Surprise is the foundation of delight and the beginning of persuasion.
–Roy Williams, the Wizard of Ads
Today’s post is about how the element of surprise can be leveraged to optimize the conversion rate of your marketing efforts. We’ve written about the science of surprise before, but today we are going to talk about the best areas of your website to focus on testing this approach. The Web is too often a place of “me-too” marketing tactics and “late entrant” companies who pummel the public with un-differentiated propositions. However, this can be advantageous for those marketers who use a bit of surprise to delight their prospects and customers and truly differentiate their offering.
Let’s start with some general areas of your website (and landing pages) that are great places to experiment with ways to surprise and delight your prospects. We’ll cite some simple examples from each category to get you thinking about how to apply them to your unique website.
Note: “surprise” is very different from “shock,” don’t you agree? We are purposely focusing on surprise in the sense of a delightful surprise, not a startling and unpleasant shock. A free shipping upgrade offered by the folks at Zappos is a “surprise.” Getting an error during an online checkout process is an unpleasant “shock.”
Images - How often do you see “stock” photographs used on websites? Every day. How often do you see bright, polished models posing as customer service agents? Too often. Using real photos of real people may surprise and tickle your prospects in a major way. And you might gain some “credibility points” in the process!
Video – B2B promotional videos are often guilty of being over-produced, expensive, flashy, etc. Wake up, marketers! The YouTube revolution was not televised, and the public is obviously accepting of low-budget videos so long as the content is compelling. You may be able to surprise your prospects with a simple, inexpensive, yet genuine video instead of trying to win that Webby Award.
Copy – We’ve all read B2B “brochure” copy that’s been ported to a website, and it’s boring. We tune it out. We’ve also all read the product description that comes straight from the manufacturer (after it is watered down by the Legal Department). It’s boring! We tune it out. Test surprising your prospects with gutsy copy that is filled with passion. Write product descriptions that appeal to all the senses and help the prospect imagine what owning the product will feel like.
Guarantees – “30-Day Money Back Guarantee”? Yawn. Legalese disclaimers about all the ways you can weasel out of fulfilling your guarantee? Now I’m getting jaded! Test surprising your prospects with a 46 and 1/2 day guarantee just to wake them up. Write your guarantee in plain English and back it up with the passion that caused you to start your business in the first place. Also, don’t forget that we warned you about “copycat credibility.”
We’ve given you four areas of your website that are ripe for testing the element of surprise and delight. However, it essential to keep in mind that there are areas of your website where your attempts to surprise could end up as nasty shocks instead.
Navigation – Global navigation tabs go at the top. Links take you to new pages. Breadcrumb navigation shows where you are in the site’s “map.” There may be a few odd scenarios where surprising your audience with non-intuitive navigation is effective, but your site is probably not one of those cases. Handle with care.
User Experience – The design patterns that develop over time and set our expectations about “how websites are supposed to work” shouldn’t be turned upside down in an attempt to surprise. Buttons need to behave like other buttons, search results need to be laid out a certain way, and browsing products needs to be similar to how the majority of sites are. Don’t surprise me with a site experience that is contrary to my expectations–that’s shock.
Forms – Web forms are too crucial to your business to try and be cute or novel with their design. Follow the best practices, experiment cautiously, and save the creative surprises for Images, Video, Copy, and Guarantees.