If Customers Can Print Your Website, You're Doing Digital Wrong

When’s the last time you printed your website? Our guess is ... never. Because why would you print something that's meant to be consumed digitally? But think about your home page for a minute. How hard would it really be to recreate your homepage “experience" on paper?

As it turns out, if you’re one of the top 75 e-commerce retailers in the U.S. (or anything like them), it may not be that hard at all.

We visited the website homepage (on 1/26/2017) of each of the top 75 e-commerce retailers in the U.S. to analyze just how digital their digital home really was. We looked for any sign of interactivity or engagement that didn’t simply take the user to another page — that is, any experience that we couldn’t easily recreate with a little paper (invented 100 BC), scissors (1500 BC), and Scotch tape (1925).

In the following interactive graphic, we show the Top Ten — really the Only Ten — things you can do on an e-commerce homepage that are directly relevant to a shopper's experience, along with what % of the top 75 U.S. e-commerce retailers offer such a feature:

As these numbers prove, today's mainstream e-commerce experiences are digital only in name. Here’s that same Top Ten list from the interactive graphic, this time in bullet form:

  1. SEARCH FOR CONTENT | 99% of homepages allow users to search for products directly from the homepage. In most cases, the user is taken to another page to see their search results, but it's at least functional, so we'll count it. (And yes: 99% means that one retailer did not even offer a search function.)

  2. ENGAGE A NAVIGATION MENU | 91% of homepages reveal additional content when a user hovers or clicks on a navigation menu (typically a sub-category menu, sometimes with a promotional creative).

  3. BROWSE “TRAYS” OF PRODUCTS | 47% of homepages let users click to see the next set of products in a "tray.” Likelihood covered the ubiquitous use of trays on e-commerce websites in another recent blog post called The Internet of Trays.

  4. ROTATE PROMOTIONAL CAROUSEL | 43% of homepages let users click to see another promotion in a rotating carousel. There is a growing body of evidence, however, that website visitors rarely engage with standard carousel content beyond the first image shown.

  5. VIEW DETAIL ON PRODUCT HOVER | 24% of homepages reveal some additional information upon hovering over a product image in a tray. Typically, this is the product price or rating. Alternatively, the hover state may be a simple call to action like “quick view” or “add to cart.”

  6. SEE PRODUCT “QUICK VIEW” | 13% of homepages show product details in a “quick view” upon clicking a product image in a tray. This is a welcome digital engagement, as it allows shoppers to quickly evaluate a product before deciding to purchase, or otherwise escape back to the homepage without waiting through two additional page loads.

  7. WATCH A VIDEO | 9% of homepages let users watch a video. Often these videos are auto-played, not self-initiated, so users may see them whether they want to or not. Still, videos are an excellent attention-getter, and not something one can print, so they certainly count as a digital experience.

  8. UPLOAD YOUR OWN PHOTO | 4% of homepages invite users to upload photos for consideration in a user-generated content gallery. More than 4% show user-generated content galleries on their homepages, but only a few let users interact right then and there.

  9. DIRECTLY SHOP CREATIVES | 1% of homepages (i.e., just one of the top 75 U.S. e-commerce retailers) allow users to directly shop products within creatives. Rather than creatives only serving to take users to another page of products in a category or collection, this approach is a welcome way to bring relevant content forward into a shopper's journey.

  10. DO OTHER “DIGITAL" THINGS | 8% of homepages offer users any other kind of interactive experience (e.g., gift registry creation, shopping list builder, vehicle selector) beyond the first nine covered. Instead, users are left to scroll up and down the page in hopes that they will click through to a category or collection and eventually find something they want.

Other than the most basic digital functions, most e-commerce homepages aren’t much more than a glossy catalog posted online. To their credit, some retailers are experimenting with new ways to tell their brand story, engage customers, and to shorten their path to purchase. However, when we speak with those retailers, most tell us that such “enhanced experiences” — even simple ones — are difficult to get off the ground because they require additional development resources, which are always a bottleneck. As a result, most creative ideas are abandoned, and websites remain forever plain.

Retailers have a golden opportunity to get ahead of the pack by upgrading their digital experiences. Without turning this into too much of pitch, Likelihood's intelligent creative platform enables marketers, merchandisers, and creatives to build engaging, interactive creatives — such as the interactive graphic above — without code, and without delay. We also sprinkle in our artificial intelligence secret sauce to automatically generate millions of potential permutations so you can offer each individual customer a unique, relevant experience.

Simply put, we think it’s time to finally make digital … digital!