Monday, April 6, 2015

The Sign of a
Good Software Website

Software developers can sell more application software online if they study how people buy consumer products in retail stores.

Paco Underhill's book "Why We Buy – The Science of Shopping" describes in detail how and why people buy items in retail stores. But the marketing insights that Underhill delivers apply to software marketing online, too. Seemingly insignificant changes to a retail store's layout can result in a large increase or decrease in sales.

For example, changing a retail store's signs can increase or decrease sales. Lots! It stands to reason that the same principles apply to software developers' website layouts, and to their online software sales results.

Speaking of signs in brick-and-mortar stores, Underhill says, "First you have to get your audience's attention. Once you've done that, you have to present your message in a clear, logical fashion."

If you create a sign in a retail store that doesn't get prospects' attention, your message won't be understood and acted upon. If you give retail store prospects too much information, you'll overload them. It's the same online.

Before the Internet, many buying decisions were made at home because consumers were loyal to particular brands. Times have changed. Today, decisions are being made after people arrive at the store – or after they arrive at your site, if they're buying software like yours.

Shoppers are busier than ever. And less patient than ever. They won't let you waste their time on your store floor. Or on your web site.

Underhill explains, "Putting a sign that requires twelve seconds to read in a place where customers spend four seconds is just slightly more effective than putting it in your garage."

On the Internet, you can manage how much time prospects spend on each of your pages. Write well, and software buyers will absorb your sales message more easily, and feel more comfortable about the software products and services that you offer. Write poorly, and your prospects will struggle to figure out what you're saying. Copywriting is a critical part of software marketing. It's a skill that every small independent software vendor (microISV) must master.

Sign placement in a retail store is designed to grab shoppers' attention. This principle also applies to selling software from your website. Learn how prospects scan web pages and you'll increase your software sales.

It's complicated. Software developers have to deal with signs (buttons, images, and text) that say "download" and "buy now." They have to create headers, titles, and navigation bars, And all of these signs need to look good on PC, tablet and smartphone screens.  To discover what works best, developers need to measure their current downloads and sales, tweak their signs, and measure again. It's an iterative process that has be repeated many times.

Underhill ends his "How to Read a Sign" chapter by describing a sign that he really liked. The sign was located in a hotel elevator, and it said, "You Look Famished." Posted below the sign were the menus of several of the hotel's restaurants and bars.

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