The Paths Customers Take Through Your Site

The path to increased sales is through understanding that a customer's journey through a website has nothing to do with the way that a company is organized.

“If someone comes to your site through an entertainment portal, what right do you have to try to switch them into commerce mode?

Same goes for research, you’d be crazy to shove an athlete video in front of them and lose the sale.” —Chris Harges, Director of Global Marketing at Mountain Hardwear

It is tempting to put up persistent links to everything on your site. Exposing every kind and category of content to users in one place seems like a great way to save people time.

The problem is, most sites do not have the right content in the right places in the first place.

More content means more to navigate through, more to search, more to manage, and more to keep current. Content maintenance becomes unsustainable and content quality diminishes throughout the site. Product descriptions and imagery become stale, videos lose relevance if they exist at all, nobody replies to questions, and sales drop as a result.

To avoid this, a consistent effort is generally needed to reduce the amount and types of content that are accessible online in the first place.

For example, during a site optimization for a client, we discovered that the top 50% of the client’s SKUs accounted for 80% of their revenue (the bottom 25% of products accounted for less than 5% of total revenue). By focusing their content efforts on top selling products, the client was able to reduce their workload, streamline their content, and increase overall traffic and sales on their new site.

Even with a reduction in the quantity of content a brand site has, the site must still make the sale. To do this, your customers need to find the right products and they must be able to assess their choices intelligently.

Stop copying

Based on the ubiquity of pop up email capture forms, rotating image carousels, social media feeds, and brand story videos, it is easy to see that brand sites are copying each other.

Rather than creating unique and innovative solutions to help their own customers with their specific problems, most brands choose their site features by looking around at what the competition is doing, assume it is working, and recreate it with a new look.

“You know, like INSERT ICONIC BRAND HERE,” has been heard in meetings at design agencies throughout the world. Most agencies shrug and comply, continuing to pump out the same epic-looking nonsense that gets in the way of what people are trying to accomplish. It is easy to point to companies like Apple, Nike, Patagonia, Starbucks, and others for inspiration.

Re-creating a competitor’s tactic on a website, especially without understanding the thinking and lessons behind that tactic, can lead to dangerous results. Results that diminish your own customer experience, and result in higher bounce rates and lower conversion rates.

Know your role

The web is transforming from a series of interlinked pages to something entirely different: a series of interactions that may or may not take place inside of a web browser. As technology continues to evolve, it is becoming more and more important that each company intentionally design digital interactions specifically for the needs of their customers. As this shift continues to take place, an associated shift in mindset and process is required to keep up.

The first phase of this shift is understanding that a customer’s journey through a website has nothing to do with the way that a company is organized. Many websites today simply reflect the way a company thinks about its own organization, and its site navigation and content bear witness to this fact.

Taking the time to organize and curate content around the way a customer interacts with your website will pay massive dividends. It may not be immediately popular internally, as multiple departments fight to keep their voice on the site.

Fortunately, the purpose of a company’s website is not to keep internal departments happy. It is to attract and convert more customers. That path is illuminated by examining the paths your customers take through your site.

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The Good