Best Practices for DIY and Home Goods eCommerce

August 19, 2013 geoffb

Is there anything people won’t buy online these days? Sofas and even major appliances now have their place in the e-commerce universe, which raises the bar for online businesses that need to serve the special requirements of these shoppers. Unlike browsing for shoes or books, shopping for DIY or home repair products like lighting or power saws needs precise navigating and searching capabilities.

The DIY/home goods space is now big business online: Online hardware and tool sales are a $6 billion market, which has grown an average of 7.8 percent a year since 2007, according to IBISWorld Market Research. To keep the growth at a steady pace, online businesses that sell home and DIY goods need to understand that these products are shopped for in different ways. For example, the expertise level of shoppers varies widely – from skilled craftspeople to someone doing their first home-painting project. Also, some products, like appliances and home décor items, are shopped for based on criteria like appearance, features, and price – whereas products like hardware and tools need to match specific shopper requirements for part number, size or dimension.

The first step in attracting (and keeping) DIY shoppers is to return relevant results for searches. Shoppers, especially the ones smack in the middle of a project, will expect to see results that match their keywords within the first page – otherwise, they’ll leave the site quickly (no doubt to visit the competition). Consider adding useful tools like Auto Complete, which offers search suggestions after the visitor types in the first few letters of a keyword. Thumbnail images within search results are also very helpful, since they provide a visual cue for shoppers trying to decide if they’ve found the products they want.

Since measurements can play an important part of DIY shopping, you should offer the option to search for products using either metric or imperial measurements – especially on a U.S. website, since both systems can be in use. Manufacturers may also use different systems of measurements (e.g. “counter depth” or “standard depth” for refrigerators), so this option can help shoppers avoid an unnecessary “no results” page or confusing results.

The same goes for searches by SKU or part number. If you’ve ever shopped online for a new knob for an oven, or hardware for a set of window blinds, you know how helpful a SKU search can be – you’ll know you have the correct item if it pops up in search results. Make sure your site search can match full or partial SKUs.

If you have store locations whose inventory mirrors what you sell online, you can turn on geolocation services that allow shoppers to see if a product is available locally.

Educating shoppers about best practices for DIY projects is another good way to encourage them to click on the “buy” button. If they’re confident about a project, they’ll want to purchase the products they need to get the job done. For instance, you can add how-to guides, technical specifications, videos, and blog posts to your site, and make this information available via search. It’s especially helpful to separate out these search results by type so that visitors will find it easy to navigate to the content type they want.

Product ratings and reviews can also help boost shopper confidence in an upcoming DIY project. These ratings and reviews should show up in search results, placing them at shopper’s fingertips while they’re looking at product options.

Whether it’s driven by homeowners trying to save money post-recession, or the plethora of home-improvement programs on cable TV channels, DIY has many enthusiastic followers. Make it fast and efficient for these consumers to complete their projects by shopping on your website.

For more research and commentary on eCommerce trends in the DIY category, download this paper: Hardware, Appliances & Tools Industry Brief.

Note: This blog was originally published by JXT Group on July 19, 2013.

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