Now that we’ve covered tactics for merchandising landing pages and entry pages, as well as category pages and listing pages, we’ve reached the stage of the conversion funnel where product detail pages play their part.

Depending on how effectively you’ve been able to optimize the conversion funnel up until now, by putting the right products and access to details in the path of each visitor so they’re well-informed, they may already have made most of their purchasing decision. In this case—the best case—all that’s left for a visitor to do on the product detail page is click on the add-to-cart button. And that means you want to make it easy for them to carry out this critical step toward conversion.

Since the scenario described above is optimal, and doesn’t describe all visitors’ experiences, let’s take a look at some of the best practices to test  so you can present product detail pages that are built for action on various fronts:

1. Less Is More.
Over time, product detail pages have become the kitchen junk drawer of the ecommerce website; every tool or piece of information gets stashed here in the event that someone may want it. But that only makes it harder for visitors to find the elements they usually need: the add-to-cart button and—if they weren’t able to designate size, color, or other attributes from the listing page—any selector tools.

Instead, organize and present your content so that different visitor segments can make the most of their time on your product detail pages. If you already deliver a good deal of product information earlier in the funnel, then it’s best to condense this material to place greater emphasis on the call-to-action. If the product detail page is where visitors will find the bulk of this information, look for ways to make it more scannable. You could chunk the content, separating out features/benefits, a description, and other particulars, which allows you to then keep only the most relevant information above the fold; deliver some of this content via pop-ups or hover boxes; or offer visitors the option to see more or less copy with extendable text (see an example below).

 

 

On a related note, you may even want to try hiding some of the content on your product detail pages to see if visitors react negatively. You never know how much an element is valued by customers (or specific groups of customers) until you test taking it away. By assessing elements individually, you can get a sense of which visitors need what information in order to make product selections.

2. On the Button.
It’s probably obvious by now that a primary goal is to get the add-to-cart button above the fold to help visitors quickly get products they want into their carts. Another move to test that typically enhances the performance of product detail pages is to position this button next to the product selectors (also featured in the example above); visitors should’t have to mouse around to complete these actions. And while we’re on the subject of buttons, consider testing into a large add-to-cart button that visitors can’t miss.

3. Zoom, Zoom.
Unless you offer a “quick view” feature, the only way to allow visitors to zoom in on product images is via the product detail page. While you might not need image zoom for every product in your catalog, you do want a good quality functionality for highly detailed items like apparel, footwear, electronics, housewares, etc.

4. Keep It Together.
When you have a fantastic shipping offer or return policy, it’s tempting to shout about it on the product detail page. The challenge comes when you link out to another part of the site, completely derailing the conversion process. To leverage an offer that could greatly influence the purchase decision without leading visitors away from the product detail page, test presenting this information in a pop-up or other on-page vehicle.

5. Recommended Placement for Product Recommendations.
Since upsells and cross-sells present a higher level of decision-making for visitors than choosing a color or size, consider running such product recommendations above the fold in the right-hand margin. While you might be hesitant to use this page real estate for product recommendations out of concern that it could detract from the overall brand image, test after test has proved otherwise. Instead, we’ve seen this approach drive conversion and average order value.

And when visitors do click on any upsells, cross-sells, or other type of product recommendations, try opening this information in a new window or tab; on the product detail page, you don’t want to distract visitors from the original item that motivated them to click through.

6. Develop an Affinity for More Relevant Content.
Part of creating a more relevant shopping experience for visitors is to pick up on whatever in-session and/or historical data is available on visitors, and then tailor your page content to reflect these professed and inferred interests bumped up against your business goals. That could mean specific product categories, brands, price points, or popularity, as well as highly individual attributes like defaulting to the appropriate sizing (S, M, L) or other selectors based on past-purchase history.

7. Make Room for Social.
With more consumers integrating social media into their shopping patterns, do what you can to carve out some space to test social commerce features. This content includes reviews and comments, the ability to share product information on social networks, and the ability to submit product questions and answers. Social networking sites are grassroots marketing giants, and user-generated content flowing between them and your website doesn’t cost you a dime in marketing budget.

8. Wish Lists Are Losing Their Appeal.
Visitors seem to be focusing on the cart as a mechanism to save items that interest them, making wish lists something that might add more confusion than value in the conversion funnel. And that means it’s a good concept to test, as is the length of time you allow shoppers to save items in their carts. We’ve found that saving cart contents for at least four to six months performs well.

One last point on saved carts: With shoppers using carts this way, you need to think about the impact on your abandoned cart messaging strategy. Avid customers who buy frequently and shop your website almost daily could get impatient if you remind them about their saved cart every time they start a new session. Instead, test different messaging approaches (e.g., notification when items in their cart go on sale, alerts on seasonal shifts in merchandise that signal likely drops in stock availability, etc.) and their timing to optimize response.

9. If They Need Directions…
I’ve written this before and will again, I’m sure: New visitors need more help navigating your website than returning traffic. Make sure the newbies can find their way back to category pages via top, horizontal banners that take them there in one click. Breadcrumb navigation offers further support, both for first-time visitors and repeat customers.

10. Conduct a Screen Test.
Putting content in the right-hand margin doesn’t work for smaller screens—or all browsers, for that matter—so optimize around the devices and browsers your visitors use to view your website in order to display product content in the best way possible.

The product detail page, when part of the conversion funnel, has a tough job in meeting the various, sometimes divergent needs of each traffic segment. But by focusing your efforts around how different customer segments interact with this page in the buying process, you’ll be able to deliver an experience that fits every time.

Next up in the Merchandising Matters series: the checkout process.