The most immediate way for your site to distinguish itself from other
online contact-lens shops is with a novel design. Nearly every such
site I have encountered sports the same look on the home page: brand
names listed vertically down the left side, basic navigation across the
top, and a close-up picture of a female model near the middle. Among the
sites you listed as well as the competing sites I found, one exception is
1800contacts, which stands out in my mind just because it looks different.
The four big buttons along the bottom are visually striking, and they
lead to editorial content that will get some viewers involved in the
site. However, I find 1800contacts lacking in that it doesn't allow
for quick comparison of pricing and product selection with other sites,
since the lens categories aren't listed in a comparable format on the
I find that Wal-Mart's contact-lens store gets it right with a
straightforward layout that makes it easy to find products quickly, while
its unique minimalist appearance makes it memorable. Observe that popular
contact-lens models are grouped by brand name at left, but all models are
also accessible through the selection box at center. Note also the handy
"Do you wear a different brand in each eye?" link below the selection box.
Wal-Mart: Contact Lenses
If you must have a photograph on the front page, consider something
different from the single female model. How about a group of people,
or an animal with high visual acuity, such as an owl or a hawk?
Visitors who are overwhelmed by the range of choices or confused by the
site design often look for a link labeled "Site Map" or "All Products". A
number of contact-lens shops have an "All Products" link, but few place it
prominently near the top-left corner, and most omit pricing information
from the list, forcing visitors to click through for individual products
rather than comparing all prices on the same page. Furthermore, in
many cases the product listing is a hierarchical list rather than a
flat list. For instance, Lens.com has a complicated hierarchical list,
and Coastal Contacts has a more useful flat list but without prices.
Lens.com: All Products
Coastal Contacts: All Products
A superior all-product listing is at Discount Contact Lenses -- although
the link is poorly placed and confusingly named "Contact Lens Quick
Index -- distinguished by a flat layout, visible pricing, and individual
product links all on the same page. This is the list visitors are more
likely to bookmark and revisit than the others.
Discount Contact Lenses: Order Contact Lenses
Another way to distinguish your site and to encourage visitors to make a
purchase would be to include a comparison shopper's guide that explains
the range of options in each product category, leading the visitor toward
a concrete selection. To consider an example from a different field,
HP has a page for prospective customers who are confused by the wide
selection of digital cameras on sale.
HP Digital Photography: Choosing an HP digital camera
A similar page for contact-lens shoppers would explain how to interpret
the doctor's prescription, if applicable, and how to choose among the
various options within the prescribed category.
To bring new products to a visitor's attention and to increase order
amounts, you could show related products alongside individual product
listings. The most familiar examples of ecommerce upselling are on
Amazon, where a given book listing, for example, offers a bundle purchase
under the "Better Together" heading, and a list of similar books under
"Customers who bought this item also bought".
Amazon: Gates of Fire
A different way to upsell, which is perhaps better applicable to contact
lenses, is TigerDirect's practice of showing compatible products with
the individual product. For instance, when the visitor is looking
at a CPU listing, the "May We Recommend" sidebar shows a compatible
operating system, memory, motherboard, and so on. For a contact-lens
purchase, compatible products might include a carrying case, solution,
and backup glasses.
TigerDirect: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+
To keep visitors coming back on a regular basis, you might like to add
some editorial content to the site. The site operators could contract
with an eye-care professional or a shopping specialist to write a
monthly column with articles that spotlight new products or explain a
contact-lens technology in layman's terms. As a point of comparison,
Shoppers Drug Mart offers a bimonthly feature called Let's Talk and
a series of occasional articles called HealthWATCH. Similar articles
on a contact-lens site would be more narrowly focused. They could also
make themselves more useful by including links to product pages in the
online store, instead of just mentioning in-store product availability
as Shoppers Drug Mart does.
Shoppers Drug Mart: Let's Talk
Shoppers Drug Mart: HealthWATCH
Finally, if your contact-lens store is very competitive on price,
consider adding a price-comparison table. The following sites show
a limited selection of prices on the front page, but you could offer
something more exhaustive on a dedicated page.
Discount Contact Lenses
Ship My Contacts
Observe that Ship My Contacts names its competitor, which is not
necessarily a good strategy on the front page, since it can divert
visitors to other stores. On the other hand, this can be a very effective
tactic when it comes to individual product listings, where the visitor
is already deep into the site and is actively considering a specific
product. Here, if the product is a bargain, you could display a table
showing current prices of the same product at well-known competitors,
thereby highlighting the advantage of buying from your site.
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