The Rabbit Hole Model—3 Essential Factors to Building an Ecommerce Website
Ecommerce websites are a different beast compared to regular websites. Whereas informative websites present details to users as concisely and completely from the get-go, the most effective ecommerce websites provide an overview but hold back on the details.
And it works.
Think of your own ecommerce website or platform as a rabbit hole. Careful content presentation, design and structure is the white rabbit that entices your users to venture ever further until, like an Alice in some sort of eCommerce Wonderland, they embark on an entrancing Journey before arriving at the destination checkout.
When designing an effective ecommerce website, you want to keep the structure concise. For brevity, you want to only have 3 main pages. These main pages are your homepage, category pages, and product pages. Every other page including your About Us, Careers, and FAQs play second fiddle when it comes to constructing a funneled experience.
An ecommerce homepage really needs to be nothing more than an easy to digest feature page. When users arrive at your homepage, they see your general offering without needing to think about it.
Your Ecommerce Website Homepage should be Completely Incomplete
This at-a-glance homepage design is important for an ecommerce website. It establishes user recognition as well as creates interest simultaneously.
Your Category Pages Should be Intuitively Easy to Understand
Category pages help you group similar offerings together. Their more important role is to help users navigate towards the product group they wish to browse. It seems pretty straight forward but considerate intuitive ecommerce design should use recognisable, exhaustive, and conventional categorisation.
Your Ecommerce Product Pages should be Attention Retentive
Product pages are the pages where users can view details for each product and add them to their carts. This is where most of the users’ interactions will take place. While your homepage and category pages are important, your product page is where your website should shine.
Content & Layout
How you decide to layout your website and what content you put in determines how users will interact with it. Like we previously discussed in our article about website design, effective designs make users think less and usher them deeper into your website in a way that feels natural.
This is where the rabbit hole model of building an ecommerce website content comes in.
Overview of Content for your Ecommerce Website
Extending the website-as-a-Wonderland metaphor a little further, think of your content as the rabbit that you want users to chase down the rabbit hole, ultimately toward conversion and retention. Thus, your content needs to be engaging and alluring.
Again, your homepage should be easy to understand at a glance, and must hold out on value containing minimal specifics. Broad details help give users an overview of what your online business offers. Take for example online shopping centres or malls. like Amazon. which leverage their homepages by featuring discounts, free vouchers, free shipping, and other promotional content.
Websites with a niche or limited offering can elect to feature one or two pivotal unique selling points on their homepage. These selling points can be anything that legitimises their products. B2B websites can feature their accreditations. Retailers that offer only a few products can feature safety approvals, or seals of trusts.
Developing Website Content for Your Different Pages
Your homepage should pique users’ interest without being overbearing. Make the users see a rabbit with its head popping out from the ground. Encourage them to chase after it.
There are numerous ways category pages can be designed to maximal effect, but for most recent industry standards, categories are also made available on the home page. This works because the links or dropdown menus also function as overview information.
The category pages themselves don’t need to be heavy on information. Category pages are supposed to be more focused on the taxonomy of your offers.
You want your categories to be conventional but intuitive. Think of your average user; now think of how that user would likely think which category to search in for a particular product.
A scarf can be considered as both an accessory and also as winter apparel. Some may count chocolate as a dessert, while others may try looking for it as an ingredient.
You don’t want users tunneling through your category pages only to not find what they thought should be there.
Individual product pages are where you pull your punches when it comes to content density. Users that end up on product pages range from casual browsers to potential buyers looking for a good deal. The fact that a user is on your product page is a signifier of interest and you want to capitalise on that.
Ecommerce Product Pages Make or Break the Users Decision Making
Internalise how you compare the same product from different sellers on a platform like Amazon. What are your decision making factors that lead you to a checkout? Why did you choose one of the same products over another? These questions will help you guide users into making your product their preference.
By the time users get to your product page, they want information but also don’t want to be overwhelmed. Include as much information regarding your product on these pages but present them in a manageable way.
A long product detail can be organized using a “more details” or “show more” button. You should include a lot of featured photos of the product but implement them as a carousel with optional zoom. It’s also very effective to have a star-rating panel that features how many ratings the item has gotten and an option to read reviews for the item.
And even then, your checkout button might still not get a click.
Functions and Intent
Users with varied intentions have different ways of using ecommerce sites. All the functions you provide the users are part of the experience they correlate to your platform. These micro-interactions help them decide why they should buy from you instead of the competition.
In-website Search is the User’s Go-to Navigation Option
A function that might not be emphasized enough is how good the in-website search should be. To find products, users may use the search feature instead of browsing through categories. This makes sense because search directly pulls up the product they want directly.
Your search function has to be comprehensive. It should be able to support product keywords, brand keywords, and description crawling.
It can also be helpful to let your search pull-up related searches in case the keywords do not exactly match any product or brand in your current catalogue or are configured under a different taxonomy.
Products that are rich in details will help pull up better results for your users using search. This holds true for in-website search as well as for search engines like Google.
Filters Help Ease Users into a Purchase State of Mind
To provide users with more ways to find what they need, you also need to integrate a filter function to be able filter items to their preferences.
Most commonly used filters include pricing, promo filters, branding, and category filters. You can make it more nuanced by adding filters for fields like sizes, color, & stock availability.
Refine your filter function by referring to what your users are commonly asking regarding your products.
A good filter function will help users browse products akin to their preference.
If they see the product they want that’s priced at the budget they have, and meets their other preferences, they are more likely to checkout.
Your Checkout Checks Out in Terms of Payment & Security
There are 2 things that make or break your rate of checkout—your payment options and your security signaling. Users may choose to buy products from a different store if you don’t support their mode of payment. They may also second guess checking out if your payment portal feels unsecured.
For example, aside from Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal, other common payment methods used in Australia include Zip Pay, POLi and PayID.
To ensure that the user feels secured about payments, properly display your accreditations and security seals on the checkout page. Also make sure that your users have the privilege of checking out as a guest without needing to sign up.
The Real Wonderland is your Post-sale Customer Care
For every checkout that happens, especially for those who’ve signed up, try to nudge users to give your product a review. Reviews are both persuasive and revalidating. Items with plenty of reviews at 3-4 stars will sell better than a 5 star product that has 2 reviews. It also signals that you value your purchaser’s input regarding an item.
Reviews are only half of what helps first time buys be loyal customers. Good post-sales customer service will keep them coming back. Bad reviews and complaints need as much as, if not more attention than, good feedback.
Your return, refund, and warranty policies should be clear and have their own page on your website. Your response time, especially to complaints and bad reviews, should be within just hours or minutes of receipt.
Remember: ‘a customer that complains is a customer that is giving you a chance to do better’.
This cycle of positive reinforcement and swift issue resolution is where you want to hinge your customer retention. If you get the formula right, your ecommerce website will be the wonderland that they will keep coming back to.
Ecommerce is all about leading your users down the path of enjoyment. Make sure that you aren’t overwhelming them on the way down. Every function, content, and interactive element of your website is supposed to help users feel a natural urge to go down the rabbit hole to find their personal digital shopping wonderland.