Although a booming multi-billion dollar industry, the pet industry as it exists today could still be considered a cottage industry with entrepreneurs and startups joining the pack (pun always intended) in ever growing numbers. While more nimble and innovative, these new entrants still have an uphill battle when it comes to competing against large, established brands that have considerable budgets and resources to win consumer mindshare. What’s a small brand to do?
Enter the Internet. With the inception of online shopping, came a more level playing field: the website. But as a marketing and sales tool, it’s only as good as its design. According to Gomez, 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. Meaning no amount of shelf space, advertising budget or brand equity can overcome a poorly designed user experience. (Let that sink in.) 88%!
Brands have the opportunity to own their fate, rather than relying solely on shelf placement and retailer-to-consumer communications to build awareness and reputation. The key is to understand how a website can affect consumer purchase decisions and, no matter the budget, build to meet those requirements. In search of websites to prove our point, we turned to smaller consumer brands who have mastered the combination of clear and concise messaging, thoughtful design and intuitive user experience as the real foundations of a wonderful brand website.
Clear, Concise & Great Messaging
Crafting onsite messaging that communicates what a brand stands for, what they offer, what makes them different and why a customer should care is a challenge and so often “more” is the answer. More description, more examples and ultimately more words that clutter the visual space and mind of the reader. The best websites allow for easy absorption of information with limited but precise messaging.
Loaf keeps their homepage messaging minimal, but extra creative and classically British to communicate who they are. For example, when running an after holidays promotion the homepage banner says, “Sale! We’ve knocked a few quid off of almost EVERYTHING! Get stuck in.” Although not entirely sure what “Get stuck in” means, we bet you’ll click the hyperlink to find out! The homepage then flows from large furniture to smaller design elements with a simple menu at the top and illustrated icons at the bottom to help navigate to more playful copy on sub-pages, such as the sofas landing page, “Sofas for Loafers – Get deep, down and squishy with these laid-back loafing machines.” This is the kind of copy that not only drives sofa sales, but drives trips across the pond to experience the Brit’s signature cheek.
Tip: When structuring copy for your homepage, write from top to bottom for users who know the most about your brand to those that know the least. For example, information at the top of a homepage should be crafted for someone familiar with the brand, while copy near the footer can be geared to those looking to learn more and dive into details.
To quote the great Don Draper, “Make it simple, but significant.” While he was not talking about website design, we think it applies. The era of complex animated flash sites is over. The websites and brands that have the most impact today are often rather simple, yet incorporate imagery, photography and videography effectively. The millennium ushered in countless brands infused with a futuristic starkness that appeals to our overwhelmed, always online, 24-hour news cycle existence such as Apple, Nest and Casper to name a few.
Example: Four Sigmatic
Visually, there is nothing we don’t love about this website, not to mention it works well! Four Sigmatic does a wonderful job bringing personality and a sense of life to their mushroom-coffee products withdrawn imagery as well as stunning photo and videography. Product listing pages (PLPs) are clean and lend themselves to educated decision making. Finally, we love that the upper-left homepage text logo switches to a drawn gif of the pouring and stirring of their product, a motion that is iconic to the brand.
Tip: You may have heard this one before, but a reminder never hurts: respect the white space! The eyes and brain need down time when taking in information, don’t overwhelm people with an over-designed site. Utilize simple design elements such as customized icons or a brief testimonial quote to highlight your brand’s unique offering without adding heaps of additional text.
Intuitive User Experience
Long page load times. Checkouts with more than 5 steps. Dropdowns that test your dexterity to hover exactly where you want to go without the menu vanishing. Sites not optimized for the mobile user. These are things that may seem minor, but they will majorly hurt your overall user experience and drive up exit rates. Consumers have high expectations and little patience when it comes to a website that is difficult to use or slow.
This Denver-based home design company makes interior design affordable for us all, and their website makes it easy to design your dream home one room at a time, including the furniture you already have! (Gush complete.) The Havenly site is easy to navigate, design and shop despite there being significant user effort required. It also includes non-clunky features such as designer-chat, which they refer to as a “Design Quickie,” and a visual-based Style Quiz that feels like something you’d do on Buzzed on your break. Being on this site is fun, and likely what I am doing after I am done writing this blog.
Tip: Invest in UX Testing when building your site vs. a few years after it launches. Might as well get it right the first time and avoid cumbersome (and expensive) platform migrations and redesigns!
We will leave you with one final acronym that we love around the office: KISS. Keep it simple, stupid! No matter the size of your site offering or budget, there is no excuse for having a bad website:
- Focus on the functionalities that matter most to your core business offering and get them right the first time.
- Make an investment roadmap for future enhancements to the site only when margins allow for it.
- Avoid getting caught up in what your site “could” be and direct energy into making it the absolute best it can be in its current state, always keeping the factors we listed above top of mind.
If you know your website could use some love, but aren’t sure where to begin, take a look at our ebook on “The Anatomy of a Brand Audit” to learn when an audit is an effective first step!
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