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Posted on May 25, 1999

  The Add Me! Newsletter           *** ISSUE #33 ***
  "Free tips for promoting your website and business"
  Add Me, Inc         

             ...THIS WEEK'S ARTICLE...    

       >> Creating A Shopper Friendly Site <<

  May 25th, 1999                   *** ISSUE #33 ***

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           .....THIS WEEK'S ARTICLE.....

         Creating A Shopper Friendly Site

  By Michelle M. Rahm

  Shopper friendliness is of key importance in attracting 
  and keeping customers at your website. While considering 
  your site's shopper friendliness, keep in mind these two 
  important factors: Simple and Efficient Navigation and 
  Ordering Ease. 

  I. Simple and Efficient Navigation
  It is evident that many website owners fail  to actually 
  "shop" at their own website. So many sites require shoppers 
  to take unnecessary steps to arrive at their desired end 
  point. Other sites have non-descriptive links leading into 
  a sea of oblivion. 

  Don't waste your customers' time with unnecessary steps. 
  Many sites  have nice descriptive links leading to specific 
  categories of products on their home page, but fail to put 
  additional category links on each subsequent page! Don't 
  make the mistake of only including a link to the home page 
  at the bottom of each page in your site. Include links to 
  each of the main sections of your website on every page. 
  By doing so, your customers can choose where they go next. 
  No one wants to have to keep going backwards just to proceed 
  forward into your product offering.

  In addition, make sure your links lead directly to where 
  they say they are leading. Don't make your customers leap 
  frog all over your site just to get where they are going. 

  On one site I visited, I found a link called "view our 
  products." When I clicked on that link, I was sent to a 
  full page of text, which outlined the company history, 
  philosophy etc. That link should have been called "company 
  overview" or something along those lines. I scrolled down 
  that page and at the bottom there was another link called 
  "view our products." When I clicked on the second "view 
  our products" link, I finally reached my destination
  ...actual photographs of the product offering. I would 
  have preferred to go directly to that link rather than 
  taking a detour through the company overview.

  Another common mistake is having non-descriptive links 
  in your website. If your customer doesn't understand 
  where a link will lead them, they will likely avoid 
  selecting it. Be very detailed in your link descriptions, 
  and your customers will appreciate it.



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  I visited a site which boasted an "online catalog," and 
  that's exactly what it was.  At the bottom of each page 
  were links to pages: 1, 2, 3,....13. This catalog concept 
  works fine in the real world where a person can quickly 
  thumb through a catalog of product photos, but get real! 
  On the Internet we have to wait for pages to load before 
  we can see them in their entirety. After viewing the first 
  two pages of this "online catalog", I decided I wouldn't 
  waste my time clicking through more pages when I hadn't 
  the slightest idea what products were featured on the 11 
  remaining pages.

  I have many "online" catalogs as I offer many different 
  product lines. However, for each product line I sell, I 
  take the time to make sure my product offering and my 
  website are well organized. Each page of my website is 
  designed to stand alone in the event a customer comes 
  into my "store" on one of the subsequent pages rather 
  than the home page. 

  Each page contains descriptive links to the other main 
  pages of my site so my customers can navigate efficiently. 
  This way, if a customer has already looked at rings and 
  now wants to see the men's bracelets, he can get there 
  quickly and easily simply by clicking on the link for 
  men's bracelets.

  One of my many satisfied customers recently included this 
  note on his order form, "I have to tell you, whoever made 
  this site is really creative, smart and knows how to 
  organize things. I wish other websites did the same thing." 
  It makes me happy to know that visitors to my site are 
  finding what they are looking for.

  II. Ordering Ease
  Don't attempt to sell products on the Internet if you 
  don't make the ordering process simple for your customers. 
  So many people expect their customers to purchase without 
  adequate product information, ordering options and payment 
  methods. A truly serious netrepreneur needs to consider 
  all these things very carefully.

  While retail stores take the guess work out of shopping 
  because customers can touch and feel products, the virtual 
  store owner must rely on both copy and graphics to describe 
  his products. Don't just show a photograph of your product. 
  Take the time to really explain it. How big is it? What's 
  it made of? How much does it cost? Is there a guarantee? 
  While photographs are very important for certain product 
  lines, it's difficult to make an informed purchase decision 
  based solely on a photograph, especially if the product is 
  not pictured in its actual size. 

  In my jewelry "store," my photographs are large. Each 
  photo features multiple jewelry pieces in their actual 
  size. While the photos take a little longer to load, by 
  showing multiple items in a given category actual size 
  in the same photograph, customers can make comparisons 
  between various like items. Based on feedback, my 
  customers actually prefer this method of viewing products 
  rather than clicking through thumbnail images of hundreds 
  of different jewelry pieces.

  I also include a price and description of each item and 
  information regarding the quality of the jewelry pieces 
  in a given category. By providing all this information, 
  my customers know exactly what each item looks like, its 
  size, its price and its quality in detail. They can make 
  informed buying decisions. And I'm not bombarded with 
  e-mails concerning product questions.

  Along the same lines as providing adequate information is 
  the topic of providing understandable information. Don't 
  be too cunning with your copy. Customers want descriptions 
  in a language they can understand.

  I once saw a website listing an "18 INCH GOLD HERRINGBONE 
  NECKLACE 14KT" for just $18.00. Curious, I clicked on the 
  link for a more detailed description. The copy was written 
  so skillfully that anyone outside the jewelry business 
  would have thought they were buying a real 14-karat gold 
  necklace for $18.00 rather than a 14-karat gold plated 
  necklace. I'd hate to be managing that company's returns 
  and complaints department. If you insist on using deception 
  to increase your sales, you'll regret it in the long run. 
  Be clear, descriptive and upbeat with your copy, but avoid 
  trying to trick your customers.



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  If you're going to be serious about Internet commerce, 
  you also need to offer your customers a variety of ordering 
  and payment options. Don't expect to be bombarded with sales 
  if your customers have to jump through hoops just to order.

  I visited a site that not only required customers to e-mail 
  the website owner for product prices, but she also expected 
  her customers to place their initial order via e-mail, then 
  send a check in the mail. Why would anyone bother to buy from 
  her? In a world so focused on convenience, you would be foolish 
  to expect your customers to go out of their way to buy your 
  product, especially when there are millions of websites to 
  choose from. 

  Get a merchant account so you can accept credit cards. And 
  offer real-time secured online ordering. It's safe, it's 
  convenient for customers, it is wonderful for sparking impulse 
  purchases and it'll save you valuable time. It costs a little 
  more for the entire set-up, but it's worth it. More than 90% 
  of my sales are transacted directly on my website. 

  Of course, not all of your customers will feel comfortable 
  ordering directly online. For those more traditional 
  customers, provide a telephone number they can call to place 
  an order and an address for mail orders. If you can't always 
  be around to answer the phone, hire an answering service or 
  get voice messaging. But be sure to check messages often so 
  your customers aren't left waiting. 

  Finally, I cannot stress enough the importance of testing 
  your virtual store ordering system on a regular basis. 
  We all know that systems go down and things don't work 
  perfectly all the time. Nothing is more annoying than 
  trying to place an order on a website only to receive 
  an error message.

  Visit your website often and place an order yourself to 
  see what happens. If you suspect a problem with the 
  system, call the service provider immediately. Many 
  times I have brought attention to problems that the 
  service provider was completely unaware of. Believe 
  me, they'll appreciate your efforts and so will your 

  Now, take some time to visit your website. Have a friend 
  place an order while you look on. Ask for honest feedback 
  about your store. And try to improve upon your virtual 
  store's shopper friendliness. Remember, always keep your 
  customers in mind.

  Article by Michelle M. Rahm, of 
  a division of Quality 
  Merchandise Brokers. 

  Michelle is an award-winning Internet entrepreneur with a professional 
  background in Direct Mail and Service Quality Management. She has been 
  operating her business solely on the Internet since 1997 and sells a 
  variety of product lines including 
  gold costume 
  fine 14-karat gold 
  fine watches 
gems among others.

  Mention this article in the comments section on your first 
  jewelry order and receive a special gift. E-mail 
  Michelle with your 
  comments or questions at  

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