Landing Pages are the New Product Detail Pages

This is a classic case of what’s old is new again. Back in 2005 I was doing ecommerce for a vitamin and supplement company, and most of my day was spent hand-coding landing pages to highlight various offers and promotions. By today’s standards those pages were rather appalling — full of generic copy, calls to action, warnings that supplies were going fast, and so on.

(To be fair, they also included a good deal of social proofing and testimonials, so they weren’t all bad.)

More importantly, those landing pages served a useful purpose in that they allowed marketers to deviate from rigid product detail pages (PDP)s, which at the time all looked the same. Back then, most PDPs looked the same because coding them took a lot of work. As a result, there was little to distinguish a PDP for a vitamin meant for men from a PDP for a supplement designed for women.

Landing pages fell out of favor as ecommerce platforms became more robust. With drag-and-drop tools now widely available for developing and editing product detail pages, marketers no longer need to rely on a landing page to offer a 15% discount on a first order.

Simultaneously, we’ve seen an explosion of new brands — forhims.com, otherland.com — offering a select line of products. By virtue of the small catalog size, these sites are so design centric that they feel more like a magazine rather than an online store. We’re seeing a renaissance of spectacularly beautiful product detail pages.

A Return to Landing Pages

But as beautiful as these PDPs are, marketers once again started bumping up against their limits. A single PDP designed as an average “best-fit experience” for all shoppers pales in comparison to specific landing pages that speak directly to a persona of a shopper who is in active buy mode (more on modes in a bit).

More than that, ecommerce directors now have access to a plethora of tools that allow them to create amazing landing pages using very simple drag and drop capabilities. These plugins, available for all ecommerce platforms, make quick work of creating a landing page that tells a very specific story to a very specific type of shopper. If I still had my job doing ecommerce for that supplement company, my campaign landing pages would be designed to the specific customer I targeted, say, moms who want safe vitamins for their kids, bodybuilders who need more protein, or senior citizens who don’t get enough iron in their diets.

We’ve talked a lot about content marketing on this blog, and the importance of a modern brand telling very specific stories about the same product to very specific people. Landing pages are the avenue to do that for two key reasons. First, with paid search acquisition, the modern ecommerce director knows exactly who she’s targeting (mom with young kids, active senior citizens) so there’s simply no need to tell a generic story. And second, it’s never been easier or faster to design and launch a custom landing page.

I’ll give you a practical example. I like candles, and I’m not afraid to spend more than the average consumer to buy a rather spectacular one.

Not surprisingly, social media companies have put me into a segment of shoppers who are more or less always in-market for unique or interesting candles, and I see ads for small candle brands all over Facebook and Instagram.

My fondness for candles isn’t the only thing that defines me, of course. I’m also a male, in his late thirties and a dad, who lives in a region of the country that never experiences winter.

All of these attributes can be used to tell a very specific story about a candle should I click on a social media ad and be taken to a landing page. Basic demographic attributes will go a long way in boosting conversions. For instance, unless I’m looking for a candle for my wife, I won’t stay on a landing page that is overly feminine or geared towards women because it tells me right away that this product isn’t meant for me. This is a shame, because I may very well like the candle on offer, if I could only see past the persona of the landing page.

I’ll give you another example. Here at Something Digital we work with a brand that has a lot of lifestyle photos on their product detail pages. One photo in particular features a model wearing boots, and I must admit that I’m more of a sneaker person. (Okay, to come clean, I’m more of a sneaker head with a closet full of collectibles.) It’s fair to say that thanks to my constant online search for new and interesting sneakers, the entire Internet knows about my love for them. This brand would resonate more succinctly with me if I saw a landing page with a model wearing Nike Air VaporMax 360 with the jeans rather than boots.

Customizing images isn’t as hard as you think, thanks to tools like Shogun, a very affordable plug in for building landing pages that works with both Shopify and Magento. Shogun also integrates Stripe payment solution so you can enable a shopper to checkout directly from your landing page and bypass your ecommerce platform altogether.

Stop worrying about your PDPs: 50% of your time as a modern ecommerce director should be focused on devising and creating new landing pages.

Landing Pages as Personalization Engines

Every industry pundit in the world says that hyper personalization is the key to building and expanding a brand footprint, but how do you scale personalized brand experiences without costly AI and dynamic creative optimization systems?

The answer: use your PDP as a starting point to build landing pages that tell longer-form stories to stoke the interest of the buyer. This is the true power of a landing page: cheap and efficient personalization at scale. In fact, I would go so far as to be prescriptive and say that 50% of your time as a modern ecommerce director should be focused on devising and creating new landing pages, A/B testing them and using those test results to optimize them. You should also feel free to spend a lot less time worrying about your product pages.

Earlier I mentioned consumer behavior modes and the impact a consumer’s frame of mind will have in determining which digital asset — landing page or product detail page —  they’ll see. People who are in discovery mode will arrive on your site organically. You won’t necessarily know much about them, so your product detail page can’t really speak to their individual personas. People who are in buy mode, however, will search for products that are meant for them. They’re looking for something very specific and you can deliver that information to them on a landing page in a way that your product detail page never could.

In a way I feel like we’re back in 2005 when landing pages were a key tool for ecommerce directors. Only today those directors have the tools to build them better, at scale, and with such efficiency that there’s no need to get a developer involved. Which is why I’ll say this again: the modern ecommerce manager should spend the majority of her time building landing pages and driving traffic to them.

Phillip Jackson

A multi-instrumentalist, Phillip is an avid collector of vintage guitars, keyboards and amplifiers and has a home studio located in West Palm Beach.