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What makes a homepage sell?

A homepage is a showcase for the products offered on a website, and is one of the key factors in determining its success.

In just a few seconds, a visitor should be able to tell who you are, what you are offering him and what differentiates you from your competitors.

If any one of these factors is not clear, the user is quite likely to end his visit right there and will probably never return.

A simple parallel can be drawn with a real-world store. Would you want to go inside if the window display didn't show you exactly what kind of store it was, what products it sold and what it could offer you if you went in?

This is exactly how Internet users react, with one major difference, though: they don't have to walk from store to store - a simple mouse click is all it takes to get to competitor's site.

The quality of your homepage is therefore a vital ingredient in the success of your website.

Although its main function is to entice the user to visit the rest of the site, the homepage is also the site's navigation center, a showcase for special offers and, on more sophisticated retail sites, a control panel for ordering and tracking goods.

In order to convert browsers into buyers, the homepage not only needs to be harmonious and coherent, but it must work thoroughly efficiently too.

However, this efficiency depends on more than just the site itself.

Nowadays, users are accustomed to finding certain services and features at specific places on a homepage.


If a homepage does not adhere to the standard practices users have come to expect, they will feel disorientated and will probably leave the site; they won't want to waste time trying to understand how the page works.

Users these days are increasingly demanding and they don't have much patience either.

And who can blame them? They are used to surfing the net and buying from quality sites, so why should they make any special efforts if they don't immediately understand the way a homepage works.

These observations were the starting point for our study "Homepages that Sell".

The study was based on 100 eRetail sites, chosen because they have a browser-to-buyer conversion rate of 2% or more, and are representative of Internet traffic. The sites we selected represent an accumulated total of 120 million unique visitors per month.

This equation - best-performing sites + sites representative of Internet users' shopping habits - enabled us to map out the features that add up to a homepage that sells.

We looked at each of the elements found on homepages, and determined what the standard conventions used by the 100 sites are for each one.

To do this, we established statistics not just for how frequently various categories and features are found, but also concerning their position on the page and their size in pixels.

In addition, to determine the criteria of success in choosing and positioning homepage features, we split these sites into 4 separate groups (about 25 sites in each):

- Group 1, composed of sites with a browser-to-buyer conversion rate of between 8% and 30.3% (Quill.com).

- Group 2, composed of sites with a browser-to-buyer conversion rate of between 5% and 7.9%.

- Group 3, composed of sites with a browser-to-buyer conversion rate of between 3% and 4.9%.

- Group 4, composed of sites with a browser-to-buyer conversion rate of between 2% and 2.9%.

When we examined the features used by the sites to establish their identity, we found that 95% of the sites place their logo in the top left-hand corner of their homepage, that it was on average 210 pixels wide by 65 pixels tall and that, in 92% of cases, it was clickable, taking users back to the homepage.

As far as navigation is concerned, in addition to the intrinsic analysis of the top, left-hand, bottom (footer) and center menus on the homepages, we also determined which categories were most frequently found in footer menus, not only in relation to our study group as a whole, but also within each of the four separate groups.

We found that the best-performing sites made their main shopping categories available via links in their footer menus, as shown in the graph below.

On the other hand, as far as the return policy link was concerned, this proportion was totally reversed.

Nevertheless, some of the categories in the footer menus are found to a fairly similar extent in each of the groups. For example, although the relational elements (contact, email, feedback) are displayed slightly more often on the homepages of the sites in groups 1 and 2, there is not much of a gap between them and groups 3 and 4.

We found, too, that 51% of the sites in our study customized their homepages according to the season (over the Christmas period, for example).

However, this varies considerably according to the different sectors of activity, and concerns:
- 80% of the sites selling beauty products
- 75% of the "general store" sites
- 50% of the sites selling books
- 47% of the sites selling computer products
- 42% of the sites selling sports goods
- 40% of the sites selling clothes

Naturally, in this article we have only mentioned a small number of our findings. In all, the study analyzed over 100 different criteria and describes the standard conventions adopted by the 100 best-performing eRetail sites for each of them (size and position expressed in pixels).

To view the full contents of the study, please click HERE.

To view extracts of the study:

Extract 1 - Extract 2 - Extract 3 - Extract 4 - Extract 5



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