Friday, 8 May 2015

Taking a merchandising-approach to content focussed pages

Marimekko Hyhy Bracelet Jarrolds £29, Flower Tote Orla Kiely Bag £269, Peep Shoe Office £35, Maisie Dress Wrap London £159, Macrame Earrings Toast £45, Filet a Provisions €10, Covered Strap Sandals Swedish Hasbeens £155

I've been working - not in product galleries, where I usually work - but on department, or category, pages recently. In my vocabulary, department pages are pages containing links to product galleries, content, and a few, well-selected products. For a grocer, 'dairy' might be a department page. It would link to milk, butter, yogurt...; it might tell a story about a supplier, or give a recipe for Arctic roll; and some specialty cheeses might be featured.

It's been very interesting applying my usual ways of working to a different area - seeing where they were sufficient, where they were lacking. I naturally found myself considering clicks and sales, and comparing to similar pages on our site and on competitors' sites. My colleagues suggested I look at the evolution of the page over the last few years and search data from various sources, and also that I speak to other functions dealing with this department (customer services to be aware of common customer queries, etc). It's definitely taught me things to take back to my galleries.

I was keen to learn more, so I spent a while studying the websites below. Apart from that, holidays have been very much on my mind recently - we just can't decide where to go this year: Barcelona, for tapas and culture, some Italian cities, a Mediterranean island with markets and sleepy villages, Normandy for the romantic coast... Or somewhere more adventurous. This probably explains the selection of products above and the sites I studied!

The closest thing to department pages are probably the areas of the site devoted to sixteen destinations and the neighbourhoods comprising them: an attractive view of the suggested holiday spot stretches across the top of these pages, overlaid with a short description. Under this, there are some practical tips, a list of characteristics the place is known for, and some locals' likes and dislikes (I'm not sure how these have been gathered but they are entertaining!). After this, you have images of three neighbourhoods with selling sobriquets and four key features underneath. And at the bottom, there is a comprehensive list of all sixteen neighbourhoods. I think that brevity works brilliantly here. Choosing where to go on holiday and where to stay can be overwhelming, so not overdoing the information is clever.

Otherwise, there was a page listing eighteen destinations deemed doable-in-a-weekend from London. For each destination, you had a slideshow of images, traveltime, reasons to visit and three potential places to stay, followed by a link to all properties.
And on the home page, there were beautiful images of eight cities, two with suggested activities (relax, indulge, party in ...) and two with suggested accommodation. When you clicked on these images, you immediately reached a list of properties.

In fact, I would say that one of the most remarkable things about this site was how quickly you were directed to a list of accommodation or a search result. If you exclude explaining the concept (because links to 'how to travel/host' pages were very prominent), this seemed very much the site's main function; yet it remained engaging and inspiring.

I wanted to compare Airbnb to the websites of some hotel chains. While there were a lot of pages detailling promotions, benefits and services, I was interested to find relatively few department pages. I thought I might have seen pages for city hotels, seaside hotels, airport hotels, etc, but again I saw search bars. Perhaps the majority of customers have a destination in mind when they arrive at the site (a particular city, because they are attending a wedding there, for instance), so departments like this would be redundant. Perhaps the aim of these sites is to convince visitors to opt for this chain over another. Pages for types of hotels could please some customers though, I can't help feeling.

Ibis had something resembling department pages because, since late 2011, their hotels have been broken down into the Ibis, Ibis Styles and Ibis Budget sub-brands.

Each page has a carousel displaying various benefits of the brand/sub-brand. To the right of this is a very prominent booking tool. Then we see quite a simple list of their most popular destinations, the price threshold of each and a link to a map of all their locations.

Slightly further down the page, another carousel shows glossy images and a short description of five different hotels. Finally we find content aimed at specific customers - parents, businesses - and additional benefits.

Anyway, hope you've been enjoying the first weeks of April!

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