In today's crowded online market place, it's often the little things that endear us to a site, and in turn to a brand. Whether it be the tone of voice, a clever animation, or the way in which you can interact with the products being displayed, merchants are dreaming up innovative ways to endear themselves to their customers.
The ability to set yourself apart from your competitors, especially if you are selling the same products, can help build brand loyalty and have your customers coming back time and time again.
Here are a few ideas that might come in useful when you are designing your next ecommerce store for yourself or a client.
01. Be playful
Pure Fix Cycles (opens in new tab) is a fixed gear bike manufacturer based in Los Angeles, California. Its home page sports the ubiquitous revolving hero image and inner pages adopt a grid approach to displaying the product range – typical for large inventory stores.
However, click into the Glow (opens in new tab) section and you'll notice that after a short delay the site inverts and the fluorescent elements of each displayed bike are lit up. By hovering over the bike the full, day version, is revealed.
This is one example of a 'delighter' – a simple-to-achieve memorable effect that can often stop you in your tracks and make you smile.
Another great example can be found on the Great George (opens in new tab) site. Navigate to one of its collection pages and you are greeted with another grid of watch faces – however on closer inspection you'll notice that each watch displays your current time.
It also has a very clever strapline found in the footer of the site: "At Great George we think outside the circle by designing square watches made with quality materials at an obtainable price."
02. Let your personality shine
Great George isn't the only company to know the importance of great copywriting in ecommerce. Copy is hugely important ingredient for any online store. It can also act as an important differentiator.
A great example of copywriting can be found on the Frank Body (opens in new tab) site. It's an Australian-made coffee-based skincare line, and all of the web site copy is written in a friendly, cheeky way. It's also written entirely in the first person – from the homepage right through to individual product descriptions.
Here's how it describes itself on the about page: "I'm many a thing: mostly humble, always caffeinated, naturally derived; and 100% Australian owned and made. I started as a simple coffee scrub, equal parts dirty and loving. Now I'm a growing coffee-based skincare range because I've always said I'll love every inch of your bod. I do a lot of things, which you'll soon discover. Importantly, I only test on babes."
Another nice touch is the copy used as a call to action to subscribe to the email mailing list. In place of the standard "subscribe", it has "Become a frankfurt. Sign up for emails." Visit the support site and you'll be told to "Ask me anything, babe." Whilst I haven't met the three female founders I can't help but believe this is a reflection of their own personalities.
Of course, this approach wouldn't work for every store, but the people behind Frank Body clearly know their brand and their audience, and they cater to it accordingly.
03. Bring the offline online
Whilst we all love the convenience of online shopping one of the main barriers to conversion is the inability to actually feel and hold the product in question. Whilst this is less important for items such as books and electrical goods it's a massive disadvantage for merchants selling clothes and accessories.
One way to get around this issue is to include 'context setting' photography and video on the site. We are very used to this with apparel brands – visit any retailer and you'll most likely see a very well presented model showcasing the clothing. However, it's not as common as you might think when it comes to other products such as accessories.
One brand that does a great job of this is the Australian wallet maker Bellroy. Its travel wallet (opens in new tab) is a great example. Not only does the site feature seven well-shot product images, Bellroy has also produced a short (54 seconds) stop motion video that showcases every feature of the product. Towards the end of the video, the shot pans out to show a man pick up the wallet, drop it in his pocket, and leave on his way. This also rather subtly gives the product even more context by showing its size in a real-life situation.
Bellroy also achieves this with a clever compositional photo which has the travel wallet placed in the centre surrounded by all the items that can fit in it. Given that the majority of adults will be familiar with a standard credit card it's easy to gauge how big the wallet will be.
One final thing Bellroy do well is to encourage customers to share photos of their wallets in action. Further down each product page you can see a collection of customers' Instagram photos adding further social proof to their products.
04. Know your audience
Of course, sales are the name of the game and whilst it might at first seem that catering to everyone is the best way forward, many successful brands prefer to target a very specific niche. In other words not being all things to all people is a conscious business strategy.
Huckberry (opens in new tab) is an online retailer that caters to a particular demographic – city dwellers who love the outdoors. Its origin story (opens in new tab) is another great example of engaging copy. Here's how the founders describe the reason for setting up their business: "Having discussed our idea over countless Anchor Steams after work, we knew in our bones that Huckberry needed to exist. There were men's stores, sure. Adventure magazines, too. Yet nothing out there spoke directly to us – 25-year-old guys who lived in the city but lived for the outdoors – and we envisioned a brand that was equal parts store, magazine, and inspiration to help guys suck the marrow out of life."
The founders built a company that catered to people like themselves. By doing this they have a deep understanding of their market – it's needs, it's wants, and how they like to be marketed to.
Having followed the site for a number of years I've also noticed how the company has branched out with the range of products it now offers. Today, in addition to gear for the city folk who like the outdoors, you'll find everything from pizza ovens to hair products but all targeted at the same demographic.
One other interesting thing Huckberry does is to gatekeep its online store. There's no cost to joining (it's simply a case of entering your email or logging in with Facebook) but you'll be unable to engage with the store until you have done so. Again, for many this may seem counter intuitive but by joining you are becoming a member of the club which leads to a sense of exclusivity (although we know it's open to anyone).
As a result of joining you will also receive the weekly Huckberry newsletter which delivers "the coolest gear at the best prices, inspirational stories, and a hell of a lot more to your inbox every week". Whilst many of us suffer from newsletter overload these days the care and attention given to the Huckberry despatch makes it well worth a read.
05. Go big on content
Today, content is playing a huge role in the success of online merchants. Great content gives merchants the opportunity to let customers get behind the brand and learn more about the company's values and ideals. It's also a great way to keep people coming back to your site – fresh content can lead to fresh eyes.
Huckberry also produces great content catering to its core demographic. From travel guides to drinks recipes and beyond, Huckberry's blog posts serve to reinforce the lifestyle of its target audience whilst also providing it with native opportunities to publish links to its products. If the content is engaging and relevant this approach feels entirely natural and unforced.
Prefix Cycles, mentioned earlier, also regularly adds new articles to its blog (opens in new tab). In addition to featuring biking tips, Prefix also produces long form content around the culture, and its periphery, of fixed gear biking.
One great example is the recent 'Artist Spotlight (opens in new tab)' article featuring Bryden Lando. The post and the accompanying video is about as far away from an advert as you can get but embodies the values and ethos of the company completely. Short videos are also very shareable on social media networks and are another way that creative designers can put their skills to good use.
06. Build your ambassador network
These are a few examples of how you can help yourself, or your clients, build meaningful relationships with your customer base. In an ever-expanding online marketplace the attention to detail, the way you interact on social media, and the tone of voice you use will all play a part in endearing you to your customers. Bought in customers often become repeat customers and your most vocal 'brand ambassadors'!
Shopify Ecommerce Design Awards
To celebrate ecommerce design, Shopify has joined forces with net magazine and InVision for the 2016 Shopify Ecommerce Design Awards.
If you've built an original design for a Shopify store, this is your chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip to NYC to receive hands-on creative mentorship from industry-leading experts – including net magazine editor Oliver Lindberg.
Winners will be selected based on the overall aesthetics, creativity, and usability of the site. Four grand prizes will be awarded to:
- The best overall ecommerce site
- The best homepage
- The best product page
- The best responsive site/mobile experience
We can't wait to see what you come up with in 2016, and look forward to spending time with the winners in New York.