Excerpt from the direct-to-consumer e-commerce guide Selling Naked: A Revolutionary Approach to Launching Your Own Brand Online.
When you’re creating your digital experience, it’s tempting and natural to spend all your energy critiquing mock-ups of your site (or “wireframes,” as we call them) on desktop. Big mistake. Since most of your customers will likely engage with you on their mobile devices, think about mobile first. On desktop, consumers can easily absorb a giant product catalog. The greater the number of relevant items you can present to consumers, the more likely you are to generate sales. On mobile, sorting and filtering through tons of options can be overwhelming — page after page of tiny shots of the products, and tiny buttons that make it hard to navigate, so you accidentally hit every ad or link. If you can free consumers from this experience, you should improve your odds of notching a sale.
One way to facilitate product selection on mobile is to use quizzes or questionnaires. Ask consumers to provide you with relevant information about themselves and their product needs, and use that information to direct them to the products on your site that are right for them. On the fashion site Stitch Fix, consumers complete a seventy-five-item intake form about themselves and their clothing preferences. At the end of this process, Stitch Fix has enough information on hand to choose clothing for them. The pet food site Ollie’s does something similar to learn about consumers’ pets. What size is your dog? How active? What’s your dog’s name? They want to know so that they can point you to exactly what you need.
Questionnaires work by creating a flow that begins at a specific point and progresses toward an end goal, with no detours to add friction to the experience. As Craig Elbert, co-founder and CEO of the vitamin company Care/of, notes, quizzes also exploit what he calls “the curiosity gap.” When customers divulge information (always a good thing, from the seller’s vantage point), they become curious about the personal recommendation they will receive in return. As they type in additional pieces of information, their curiosity mounts until they finally receive the recommendations at the quiz’s end. Instead of a boring, rote task, the act of choosing the right product is transformed into a journey with a clear sense of direction, as well as a climactic moment and a nice little “reward.”
Quizzes can work both as a vehicle for product selection and for the delivery of technical information about products.As Craig notes, consumers shopping for health or medical products “need guidance,” and it’s important to be transparent and provide the relevant facts. Still, nobody likes to read large blocks of text on a tiny phone screen. Traditionally, Craig comments, if you were shopping for a product like vitamins, “you’d have an in-store interaction with an expert who would be asking you things and understanding what you needed.” Quizzes can simulate this experience, so long as you adapt them to “fit the attention span and screen size of the modern consumer.” In developing a quiz for Care/of, Craig and his team kept it short, designing it so that consumers could complete it in five minutes or less. They also observed “character limits on the questions, on the answers, and if something went too long, we said, ‘Okay, this needs to be broken up into two questions.’ ” Employ a similar discipline when crafting your own quizzes — and, frankly, everything else about your digital offering. Respect your consumers and their screen sizes.
In addition to quizzes, here are some other tips you might consider:
- Get the basics right. Are the buttons on your site as large as possible, so that customers can easily click on them using their mobile screens? Is the text large enough, and are the fonts easy to read? Is the navigational scheme of your site simple and clear to users? And are the look and feel of your site attractive, with nice photography and engaging design schemes?
- Make sure your Facebook and Instagram advertising looks good on mobile. Think about which ad units will take up the most screen space on mobile, and make creative that fully utilizes the dimensions of the ad unit. Also, when previewing ads, don’t do so in desktop mode, but rather in mobile mode, or better yet, just on your phone. The display space is smaller, so ads will format differently. Pay attention as well to copy, since the number of words that ad platforms display often varies between desktop and mobile.
- Design multiple flows for consumers, depending on their point of origination. If a consumer clicks on an ad and goes straight to your site, you could direct him or her to a different place than you would a consumer who comes to your site from a blog post. Different ads might also direct consumers to different pages. Think about how many different ways you can rearrange the pages you have. For example, if you’re an apparel site selling a variety of different products, it might work better to take consumers directly from an ad for the product to the product page, bypassing the landing page and overall product catalog entirely.
- Keep shopping simple by limiting the number or kinds of products you offer. As Melanie Travis at Andie Swim related, she and her team offered just a few items for sale on their site to eliminate “decision fatigue.” “We’re certainly not trying to compete with Amazon,” she notes. “We actually want to offer basically the complete opposite — a very curated site experience. You land on a swimsuit, you buy it, it comes in a great package, and you’re done.” Andie also minimizes the number of clicks it takes consumers to get to the checkout once they click on an ad. If consumers have to think too hard to make too many decisions, they’ll get impatient and possibly abandon their shopping quest.
- If you must offer complexity, do so on an “opt-in” basis. Just because consumers like the idea of transparency doesn’t mean they want to read every last data point or scientific study you provide on your site. And just because they can customize an order doesn’t mean they’ll want to go to the trouble to do that. Organize the site so that consumers can opt in if they wish, but enjoy a streamlined experience otherwise. A simple “Read more” button is all you need to give consumers the comfort of knowing that information is there if they want it. And if you do offer customization, also allow customers to select standardized bundles of products. Craig at Care/of notes that many of his vitamin customers like knowing that they have the option to customize their monthly vitamin packs, “even if they didn’t actually wind up adjusting the pack.”
- Use visuals to your advantage. On a landing page, high-quality photography might make an impact when standing alone, while illustrations can give a page a friendlier, more approachable feel, fitting in more naturally with text elements. In quizzes and questionnaires, imagery can serve to help simplify the experience. If you’re asking consumers what patterns they like, you could say “(a) solids, (b) checks, © polka dots, or (d) stripes,” or you could just illustrate the four options instead.