In July 1937, during her attempt to go round the world on-board the plane Electra, Amelia Earhart should have arrived to Howland Island from Lae, in the middle of the Pacific archipelago, but she didn't make it. Electra had disappeared at some point over the ocean without leaving a trace, and among a spatter of islands, which practically no one could name, let alone point out on a map. Was it a technical error, an insufficient fuel level, or a navigational mistake between confusing radio directions?
Amelia Earhart never landed and we can only speculate without a solid foundation, but the disappearances that occur day-to-day in your online shop do have an obvious explanation. While planning on the internet, potential customers discover the sign of a business in the distance like the remarkable silhouette of a Hawaiian island. Then, if they decide to approach, the fog starts to surround them and they suddenly don't find themselves in the place that they expected to go to. What happened? Where is the gain, the promised sale?
Many online shops put a huge effort into advertising campaigns, mailing and retargeting, without stopping to plan the following steps. To give aviators the map is not enough; the landing strip has to be well prepared for the moment when they manage to locate us. In other words, our possible sales will lose track and we'll never know anything about them.
Planning for Landing
One of the common complaints by customers when asked to rate the quality of an e-commerce service is the lack of precise attention. A first gimmick promises the response to a need or a desire, but then it causes a lot of doubts. The Google AdWords advertisement that someone comes across in their search results, or the promotional email, or the newsletter with an important advertisement are just not being effective.
In too many cases, those really well designed strategies that customers like so much don't lead to anything. Or in other words, they lead to the usual place, which is the home page, the great map, instead of a specific page. The thing is that the route has to be marked in all its stages from the advertisement or email, to the leap into our online shop.
That's why a website's home page will never be the ideal landing page, in the same way that the ideal landing page isn't identical in all industry sectors, nor in all models of eCommerce. But at least it's enough to start by improving the first step that follows the link included in any resource of a marketing campaign. That way, the effort to win over customers and convince them to visit our website won't turn into simple clickbait that leaves a bad impression.
This is where the design for your landing page begins.
Marking the route: All types of landing pages
Landing pages are specifically created to be shown to users that clicks on the link of an advertisement or other advertising tools like email. These pages achieve better conversion and reduce the number of visitors leaving websites who gradually follow the trail of breadcrumbs left by the marketing team. Besides this, specific content with accurate keywords favours you in the eyes of the fearsome judge Google, against similar websites that redirect users to the home page, or main category pages.
Remember that, the more quality your content has and the better quality score obtained, the cost per click will decrease and your campaign will cost you less, according to AdWords rules.
In some instances, the landing page can be a pre-existing page on the website, providing that the relation between the link and the website is very specific and clear. For example, if a user sees an advert for your shop when searching for a specific brand in Google, the link could lead to the typical results page of your website, but with a list of products by that brand. If the user is shown a page with all the results of a product category, which includes other brands, this can cause a negative effect due to some confusion, leaving no desire to stop and search the content.
You must also carefully study which order the results are shown, as placing the most expensive ones in first place can have a disheartening effect (unless your niche is in the luxury market). According to the same logic, if the link is directed to a specific product description, the design will exert a big influence and remind you of the importance of good product information management (that you can control with a good PIM system). The descriptive elements must appear well highlighted with all the keywords and the most common search characteristics for that product, as well as an extensive photo gallery, demonstrative videos, and reviews or testimonies by influencers if you have any available.
Those who dare most have their links redirected to the shopping basket of the online shop with the product already added. This aggressive strategy is useful when the landing page is expected to strengthen a promotion with an expiry date, which entices an immediate purchase: get your copy, book now, sign the petition, register, join now.
Let's see an example of a search carried out in Google for flamingo pool floats, and the results of links by sponsored advertisements.
Urban Outfitters appears in first place with a general category result, although the flamingo floaters stand out among the first options. This presentation isn't the most advisable, but it's also used as a strategy in case users decide to change their mind and choose another model. It’s a double-edged option because the customer may feel overloaded or encouraged by suddenly seeing a large variety of possibilities.
Amazon offers a more specific result by means of a link to a specific description, and highlights other related products in a smaller size. This strategy is more effective in reaction to customers who are in a hurry, and are not going to size up different models and prices. But it's remarkable that the advertisement leads to a more expensive inflatable than other possibilities and without the Premium service: if you control all the content in your online shop, it's advisable to advertise a mid-range product and imply that there are other cheaper or more expensive options.
Another Amazon link leads to the tiny floaters category, which is a much more specific result that will be wrong for most users who didn't use another keyword like drink or small.
Toy Splash also leads to a general list and the flamingo floater doesn't appear at first glance. The user needs to browse the category and they haven't highlighted the special offer that could be used as an additional attraction.
Target don't just opt for highlighting a unique product, they promote the example of the reviews and opinions by influencers in social media.
To a large extent, the success depends on the user's original intentions, which is something that the keywords used in their search only express in an abstract way. Luckily, if retargeting is used, you can show landing pages linked to previous searches carried out by that user. And if you put in a major effort into the marketing of online advertising, the extra points are gained through splitting landing pages according to the type of audience, so different pages lead to an average customer or investor, for example.
The Basic Design Elements of a landing page
The uniformity of style between your website and marketing materials is positive, but not essential. An advertisement or an email that publicises a specific event, for example, can be specially designed and adjusted to that moment, according to their purpose. But the relationship that cannot be lost at any time is the one that exists between the promotional materials and the landing page. There must be a visual transition between the advertisement, email or newsletter and the website where the user lands: the same aesthetic and resources: colours, fonts and the kind of images used. And of course, don't forget to include and highlight your brand's logo.
In this example of the English publishing company Penguin Books and their Mother's Day campaign, the aesthetic between the advertisement and the landing page is subtly different, but it fits in the same line, and most of all, it contains the same highlighted, key information about the announced giveaway.
The times of advertising noise loaded with more onomatopoeias than a Marvel page are now in the past. A landing page mustn't be overloaded with elements; it should instantly lead to the objective of the advertisement, which will also be your customer's goal. The language used must attract action or curiosity, and be positively expressed packed with keywords using very short texts or single phrases that provide tests or motives in an instant way.
In this sense, it's also advisable to remove the typical website browsing elements on the landing page, such as side menus, categories, check boxes, or drop-down menus so they don't cause any visual distraction. However, keep the payment security, technical support and contact information, as well as awards and collaborations with other brands if these elements are available. Some brands take advantage of the occasion to link content that reaffirm the customer, like testimonies or the company's story, but this will only be necessary in materials intended for new customers.
Less is always more in eCommerce design (except in the quantity of product information that you must include in your descriptions).
The mistake of leading the user to a home page can be repeated if the landing page isn't well laid out, or if the advertisement has been designed as a promotion that is full of fictitious elements. The same information or promise in the advertisement must appear on the landing page, otherwise users will feel cheated and they won't feel like browsing the website in search of the content that attracted them there in the first place. This is important when promoting discounts or sales sections during specific seasons like Zara Home do in their newsletter.
This characteristic is also essential in photographs. Many online shops take great care of their promotional images, without realising that the products advertised will be the ones desired by customers... who then never find those products in the catalogue. The products which appear in the promotional photographs must be available to buy and appear in the search results. In the case that the product has sold out, it's preferable not to delete the description and specify that it is no longer in stock. There is no bigger frustration for customers than to feel attracted by a product and then find it doesn't exist, or they are not capable of finding it, which was the case of this mail promotion by the Spanish clothing brand Pepa Loves.
While the images gather the essential information on the sensations and desires linked to the brand or advertisement, the bright colours and buttons must be placed in strategic areas, taking into consideration what will be seen at first glance on small screens and different device formats.
Another element that is usually neglected is the CTA (Call To Action), where the user has to click to start the buying or hiring process. There is no single, perfect place for the CTA, as this will depend on the landing page design, and the psychology applied to the campaign. It can appear after an explanation, or just after starting if you want it to be linked with a limited opportunity.
Besides, not all marketing campaigns are oriented to a specific sale, as the informative parts on brand identity or explanations on how the service functions are also useful. A CTA won't be so useful in these cases, except as an accompaniment in an area that invites users to obtain more information, or to explore the website. Those complex services or the ones that require a lot of commitment by users need a landing page that makes things clear by using reinforcement (by using external opinions and testimonies in particular), before any call to action.
If a process is necessary, include a preview on the landing page about the steps that the customer has to take to buy a product, service, or promotion. This resolves reservations to buy in several steps and eliminates the surprise of starting a process without knowing how long it will last.
Landing pages are a work in progress, as they are based on ephemeral materials that must be adapted to each new campaign and objective. Analyse the results of each one to check the effectiveness of the links, carry out tests to examine which strategies work better, and which time is more effective to send emails and newsletters, and also check to see if your audience changes with time.
If you don't have time or enough staff to dedicate to all this, but you know you can't leave out the benefits of landing pages, there are automatic services like the German one Convertizer that create landing pages for you based on any linked Adwords advertisement that you attach.
Think of how important it is to know how to be generous and lead to the rest, if you want your eCommerce sales to travel around the world from now on.