It’s officially Q4 friends which means if you haven’t already gotten your ass in gear to set yourself up for success this Holiday season, now is the time.
One of the things we talk about in the Holiday Planning Guide is to dress up your website for the Holiday season to help people get in the mood. Just like retail stores start playing Christmas music (please don’t put music on your website) and dress up their windows, we want to do the same for our websites.
But even more important than that is to make sure that your homepage helps the customer get where they’re trying to go in as few clicks as possible. And while I am positioning this episode around Holiday, most of what we’re going to discuss is applicable all year round.
And of course, like in most cases, there are going to be a few nuances depending on how wide your product assortment is and the overall structure of your business. I’m going to speak mostly to those who have a lot of different products and categories, but I’ll do my best to point out what might be different for different types of businesses.
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Your Navigation Menu
Alright, let’s start at the top with your navigation menu. One of the most common mistakes I see here is that your products are buried under a shop tab. Now if you only have a handful of product categories, or you have an informational side to your business, that might be okay, but in most cases, you want your top-level categories all as their own links in your navigation bar.
If you’re a jewelry store, that would be things like earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. If you’re an apparel store, maybe that’s tops, dresses, and denim. If you’re home decor, that could be kitchen & dining, bed & bath, and decor. Now, these are very simplified examples and how many categories you have are going to be a big influence on how you ultimately lay this out, but when you’re thinking about this I want you to put yourself in the shoes of your customer and ask yourself how does this customer shop? When they land on my website, what are the things they are most likely looking for?
I just had a conversation with a client about this. She has a HUGE assortment of products. Literally everything from apparel to furniture, it’s all for a specific style of customer so it makes sense, but it’s A LOT of product categories.
So as we were talking through this, we looked at it from three different angles. What makes logical sense, how does the customer shop, and what drives the business as a whole?
For instance, if you were to go look at Revolve’s navigation menu right now, In addition to their Clothing menu they have a separate Dresses menu. There’s a really good chance this is NOT by accident. They pulled out dresses to give it more attention. They’ve also got shoes and accessories separated as their own menu items.
Urban Outfitters, on the other hand, starts with gender, and then shoes and accessories are under each of those categories.
Another client I worked with recently has a high customer return rate because she sells a consumable hobby product. For her, having the new and popular menu item is really important because her customer is coming back often looking for new stuff. This is also the case for most clothing boutique stores.
But what if you’re somewhere in the middle, and sell candles for instance? Maybe you have a handful of signature scents and then you have some seasonal-specific things you sell. In that case, it’s probably okay that it’s all under a shop button. As long as your site conversion is high, then it’s probably nothing to worry about. The only thing I would say is maybe you want to link directly to those seasonal scents as well.
This brings me to this next note of using your navigation bar to promote things that you want to bring attention to during any given season.
If you have a holiday gift guide – put that baby right in the navigation. Maybe you hold community events periodically in your business and promote those in your navigation. If you sell a product that naturally lends itself to community and you have a Facebook group, go ahead and include that as well.
Do you do a lot of educational blog posts related to the product you sell, you can include links to that as well. At my previous day job, we focused a lot on educational content marketing, so in our navigation menu we would feature 2-3 of the top posts that made sense with that category of product.
Or maybe you sell CBD and you have one epic post that walks them through how to choose the right dosage and such for themselves, that you can include in the navigation bar.
And don’t waste space with things like your about page. That only needs to live in the footer. Or if you have a rewards program that shows a floating widget, you don’t need that in there either. Remember you are a product-based business and your goal is to sell products!
eCommerce Navigation Mega Menus
I also want to talk about mega menus real quick. There have been some rumblings over the years about whether or not mega menus are a good thing. And people wonder… should I break down my subcategories on the mega menu or should I just dump the customer into a top-level collection page and let them weed their way through all the products I have?
Now, of course, this depends on how many items you have but based on my experience mega menus are better. I worked with a client who had a wide assortment of products and we set up both mega menus and collection landing pages. A collection landing page just means when they go to the top-level category, instead of going directly into a collection with tons of product listings, they went into a page that listed out all the sub-collections.
This was a big change in how her site was merchandised so it was a bit scary, but we wanted to test it out and then watch the results.
Ultimately, after our test (I honestly don’t remember how long we let it go for, somewhere between 30 and 90 days) we saw an overall increase in conversion, and products that hadn’t really been selling before were selling now… most likely because people actually knew they existed.
Now, what if you only have 5-10 products in your top-level collections? Then you don’t need sub-collections. And you of course don’t need them if you only have a handful of products altogether.
I could probably dedicate an entire podcast episode just to your navigation alone, but for now, let’s just make sure your customers can find what they’re looking for.
Next up is your hero image. And this is arguably the MOST important part because it’s the first thing someone is going to see when they land on your website. So there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, does it clearly show what you sell and who you sell it to, and is it obvious what they’re going to find when they click the call to action button?
Let’s talk about some best practices. In most cases, the image that you show is a lifestyle product image which is your product in use. You want to start inspiring your customer right off the bat and help them picture what it would be like to have this product in their life.
You’ll also want to make sure this image isn’t too tall. If you can keep it short enough that they can easily recognize that there is more to see below the image great. Otherwise, at a minimum, make sure the call to action button is above the fold. And above the fold just means they don’t have to scroll to see it.
Whether you do or don’t use a slider is up to you. The jury is still out on whether or not one is better or worse for conversion. But if you are going to use a slider to promote multiple things limit it to 2 or 3 and don’t go overboard.
So for holiday, maybe it’s your overall best sellers, your holiday gift guides, and a new product you have for the holidays. If you have a few standout products that drive the majority of your business, don’t be afraid to feature just that product up there too.
But then what happens during your holiday sales, do you update that hero image to reflect that? Yes, yes you do. In fact, you want to promote that in MULTIPLE places because I’ll tell ya, customers DO NOT pay attention. I mean, even when I was working for my previous company and we had our BFCM deals plastered all over the website, home page banner, hello bar, even banners inside our collections, and customers would still check out without using the discount code.
From a business perspective that’s not the worst thing of course, especially because we always did blanket discounts because our #1 goal was top-line revenue, but if you’re trying to promote a specific product or collection, or trying to move through specific holiday product – you’ve got to make sure you are shouting these offers from the rooftops.
Now, depending on when you run your sales, this can get a little tricky to make live and then hide when the sale is over. But there is an app for that. Design Packs, is an app that has pre-built sections you can add to your Shopify store, one of which is a timed banner. So you can set when you want it to go live and when you want it to come down. I used this all the time in my day job because we regularly had sales expire at 11:59 PM PT but I certainly wasn’t going to be switching those elements manually.
You can find this app in the Shopify app store, or if you want to support the eCommerce Badassery podcast I’ll out my partner link in the show notes. I’d be so grateful.
And then one more note about this. If you do have a big sale happening and you’re updating that hero image to promote it, you don’t have to worry about this being too product-focused. You want to make sure it’s really clear what you’re offering.
Featured Collections & Products
After the hero image, then we want to get even more product-focused. Typically for larger inventories, I’ll go collections and then into products.
When it comes to the collections you feature on the home page, we’re talking every collection that you offer. What are the top 3-6 collections people come to you for? If you don’t already know, it’s time to dig into the numbers and find out. What categories drive the majority of your business?
Remember, our goal is to get them where they’re trying to go as quickly as possible.
And as we’ve discussed on this podcast before, specifically on episode 71, The Anatomy of a Product Page with Reese Spykerman, too many choices can actually paralyze and overwhelm your customer. You’ve heard of the jam study right? At an in-person market, they set up a table to sell Jam. One day they had lots of flavor options and the other day they only had a few. On the day with more choices, they had more people at the table interested in what they had to offer, but when they had fewer choices, they made more sales.
After your featured collections, you can start to show some more product listings. Pretty much every theme comes with a featured collection section where you assign a specific collection and it will populate a few products from that collection and give the customer the option to click through to see the entire collection.
Now again. What you show and the specific order you put it in is going to depend on your business and your product assortment, but the general concept is the same. When it comes to your home page you want to show the best of the best. The goal of your home page is to get them to keep shopping. Just the store window of a brick-and-mortar shop is to get them to walk inside.
Then you use your navigation bar and your cross-sells to show them the hidden gems, just as your salesperson would in a store.
And some other thoughts about your home page.
If you have a specific holiday bundle or a singular product that is your absolute best seller, don’t be afraid to dedicate a section specifically to that product. You can also include any educational content you have through blog posts, though in most cases I would leave those toward the bottom near the footer, aside from those potential feature posts we discussed earlier.
Now, what if you’re a one-product store or a subscription box? If you don’t really have other products to sell, make your entire home page more like a landing page. You feature the product as the hero, walk through the features and benefits, answer frequently asked questions and show some reviews. Include multiple calls to action so they can start the purchase process and call it a day!
Speaking of reviews… I almost forgot to talk about this. But you absolutely can and should feature some reviews on your home page. Most review platforms will provide a widget that you can either embed on the home page so it will populate reviews or will provide a widget that a customer can click on to read them.
And remember that your home page isn’t set it and forget it forever. You’ll want to update it, likely seasonally to make sure that it’s supporting the goals you have with your business at the time. Most of those changes are likely to be in the hero image but could be in other areas of the home page as well depending on what you sell.
Let’s do a quick recap of what we talked about today and how you’ll want to optimize your home page for the holiday season.
First up, remember that this is not just for the holiday season.
Two, you want your navigation bar to be intentional, helping your customer find what they’re looking for and promoting what’s most important to your business.
Three. Make sure your hero image is product-focused, the call to action is above the fold, and keep it on the shorter side so your customer knows they can scroll.
Four. Feature your bestselling collections to make it easy for customers to click through and even some product carousels of collections so the customer can see some actual products.
When in doubt, think of your home page as your store window and your navigation and cross-sells as your salespeople.
If you want to dive deeper into getting your website and your entire marketing strategy holiday ready, make sure you check out the Badass Holiday planning guide. If you want a timed banner section for your home page, check out the design packs app for Shopify. You can support the eCommerce Badassery podcast by using my partner affiliate link in the show notes and that my friend is a wrap.