Barriers to Entry: See Your Site as Visitors Do

barriersWhen looking at your sales figures for your online store, your business isn’t what you would have liked. What’s up with that, and what could you do to increase your sales? While the answers are as many as the consultants offering their services, this can be looked at from a few different perspectives: assessing your audience, meeting their needs, and removing barriers to entry. All three are related, but each has a different strategy.

Assess Your Visitors
Assessing your potential audience is critical to identifying the viability of your business. You can identify a potential customer in broad terms and cater your product and delivery to their needs, or you stick with a given product and do what you can to persuade prospective customers to buy. Often the solution is a combination of both. But the first step is to gather actionable data (analytics) and find out what they are doing and when.

Once you have gathered the right data (visit depth, time spent per page, path through the site, type of web client, etc.), one of the biggest gains you can make is turning the pyramid upside down as it were, and ask not why they are buying your product, but why they aren’t. And just who are “they”? You may be surprised at what you learn, and the solutions to some of these barriers may be more cost effective than many initiatives designed to increase the rest of the customer base.

The Elevator Pitch: What Stops Visitors
As a metaphor, say you had a physical store on the 17th floor of a building, served by a narrow elevator and a set of stairs. There are 5 stairs to the front door, which opens outwards. If your building doesn’t have a wheelchair ramp or doors that are easy to open, is on a top floor without a spacious elevator, or has a lot of stairs and narrow dimply lit passages, you have reduced your prospective clientele substantially. And it’s not just an ADA issue. Older people, the vision impaired, those in wheelchairs, those who have more weight to carry than a marathon runner– all have money to spend, and comprise a significant percentage of the population. Why keep them out unnecessarily? Some things are easy to change, some are harder, but avoiding them in the first place is infinitely easier than trying to remedy it later. A big street sign leading to an accessible shop will always move more merchandise than an obscure hidden boutique.

Likewise, if your website is too heavy, takes a long time to load, isn’t visible in mobile devices or screen readers, has small crowded print, or is hard to navigate, it’s just like that shop above; you have plenty of people who would love to buy, but they just can’t make it through the process. If all you want is a boutique website, that’s fine, but if you want return visitors who can get what they want or need easily, then it becomes a site that meets their needs and makes the sale. Remember, there are millions of sites out there, and the next one is a click away from your site, no love lost, no energy expended. Get them there, keep them there, get them to come back, and don’t give them a reason to leave early.

Take Action
Fortunately the digital world is a lot easier to correct than the physical world, but it takes the willingness to step back and look at your site and your audience through a different set of eyes to see what barriers might exist and how to avoid or remove them. There are consultants and books that focus on usability, as well as programs that will simulate different user environments. Regardless of your strategy, don’t just focus on who you think your customer is, focus on who it could be. Then you can concentrate on marketing and search placement, optimizing layout, and providing fresh content to establish your customer base and keep them coming back.

Today’s post was provided by Karl Rainhold. Karl Rainhold is a Web Analytics engineer who has been developing and refining cutting edge websites for over a decade at Nike, Inc. and independently through his consulting firm. He can be reached at


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