When you sell exclusively online, making sure every customer has an exceptional shopping experience isn’t as simple as hiring a friendly retail staff or greeter to welcome them as they come in the door. You also can’t rely on plush furniture, good lighting, scented candles or fancy hors d’oeuvres to design a shopping experience that keeps customers in the store and engaged. Most importantly, when your online store is open for business 24/7, you can’t always be there to make sure everything is operating perfectly.
Simply put, online retailers don’t have the same opportunity to build rapport and brand trust with customers as their brick-and-mortar counterparts do. This can be a big disadvantage if you don’t use the tools at your disposal to overcome these limitations.
Building Brand Trust Online
For online retailers, the two biggest tools to attract and convert shoppers are your brand and your store’s user experience.
Your brand is who you are, what you’re about and why you’re here. Your brand tells your customer how you can fulfill their need. In short, it’s how you connect with your audience. And, connecting with your audience is how you build trust and inspire customer confidence in you. And brand trust, ultimately, is what turns a browser into a buyer.
The second way to connect with your audience is to build a site they like to use. Your online store needs to guide the shopper. It should have clear paths to every destination. There should be no ambiguities about the next step in the buying process. Design elements should work together to make your customers’ lives as easy as possible so that they can concentrate on buying your products.
While seamlessly translating your brand into a well-designed store may be the quickest way to build trust and loyalty between you and your customer, to do so you must have a strategy for guiding customers through the buying process. Your site will need clear, informative micro-copy that both speaks in the voice of your company and gives your customer the direction they need to find the easiest and quickest path to what they’re looking for. You also will need a simple, direct navigational structure that makes the site feel purposeful and your customers feel welcome.
Thinking Through a Site Redesigned to Sell
Our team recently redesigned a website to do exactly this. Dainty Jewell’s is a well-established brand within their niche, selling a collection of stylish and feminine apparel. Their site needed to fully represent their brand while still offering a stress-free shopping experience for both their core audience and for those stumbling upon the site for the first time. Our team created this experience in many ways, but our top priority was building the site around their unique brand story while also creating a user experience that made the browsing and buying process as easy as possible.
Below is a top-to-bottom look at the design elements that make this site both highly functional and beautifully branded.
7 Key Brand Design Elements for Your Online Store
Design Element 1: The Header
The header serves two purposes here. First, the logo, the most recognizable feature of the brand, is placed front and center. It was redesigned to be more reflective of the overall look and feel of the brand, but the signature silhouette remained so that core customers recognized the company after the rebranding.
Note: Too drastic a logo change can alienate existing customers, so it is essential to balance necessary change with aspects of familiarity.
Second, the header features simple, easy navigation with a dropdown menu for ‘Shop’ and ‘Company.’ The Shop dropdown has the categories laid-out in a very simple, obvious manner so that a customer can go directly to a specific type of clothing, or they can browse all Women or all Girls.
It is important that the navigation bar is designed in a way that provides a clear path for your user. An effective navigation structure should provide an easy path for returning customers to make new purchases while also providing guidance to new customers browsing your site. In addition to simplifying the user experience, intuitive navigation ensures that search engines index and rank all your relevant pages.
Tip: Keep your category structure as flat and wide as possible as opposed to narrow and deep. See an example from a hair salon site here. Each click to a sub-category is another chance for you user to get lost and frustrated, resulting in them leaving your site without making a purchase.
Design Element 2: The Carousel/Slider
The focal point of the homepage is the full-bleed slider that features stunning, styled lifestyle product photos (a big part of the Dainty Jewell’s brand) with overlaid micro-copy encouraging a call to action, or CTA (Buy! Buy! Buy!). This creates the perfect space for featuring specific clothing lines or for advertising sales and specials.
Need to know: The top portion of your site that appears ‘above the fold’ on almost any device size is the prime real estate for your store. It’s the first thing of substance people see when they visit your store, so it needs to show who you are right away. The carousel grants you the opportunity to multiply the prime real estate’s effectiveness by allowing you to feature multiple aspects of your site — think featured products, sale items, seasonal specials.
Tip: We recommend using no more than five slides as people will get bored with too much material scrolling across the page. And, always ensure that the imagery you use for your slider is high resolution and really represents your brand well. You want the first thing people see on your site to make a lasting impression.
Design Element 3: Below the Slider
The section immediately below the slider displays the tagline of the brand along with a brief snippet about the company. In Dainty Jewell’s case, including some of their story on the homepage was extremely important. The company has an amazing history that historically resonates with their core customer demographic. This section is about strengthening brand trust.
The Importance of Trust
In general, creating brand trust is the single most important thing you can do to reach the most influential purchasers out there –– millennials. This age bracket controls more than $200 billion in annual buying power and as such, they are the biggest influencers on how we sell online.
And, millennials demand brand trust. They are not susceptible to traditional advertising. After all, they are a digital first generation, often suggesting that banner blindness is inherent to their online usage. Instead, they trust individuals over companies which is why they rely so heavily on social media for brand recommendations. If you can get them to trust you, 60% of millennials are brand loyal.
For this reason, you want to build brand trust right away. So when a person comes to your site, the first thing they’re going to see is what you sell. This is important as a hook. If a visitor likes what they see, they will immediately start scrolling through your site to see what you’re all about. Remember, Millennials are browsing on all different device sizes all the time, so the notion that no one looks “below the fold” no longer exists — and you want the next thing they see to tell them about your company so they can begin feeling a connection to you. Once that connection is built, you will have loyal customers with a lot of spending power.
Design Element 4: CTAs
By including a small snippet paired with a CTA button, the design allows the customer to decide if they want to continue reading more about the company or if they want to get straight to the shopping.
As mentioned above, this CTA gives the customer an opportunity to connect deeper with the brand. It speaks to customers — especially millennials — allowing them to take the time to know more about your brand. This is important because the customers that take the time to dig deeper become loyal advocates for your brand and your story. They post on social media. They spread word of mouth marketing. They leave online reviews. Ultimately, those actions increase your bottom line and brand awareness.
CTAs in general are important because they give alternate routes to the same end-goal: selling. The CTAs should always be very obvious. Custom, branded buttons work really well for this as do colors that pop against the backdrop of your site. You want to draw the customer’s eye to your CTAs to constantly remind them how to get to your products.
Design Element 5: Category Banners
The next panel contains three banner images leading to the brand’s main categories. This section accomplishes several things. First, it prominently displays three products using lifestyle shots, which helps the customers visualize themselves in the clothes. Second, we added branded elements including script typography and buttons with beaded borders. Third, we included CTAs that give an easy route directly to the main categories: Women and Girls.
All of these banners serve as secondary CTAs, allowing customers to dive in more to category pages or specific image types rather than over to a product grid view immediately. The goal is to address the various ways different customers prefer to shop.
Touches like script typography or beaded borders are to help reinforce the branding, which ideally creates a sense of identity and recognition wit your target customer.
Design Element 6: Footer
The last panel on the page works to build additional brand trust. It contains a live feed from the Dainty Jewell’s Instagram page, providing social proof and building brand loyalty. It also has a direct link to their blog page, which is a very integral, personal part of their brand and client engagement.
Why? Because 33% of millennials review blogs before making a purchase. If they see you as a store owner interacting on a personal level through a blog, it leaves a positive impression. They also rely heavily on social media to review your products, so giving them that direct link to your active social media pages indicates to them that you are a brand they can trust.
Social engagement is one of the primary drivers of traffic for this site. Offering different outlets for customers to connect provides them multiple avenues for linking back to the brand which ultimately helps organic SEO and marketing efforts.
One more thing: Also featured in this panel is a banner touting the Dainty Rewards program, which promotes brand loyalty and repeat patronage by providing discount incentives to registered users who join the program. Millennials, in particular, are drawn to brands that give back to their customers. Showing them you care about their repeat business is a great way to build trust and loyalty.
Design Element 7: Newsletter Signup
Finally, we created a bumper to sit on top of the footer that contains the Newsletter signup along with branded micro-copy encouraging sign-up. We wanted this to be a highly visual element of the site because a big part of this brand is keeping customers informed of sales, specials and new products. It’s also a great way of building a community among customers. Plus, email is proven to be one of the most effective ways to communicate with customers and fans in the current economy. Building your list, then, is essential to getting information to the right folks.
You can use multiple services to help build your list including MailChimp, HubSpot or SumoMe.
Bringing it All Together
The ultimate goal of every online store is to convert sales. Your homepage is the front door to your store, your friendly greeter, your inviting ambiance. The homepage is your first impression. You have to hook people right away. If you create a thoughtful homepage that both engages your customers and tells them where to go and how to get there, you will not only turn browsers into buyers, but you will also cultivate brand loyalty, which will turn one-time buyers into repeat customers.
Have any questions or concerns? Let us know in the comments below.
Less Development. More Marketing.
Let us future-proof your backend. You focus on building your brand.