This excerpt is part of Entrepreneur.com's Second-Quarter Startup Kit which explores the fundamentals of starting up in a wide range of industries.
In Start Your Own Online Coupon or Daily Deal Business, the staff at Entrepreneur Press and writer Rich Mintzer explain how to start a business in the competitive online and daily deal industries. In this edited excerpt, the authors offer tips on creating a site that's easy to navigate and encourages shoppers to buy.
Whether you're using a web design program, online platform or hiring a web designer, you'll need to know what you want your website to look like before getting started. A first step? Looking at other daily deal, membership deal or coupon websites to give you some ideas of what you do and do not like.
Next, consider what you need from your design. Remember, you want to design your site to be:
- Easy to read
- Easy to navigate
- Visually appealing
- Easy to share deals
- Adaptable to mobile devices
For coupon sites, bright colors tend to give the site a light and friendly look. The coupons, which are most often provided from merchants, affiliates or elsewhere, need to be front and center so the product photo (which attracts the most attention), the name of the product and coupon details are clear. Nobody wants to have to look around to find out how much they're saving or when the deal's over. It's also better to include buttons rather than text links--they stand out.
The rest of the main page will depend on how you want your visitors to find more coupons. You can have links set up so visitors can sort by store names, manufacturers, types of product, top deals, holiday specials or any other categories you like. Remember to keep it simple so navigation remains easy. If you have free shipping coupons, put them in a category. Your site needs to feature what you have to offer and provide easy access and redemption.
Then there are advertisements. They, too, need to share prime space on your site, especially since someone's paying you to post them. Consider them in your layout. While you want a busy front or main page, you don't want it to be cluttered to the point where people give up and go elsewhere. Therefore, divide it into sections and conquer. People will appreciate knowing where they'll find things each time they come to your site--a consistent layout provides a sense of trust so that visitors feel comfortable that they will be able to find what they are looking for.
When visitors find coupons on your site, they'll want to print them unless all of your coupons are redeemable online. Coupon-printing software is provided by most coupon websites with a simple download that visitors only need to use once. The software is designed to help control the number of coupons that are printed. You'll need to provide a brief explanation of the printer software, which is typically downloadable for Macs or PCs. Keep it simple and easy to download.
When it comes to daily deal sites, you generally post some great photos of offers with short headlines, include how much your customer is saving and a place in which members can sign up and provide their area code so you can localize their deals.
As LivingSocial does, you can offer some categories such as:
- All deals
- Food and drink
- Health and beauty
- At home
- Nationwide deals
Although deal sites often have little more than the deals spread out on the pages, you'll want your layouts to be consistent. Make them large enough to attract attention but small enough to fit a few offers on the screen at any given time. You can utilize categories or have a variety of offers in plain sight.
Landing Pages and Navigation System
The key to landing deals are your landing pages. That's where your customer goes from thinking about the deal to learning more and possibly buying it. Once your potential customer has shown an interest in a deal and clicks on it, your landing pages are where you can make the sales happen. "Buy Now" should be an immediate (and very simple) option for those who saw the photos and the deal and need not know anything more.
Make sure you provide the necessary details on your landing pages to pull everything together and make whatever you're selling sound even more enticing. This means you either brush up on your copywriting skills or read a hundred landing pages from other sites and give yourself a crash course in copywriting. You can also hire a copywriter to write about your deals for you.
One of the keys to a good website is easy navigation -- it can make or break your business. People don't want to jump hurdles to find what they're looking for--so if your navigational system is poor, your conversion rates will suffer. Using an easy-to-read navigation bar or panel on top, or along the side of the page, can make it easy for visitors to find what they want. Make sure it links exactly to what they're looking for. Poor navigational systems will dump visitors in the middle of a page and make them look further for what they want--they won't do it, so you'll lose them. The navigation bar should be in the same place on every page and should always allow them to return to the homepage.
You also want to think through the visitor's experience on the site. What are the most frequent pages they'll visit? Make easy links to these pages so they don't have to go through your homepage or other pages to get there. People don't want to click more than once or twice to find what they want. And don't forget to make it easy to "Buy" or "Order" at any time. This should be streamlined to utilize only the necessary information so they can check out quickly. You should also have their information stored so they don't need to re-enter it every time they visit your site. Go to Amazon for an example of fast, accurate and easy checkout. You can find and buy an item on Amazon in five minutes while walking down a crowded street--it's that simple.