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How great sites convert visitors to customers

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

If only you could squeeze out a lift in conversion rate. A 10% bump would do wonders for all your marketing efforts. A 50% increase would be transformational. Over time, you’ve heard all sorts of advice about button colors, clear calls to action, what you should have above the fold, and how to reduce friction.

The problem with this advice is not that there isn’t merit to reducing friction, but that it is a small piece of the much larger conversion optimization puzzle. At its heart, conversion rate optimization (CRO) is convincing a customer to buy your product.

A great quote summarizes the CRO’s task: “People don’t buy products; they buy better versions of themselves.” In CRO, it is our job to paint a picture of that better self, to make them believe it, then remove friction that stands between them and a purchase.

So, let’s break this down into each step of convincing a customer to purchase.

How great sites convert visitors to customers

Better self

To create a vision of a better self, you have to create a story that makes the customer believe it. Simply saying our product will make you thinner, happier and wealthier doesn’t quite cut it. How does it do that? What gives your product the unique ability to make me a better person while other products don’t?

The good news - this isn’t a new concept. Psychologists have been researching this for over 20 years. Marketers have come across common copywriting formulas that work. Problem, agitation, solution (PAS). Qualify, understand, educate, stimulate, transition (QUEST).

These copywriting formulas essentially provide an outline for a story about how your product is going to create a better life for the customer. One of the best A/B tests you can run are multiple landing pages, each with a new copywriting formula or framework. Experiment with the way you tell this story and you’ll find the narrative that resonates most with your target consumer.

While copywriting drives the story, the accompanying visuals of exceptional photography and video are what immerse the consumer in the narrative.

The luggage brand Away Travel consistently uses lifestyle images of luxurious, chic travelers to make their buyers imagine themselves in this lifestyle.

Away Travel Product Photography

Peloton also excels at creating this image of a better you. You’ll notice most of their visuals focus on the person and their home. Their photography, video, and copy all say “You can be a more fit version of yourself. You’d spin all the time if you could just do classes at home. Imagine what life would be like then.”

Peloton Product Photography

Make them believe

Seeing isn't always believing.

Seeing the copy and images that reflect a potential customer’s better self is helpful. In online shopping, where the options are plenty and the customer does not have the ability to directly experience the product, how can we establish trust and make customers believe the story of the better self on the landing page?

This is where social proof comes in. Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people conform to the actions and behaviors of a group. It is incredibly influential when it comes to driving conversions. On a landing page, social proof can take the form of ratings, reviews, testimonials and trust icons. Here are a few examples:

Birchbox Social Proof
Hello Fresh Social proof

Social proof helps customers feel confident in their choice and can significantly influence their decision towards purchasing.

Beyond your reviews, the narrative itself must be believable. You have to answer these questions for the customer: “Why this company? Why can they solve this problem when other brands have failed?”

At their core, most direct-to-consumer e-commerce startup successes have the same story. They find that people are frustrated with buying products from brands and retailers they don’t trust, who charge way too much, in a retail experience that does not value customer experience.

Think about what it was like to buy a mattress, a razor, a pair of pants, vitamins, or even glasses. That’s what the founders of Away, Bonobos, Casper, Harry’s, Ritual, and Warby Parker did.

Their solution, which in turn served as their brand story:

  1. We make only one thing; we're the industry experts.
  2. We make it affordable and transparent; bye, bye middlemen — you can trust us.
  3. We make it easy to find, buy and return; shop online — whenever and wherever you are, free delivery right to your door, easy returns.

You don’t need to follow the digitally native brand template, but you do need a compelling reason why your brand is the solution and other brands aren’t.

Reduce Friction

Beyond the basics of building a responsive and fast-loading site, reducing friction is about designing an end-to-end brand experience with the customer in mind. There are a few main ways to do this.

1. Reduce friction.

Minimize complexity. A landing page is built to clear the path to purchase and give visitors the final nudge to convert into customers. The following tactics can help lower distractions and make it easier for visitors to buy.

Minimize internal and external links on the path to purchase. While a navigation menu makes sense on the home page and product page, on a landing page, the customer should have a single decision to make — to buy or not to buy. It often makes sense to suppress the navigation on landing pages for this reason.

Clear calls to action. Never make the customer guess how to continue down the path to purchase. Make a clear call to action and point it to a place that reduces decisions and streamlines that path to purchase.

Promote a single offer. Some sites will run a coupon in a pop up window, another one in the cart, another available via a sitewide stripe at the top of the page. Beyond just simply devaluing your site, you’re also creating confusion on the offer(s) available as well as motivation for the user to look elsewhere to be sure they’re getting the best possible offer.

A sense of urgency. Some brands use their likelihood to sell out of inventory, limited time runs of a style, or just short duration offers. Creating some form of urgency to make the consumer act now rather than push the decision off can be a powerful conversion driver.

Investigate and eliminate errors. Whenever your site has to prompt the user with an error message, that’s a hint that something is not as intuitive as it should be. Maybe it’s being forced to enter a quantity on a product detail page, maybe it’s not seeing a required field in checkout. But, frequent error messages are friction and you want to eliminate them.

2. Make answers easily findable.

Once a visitor has made it all the way to your website, their purchase intent is high. If a visitor is looking for something, this is an opportunity to help them find it. The closer we get the audience to what they want, the higher the chance of conversion. Making answers accessible isn’t limited to a search bar. There are multiple ways to guide customers to what they want. For instance, some DTC brands, like Allbirds, include a live chat on the site to alleviate any concerns or answer any questions.

Allbirds Live Chat

This touchpoint is a high value opportunity to quickly solve a problem and move your visitors towards a conversion.

3. Create friendly return policies.

While Zappos introduced the initial no-questions-asked return policy, digitally native DTC brands quickly followed suit. Traditional companies often charge for returns or don’t offer them at all. Almost every single digitally native brand today offers a hassle-free return policy, whether it’s a mattress, a razor, or even vitamins.

Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club both have trial boxes with risk-free cancellation if the product doesn’t suit the customer’s needs. While Casper offers a 100-night trial, the DTC mattress-in-a-box competitors that have followed often offer a 365-night trial. Ritual, the monthly vitamin subscription, offers refunds — no questions asked.

Offering easy returns and free trials minimizes risk for the customers and makes them more comfortable with the idea of buying from a new brand.

Nectar Mattress Friendly Return Policies

Final thoughts

The most important takeaway from this article is that conversion rate optimization is not just about moving the furniture around, it's about making fundamental changes to the way you communicate the benefits of your product to your customers, proving that your claims are true, and then removing barriers to purchase. Once you change this mindset, the possibilities for significantly improving your conversion rate begin to open up.

Can't get enough of this stuff?

To find out more about how a review strategy can help you build social proof and improve your conversion rates, get your free copy of our Complete Guide to Reviews below.

Picture of a smiling woman inviting to download the guide to customer reviews

Author Bio: David Rekuc is the Marketing Director at Ripen, a full-service Ecommerce agency in Princeton, NJ that specializes in delivering custom eCommerce solutions.

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