Website Review: How Do You Rate Your First Impression?

When was the last time you shopped your site with fresh eyes? 

For most of us in specialty food, the answer is never.  New perspective is forever lost the moment you begin the design phase of your site launch.  By the time the website goes live, the hidden problems are often difficult to see – even if they are right there front and center.

As we spend money to drive traffic, it is important to remember that many of those eyeballs are arriving there for the first time.  They know nothing about you.  You have one shot at making a first impression and that’s hard to address with jaded perspective.

A well-executed homepage is essential and because you intimately know your brand and what makes you great, that messaging might look different to you than the traffic you are targeting most.  That’s why making a good first impression is a tall order – and often unsuccessful.  Time after time we hear our user group comment that upon arriving at the site, they are unable to decipher what the site is selling.  Even more often – they don’t know why they should buy the item from you over someone else.

In the food industry, we all know that appealing, delicious photography is a must.  An enticing glory shot is your first opportunity to grab the attention and hook them long enough to dig deeper.  More images, attractive colors and fonts, a well-placed, artful logo, these are must-haves too.   But there is more to it.

There are three goals of a first impression.

    1. Does this site actually sell something?
      We hear this often as well.  “Is this a shopping site or just a bunch of information?”  We all assume this is a given, but it’s often missed.  It’s more than a cart icon.  The placement and wording of your call to actions, the category headers in your navigation, a promo banner, these are all tools to transmit that message without the words “BUY NOW” emblazoned across your homepage.
    2. What are you really selling?
      Obviously well placed, attractive photos of your most popular sellers are your best bet, but that won’t show the depth of your offering.  Clean navigation is imperative.  Each category should be universally easy to understand.  “Debbie’s Favorites”, for example, will be lost on a new visitor.  If you have a large and diverse offering, use drop downs or a secondary top navigation bar.  If you are a reseller, have a brand category.
    3. Why should I buy from you?
      With the epicurean boom in the last decade, competition is fierce.  Amazon doesn’t help.  What makes your product unique?  Does it taste the best and how do you prove that?  A reputable award like a Sofi will showcase well on your homepage and send that message.   Are you an exclusive manufacturer?  Do high-end, well known retailers or restaurants carry your brand?  A brief mention of those, and/or their logos, would be an excellent way to convey that.  Do you have the best prices?  How do you say that without discounting quality?  Are your ingredients special in some way?  Is your packaging outstanding?  Do you have a great guarantee?  Excellent customer service?  And the best of all – do you have something no one else does?  There is a way to tell any story, even in the confines of a homepage.

User testing has become invaluable in what we do and it is the first step in our conversion rate optimization (CRO) process.  As with anything, there is only one first impression.  Capturing that fresh feedback has been eye opening as we begin to find the opportunity.  In our next newsletter, we’ll go beyond the first look and discuss other specialty food homepage must-haves.  And coming soon, look for before and after images on our website!  In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you!