So far, so good. Traffic is flooding in, yet somehow, turnover isn’t quite hitting the target. Most conversion rates rarely threaten double figures, yet there are many examples of small, seemingly irrelevant changes making a significant difference. This is both because an increase of even 1% on a conversion rate is significant, and because, online, with such a small interface, details matter. SEO and Conversion Optimization are the twin pillars of online commercial success. One brings in leads and the other converts.
Conversion rates are the percentage of potential customers that take a certain action. Marketing and promotion can only bring customers to the site. It is the conversion tactics that ensure the maximum financial gain is taken from those visitors. Before conversion rates can be increased, they must be monitored. Sounds like a simplistic start, but many sites chase conversion figures without having a clear understanding of what their current conversion figures are, nor what causes them to change. Understanding why conversion rates change is vital to a good strategy, and by keeping an eye on conversion rates, unforeseen blocks on conversion can be found that may otherwise not have been discovered.
Generating quality traffic and focussed customers can be done through traditional means, through advertising, marketing or promotions. These methods, whilst tried and tested, are expensive, time-consuming and may not be the most effective for increasing online conversion rates in a sustainable way. The principles of exposure, product and trust are all absolutely vital in both spheres, but the most important thing is knowing your customer.
Knowledge – the first step in increasing online conversions
Does your page represent what those landing on it are looking for? Simple analytics software like Google Analytics will be able to show what the customers landing on your page have searched for. Is it the same as what you are selling? If not, there is a mismatch between the expectation and the delivery. This must be addressed before a website can make a profit. If the keywords match the product, and conversion rates are still low, it is time to look more carefully at the website itself.
The internet provides an unequalled opportunity for customer profiling and strategy testing. A/B testing is the easiest way to test campaigns for their conversion rate. Instead of choosing between headlines or calls to action on intuition alone, test them against each other. By sending a 50% split of traffic between two pages, Google Analytics will show you what your customers really prefer.
What to test?
Increasing online conversion rates sustainably relies on constant innovation. This means constant testing, and constant tweaking. Having said that, there is a real danger of testing too much simultaneously. If you are changing too many things at once, how can you know which change caused the improvement or downturn in results?
As far back as the 1950s, the “Father of Advertising”, David Ogilvy said that for every 5 people that read a page header, just one read the article copy. That shows the importance of a clear, convincing headline for any sales page. Knowing which headlines lead to conversion is therefore well worth knowing. Once the fundamentals of a page or campaign have been tested and agreed upon, there is still plenty to trial. The size of a call to action button is surprisingly important.
There are plenty of tools available for A/B testing, the most famous being Google Analytics. The full scope of A/B testing online is rarely used, yet once you get going, it is addictive. Testing hunches, trying to disprove industry experts and creating competition for marketing and design departments in-house feeds innovation and success, bringing both increased conversions and understanding.
Grow trust; grow customer conversion rates online
It has been said that there are four reasons why a visitor will not buy from a particular site.
- No Requirement
- No Money
- No Urgency
- No Trust
When trying to encourage conversion through a site, the first two options are largely out of the control of any entrepreneur. The third can be artificially influenced through the use of time-dependent offers, though these tend to increase buying decisions only in the short term. The fourth factor, trust, is what an online retailer can really influence.
The more information that is provided about a product or service, the more the customer feels like they understand the benefits of their choice. The majority of visitors will not read the information provided. In fact, studies show that around 15% of visitors will read all the product information provided, but this 15% would be unlikely to purchase without it.
In building trust, word of mouth enjoys unanimous positive effects, yet the effects are hard to define exactly. If you don’t trust your friends’ opinions, then what are the chances of you believing a smooth marketing patter? At this stage in the discussion, the online art of customer reviews, or online word of mouth advertising, comes into its own. Online reviews are regularly cited as a cost-effective way of increasing product trust online and therefore positively influencing customers. However, make sure that the reviews and content on-site is constantly updating, constantly being added. Aside from the value of new copy to search engines, nothing says ‘failing’ like outdated copy.
It has also been shown (most notable by a Yale University Study in 2004), that positive reviews are often assumed to be by a hired author or an individual with an interest, whilst a single negative review will often be enough to prevent a sale. If this is the case, are reviews anything but a good source of SEO copy? It has been suggested that they are no longer the best way to create trust in a brand.
Transparent Transactions – Build Enquiries
Be transparent. A study by online consultants ComScore showed that 55% of online consumers had abandoned a basket at the last moment due to hidden costs, most notably, shipping costs. In the same study, 77% of these customers also stated that free delivery was the most important convincer in hitting the action button.
Furthermore, an astonishing 63% surveyed actively investigated the returns policy before making a purchase. Transparency here is surprisingly important. Online customers want to know that they can return items if they are not as expected. Not being able to physically handle and test the product as would be possible in the offline world means that a customer needs to be completely confident in the transaction before completing it. It seems a strange thing for an online retailer to concentrate on; how do my customers return our products of they don’t like them, yet in terms of convincing customers to reach for their credit cards, that level of transparency is required in a world where customers know their rights and expect complete satisfaction.
Increase trust by removing risk. A surprising study from eConsultants showed that almost 66% of online customers will read the returns policy and procedures before making a purchase. Guarantees and ‘pain repayment’ offers ($1 for every minute we are late) are especially well-received, and can be used to try and overcome industry stereotypes, ‘telecoms use a 12 hour delivery window’ or ‘cars delivered with miles already on the clock’.
Create a Value Proposition
Simply put, why buy from us? If a lead is convinced that you are the right place to buy from, conversion is much more likely. It all comes back to trust. Your product may be clearly represented, your copy engaging and your call to action bright and attractive, but it is hard to stand out. What are you providing that no one else is? Value, whether on price point, service or support, is a key persuader online, but where do you provide the best value? It must be obvious to a potential customer. Best customer service? A fully supported transaction with follow up support? Guaranteed next day delivery? Whichever your particular value is, do not try to blind customers with impressive industry words, speak instead directly to the customer. “We can build customer loyalty by 35% through increasing their trust in your brand” is far more persuasive than “guaranteed retail retention via brand optimisation”.
Walk customers through the transaction
Econsultancy’s 2013 report “Realities of Online Personalisation” found that 94% of online businesses already thought that personalisation was the key to conversion. If this is the case, personalisation as a tool is already highly understood and must be embraced simply to keep up with competitors, let alone retain loyal customers away from them. Large online retailers such as Amazon are the masters at website personalisation. Two different customers are unlikely ever to see the same Amazon homepage as each product and deal shown is a direct result of their previous browsing, basket and purchase history.
After all, it must also be easy to buy from your site. If a customer wishes to buy, they must be allowed to! A single, direct click to buy, without having to provide unnecessary information must be available to the convinced buyer. Too much choice, presented en-mass, causes less conversion. It seems counter-intuitive, but how many times have you heard someone complain in a restaurant “there is just too much to choose from”? If your product range is wide, ensure that at each stage, the choice is simple. Categorise. Burger, pizza or pasta? The closer the lead gets to the call to action, the fewer distractions, menu options or other links should be available. If there is one clear call to action, with few distractions around it, this is where visitors are likely to go.