Farfalle site, you can clearly see how their use of whitespace works to bring attention to the rest of the page and site content.
4 – Avoid Autoplay Content
Unless the visual content or media you have showcased on your site is innovative, don’t set it to autoplay. The exception would be something like a video background on a page or a catchy animation to start up the experience.
One of the best examples of this is music. When used appropriately, music can add a lot of atmosphere to a site or design, especially in certain industries. But not everyone enjoys loud music blaring through their desktop or mobile speakers. It’s even worse if they’re out in public or somewhere they need to remain relatively low-key. Even more annoying is when a track or video is set to autoplay on a loop. While you’re browsing the rest of the page, it just continues over, and over, and over, and over, and over — you get the idea.
5 – “Above the Fold” No Longer Matters
Keep in mind, putting your most relevant content above the fold is still a good idea. The main reason is that you want your most important and highly popular elements front and center. That said, there’s nothing wrong with putting more content below the fold, especially on mobile. Viewers are more willing to scroll an entire page now, especially since doing so on mobile is carried out through a quick swipe gesture. In fact, that’s exactly why we’ve seen a huge influx in infinite and endless-scrolling site designs lately.
6 – Ask for Feedback
One great way to discern what your audience wants is to simply ask for feedback. You can do this many ways, the most common of which is including a customer feedback page or form on your site. You can also ask regular questions or host polls on social media. Consider maybe even getting in touch with additional design agencies or development teams to see what they’re doing differently.
The reason this is important is because you don’t exist in a bubble. Sure, you may be focused on current trends and following popular design concepts. But just because something is popular doesn’t necessarily mean your audience wants it, or cares for it. Before rolling out new designs, themes or content, get a feel for what your audience wants. Ask them directly and find out how it’s going to impact their experience.
Check out how mindful SincerelyNuts is of their audience’s potential allergies and dietary concerns. It’s
clear they honed and optimized this experience for their customers, through feedback, research — maybe even years of it — and maintenance.
7 – Choose the Right Content
Most site admins and owners assume that text-heavy content is the way to go, but it’s important to remember it’s not the only form used today. Visual content plays a huge role in the current landscape, too, including videos, images, infographics and even live video streams.
You’ll see a lot of marketing teams highlighting the importance of running a company blog or news-feed, and they’re not wrong, but you don’t always have to go the conventional route. Vlogging — or video blogging — is just one incredibly popular medium you can use to your advantage.
Take some time getting to know your audience and viewers and find out what they resonate with most before delivering a steady stream of new content. You’ll quickly find that you’re developing material your viewers actually want to consume, meaning it’s not going to waste. You can thank us later.
8 – Colors
Fonts and typography are a big deal. The layout is a big deal. The visuals and content you choose are a big deal. But none of them have as much impact on the overall feel and experience of your site as the colors you choose.
Choose the wrong background and font colors, and guess what? No one can read your content or web copy. Choose a theme that uses horribly meshed colors, and your viewers will run away screaming. There’s even the opposite problem, where if you choose images that are too subtle and bland, no one will stick around.
To drive the point home even more, look at this study done by Joe Hallock which reveals how people feel about colors. They are actually associated with different character traits, such as trustworthiness, fun and even security.
Notice how Apple uses muted colors for the rest of their site but incredibly vibrant and vivid colors to highlight the products they want to sell.
Stick With Me If You Want to Live
That’s a bit excessive, but your website deserves the best, right? Here’s the bottom line, it all boils down to one question. Do you want to create a compelling and effective website that meets the needs of your audience or customer base? If the answer is yes — and it should be — then following the steps discussed here will put you on the path to success.
How to Integrate New Year’s Resolutions into Marketing Efforts
People who work in marketing or internet-based jobs are familiar with various ways of keeping seasonal needs in mind while catering to customers. You may have even engaged in some of them at your company.
It’s common to create banner ads that urge people to get an early start with back-to-school shopping, offer discounts on flowers and perfume sets near Mother’s Day or even plan sales that coincide with tax refunds. Seasonal campaigns get results because they meet people’s well-defined needs.
That’s why you shouldn’t overlook a year-end practice that people take part in around the world — setting New Year’s resolutions. Below, we’ll look at several ways to integrate New Year’s resolutions in your marketing efforts.
Cater to Their Decision to Get on a Schedule of Periodic Checkups
The start of a new year is a time when many people reflect on the things they wish they’d done differently over the previous 12 months. Sometimes, individuals realize they shouldn’t have procrastinated with scheduling well-being checkups or put off recommended maintenance appointments for their cars.
In that case, they often say to themselves “This year, I must improve by scheduling ongoing appointments. Then I can be aware of issues before they become severe.” Applegate Dentistry, a dental practice in Kentucky, tapped into that common line of thought by publishing a blog post encouraging viewers to contact the office and get on a schedule of regular dental checkups.
The content outlines the various reasons prevention is so important, then ends with a call to action that urges people to make appointments. You can apply this approach to any service because New Year’s Eve is often a day when people decide to form better habits moving forward, and relevant material from your business could support that plan.
Tap Into the Desire to Make Long-Held Dreams Come True
Many people envision exploring faraway destinations, but realize life gets in the way and going globetrotting isn’t as easy as it seemed. However, after getting fed up with perceived obstacles, some individuals choose to set New Year’s resolutions about finally visiting the places they’ve always wanted to see.
BMI, an airline that operates 400 weekly flights to nearly 50 European destinations, built a New Year’s resolution-themed page on its website that advertised a cheap flight sale and listed potential route options. Well-intentioned individuals often have great ideas, but they need an extra push to turn those aspirations into realities.
BMI’s strategy to offer discounted fares at a time when people are thinking about what the year ahead could bring was a wise move. It removes some of the logistical barriers — the cost of flights, plus choosing a destination and air travel provider — to help people think seriously about bringing their travel dreams to life.
Help People Make Good on Promises to Get in Shape
Statistics associated with the end of 2016 indicate there were more than 57 million Americans with health club memberships. However, a substantial amount of people who use fitness centers join just before or after making New Year’s resolutions — giving you a meaningful window of opportunity.
If you do marketing for a gym or fitness products company, it’s easy to reach out to those individuals by using window graphics that advertise limited-time-only membership deals or banners and flags that encourage people to get motivated about shedding their unwanted holiday pounds by checking out sales on equipment and clothing.
Be Aware of Timekeeping and Scheduling Goals
Improved time management is perhaps one of the most common New Year’s resolutions people set each year. There are various ways you can tailor marketing campaigns to help individuals succeed with time-related aspirations.
If your company offers a digital scheduling or timer app, look at ways to add a New Year’s push notification that encourages users to buy premium offerings. You could use wording such as “Our premium features help you stop wasting time and get closer to your ideals for the new year. Try them today.”
Apple incorporated the start of 2018 into its Apple Watch by showing fireworks across the screens at midnight. It also gave a personalized New Year’s message to the wearer by using his or her name.
The company behind the Day Designer planner also tied New Year’s into its promotional efforts by crafting a helpful blog post about how to set plans for the year ahead. It provided several relatable suggestions for people to try. The last section of the post included a call to action and link that urged readers to go to the Day Designer online store and pick out products that would help them use the tips they just learned every day.
Stay Sensitive to the Difficulty of Breaking Bad Habits
When deciding how to change their lives for the better in the days and months ahead, people frequently come up with resolutions to turn undesirable habits into good ones. For example, they might choose to start smoking cessation programs, seek counseling to deal with emotional eating problems or begin seeing business coaches to stop patterns of never following through with company plans.
Even if your business does not directly market products that relate to changing habits, you can still show an awareness that forming more positive behaviors is not easy. Maybe you sell meditation MP3s or luxury bath products. In those cases, you could appeal to customers with a campaign that asks, “Feeling overwhelmed by the process of creating better habits? Reward yourself for the hard work you’ve done so far with our selection of relaxing products.”
In some cases, you may sell items that could potentially derail someone’s efforts to stop certain ways of acting. However, you can still angle your marketing pitches appropriately. If you offer gourmet chocolates or other tempting treats, you could include content on your website that suggests how adhering to a diet that completely cuts out sweets doesn’t typically work well.
Speak to the fact that treats are usually okay in moderation. Also, mention that people can allow themselves to have goodies occasionally, especially as a reward for all the life-changing efforts they’ve made up to now. You can also mention how occasional nice things strengthen willpower by teaching individuals not to overindulge.
A New Year’s Marketing Resolution
After reading these suggestions and case studies, you should feel well equipped to connect New Year’s resolutions with your marketing campaigns. You’ll be spreading the word about your business or products while also helping customers improve and have their best year yet.
How to Improve Your Drop-Down Menu
The navigation menu is central to the user experience on a website or mobile app. When we visit a website, we have a particular goal in mind. We want to get somewhere on the site as quickly as possible. Usually, the drop-down menu is the most efficient way to do that.
Optimizing your navigation menu should be a top priority. Here are some things you should do to optimize it, plus some you shouldn’t.
Do Kill the Clutter
Keep your navigation simple. You may have tons of sub-pages and a variety of product categories, but you don’t have to include them all in your main navigation. There are other ways to set this up. Alternatively, you could create a top-seated breadcrumb-style menu to offer easier navigation through lesser sub-pages, while keeping all the juicy stuff in the main nav.
When you open a nav menu, you don’t want it to take up the entire screen. Many retailers and e-commerce sites do this, and it’s poor design. You want navigation to be quick and easy, but that also means keeping a lid on the box. If you add too many options, things get cluttered and confusing. This is especially true on mobile, where the screen is much smaller.
The restaurant Denny’s did this with their newer design. The menu displays the most important categories first. When you select one, it opens to reveal sub-categories or additional options.
Do Use Borders or Shadows
Adding a subtle border or drop shadow to your menu helps it stand out from the rest of the page especially if you’re using a lighter background. This isn’t so important when you have plenty of negative space below your menu foldout. However, if you have images or text content, sometimes these elements can make the menu harder to differentiate.
Do Consider Applications
When browsing on desktop, it makes sense to have the drop-down menu or main nav take up the width of the page. On mobile, however, where there’s much less space to work, a collapsible menu is the better choice. Consider the applications for your menu, such as how and where they will be used. This makes a huge difference when it comes to the function, style and even layout of your design.
Do Include Images or Icons
Most menus are text-based, which is a shame because many devices can display high-quality HD content. Why not spruce things up and make your menu more engaging? It’s okay to add images, icons or even visual indicators to your menu alongside text labels.
An auto seller or manufacturer, for example, might consider putting images of the vehicle next to the model name. As a bonus, this can also help when people know visually what they’re looking for, but don’t know the model.
Formula Boats gets this right with their visually appealing dropdown menu. Open it up, and you can see all their boat models, making it easier to choose between them.
Do Use a Column or Grid-Based Design
Column or grid-based navigation menus are better organized, simple to understand and easy to create. Keep your dropdown menu structured appropriately, especially since consumers and internet users are so used to this design technique.
Don’t Have a Disappearing Menu
Ever notice when a site uses a dropdown menu, it remains visible and follows you down the page? This is good web design, especially on mobile. The main navigation menu is always only a tap away, no matter how far down you scroll. This is important for infinite or lengthy scrolling sites.
Amazon has one of the best examples of this anywhere. While their menu doesn’t collapse, it is a mega menu with a dropdown design. It’s visible no matter where you are on the site, on both desktop and mobile versions. Customers retain quick access, to any section of the site.
Don’t Use Unclear Headings
With a dropdown menu, you’re going to have quite a few menu items in view. That’s alright, so long as you have clear headers to differentiate the varying categories and pages.
For example, an electronics retailer might have categories for home theater, laptops and PCs and printers. The correct way to structure this is to bold the headers of each category so they stand out. The improper way to do this is to list all the options in the same font, color and weight. Then you end up with one list of items, and that’s confusing.
Take a look at the official Columbia site. Pay attention to their mega dropdown menu and how it’s structured. Notice how the header for each category stands out from the rest? Now imagine if all those fonts were the same. Even with the columns separate, things would get confusing.
Don’t Forget to Test
You may prefer Chrome over Microsoft Explorer, or maybe you use Safari. Whatever the case, the worst thing you can do is assume everyone has the same preferences as you. One of the biggest mistakes you can make with web design is not testing your setup on multiple platforms.
Before you roll out the final design for your drop-down menu, check it out on multiple devices, browser types and resolutions. The content may scale differently on certain platforms, which could ruin your perfectly crafted menu.
Look no further than IWC Schaffhausen. Open their site on desktop, and you see a drop-down menu with high-quality images of their watches. This makes sense considering you want to choose a watch that looks good. But on mobile, the menu acts differently. Instead of a full menu that takes up the entire screen, you only see a few of the watches, and you must scroll left or right to see the rest.
Don’t Neglect a “Best Sellers” Section
One of the beneficial aspects of a drop-down menu is when you structure it appropriately, you will have some wiggle room — some space to be innovative. Instead of doing something wild, include your popular or best sellers here. Your customers can jump to your most popular product or service right from the get-go.
Don’t Make It Sluggish
You want your site to look beautiful, and that means including animations, visuals and effects. But you don’t want to hinder the experience by creating something that takes too long to load. It is possible to bog down a drop-down menu, making it sluggish in the process. More importantly, you have control over open and close times, where it appears on the page and how hover elements work. Keep this in mind when designing your menu.
The same is true in the opposite direction, too. If a user is moving their mouse over a menu, you don’t want it to pop open and block another element they’re trying to interact with. Find the sweet spot — usually a half a second — before that menu shows up.
Time to Overhaul Your Menu
If you noticed one or two things on this list that conflict with your drop-down menu, you may want to head back to the drawing board. You see, the navigation menu — dropdown or not — is central to your customers’ experience on your site.
Think of it in terms of a brick-and-mortar storefront. When you go into a grocery store, the building is laid out and organized. Each aisle has a purpose and is properly labeled. If you want something specific, you can usually find the aisle quickly. Now imagine if all those signs were gone. It would be utter chaos.
Your nav menu is the equivalent of those signs in digital form. Not only do you need them to direct traffic, but your customers need them to understand your design.
Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She enjoys researching the latest design trends and always has a cup of coffee nearby. She manages Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.
When selling a product, the first option that may spring to mind is to become a retailer for that item. However, you also have the potential to become a brand owner — the person or group that holds intellectual property rights.
In that case, there is more control over which outlets sell the brand, how available the product is in the global marketplace and other specifics. Below, we’ll go over several things you need to do during your quest to become a brand owner instead of just a retailer.
Have Ideas for Products That Aren’t Available Elsewhere
A major factor that causes a person or company to be a brand owner rather than filling the role of a retailer is the presence of ideas for things that aren’t currently available — or knowing how to make things that are better than what people can buy now.
Maybe you love the outdoors and have been thinking about creating a water bottle that makes purification easier when people are roughing it in the middle of nowhere. You might already run a business that stocks outdoor products. However, it probably feels like carrying a selection of inferior water bottles makes your customers miss out.
In the above scenario, becoming a brand owner lets you stock your products in your store. As a result, you can spread the word about them and give current customers easy access to the merchandise.
Protect Your Brand or Product
It’s crucial to go through strategies that protect your brand from dilution. It occurs when there are too many similar products in the marketplace, causing people to become confused about all of them and have difficulty with differentiation.
If your own name is also the brand, you can trademark it, as Oprah did. She’s one of the few people who’ve taken that step to set herself apart. After securing the trademark, it’s also necessary to keep an eye on the internet and make sure merchants aren’t using it without permission. Setting up Google alerts can help you stay more aware compared to manual monitoring alone.
If your product is unique or has characteristics other items don’t, you need to strongly consider filing for a patent. Otherwise, other brand owners could see your products and copy attributes about them.
To ensure your brand and products and properly and thoroughly protected, consult a lawyer who has experience assisting other people in your situation. That person can advise you on the best measures to take, plus tell you what to do if you notice companies or individuals infringing on your property.
Generate Curiosity About the Brand
As a brand owner, it’s necessary to adjust your business strategy and focus on stimulating interest within multiple groups. The more curiosity you cause, the higher the likelihood your efforts will lead to sales and fruitful business partners.
Retailers merely convince shoppers to buy products. As a brand owner, you not only have to do that but also network with distributors that extend the brand’s reach when necessary. Being successful in that task requires showing genuine excitement for your brand and describing why it’s worthy.
Build an Appealing Website
The internet is the first place many people will find out about your brand. Invest time and money into creating a strong web presence that reflects what you offer. Does your brand cater to busy businesspeople, or adventurous travel lovers? Regardless of specifics related to the target audience, make sure the website’s design, copy voice, images and content support the brand. Then, it’s easier to convey what makes your brand stand out and why people should care.
Set Up — and Oversee — Social Media Accounts
Having an informative and user-friendly website is a good start, but you also need to maintain active and interesting social media accounts. Take your time during the setup process and fill out all the relevant sections of a social media profile. Use the same approach to content as building your website and angle it to develop and strengthen your brand at every opportunity. Update social media regularly, too. Ongoing updates boost traffic and engagement.
Also, realize a social media page could quickly become the go-to internet destination for someone who wants to tarnish your brand or is unhappy for some reason and wants the world to know. That’s why it’s crucial to develop and uphold a plan for moderating social media pages.
If you can afford it, hire a moderation team or person to supervise social media and intervene when required. Also, decide what constitutes intolerable behavior. If people continue to break the rules after being made aware of what’s acceptable, ban them and keep track of their IP addresses.
Also, never ignore customers who are truly disgruntled about something brand-related. Instead of keeping up with a publicly viewable content string, you may find it’s more comfortable and private to ask an upset person to send you a private message or call a dedicated phone number to explain their concerns further.
Come up With a Licensing Plan
Licensing is the best way to realize the full value of brand equity because it provides new avenues for promoting, manufacturing and distributing your brand in new markets. It’s essential to prioritize obtaining license agreements as a brand owner to achieve staying power in a crowded marketplace.
There are various ways to do that. Visiting trade shows is a great initial step. They connect brand owners with companies interested in growing the collection of merchandise they offer.
Furthermore, don’t ignore cold calls and social media outreach techniques from potential licensees. Consider that some of the companies most suited to signing licensing agreements may be from other countries, meaning you’d not necessarily encounter representatives at domestic trade shows.
Also, don’t get too eager and sign agreements with any company that gets in contact. Licensees are representatives of your brand, and if they don’t stick to minimum standards when associating with it, all the hard work you’ve done as a brand owner could quickly become nearly useless.
When evaluating whether to accept a potential licensee, ask about the direction they want to take the brand. If it doesn’t align with at least most of your goals or seems in direct opposition, think carefully before finalizing a contract.
Understand What to Expect
Many aspiring brand owners fixate on all the positive aspects of the outcome. Indeed, the advantages are compelling, and the ownership and responsibility involved are quite motivating.
Having a realistic perspective is crucial. Taking steps to become a brand owner is typically more difficult and less straightforward than being a retailer. Because of those realities, you cannot anticipate quick results.
However, it’s not hard to understand why brand ownership provides such a substantial payoff to the people who do it right. Many brands become timeless segments of the pop culture landscape. Consider names like Coca-Cola, Apple and Mercedes-Benz.
As an owner of your brand, you enjoy an unprecedented amount of control over how it appears in the marketplace. Brand ownership also gives more freedom to shape what people think of the brand and perform reputation management as needed.
After reading these steps, it shouldn’t be hard to realize why many entrepreneurs see brand ownership as such as appealing concept. If you can relate, don’t get intimidated by the length and complexity of the process. Instead, persevere and recall that owning a brand could result in long-term profits and recognition within an ever-crowded consumer landscape.
How Strategic Branding Can Help your Business
One way to stand out from the competition and make a mark on the internet for your business is through strategic branding. You’ve likely noticed branding via offline platforms, which is when companies use a tagline or some other identifying tactic to keep the brand in the mind of consumers. Think about some of the billboards you pass on a typical day, for example. However, branding on the internet is an entirely different game.
With so many different choices on methods for branding online, it can be difficult to know where to start. Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true ways to brand online that will benefit your business and not cost you much out of your overall marketing budget.
- Develop a Street Team
Street teams originally started out as a way for the music industry to promote artists, but has developed into a method that all types of businesses use. About 33 percent of consumers say they trust a message from a company, which isn’t great, but 90 percent of consumers trust a recommendation from someone they know, even if they just know the person in passing.
This is where your street team comes into play. You should have a database of fans who will go out and tell others about your company and products. This can include social media influencers, people who have been customers for many years and brand ambassadors who you send free products in exchange for their word-of-mouth advertising.
Red Bull utilizes a street team/brand ambassadors to get the word out about its product. The way it has implemented its strategy is to have tiers within the team all the way down to student ambassadors who will recommend the product to their friends.
- Content Marketing
91 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing to promote to potential clients, making it one of the most popular B2B online marketing methods. You’ve probably heard that content is king, and in some ways, this still holds true.
However, you have to ensure the content speaks to your target audience and provides some value to them. Gone are days where businesses could keyword-stuff a page, drive traffic and find success. Today’s savvy business owners expect and demand value for their time.
- Make Connections
Small businesses need a convenient way to get active online and begin building that brand image. One key thing is figuring out how to connect with other small businesses, but statistics show that businesses with better listings receive as much as 347 percent more searches than those with subpar listings. A company called Manta helps with Google AdWords placement, figuring out SEO for local listings, social media timing, online reviews and preparing for mobile search traffic.
One example of a company using this platform is Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services. The company specializes as a developer of industrial sites and office buildings, so the ability to connect with other businesses is a real help.
- Social Media
Get everyone in the company versed in how to use social media to promote the business and then allow those who seem to be savvy to promote on your behalf.
Studies show that leads that are generated by employees via social media are about seven times more likely to have high conversion rates. The key is training employees on what to say and what not to say or to simply ask them to retweet and share.
- Customer Service on Social Media
Every day, there are 2.1 million negative social media posts about U.S. brands, which means people are very likely to go online and voice their complaints. Since your goal is to please your customer and show others you care about your customers, it is a smart move to hire customer service specialists to handle social media complaints. The reps simply reach out to those complaining and offer to fix the issue.
JetBlue airlines is an excellent case study of how to use social media to respond to your customers in a pleasing way. When customers complain, it immediately responds, asks for flight info and provides an update.
- Persistence Pays
A person has to see your branding approximately five to seven times before they remember it, as a rule of thumb. Of course there are exceptions to that rule, but it goes to show that you need to put your eggs in more than one basket when it comes to online marketing. Think about where your target demographic hangs out online. If most of them are on Pinterest and a specific crafting site, then that is where you’ll advertise, as well as by using AdWords with a similar keyword range.
- Mobile-Friendly Emails
The number of people using mobile devices to access emails has risen by 180 percent over a three-year period. With more and more people using their mobile devices to get online, it is a smart practice to take those emails you’ve collected and send out a message here and there. You can offer stories about your company, discounts, free shipping, customer testimonials, etc.
Groupon sends out emails several times a week that are segmented to offer specials that particular group of subscribers would be interested in. This highly targeted form of advertising has been quite effective for the site. Those emails are also mobile friendly and can be easily read on a personal computer or a smartphone.
If your company isn’t focusing on branding online yet, then you can see why it is vital that you do. You can easily expand your customer reach by doing online marketing. The key is to be smart about where you spend your marketing dollars. Even though online marketing is a fraction of the cost of traditional print advertising, you can still waste a lot of money if you don’t go into it with a very specific strategy and marketing plan.
Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She enjoys researching the latest design trends and always has a cup of coffee nearby. She manages Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner
Customer Chat Tips & Features
Live chat has quickly become a top feature that consumers expect out of a website experience. As of 2017, 48 percent of consumers prefer to communicate with a business via a live chat than any other form of communication. However, just having a live chat feature and delivering an amazing experience via live chat are two totally different things.
The same study discovered that people don’t mind if the chat is conducted through a chatbot or artificial intelligence (AI) as long as they get the help they need and have a good experience.
There are some key things your chat feature should offer, whether you are staffing your live chat with real people or with computers. Nail these seven items, and your chat feature will be much more effective than you thought possible.
Key Customer Chat Tips & Features
- Offer Support, Not Hard Sales
Your chat support should be just that — support. If you use every single opportunity to just try and hard sell, you are going to turn customers off. Your focus should be on how you can help the customer rather than on how they can help you. Yes, you are in business to sell things, but the customer who takes the time to live chat is already interested in buying. Your job is to make sure they have all the information they need.
This also means you need to be strategic in where you feature your live chat option on your website. For example, it should be on the landing page, but do you really need it on your About page?
A good example of a site that does chat support well is Aid in Recovery. It has a chat at the bottom of the landing page that reads “Need help finding a rehab? Chat anonymously with a live agent.” The chat is available 24/7. Since people landing on the site are likely wanting help, this is an excellent use of the live chat option — placing it front and center.
- Email a Follow-up Transcript
Carefully choose your chat software so you can keep a transcript of conversations. Customers may have multiple questions about your product or services. By the time the conversation is over, they may forget every fine detail that was discussed, but they might also be too embarrassed to ask again. Keeping a transcript allows you to later email that transcript to your lead and remind them of everything that was discussed.
This also gives you an opportunity to touch base again and show them you care about whether they are satisfied with the chat experience or not.
- Clearly Labeled Areas
Make sure everything is labeled clearly for your site visitor. He or she shouldn’t have to hunt to find the chat feature. Instead, make sure it is easily found and looks the same on every page. Once the chat box is engaged, it should also be clear where the user needs to type and how to enter the text.
One clear example of a well-labeled chatbot can be found at Conestoga Log Cabins and Homes. A box pops up that has clearly labeled entry boxes and a box stating “enter your question.”
Chatbots are one way to staff your chat without spending money hiring an actual body to run the conversations. Instead, businesses purchase the software once, input all the basic information the chatbot needs based on what past customers or site visitors have asked, and lets the artificial intelligence do its job.
A word of caution here — if you plan to run a chatbot, be sure you offer an option for customers to contact you via email or some other means. A chatbot can’t possibly answer every question there might be, so at some point you’re going to have to input additional info the chatbot doesn’t have. Update it each time you run into a question such as this, and the bot will become more and more efficient with time.
- Use Social Media
Social media is an excellent way to reach consumers, particularly the younger crowd. Allow customers to tweet you for a response, but be sure you have someone readily available to respond. Responses should take minutes, not hours. If you only want to staff social media responses for a certain amount of time, then you can clearly lay that out on your social media pages and your website.
One example of a site that uses social media to interact with customers is Chegg, which is a company that provides textbooks and rentals to college students. Whenever a student has a question, he or she can tweet out the question and tag @CheggHelp. Staff will answer promptly during business hours.
- Offer Multilingual Chat Options
We are living in a truly global economy, so offering multiple language options for your chat is a great idea. If your target audience speaks English or Spanish, then you’ll want to staff your live chat with both types of speakers and train them thoroughly on your products and policies. You would then use routers to send the consumer to the appropriate chat technician.
- Target Specific Needs
Another thing you can do is trigger live chat when a customer is on a specific product page. This requires making each chat highly targeted to that item. So, if a customer is searching for boots and lands on a page for rain boots, the chat might pop up and ask if the customer wants tall or short rain boots. It might ask what the customer will use them for and give a specific product recommendation.
An example of a site using this type of targeted live chat is Ruffwear. The company sells active wear and other items for canine companions. You will find things such as lifejackets, winter boots and vehicle restraint harnesses. Knowing which item to choose can be daunting at times. During business hours, chat boxes will pop up as you browse through the site, offering help with various things, such as finding the right boot and fit for your pooch.
The number of companies offering live chat continues to increase from month to month. New AI advances and increasing competitors in the global market make providing excellent customer service more important than ever. If you pay close attention to your live chat features, you can stand out from the competition by using them in a creative way that puts your customers first.
Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She enjoys researching the latest design trends and always has a cup of coffee nearby. She manages Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.
Examples of Effective Landing Pages & Tips
When you discover a new website, whether on your own or through a web search, consider the first page you usually end up on. That’s easy to imagine, right? Because you — and almost everyone else — likely land on the main, front page. Many refer to this as the landing page, for obvious reasons.
The landing page is people’s first impression of a website, business or individual. If performance is shoddy or the images look sub-par, that’s going to reflect on the associated brand or business. If the fonts are tough to read, or the content is riddled with grammatical errors, you’re going to assume the team behind the site is also plagued by these issues.
The simple point we’re trying to make here is if you’re going to ensure any page on your website is the absolute best it can be, put extra effort into your landing page. As the first place both new and loyal customers go when they begin your carefully crafted customer journey, it’s the doorway to all your other channels. It may even be the first — or last — introduction an audience has to your business or products. Did you know 53 percent of mobile users abandon a website or portal that takes longer than three seconds to fully load?
So, if you haven’t already, it’s time to get serious and improve your landing page with some best practices. What better way to do that than to look at real-world examples of web design and innovative content in action?
1. Appearance and Visual Fidelity
It seems silly to have to say this, especially with today’s emphasis on technology and digital content, but the look and feel of your landing page matters. If your page is ugly, has a poor design, experiences slow loading times or anything of the like, your audience is going to have a negative outlook on your brand or business.
Mobile devices can now display high-resolution images and video, with little to no loading times experienced. That’s important, because in the past you largely designed a desktop version of your site with high-res, high-quality media, and dumbed everything down for the mobile version. Today, if you don’t directly design for mobile, you likely develop something called a “responsive design,” which scales the media and content to match the resolution of the device users are visiting from.
Mobile delays and poor performance make audiences more stressed than the average horror movie. How’s that for tanking a reputation?
Take the MECO landing page, for instance. It doesn’t matter what device you’re browsing on — you’ll see incredibly vivid and colorful imagery, and captivating, yet clear, fonts. Scroll down the page some more, and there’s even some fantastic animation to go along with everything. Nothing on the site is too taxing, even on mobile. The visual fidelity and performance are there, and it’s stunning all around.
2. Colors and Fonts
Yes, we touched on the appearance and visual aesthetics in the tip above, but colors and fonts deserve their own section. Both a stark color contrast and an ugly font can cause serious damage to the reputation and bounce rates on your site.
Colors are important because even without images, you can use them to present beautiful and striking backgrounds and accents. Gradients, for instance, which have two colors merging in a unique style, offer an incredibly stunning appearance to the background of a content section or page.
Of course, if you slap poorly selected fonts and even font colors over a background, it can make the content difficult to read, or even frustrating for your audience.
Naturally, both the colors and fonts you select for your landing page need to mesh well, adhere to positive user experience standards and be convenient, yet attractive. Half of Us has some amazing use of colors and fonts on their landing page. Pay attention to the smaller background elements, especially with how nicely the fonts and colors play together.
3. Keep It Simple
Menus and navigation exist to direct your audience to other important areas of your site. The landing page is for quick, striking introductions. For that reason, you should keep the elements, media and content as minimal as possible.
Get straight to the point, and provide your audience with the tools or options they need to move to the next step in your customer journey or experience program. For example, Hello Bar has a single URL tool on their landing page. The company promises to help you “convert more visitors into customers” with their innovative product. Rather than waste time telling you about it, they simply offer encouragement to give it a try, and it works. You land on the page, and you’re more inclined to submit a relevant URL. Bam, you’re in, and you’re hooked.
4. Existential Musings
Who are you? Why do you exist? What do you do? What can you do for your customers and audience? As quickly and efficiently as you possibly can, state this information and or present it to them right on the landing page.
Yes, many of the customers visiting your site know who you are already. A large majority of your audience, however, is going to discover your business via web search, affiliate links or even typing your domain name into their browser. They have no idea who or what you stand for, so just tell them.
In line with the tip above, keep it simple, consistent and brief. Bloom, a web design agency, does exactly that on their landing page. What’s the first thing you see? The company name and a brief, yet effective, description: “An intuitive graphic and web design studio for purpose-driven entrepreneurs.”
They explain who they are, what they do and exactly the kind of customer they engage or assist. You can find your own colorful way to do this, but always make sure new customers and audiences know who and what you are. Furthermore, tell them what you specialize in. If you make home goods products, talk about what you offer. If you’re an advertising agency, list some clients or showcase a few portfolio pieces.
5. Give Your Visitors the Power
Your audience and customers are going to do what they want, when they want to. That’s the entire concept behind mobile web and modern design. Customers now have the power to engage exactly when they’re good and ready. Your landing page is the way to facilitate this relationship or engagement.
Right from the start, you need to give customers the power to achieve whatever you want them to. Because that sounds broad and confusing, let’s focus on one element you already know: the call to action. This step involves a button, statement or design element that compels your audience to do something.
You may want them to make a purchase, subscribe to an email newsletter or even reach out to a brand rep. Whatever the case, you deploy a call to action to get them to follow through. A prominent call to action is one common way of giving your visitors the power.
Apple’s smartwatch landing page is a unique portal that relies on this concept entirely. When you first arrive, you see the usual suspects: a top-seated navigation bar with various options and sub-menus, and a visually appealing background that shows the product. Right away, you can follow through to learn more about the product, or you can just jump to a portal to buy it. From the moment you arrive to the moment you leave, the power is in your hands.
Need more reason to provide a call to action? Consider that consumers now spend 68 percent of digital media time on mobile, and 35 percent of online purchases also happen on mobile. Giving your visitors the power, especially on mobile, is the way to boost conversions and engagement.
6. Tactile, Interactive and Real Experiences
Through concepts like parallax design, virtual reality and even chatbots or AI assistants, web experiences are becoming much more tactile, interactive and real. Customers have learned to embrace these new concepts, too.
Honu for iPhone has a vivid, bright and ideal website that exhibits this concept. Through parallax and brilliant imagery, you get a true feel for their product and what it does. More importantly, you can admire the attractive design and aesthetics, mirroring a real-world demo of the item. You know how sometimes it’s better to see a product in person? That’s exactly the kind of experience you’re looking to deliver online.
Your landing page is the first impression that needs to go well. Always look at your site from a user’s perspective. Applying the strategies above will not only provide insight into your business but it’ll lead to loyal customers.
Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She enjoys researching the latest design trends and always has a cup of coffee nearby. She manages Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.