I'm about to give you an explanation of spearfishing, netcasting, and social media, but before I begin, I'd like to extend a courtesy announcement to those of you in California. Please don't spear any fish from a moving vehicle, unless it is a whale. This type of fishing is a misdemeanor (although some disagree with that law), and you may be the unlucky recipient of a fine.
Actually, the spearfishing and netcasting I am talking about has nothing to do with the scaly fish you find in the ocean and everything to do with how consumers find your products. The long and short of it is that there are two general ways people search, and this knowledge should guide your content strategy for product pages and social media. (If you're interested in a little background reading, check out Anthony Joseph's blog article on Optify and interview with Content Ping.)
I'm going to blaze through an explanation of the searcher types. Then I'd like to show you how your product pages can be organized to meet the needs of both. Next week, I'll explore how social media is the domain of netcasters and what you can do about it.
The two types of searchers are the spearfisher and the netcaster. Spearfishers have a goal in mind and want to quickly find the best and cheapest place to buy said item. They don't get easily distracted. You know, like the direct approach of a spearfisher.
Netcasters meander, searching with broad terms like "tank top" and narrowing as they go. This type of searcher is much more likely to purchase on a whim and be led by "you might also like" features--exactly like throwing a net over everything in the sea and hoping you pull out something more than a dripping net.
When you want to buy something online, do you Google a product number with your credit card in hand?
A: Spearfishers know what they want and will take the Internet by the horns to get it. They search things like "Dyson DC28 Animal HEPA Bagless Upright Vacuum Iron/Satin Purple" and they expect to see a powerful purple vacuum without a bag in their search results. And preferably, a couple of different buying options for the vacuum so they can pick the one with the best price.
B: Netcasters don't have a specific product in mind, but they will know it when they see it. They discover products impulsively and are willing to invest in a good deal. They might start by searching "vacuum" and see what happens. Maybe they'll get distracted by their Twitter account and come back days later having read a few reviews. Maybe they'll ask about vacuums on Twitter. They'll research products, browse around, and eventually buy a vacuum when they see it promoted in their Gmail ads.
Knowing these search categories is about as useful as knowing the differences between an alligator and a crocodile: useless if you don't know how to act based on what they are. (Run like mad from all things with giant teeth, my adrenaline tells me.) Since I don't intend to leave you without any actionable information, here are a few ways you can use the knowledge about search types to create even more compelling and usable product pages.
It's obvious, and since companies pour numerous hours and dollars into market research I feel silly even typing it. But none of the other points will matter if you haven't thought about how your consumers are arriving. If your consumers are largely spearfishing purchasers, SEO for your product pages is paramount. If your customer base consists more of netcasting prospects, SEO for your main pages will certainly be important, but your product pages won't be central to your search strategy. Instead, related items and plenty of features to draw consumers through your pages will be important.
Converse.com is not a traditional example of an e-commerce website, by any means, but they have it right. For the wandering searcher that would type "Converse" into Google, the home page offers plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. They still have standard e-commerce pages, though, in case someone is on a mission for a specific shoe.
Before you say "duh" and skip ahead, here's a compelling reason you need to clearly explain what you're selling: if a spearfisher arrives at your product page through your masterfully executed SEO only to wonder whether the product is actually what they want, your efforts are for naught.
This is not an intuitive point. If a consumer knows exactly what they want, it seems they would not be concerned about the content on the page, as long as it looks reputable and the price is right. I would argue the opposite. If a consumer knows exactly what they want and they can't be 100 percent sure from your page, there are plenty of other places they can go where they will know, without a shadow of a doubt, they are getting the right product. (See more on this topic.)
If your pages do not clearly state what you are offering, of course, netcasters will be less inclined to buy as well. Your content is your chance to convince the happenstance folk who've stumbled upon your wares that they, too, need what you have to offer.
In fact, more than being accurate and obvious, you should offer more information (clearly and understandably) than anyone would ever need to know. Visit an Amazon page for an example of how this works. Consumers will not be deterred by knowing too much, but they will certainly be deterred by knowing too little. The tone and direction of your copy should be directed by who is more likely to arrive at your product pages (spearfishers or netcasters), but the overarching theme of content cannot be overstated.
Aside from product content, there are plenty of ways to make sure your page is optimized for both spearfishers and netcasters. For spearfishers, make sure you have a prominent buy button and clear product images. For someone on a mission, ease of use is important.
For netcasters, make use of cross-selling and catalog-style features. Give the wanderers lots to explore and stumble across. This is where editorial-style selling comes into play. It's also where social media shines. But more on that in the next article.
Spearfishers and netcasters have different goals in their travels through the Internet, but your goal is the same: be the right kind of fish. You can appeal to both groups by thinking about how each would like to interact with your page and product.