2019-07-31T13:46:11-04:00 July 25th, 2019/Ecommerce/By /

Ecommerce: The 7-Step E-Commerce Homepage Framework for Maximum Branding and Conversions

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As direct response marketers, we’ve always focused on one thing – getting the conversion. 

If you’re investing $1 into paid ads, then you’re hoping the campaign spits out more money than you put in. 

There’s no brand building, and there’s no long term thinking since you don’t have access to any data.

However…

When I think about the future of this industry, I see more and more people focused on using their affiliate marketing skills to build brands.

This can come in many different forms. Some affiliate marketers have switched over to e-commerce in the past few years.

Even though e-commerce should be long-term focused by nature, I’ve noticed that many of them still have an “affiliate mentality” when it comes to building their stores.

To be blunt, so many stores look cheap.

  • Low-quality photos
  • A low quality,  free theme that looks like every other drop shipper’s store
  • Fake countdown timers
  • Fake testimonials
  • Copy and paste product descriptions from the Chinese suppliers

If you have this kind of short term thinking, then you’re always going to be chasing the next hot product on Aliexpress.

So this week I want to start talking about how you can start thinking about building a brand once you find a winning product.

Brand building itself is a complex topic, so we’re going to laser focus on just one aspect of it – the home page of an e-commerce / Shopify store.

You’re going to find a framework for building an eCommerce homepage with examples shown from some of the top companies in the world.

Don’t just look at the framework, but understand some of the reasons I’ve given into why these elements are on each homepage.

Let’s get into it.

Note: Even though the topic of this article is based around e-commerce, you can use the concepts for any sort of home page including SAAS products and Personal Branding. 

The Goal of Your Homepage

We need to start with the strategy first before we get into the tactics.

If there’s any organic, referral, or word of mouth traffic, then the homepage of your store is the first exposure that a customer will have to your brand.

First impressions matter.

Even if you’re sending paid traffic to a product page, chances are that they’re going to navigate to your home page to get a quick 80 / 20 of what your brand is about. They’re investigating to make sure that your company is legit.

Remember that they’re taking a risk buying from you. Having a great home page is a way for you to lower the risk and build trust. 

What makes a great homepage depends on your industry, how well known you are in that industry, and what your specific goals are as a company.

If you’re selling a service or a product that people aren’t familiar with, then you need to spend time explaining. In this case, it would make sense to utilize an explainer video.

Would you need an explainer video if you’re selling coffee beans? Probably not. People know what coffee beans are. In that case, you can utilize the space instead to direct people directly to the best selling beans or link them to a “quiz” to help them find the best beans for them.

Next, how well known are you in the industry? If you’re a younger brand, you can use it as an opportunity to tell your story. People love rooting for the underdog. 

Nike doesn’t need to explain their story because everyone already knows who they are. 

And finally, the homepage should align with the strategic goals of the company. If email marketing is a big deal, then you should be collecting email addresses.

Is the brand trying to be “cool?” Did you invest a lot in having influencers be the spokespeople for the company? If yes, then you should heavily feature them on the homepage. 

And finally, the homepage should evolve as you start attaining things worth bragging about. It’s hard to feature testimonials if you don’t have any. But if you start gathering some great testimonials, then you should start adding it. 

The Seven-Step E-Commerce Homepage Framework

There’s no one size fits all solution, but I have noticed that the biggest stores have seven elements in common.

I’m going to share these seven elements, and later on, I’ll share with you some optional “conversion boosters.”

The steps are in sequential order, from top to bottom. 

1. The Navigation Bar (The Menu Bar)

This is the bar at the top of the page that helps your customers quickly find what they need. 

Make sure that the navigator bar is “sticky.” It means that the navigation bar automatically “follows” as someone scrolls down. 

Second, try not to have too many items in the bar or else it’ll become distracting. Every item on that navigation bar needs to earn its place. 

Examples:

     A. Here’s Warby Parker’s navigation bar.

It’s short and to the point.

     B. Here’s Onnit’s bar.

They broke their product lines into four main categories for easy navigation.

     C. Here’s KylieCosmetics.com


Yes I know it’s a billion dollar brand, but I hate this bar.

There’s way too much going on and some of it seems redundant. 

Recommended Elements for a Typical Store: logo, products, about us, contact, cart, and account.

Expanding menus can help you declutter your menu bar. 

2. The Hero Shot or Above the Fold Image

The Hero Shot is the first thing that people see when they land on your homepage, and it’s by far the most important element.

Your 80 / 20 for optimizing your home page is this section. If your hero shot isn’t interesting, then they’re not checking out the rest of your website.

Simple Formula: Have a good looking person using your product in a dream environment. Add a short instagram-ish caption with a link. 

Examples:

Here is Gymshark’s Hero shot. 

A hot, fit blonde woman wearing Gymshark’s clothing. 

Notice that the gym isn’t your typical LA Fitness. It looks like a high end, rugged gym. Remember, it needs to be a “dream environment.”

I love the text saying “The Legacy Continues…Calling all those who understand what this logo represents.

I don’t wear any Gymshark clothing, but it’s probably the same shit from China as everyone else. They’re not going to compete against everyone by highlighting the quality or the technology behind their clothing.

A company like Uniqlo can focus on the technology because they’ve developed some interesting stuff.

Gymshark knows that they need to focus on being “cool.” Their caption is inviting the customers to be part of a “tribe.”

Here is Bonobo’s hero shot.

A good looking guy wearing their clothing. He’s not wearing the clothes in a windowless office. The clear blue skies and wind in the shirt evokes the feeling of summer and adventure.  

Here is Patagonia’s.

Now…that’s fucking badass.

Is John, the 35-year old guy working in IT middle management, going to be catching killer fucking waves like this dude?

No, he’s not.

But you know what…he can dress the part by wearing Patagonia.

The Hero shot is about showing the Lifestyle. 

High quality, high-resolution photos are a must because it takes up the entire screen for most laptops.

Next, people respond to faces. Don’t just show the product, but show a person with the product or using it.

Keep the text short and sweet. You shouldn’t be trying to sell anyone so don’t scare them away with long-form text.

Your goal is to give the person a feeling of what your brand is about. Show an image of what the customer wants to be.

John doesn’t want to see an average 35-year-old dude wearing Patagonia in the office.

I like what BeardBrand.com does for the Hero shot. It links to a “quiz” people can take, and then makes product recommendations to them.

If you’re running a SAAS company, then a quality explainer video can work here too. Here’s Shopify’s homepage:

3. The Quick Stripe

You still have someone’s attention after the hero shot. Now it’s time to quickly communicate some value by adding in a quick “stripe.”

There are two common ones:

     A. The Benefits Stripe

Think about what the most common objections are when someone’s buying your product. Use this stripe to quickly kill those objections.

MVMT sells watches.

  • Hmmm, I don’t want to pay for shipping. Hey, we offer free shipping!
  • Hmmm, what if I don’t like the watch and want to return it? We have free returns!
  • Hmmm, what if the watch breaks? We have a 24 month warranty!
  • Hmmm, what if someone steals my CC info when I’m buying? Nope! This site is 100% safe!

This is going to be industry dependent.

If you’re selling skincare products, then you should say that it wasn’t tested on animals.

     B. As Featured On 

Here’s Lemonaid.com showing off some social proof by sharing where they’ve been featured.

It adds instant credibility because the New York Times wouldn’t feature a scammy company.

4. Explain Your Value Proposition (Why You’re Better or How This Works)

Remember, your customers have options. You have competition. You should have a section that gives your customer the 80 / 20 of why your products are so good.

What’s your unique selling proposition?

This is your chance to properly explain it.

Here’s a section from FelixGray.com – this is a great example of using cute images with solid copywriting. 

They sell blue light blocking glasses.

Their first bullet point talks about filtering blue light. But get this…what the heck is blue light and why do I care?

They explain that blue light can lead to eyestrain, headaches, and sleep disruption. This is your chance to educate people.

Their 3rd point is that they use high-quality frames and materials. Everyone says they use the best ingredients. Go the extra mile to explain.

They could’ve said they use Acetate and Monel, but no one knows what those materials are. They added in some clever descriptors such as Italian Acetate and German Engineered Monel.

The Italians are cool because they make Lamborghinis! The Germans are cool because they make BMW!

Imagine if the copy said

“All our frames are made from premium materials, like Chinese made plastic, and Jamaican Engineered Monel.” 

No disrespect intended to my Chinese or Jamaican peeps, but you know what I’m trying to say.

Another way of showing off is a comparison table.

Roman sells pills that help men keep their hair. They recognize that there are alternatives, and use a comparison table to demonstrate why they’re superior. 

Here is PolicyGenius.com explaining why they’re different than other insurance brokers. It answers a lot of objections. 

Here we have Birchbox – it’s a subscription box company for cosmetics products. 

There are people out there who have no idea what a subscription box is, or how it works. This is a great opportunity to explain to them what your product is. 

5. Show Off the Products

You’ve shown off the lifestyle, built up some credibility, and you’ve communicated why your company is awesome.

Now is a great time to go for the sale by showcasing your products.

Here are some ways to showcase your products.

     A. Best Sellers

Whenever me and my girlfriend go get some Boba Tea at a new place, we’re overwhelmed with options. I love it when the store shares their “Top 10” most popular Boba teas.

It eases the analysis paralysis by using social proof.

The same thing applies here. Show off your best sellers and most trending products. Make it easy for a newcomer to see what your store is famous for. 

     B. Share What’s New

This is more for people that visit your store over and over again.


     C. Show the Collections

Do you have different “collections” of products? Give them quick access to it. 

     D. The Product Spotlight.

This is where you focus on a single product. You show a photo of the product, and share a description. 

This example is from Onnit.com:

6. Capture Their Email Address

You should always try to capture their email address. It’s practically free money and you own the email list compared to social media.

(Note: You can always do two columns. Left side Promote Social Media, Right Side Promote Email List)

You can’t just ask for the email address. You have to give them a reason to sign up.

What’s in it for them if they sign up? Here are some good ones: 

  • Give a discount if they opt-in. 10% off your first order is the most common one. 
  • Promise a benefit. You’ll get up to date announcements on our latest product release, and be entered into monthly giveaways. 
  • Use a lead magnet. Selling a mattress? Give away a free eBook, e.g. “11 Science Backed Ways to Get Better Sleep.”

Here’s MusclePharm trying to capture an email.

Ok, who’s the lazy intern that made this email capture? There’s zero communication showing the benefits of signing up.

Here’s a great example from Onnit.

 

They show the benefits of sharing your email address and throw in a lifestyle photo. 

7. Footer

You know what this is – it’s on the bottom of every website. And yes, some people do read it.

Recommended Elements:

  • Legal Stuff: Terms and conditions, privacy policy, copyright/trademark policies.
  • Social Media Links: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • Corporate: Careers, core values, etc.
  • Locations (if you have a physical presence): You can also throw in links for wholesaling. 

Optional Conversion Boosters

The following are some additional elements/sections that you can include to improve your conversion rates.

You have to find the right “balance” because you don’t want your homepage to be too long.

Remember: every element has to earn a spot. If you’re a newer company, then you might not have strong enough testimonials yet.

You can leave it off until you do have some.

Reviews and Testimonials

The right testimonials can be powerful.

This is a common style that I’ve seen on tons of websites.

These testimonials suck because they look fake. Remember that testimonials are all about credibility.

The testimonials from Felix Gray are a slight grade above.

Even though it’s text, they added in photos of the customer using the product, along with what they do for work.

You know what’s more credible than text? Videos.

Optimum Nutrition links directly to video testimonials of people using their products.

Mission Statement / Story

This is a section where you can talk about the value of your company.

The smaller your brand is, the more important it is to communicate the story. Nike doesn’t need to talk about their mission because everyone already has an idea of what it is.

But if you’re a smaller brand, then a good story can build rapport.

Here’s Lumi by Pampers. Even though Pampers is a huge company, this is a completely new product line. It humanizes the corporation. 

Truvani makes supplements.

Supplements are a competitive industry. Truvani wants to show how they’re different.

The Social Media Feed

If you have a booming Instagram, you can easily connect it to your home page. Definitely mandatory for certain industries like Fashion.

You want to show people using the product for added social proof. 

Casper.com shows people using their mattresses.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some products are straight forward. People aren’t going to be asking too many questions about a plain white t-shirt.

However, if you’re introducing a new product or business model, then people will have questions. If these questions are going unanswered, it’s going to drain your conversion rate. 

Harry’s sends razors and blades to your home each month. They’ve included a FAQ right on their homepage that answers their most common questions:

Other Thoughts on Building a Great E-Commerce Website

This should go without saying, but modern websites are all about quality photography. It doesn’t matter how great your website design is if you don’t have the high quality photos to back it up. 

Photoshoots can be expensive. I think I paid close to $1,000 for each photoshoot that I’ve done for my blog.

What can you do if it doesn’t make financial sense yet for a custom photoshoot?

The first one is you can use stock images. Go to DepositPhotos.com and pay $1 for a photo. You can hire someone to photoshop your products into the stock images.

Next is you can take amazing photos at home.

A decent smartphone + great lighting + photography skills + photoshop can produce some epic photos. 

Stay lean at first. It’s okay to use stock images and icons in the beginning. Once you’re making money you can commission some custom art like these fancy websites do.

Your site theme is important and it shouldn’t be a place that you cheapen out on. The Ferrari of Shopify themes is Out of the SandBox.

I personally use and recommend Turbo for conversion reasons. It’s fast, and load speeds are everything when it comes to paid traffic.

Retina is also another great one. 

Don’t underestimate the power of the Halo Effect. Notice how these websites are always featuring good looking people. When I first started learning about marketing, I use to think that you should show photos of the customer avatars.

I mean, overweight people buy LuluLemon too! But remember, people, buy products to help them feel like the end result that they want. 

And finally, invest the time to write some really good copy. It’s rare for me to find an eCommerce store with great copy. 

The Extra Mile is Never Crowded

While researching this article, it surprised me how many of the top e-commerce brands have such horrible homepages and websites.

Seriously, there weren’t that many that I would give an A or above. 

That made me think about one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned – don’t be afraid of competition.

Competition is good. Competition means there’s a product/market fit already. There’s validation.

And there’s always room for people who can execute better. 

(of course, the homepage is just a tiny part of a successful business 😉 )

Featured Image by bloomua

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