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Building An Effective Furniture Sales Web Site

Web sites that feature products ? especially furniture or other large items ? require a careful balance of text and images to convey the value of each product.

Let's face it. Consumers like to see, feel, and "experience" a product before they make a purchase decision. If you can elicit the senses in your on-line presentation of an item, you will increase your chances of making a purchase tenfold.

In addition to the basics of an effective web presence, such as complete contact information, a successful furniture sales web site will convey the following:

* Credibility of the merchant to provide any product available through the site;
* Dimensions, an invigorating text description, and multiple images for each product;
* A replacement or repair policy in the event an item is damaged during shipping;
* Delivery or shipping options, with pricing;
* Customer testimonials from those who have shopped with the merchant;
* Full payment options, preferably with telephone, on-line, and invoice credit/debit options.

Style and Navigation

Again, developing a successful furniture sales site depends on the web designer's ability to elicit the senses through a careful combination of text and images. "Presentation" design elements, such as Flash and Java components, may be useful in establishing a professional, yet comfortable tone across the site.

Site navigation should be effortless and flow seamlessly throughout the entire web site, including on pages that do not relate specifically to products. Subconsciously, the site's ease of use will affect the prospect-customer's impression of the merchant.

Content Elements

As the saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words." This is certainly the case in on-line furniture sales.

Each product should include at least two unique photos, complete with thumbnail and enlarged versions, but may have as many as six. The goal here is to encourage the prospect-customer to become familiar with the product, to envision the furniture in their home from all angles in the room.

Product descriptions should vibrantly relate the texture, colors, size, and "feel" of each item. Choose words that connect directly to the senses. A throw pillow, for example, could be presented as "a soft burgundy compliment to any sofa pictured above." Of course, while it is appropriate to be vivid in your product descriptions, remember to remain true to each product's features.

Customer service options are a must. A hyperlink to the merchant's contact page or customer service area should be available on each page of the site, uniformly. The merchant's telephone number should also be listed on each page.

A shopping cart system is not required, but can certainly promote prospect-customer conversion based on convenience. For the product-based web presence, the next "action step" after selecting a product is to make a purchase decision. If a purchase requires picking up the telephone, the merchant risks losing the customer during this transition. Offering on-line payment with telephone support is the optimal way to promote an on-line sale.

Tweaks and Tips

* Offering financing options and/or incentive-based sales offers, such as no interest for a 6- or 12-month period, will increase your competitive edge and promote a quicker purchase decision.

* When developing content, be sure to include plenty of key terms and phrases in the site's general text. Search engines such as Google rely on content text, not meta tags, to determine search placement.

* Include key terms in image description tags and hyperlinks. Describe each image or link using terms and phrases relevant to the image, industry, and merchant.

If you are a furniture merchant attempting to develop your first web presence, seek the advice and support of a full-service small business web design firm. Professional, affordable web design is available. Creating a "do it yourself" site may appear cost effective, however this can quickly become a complicated and time consuming project. Stay focused in your profession, and recruit the wisdom of a web professional.

Jim D. Ray is a seasoned web developer and president of Web Presence, a web design firm serving the needs of small businesses nationwide. To learn more, or for a free quote for your own web site, visit the Web Presence at http://www.web-presence.net.

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