In Part 1 I took a look at some of the more obvious improvements on the major pages of the site. I think some of the subtleties are even more interesting. Things that might go unrecognized at first, but make a small positive impact on your business.
One time during one of our sales a while back Mike decided to throw a banner announcing the sale into our template on the old site. It looked totally out of place, but sure enough, that sale performed exceptionally better than previous ones, most likely because every visitor on the site saw the sale banner while they were shopping. Previously we had just been announcing sales in our newsletter and on our forums. Sometimes we forget that the majority of our traffic reaches us via search.
A banner system was one of the “must have” features for the new site. It had to be integrated seamlessly into the design, and it had to catch people’s eyes just enough to convey information without annoying them. We decided on a sliding banner system, which I ended up building from scratch when I couldn’t find an open source banner system that did everything we wanted it to. The system is pretty robust – you can put any HTML into it, not just images. It waits 5 seconds before switching banners. We decided to have it stop on the last banner as opposed to cycling back through because we found it to be a bit annoying (plus, if you’ve been looking at that part of the page for 10 – 20 seconds and haven’t clicked a banner, odds are you aren’t going to if we keep cycling them). If you want to see a previous banner you can click the buttons. The only caveat is that the system doesn’t work on webkit browsers. For both Safari and Chrome we just show the #1 banner. I know why it doesn’t work, but couldn’t justify the time to re-build the system just for those browsers. Maybe down the line.
The Daily Special banner will always show, as will the monthly specials. If we’re running a special promo or announcing something to our visitors, we’ll add those in as well.
In the end, I think this is one of those features that just elicits feelings like “smooth” and “slick” from people, even if they don’t click the banner. It’s one of the first things you notice when you settle on the site. It makes you think you’re about to have a modern shopping experience, something a bit different than you’d get from a basic Yahoo E-commerce site.
Banner Did You Know Tips
We needed something to fill up the rest of our banner space along top, so Mike came up with the idea for “tips” about our site, our products, and detailing in general. Each “tip” links to a page with more information, be it a product page or blog post or page in the detailing guide. We thought of it as more of a filler feature, but it’s one of the first things that everyone mentions when they see the site. They’re addicting to click. Since the launch, we’ve begun tracking the clicks and will eventually serve the more successful ones more often (success could be defined solely as CTR, or we could factor in how many of those clicks lead to sales).
Contact Form and Help Pages
I wrote a while back about how we decreased our phone calls and emails with our previous contact page. We decided to make it a little more intuitive this time around, with a more traditional FAQ, help pages for things like returns and shipping, and a contact form, all easily found on the left side of the footer. The contact form requires several steps before actually contacting us, finally forcing them to click “I checked the Frequently Asked Questions and was unable to answer my question” prior to showing the actual form. We also are recording all of the inquries, which is the first step towards an eventual more advanced ticket system like you see many larger sites provide.
Our previous gift certificate system was sort of a hack job. This time around I built it right into the cart. From the users perspective, the gift certificate page is much simpler, and on the back-end it integrates seamlessly. Gift certificate only orders aren’t charged shipping, and aren’t put in our ship queue. As soon as the customer places the order, they receive an email with their gift certificate and it already shows up in their My Account as a completed purchase, with a link to the gift certificate.
Surprisingly, we actually have a rather large affiliate program. I say surprisingly because back when I did SEO & web marketing consulting, I worked with several companies that were much larger than ours and they always had affiliate programs that generated next to nothing. Anyway, our program previously paid out monthly. If you had cash as your option, we paid you via PayPal, and if you had DI credit as your option, we deposited cash value + 15% into your DI account to use towards your next purchase. On the new site, we kept cash the same, but now pay out credit immediately upon purchase. Even if the item is returned, the affiliate still keeps the credit. Now you see the immediacy of your work – post an affiliate link on a forum in the morning, see credit in your account later that day after someone makes a purchase.
We also still have all of the features I outlined from the launch of the old cart back in 2007, my favorite being the dynamically generated PDF invoices.
More to come in Part 3