Lesson 7: Conversion

Consistently appearing throughout the OMCA content and test is the subject of conversion. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as conversions are the visitor actions that make your company money or lead to money. Conversion rate optimization or CRO is the discipline of increasing the percentage of visitors that become customers, which in turn creates more revenue. There are three persuasion principles in conversion optimization. First is the content presented to the user. Any campaign using a webpage, ad, post or email has to make an impression and communicate value quickly. This is called the value proposition, or the USP, unique sales proposition. This is where you create the need or desire for your offer. It must be communicated quickly and effectively. Did you know that people look at a webpage for less than three seconds to determine if it will answer their question? Your value proposition must be able to be seen, read, and understood and move the visitor to action. The second principle is the design. Again, this can be the website, email, app, anything that a person will see and use to accomplish a conversion. From the development of pages and interfaces, usability design is concerned with the person’s experience. At some point I’m sure you’ve been on a website and had a difficult time checking out. Sometimes the next step or the button you need isn’t visible and maybe doesn’t even work. One company that I worked with, we found out that their buy button was difficult to find. When they improved it, they improved their sales by thousands of dollars a week. The third principle is testing. Evaluating a website’s design doesn’t stop when the website is live. It’s an ongoing process of testing and finding ways to make things easier for your users. Testing starts with the assumption that any process can be improved. The digital format allows anything to be easily tested. Another company tested a different homepage design and sales increased by 400% over the next three months. Each of these persuasion principles focuses on usability. Anything the user sees should be intuitive and easy to read and understand. Conversion optimization reduces development time, improves existing websites, and increases the effectiveness of campaigns. So the obvious benefit is clear. For the two companies I mentioned earlier, the results were incredible increases in revenue from simple, small changes that improved the conversion process.

If you aren’t testing and improving your website, your app, or campaign, you are giving away money to your competitors. When you do nothing, you are assuming that everything was built perfectly. It will work perfectly and can’t be improved upon. We all know that’s not possible. Improving conversion can be done through a scientific approach like testing. The easiest test to perform is called an A/B test. This is where you test two versions of things but with only a single variable. For this site, an example of an A/B test would be to test the call to action button at the top of the page, find your tour. The button size and color would stay the same but only the words would change for the test. This keeps the rest of the variables the same and the only difference is the text in the call to action button. I can then test both versions of the page and measure the results. Ideally, there is enough statistical significance to show that visitors would act on one version more than the other. If there is not enough statistical variance, then the test would be inconclusive. A/B testing can take time, as you need to display each version to enough people to get a statistical finding. But there are many times with A/B testing when the result can be determined very quickly. Another form of testing is the multivariate approach. As the name implies, it tests multiple elements instead of just one. The advantage is that you can test entire designs against each other. You can even test offers against each other to see which people prefer. The downside is that you may not know for sure which elements are the persuasive elements. You can only judge the entire version that wins the test. The point is everything can and should be tested. The downside of testing is time and expense. The upside is increased revenue. The return on investment is many times greater than the expense. One of the best tests I conducted was simply changing the size and color of a checkout button. While it wasn’t a strict A/B test, we knew from experience that their small, gray button was too small and wasn’t being seen. By making that simple change the company tripled their sales overnight. Hundreds of people were leaving their website because they couldn’t find where to check out. So if you aren’t testing, you are leaving money on the table for your competitors to take.

Testing doesn’t have to be statistical or slow. Testing provides a valuable approach, but it can take time. Time for development, or waiting for enough users to participate. In addition, there is the additional cost to develop each element or version. To speed up the optimization process, you can use a heuristic approach. A heuristic approach is a shortcut. A faster approach that doesn’t provide the accuracy of a test, but finds an effective solution. A heuristic evaluation is a way of reviewing a website based on usability principles. An effective way of doing this is through the development of personas. A persona is a fictitious person that’s created based on your customer data. They are developed with a background, a picture, and a description of their work and home life. Importantly, they are also developed with specific needs and goals. For one company selling fitness trackers, they developed a persona for an athletic woman. They created Abby, who is 32, running her own business, and a mother. She needed a fitness tracker that would look nice in meetings with clients but not be obtrusive. However, it also needed to be tough enough to be in the gym for her crossfit workout. Then, using the persona you evaluate your website through the mindset of this specific customer. This helps you evaluate the design and function of your site from different perspectives. By giving personas a real-world scenario you’ll gain a better understanding of people’s different needs and preferences. For our persona, Abby, she needs something attractive, but tough. Now we can look through the website, product selection, and descriptions, to see what would fit that need. This also works when developing the content of your website. You can evaluate your value propositions through the eyes of your personas and get a different perspective on how effective or persuasive it is. While largely intuitive, using personas provides a structure for evaluation. When I was working on a large booking website the persona evaluation found that booking with three kids would break the website. None of the quality assurance or developers found the issue, but evaluating with a persona found a major issue with a specific function. Another simpler heuristic is observation. Just bringing in a third party to use your website or app can uncover issues you may have never seen or thought about. An observation starts by giving users a scenario-based objective, like buying a blue T-shirt. Then you, your team, sit back, listen, and observe. This is a quick way of seeing how real people will use your website or app, and you can have them test by using different devices. When I worked in development I called this the mom test. If my mother could use it, then it was good. Whatever way you choose to do it, observation is effective and you’ll learn something valuable, or find issues, right away. Testing doesn’t have to be extensive development and long periods of waiting for statistical data. It can also be done quickly and effectively through heuristics.

The landing page is the primary tool in conversion. Nearly every campaign you run will drive people to a decision point. The landing page is the best tool to present that decision. I’ll show you the primary elements of landing pages and how they work together. In every type of campaign, paid search, social media, display advertising, and email, landing pages are developed for each campaign and each offer. They are the workhorse of digital marketing. I’m going to do a search for CRM software and look at the Salesforce ad and landing pages. In many cases a landing page will not have navigation to the rest of the website. In order to present the offer without distraction, the navigation is removed. This is typical in lead generation campaigns. However, for e-commerce the landing page can be the actual product page. The top of the page is called the hero spot. This is where everyone’s eyes start. Obviously, this is where you put your most impactful message. It can be the headline, an image, your logo, or a tagline that reinforces your brand. Then the presentation. It should follow the same design and offer made in the email or the ad. If you promised a demo or a download, that should be the focus of the content and the call to action in the landing page. The content is where you do the selling of the offer or the promise you made. Quick bullets might be enough, or, depending upon your product or offer, you may need a short paragraph or two to explain the importance. Either way, the content is what does the selling and moves people to the next stage, the call to action. The call to action is what you want people to do: buy, register, add to cart, or download. For lead generation, you’ll use a form to capture information about your lead. For e-commerce, it’s an add to cart or purchase action. The call to action should be a big obvious button with clear descriptive text. If you want them to buy or register or watch, then use those action words. You should always test the call to action. This is the primary visual element that people use. You can test the size, shape, or color of the button, the location, or the words used in the button. If you are capturing information, you can test the amount of information you are attempting to capture, the amount of form fields, and see what works best for your business. Typically, the more form fields you require, the less leads you’ll get. Finally, you can test the design. If it doesn’t flow from the top of the content to the call to action, you may have to test different designs to keep people engaged and moving forward. These primary design factors can make landing pages an effective sales tool and they can always be tested for improvement.

There are predictable human behaviors that have been observed. When you know and understand these behaviors, you can utilize them to build and design pages that are easy to understand and pleasing to the eye. They can also increase your conversions. The first behavior concerns the layout of a page. Now, anything that is immediately visible will be seen by 100% of your visitors. Anything that requires them to scroll down will lose people. This is called ‘Below the Fold.’ The further down someone has to scroll to see the important information, the less likely people will do it. We try to keep important content as close to the top of the page as possible. The next pattern is extremely visible when people use a larger screen, and it’s called the Z pattern. Their eyes start at the top left of the page, typically where the company’s logo is displayed, and they move across the top right of the page. Usually, this is reading left to right, across the primary navigation or the headline at the top of the page. Then, the eyes move to the lower left of the screen and across to the right. Knowing this pattern enables you to develop a presentation that uses this human behavior to create an optimal page design. Now, this is typically why you see the logo in the top left, the headline across the top, short copy bullet points or product images on the lower left, and the call to action of addition content or purchase in the lower right of the screen where our eyes rest. However, there is one thing that distracts us from this Z pattern. And this is pictures of people. If I got to the next page, immediately, what your eyes are going to be drawn to is that picture, especially the eyes. We always look at pictures of people. The second method of using design principles is understanding how color, contrast, and white space work together to make an effective presentation. More white space around an object makes it look more prominent. Using a simple color pallet creates a pleasing display, and a contrasting color of button will be more obvious. Using too many colors with elements packed too tightly together distracts users and allows their attention to wander. Using layout to ensure a proper size of elements, shape of elements, and proximity to each other will allow you to see how a user will judge a page. By mapping the elements out, there should be a logical flow to the content and the elements. In addition, important elements, such as the calls to action, should be larger, obvious, and carry more prominence than other elements. Now, knowing the device that visitors use is important. On a desktop, you want to keep scrolling to a minimum, and make sure everything is presented in view. On a mobile device, scrolling is necessary, so you may want to add your call to action in multiple points as users scroll through the content. But don’t make them scroll too much. Present your offer quickly and clearly within about three full scrolls of content. Understanding human behaviors will enable you to create effective pages that quickly move your visitors and direct them to the information they need.

Understanding intent is the key to bringing visitors to your site, developing and presenting persuasive information, and then inviting them to take action. Ideally, they want to take action by the time you present your offer. So, how do we understand customer intent and use that to design more effective content? Typically, the AIDA model is used to describe a typical customer buying cycle. It starts with A for awareness, I for interest, D, desire, and A, action. We help people through this buying cycle by developing content and campaigns designed to raise the awareness. This can be through addressing a problem and then providing a product or service as the solution. Next, create interest. What is different or unique? How can you make them need this product? Now, this can also be the offer you’re making, such as a discount, on offer, or a promise. Next is desire, and this is where you make the case of not being able to live without the product. Benefit statements that appeal to the emotions are very powerful here. For example, it’s not just a vacation, it’s a getaway to recharge and relax, or it’s not just a car, it’s statement, or it’s an electric car that will save the environment. You see, benefits are focused on the emotional satisfaction of a decision. Next is action, and that’s where you invite people to take the action that will satisfy the interest or desire. Now, somewhat related to this, but it’s also another persuasive process that’s called the information scent, S-C-E-N-T, the scent of information. This is the pathway we’re asking people to take to get through our process. You see, information scent is the process of providing visual cues throughout that eliminate friction. Friction is when a visitor encounters an obstacle or a hindrance in the process. Information scent seeks to eliminate these friction points and keep the visitor moving forward in the process. Here’s an example of how this works. Now, in my email, I received this from ThinkGeek, probably one of my favorite sites, and now the promotion is 25% off Marvel clothing. Now, this is awareness and this is interesting. If you like Marvel, if you like anything geeky, then this is going to jump out to you and grab your attention. Now, they’re also providing a discount of 25% off, and here’s the critical part of information scent. If I see a 25% off in the email, now what should I expect to see when I click through to the the landing page? If you said, you should see the discount applied in the landing page, you’d be correct. As you can see here, all of the products have saved 25%. That is a great example of maintaining information scent, that the discount in the email is applied to the landing page. Now, not only that, if I go through some of the products here and I’m going to choose the Guardians of the Galaxy shoe, and I’m going to look at the product page here. Now, again, the sale information is still applied in the product page, and when I add it to my cart, it will carry through. This is a great example of information scent. Now, other things that we can do to maintain the visitor’s interest, we can present related information. For e-commerce, we have related products. In content, we can present information, articles, or other information related to the same content the visitor is looking at. So, we have other shoes in a similar product line, we have other products of the same character from the Marvel Universe. Now, also, how we can measure our success in matching the intent of the searcher or the user are through micro conversions. Now, micro conversions, these are the little things that people can do that we can measure that aren’t the big conversion. The big conversion obviously is the big Buy Now button. We want people to buy. Micro conversions are the smaller things that people can accomplish before the big commitment or the big purchase. An example of that is Add to Wishlist. That is less commitment and people can add something to the wishlist, and even if they don’t buy, it gives us a sense of their interest. Other micro conversions are signing up for the mail or creating an account. In this way, we can look at the buyer’s interest and measure it throughout the process.

The words you choose are powerful. However, how you place and arrange those words can have even more impact. Words properly written and presented direct and motivate us to action. Did you know that we don’t actually read web pages? We scan, we avoid large paragraphs of text as our eyes move around the page. So with only seconds to engage people and answer their questions, how can we use copywriting to move people to action? First, by using copywriting and layout techniques that are very familiar. As we look at this page from Explore California, our eyes will move across the top of the page. From the logo to the navigation to the monthly specials, onto the left and to image and the headline on the right, we are drawn to organization. The headline presented as the largest-sized text in the clearest color and font gets our attention. However, we only tend to read two to three words of a headline, so it has to be concise and clear. As we scan the page, we look for other areas of text, larger text, otherwise known as subheadings. These summarize the content that follows. But we’re not going to read it unless it contains the information we want. Next, our eyes are drawn to bullet points, the clearer and shorter, the better. This is a method to display quick bursts of information, like features and benefits. Of course, at the bottom of the page there’s a button which is a contrasting color. It’s a link and a call to action. This is highly effective, as it grabs our eyes and it moves us to the next step of the process. As you can see in this page, there is not only a hierarchy of content, there is a hierarchy of color. The main navigation is the lowest contrast format, blue on gray, which naturally pushes our eyes down the page. The highlighted sections on the left are blue text on a tan background, separating them from the content. And then the highest priority link is also the highest contrast element, the call to action. Now, there are a few techniques that you can use when writing content. The first is to answer what’s in it for me? From the visitor’s perspective, answer what they get and their benefit. We can see this here, as they allow customers to choose the difficulty level, the trail information, or an additional day. Second, focus on the audience. Who typically purchases and how can you write to their needs? Here, addressing skill levels is important to appeal to both beginner and active hikers. One thing that could be used here is social proof, customer testimonials, or reviews that enable a third-party view or opinion. It can also be used to secure the sale. Also, anticipate objections and questions. For this site we can go up to the frequently asked questions. Here, they define the terms, address refunds, and also provide recommendations. Using these writings, layout, and color techniques will enhance your ability to communicate information quickly and effectively to site visitors which naturally increases conversions.

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