As the gateway to your website, your homepage is often the first chance you have to capture the interest of a potential customer. For returning customers, the homepage often answers the question “what’s new here?”, for new customers it may answer the questions “do I trust these people?”, or “does this company have what I’m looking for?”
In the first part in our series on copywriting best practice for ecommerce websites, we look at how to keep visitors on your site by crafting compelling copy for your homepage.
Is it obvious what you’re selling?
Put yourself in the shoes of a visitor landing on your homepage for the first time. Is it immediately obvious what kind of products you’re selling? Part of the answer to this will lie in the images and site design, but good copy is vital too. Snappy headlines and succinct copy will make your offering clear to both visitors and search engines; your homepage isn’t the place to be too clever with wording and risk diluting the message.
Unless you’d like potential customers to reach for the back button, avoid the above. A simple, informative strapline such as “Beautiful furniture from recycled wood” works perfectly.
Convey your breadth & depth
Unless you’re a very large brand, it’s likely some visitors to your site may never have heard of you before landing on your homepage. For that reason, it’s useful to get across the ‘breadth’ and ‘depth’ of what you offer so users can quickly answer the question “do these people sell the product I’m looking for?”
The top navigation at Ribble Cycles does a good job of covering the ‘breadth’ of products they offer:
Inspire curiosity, create desirability
The homepage is often your first chance to show potential customers how desirable your products are, and by immediately showing them what’s in it for them, you give them a reason to stay on your website. Again, images are a great way of doing this, but you can support them with enticing words that inspire people to find out more. Creating an impression of exclusivity or limited availability can work well in the right context; phrases such as “selling fast” and “request an invitation” help paint this picture.
This copy from Tim Little’s homepage does well here, framing the company nicely, conveying a sense of quality, and exclusivity, and quickly offering the single point of action to ‘shop’.
Clear paths to purchase
Lovely though your homepage is, it’s ultimately not the page you want visitors to linger on for an ecommerce site; you want to channel them off to category and product pages with a view to getting them to reach products they’d happily buy from you. It should be obvious both from the site design and the copy what options are available to your users, and where they should go next. That means calls to action. Ideally not too many that the customer can’t decide what to do; and, if you do have lots, they should be grouped logically to users having to read each and every line of text on the page.
To this end, microcopy on navigation buttons can be used to support the site design in enticing the visitor to head deeper into the site. To be most effective, these should ideally be a call to action rather than a simple “more” or “click here”. An example might be a “Shop Dresses” button laid over a beautiful photograph of a model in a dress on a fashion ecommerce site; add a sense of urgency by including the word “now”. You could also experiment with quirkier microcopy to get people clicking; “Take me to the dresses!”, for example.
Don’t overdo it on the copy
Returning customers have probably come to your website to buy something, and new customers at least want to browse your products, so they’re not likely to want to read through a wall of text on the homepage. If anything, too much text might even have them clicking the back button and leaving your site altogether. Homepage copy therefore needs to be more minimalist than the copy on the deeper pages, while still providing enough for visitors (and search engines) to get a basic understanding of your company.
- Describe what you offer in simple words that anyone can understand
- Eliminate flowery language and jargon where it adds nothing.
- Keep it short and sweet.
This example from a Yoga wear retailer shows how easy it is to overdo things. Simply listing “Pants, Tops, Skirts” beneath the headings would immediately make it simpler for users to navigate, and loses nothing from the page:
Remember how a visitor may reach your site
It’s also important to remember the path a visitor may take prior to landing on your site. For example, here’s the homepage ‘meta description’ for Slam City Skates, the snippet that often appears in Google search results, or when shared on Facebook:
From those simple few lines, the reader instantly understands:
- What they sell.
- The breadth & depth of their range (‘finest brands’ = not everything; ‘over 3000 products’ = a fair amount within those brands).
- They’re established (1986) and therefore feel trustworthy.
- They’re UK-based.
- They deliver next day.
- They have a physical presence (‘London’s…’, ‘online and instore’)
Make sure their first impression is positive
The copy on your homepage should instil an immediate feeling of trust. Any doubt as to your authenticity and it’s likely some customers will refuse to impart their credit card details. It goes without saying that, as with all copy, the words on your homepage should be error-free and beautifully coherent. Nothing gives a bad impression like poor spelling and grammar. If you’ve written the copy yourself, have someone else read through it before you publish it; a fresh pair of eyes can often spot mistakes that you’ve become blind to.