Every website team is looking for the perfect purchasing equation. The calls to action that change visitors into prospects and the ecommerce systems that turn consumers into customers.

Luckily, that formula does exist – and it isn’t as complex as it seems.

Best practice purchasing requires web teams to expand their definition of “call to action” and restrict their methods of presentation. But when it comes to ecommerce, features count and consistency is key.

So, what do those approaches look like in the wild and which sites should be on your watch list? We examined the sites of three eBusiness Index leaders to find out and wrapped it up in this handy cheat sheet.

Call to Action

Cisco.com – 2018 Call to Action winner

Cisco.com leaped from second to first place in the Call to Action category this year. But this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Cisco.com has landed at the top of the Call to Action roster for years now, and the site’s recent redesign held great promise that didn’t disappoint.

Contact me wherever you are. Cisco.com’s call to action panel follows the visitor everywhere they go. Each page has a sticky header with a “Contact Cisco” link and bold tabs that follow visitors down the page. This approach makes presenting calls to action at the bottom of site pages unnecessary since there are always engagement options at visitors’ fingertips.

A cornucopia of calls to action. Calls to action aren’t limited to calling a salesperson or finding a partner. Cisco.com’s “Contact Cisco” menu also encourages visitors to visit the support site or find out about training. Meanwhile, the tabs that follow the visitor down the side of the page may offer a report, comparison matrix, or product promotions. This keeps visitors moving through the research process in case they aren’t quite ready to engage with a salesperson.

How to buy. Purchasing a product at Cisco isn’t as easy as putting it in a cart and dropping your credit card. Visitors can call sales, get a call from sales, or find a partner – and if you are a friend of the Cisco family, you can purchase through the Cisco Commerce site. Then there is buying a service, purchasing remanufactured products, and getting financing, which all have different purchasing processes.

How’s a visitor supposed to know all this? Luckily, they don’t need a crystal ball. Cisco.com provides a handy “How to Buy” menu on its global navigation panel that presents visitors with the smorgasbord of options so they can choose the one that’s right for them.

It’s the little things. But what sets Cisco.com apart from its competitors are the little things, like telling visitors when its call lines are open, offering a salesperson to contact them (and when to expect the call), and providing a link to regional contact information. This gives visitors the nitty gritty information they need to engage with the right salesperson right on time.

Oracle.com – 2018 Call to Action runner up

Oracle.com may come in second in the Call to Action category, but it still has a lot of best practices to examine. Over the past year, Oracle.com has been tweaking its calls to action to make the options broader and placement more consistent. This effort not only helps the site hop up three spots on the Index, but provides some teachable lessons.

Consistency counts. Virtually all of Oracle.com’s product pages provide a “Get Started” panel at the bottom and have contact tabs that run down the side. But if all else fails, there is the persistent “Contact” button at the top of every Oracle.com page – even in the corporate information, events, and training areas.

However, there are exceptions. Oracle.com’s support areas only provide an itty bitty “Contact Us” link at the bottom of pages that go to the “one size fits all” contact information roster on Oracle.com.

Customized call to action. Most of Oracle.com’s product pages not only entice visitors to contact them, but may entice them to watch a tutorial, download a trial, check out an event, listen to a podcast, or engage with them on social media (follow or share). This approach allows Oracle.com to provide a wealth of call to actions for every product, even if the only way to buy is to contact a salesperson.


Dell.com – 2018 eCommerce winner

Dell.com’s win in the eCommerce category was all but a foregone conclusion. The site’s legendary ecommerce system has kept it at the top of the roster for years and, while it shows signs of aging, it hasn’t lost its best practice edge.

Product filtering. Dell.com’s ecommerce site has several strengths, but the greatest one is its product filtering panel. The visitor can select the product specifications they want, and the page dynamically reduces the options to the products that fit the bill. This allows visitors to find the product they need in a couple of clicks.

Click to compare. Dell.com’s comparison capability lets visitors view products side-by-side in as little as three clicks. It’s so simple and intuitive that the least website savvy visitor can use it. But it delivers enough speeds and feeds that the family techie will love it.

Fully customizable. Preconfigured computing might be the latest trend, but Dell.com stays with the old school ways of doing things. Each product lists the technology highlights on the product selection page, then deep dives into every option on the product detail page.

Buyers can fully customize their product right down to the chipset (begins at 0:55). While this is a dream for the techie set, it can be a little overwhelming for the technology newbie. To address this problem, Dell.com provides “Help Me Choose” link for each configuration grouping that can educate novices – and even the professionals.

What’s more, each configuration option identifies the item that is included in the price and how much it would cost to upgrade the item.

Final Thoughts

If there is one thing these sites have in common, it’s options – and lots of them. Calls to action are more than a “Contact Us” or “Add to Cart” button. They are tutorials, reports, and downloadable trials. And ecommerce selections are more than just product color and price. They are software, chipsets, and video cards.

However, these purchasing options would be nothing without consistency. Admittedly, these sites don’t provide cookie-cutter calls to action, but the offers are on every page, and most products behave the same. Ecommerce, on the other hand, must be as predictable as the morning sun – no exceptions.

Will these sites remain the best practice purchasing sites in 2019? Dell.com is a perennial eCommerce leader, so it is a good bet. Call to Action is another matter. Cisco.com has been in the Top 3 for years, so it should be the first pick on your watch list. However, Oracle.com is here today but could be gone tomorrow, so catch it while you can.

Category: Case Study

Class: Best Practice

Websites Profiled: Cisco.com, Oracle.com, Dell.com

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