Design Your Site With Your Target Audience in Mind
Many beginning online merchants make a common mistake when designing their websites. They enjoy the process of being in control of their business so much that they make the site look and feel exactly like they want it to. Doesn't sound like too much of an error? The truth is, that designing without giving enough thought to the target audience of the business is probably the biggest reason that e-commerce sites don't have a high rate of sales conversions. In other words, if you build your website using colors, graphics, fonts and navigation tools that appeal to you, and don't take the preferences of your intended audience into account, you could be asking for trouble. Here are some hints for making your web presence one that will encourage folks to visit, browse, and ultimately buy from your Internet store.
Â· Consider the age range of your potential customer. If you're just starting out in the world of e-commerce, it's safe to assume you are trying to reach a niche audience. Since it's nearly impossible to begin with a huge, all-purpose site like Amazon, for example, which appeals to folks in a wide range of demographic groups, your focus will be on a much smaller set of shoppers. Who are they? One of the most basic things to consider is the average age of your typical customers. Are they baby boomers, teens, Generation Xers? The reason it's important to know is that each age group has unique preferences. For example, retirees will click away from a site immediately if the size and style of font is not easy to read. (Find out more about Text Readability here.) Teens and young adults will want to see some evidence that your merchandise is "cool" and trendy, and they are likely to be more impressed with Flash and colorful graphics than older folks are. (Get info about Special Effects here.)
Â· Know the probable education level of your clientele. Your content will need to be tailored differently if you are writing to tweens and teens than if you are marketing to professionals in any field. College and high school students do not want to be "talked down to," and many working class folks turn away from anything that seems overly academic and stuffy.
Â· Take into account the fact that your site visitors will not all have the same level of experience. Even if you are marketing to a fairly small niche, say collectors of foreign coins, you should realize that some visitors to your site will be new to the subject. You can have tons of information for folks who have a wealth of knowledge about coin collecting, but you should include something for newcomers, as well. You may find a long-term customer by helping him or her learn about the topic.
Â· Realize that some customers will be hunting and some will be browsing. Make your navigation system easy to use for a shopper that knows exactly what product he wants. (A hunter) Provide a search box and divide your merchandise into logical categories to make specific items easy to find.
You should also make allowances for a person who just wants to see what kinds of things are available. (A browser) These folks will appreciate having several different ways to look at your offerings and might want items sorted by price, color, size, etc. (More about Navigation Systems can be found here.)
Â· Give your customers a reason to return to your site. If shoppers are interested in your products and have a good experience while visiting your store, they are likely to come back. Repeat business is very important to maintaining a healthy bottom line. If you add new items and content on a regular basis, provide pertinent, useful information, and offer special deals or sales from time to time, you can increase the chances of acquiring a long-term customer.
Â· Design for as many kinds of users with as many kinds of platforms as possible. Remember that some folks who visit your site may be visually or hearing impaired, some will be viewing your products with tiny hand-held devices, and some will be using slower Internet connections and older computer hardware. Make your web store compatible with as many different systems as possible. (More on Browser Compatibility can be found here.)
What it all comes down to is that not all people think and react the way you do. If you follow your own personal preferences too closely, you risk turning away a large segment of the population that might like your offerings but not your web design. If you do not belong to the same demographic group as the majority of your customers do, find some friends or family members of the right age and educational background and ask them to give you their honest opinion of your site. Then listen to them. Remember that in the online world as well as the real world the customer is always right.
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