As a more technical person I never used to consider design more important than functionality. Back in the early days of the Internet, it was all about what the website could do rather than how it looked.
Today, a websites design and branding play a vital part in ensuring people who visit your site, stay on your site. It’s not just about how functional your website is (however that certainly contributes), people need to see the whole package before they buy your products.
For online stores this is critical to the success of your business. If the visitor doesn't like what they see, they wont feel confident to purchase, regardless of the product or it's price.
A marketing company in the US, KISSmetrics, produced an excellent infographic that details this. They have undertaken research on how colours effect the products and the image your company should have based on the products your selling and the market. Retailers have been doing this for years and it can directly translate to a website just was well.
From the infographic's findings, I was astounded to see that a huge 42% of purchasers bought from a particular website based on the looks alone. That's quite a lot when you think about it, these buyers didn't consider product details, price, reviews or any other specifics, just the look of the site!
One of our own clients, MyPerfume.com.au is a prime example of this. In November we launched a complete website redesign for their online store. This replaced the original site that was launched in 2009 which was constructed when the company was starting up and on a limited budget. In the short time since the relaunch they have had a significant increase in sales, nearly doubling their previous months sales in each of the following 2 months.
Now I know that some of that may have been timing, with the lead-up to Christmas and all, it is still food for thought when getting your store online. Make sure you put aside some extra capital or budget for a custom design that puts you ahead of the rest, don't just rely on pricing alone.