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The confident product website

It still surprises me after all these years how many business websites present themselves in a pyramid fashion, making users go down a path (usually arranged at the vendor’s convenience), then making them come all the way back up and down again rather than letting them move sideways.

This is a symptom of a wider problem, which can end up with prospects possibly missing out on the best or most appropriate system our company has to offer.

For example, let’s say a manufacturer primarily sells systems consisting of front ends, central processors and back ends. Let’s say there are 4 choices of each component, so 12 product pages in total, and 64 combinations of products.

On too many sites, there will be a nice menu offering people three choices of product type, under each of which are four product types. Very neat, but that’s all – and it’s a wasted opportunity, simply duplicating a linear ‘catalogue’ presentation rather than taking advantage of the additional ways of doing things offered by the concept of hyperlinking.

Now look at it from the view of the customer. In their industry, there may only be one or two of the 64 combinations of products that are applicable. So why not give them an alternative presentation, focusing on their industry and the only combinations of products they’ll be interested in?

Or perhaps the customer may have to meet certain technical standards, or have uses in specific environments, or be interested in limited functionality or cost? Again, those are all presentations of appropriate product combinations that can be offered in addition to a ‘catalogue’ listing.

And customer convenience isn’t the only reason to do this. Prospective customers may find one appropriate combination of products, but in the back of their mind they might be thinking: “Is there a better combination?” …and it’ll be hard for them to know. Faced with this potential problem, most sales and marketing people I know just revert to: “Well, we can sort them out when they call us”. But what if the prospect finds exactly the right system presented on a competitive website? Will they ever call us?