Volume 88: 3/01/04

A Mental Model for Persuasion Architecture

A Mental Model for Persuasion ArchitectureRecently, my erudite buddy Bryan posted a comment on an e-consultancy forum. His observations included a brief discussion of the value of Persuasion Architecture - which, as you dear readers know, is our synthetic philosophy for creating and managing your online presence. Bryan got a comment from a fellow named Chris, who said,

"I can't help but think of persuasion architecture as one of those multiple choice ending books that I last read twenty years ago - 'turn to page 121 if you think A, turn to page 84 if you think B...' etc. There are a number of scenarios on each page and a persuasive writer would be able to channel readers towards the right decision."

Now, we all know reading a book isn't exactly the same thing as working your way through an ecommerce Web site, but Chris's insight is a remarkably clever metaphor for exactly what Persuasion Architecture hopes to accomplish: helping your visitors to achieve their goals (not always The End and absent the connotation of right or wrong) in the ways that suits them best.

Remember. Everything you do is about pulling your visitors along, motivating them to take the next step. It's not about pushing them, or requiring them to accommodate your master plan of what they need. Until you present your entire conversion system from your visitors' points of view, you aren't really being as persuasive as you could be. And that means you will always be experiencing lower conversion rates than are possible.

Think folks are doing a good job pulling their visitors merrily along their way? Not according to a study by OneStat.com. They evaluated Web metrics for a number of sites and determined the number of pages a visitor went to:

1 page view 9.52%

1 - 2 page views 54.60%

2 - 3 page views 16.56%

3 - 4 page views 8.75%

4 - 5 page views 4.43%

6 - 7 page views 1.41%

7 - 8 page views 0.85%

8 - 9 page views 0.68%

9 - 10 page views 0.51%

more than 10 page views 2.69%

Think about those numbers a minute. You might say it took folks two pages to figure out they were in the wrong place. Baloney. Almost 55% of folks were interested enough to click one or two steps deeper into the process before bailing. This is a pretty clear indication that the sites are failing to provide a majority of their users enough "scent" (motivation, persuasion, value) to keep them in the process. Needs aren't getting met, and lots of Web sites aren't meeting them!

Chris groks Persuasion Architecture, so I'll let his words do the talking.

"Persuasive design links the user buying experience to a company's sales process, theoretically bridging the buy/sell vacuum that we see so often. You really need to know how users behave to generate sales growth - and surely if you can influence that behaviour then the journey from the landing page to the 'thank you for your order' page should happen more frequently and more effectively.

"By considering the user journey at a micro-level it is possible - given some time to research, implement and experiment - to turn more users into customers, to keep them happy and to ensure that they stay with you for longer.

"How can one seemingly tiny element of a web page prevent a user from reaching the checkout? How might one poorly-constructed sentence have a disproportionately large negative impact on the decision to buy? How is it possible to act on what you know about your users, given that they must all be different people with different wants and needs? It sounds impossibly complex to bring all these things together, but surely it is more about attention to detail, good copy and perhaps a sprinkling of user-guided personalisation?"

It does seem impossibly complex when you think about it from the big picture point of view. But it isn't any more complex than lots of other constructions. When you design persuasively by following a logical methodology (MAP), things can actually get pretty obvious.

Just like the type of book Chris mentions, Persuasion Architecture is fundamentally about designing individual scenarios (navigation paths) into your conversion system. These let folks interact with you in ways that are meaningful to them. These make it more likely folks will take action on your site. These will improve your conversion rates.

Keep in mind that everyone on your Web site is involved in a journey. You just need to make sure the journey is as satisfying as reaching the goal. Because without the journey, they won't get to The End.

If you are interested in reading an overview of Persuasion Architecture and MAP, check out our newest white paper.

What makes people do the things they do online?

Why do people visit a website? What psychological, physiological and technological factors affect how people act on the web? Why and how do people buy from, subscribe to and/ or register with a website? What happens to those who don’t buy, subscribe or register but could or should have? Those and other critical questions are what drive Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg to investigate and inquire about the world of the commercial Internet.

Learn how to make online experiences more persuasive by attending the Wizards of Web Academy.

P.S. If you missed our telesiminar of Persuasive Online Copywriting hosted by Annie Jennings you can get you free copy of the taping. Just visit http://www.anniejenningspr.com/futurenow.htm.

Have you checked out the other places to meet us on our latest event schedule?

The Many Faces of Value

Enter alternative textToward a understanding of value that will reinforce your persuasive process.

You give all those folks who come to your Web site good value, right?

Now, before you go nodding your head too enthusiastically, let me ask you another question: Can you tell me what constitutes value? Oooo, that's a toughie. My dear loyal readers have heard me say often enough that value is almost never about price.

So how do we define it? And do we really need to?

I don't believe there is any one way of looking at value, but I do believe there are qualities in the broad concept of value that your particular business will answer differently for the different sorts of folks who come to you. This is why the process of Uncovery is so critical to designing an effective persuasion process. It helps you understand and then articulate the value of what you offer to the folks who come to you.

No perception of value? They're gone. But you ... stick around!

Mohanbir Sawhney, McCormick Tribune Professor of Technology at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, organized his ideas on the nature of value into seven over-arching qualities. It's good stuff (I was going to say good value!) and well worth considering in your top-priority mission to become truly customer-centric. The words (abridged) are his.1

Value is customer-defined. Never forget that value is defined by those who use and those who pay for it. To understand the true nature of value, you need to get inside the minds and hearts of your customers, whether they're internal or external. Vendors must communicate the value of their products not in terms of what these products do, but what they do for customers, expressed in a language that customers can relate to.

Value is opaque. An important consequence of value being defined by customers is that it is very difficult to quantify - you need to understand all factors that customers take into consideration in assessing value, and you have to understand the relative importance that customers place on each factor. In the absence of this understanding, you are shooting in the dark. Once you understand the factors that specific customers consider when making decisions, and how they make trade-offs, you can develop a better understanding of the value propositions that might appeal to each one.

Value is multidimensional. A common myth in business is that decisions are made solely on functional value-a product's features and functionality. Value has two other dimensions as well: economic value-what these features and functions are worth to customers in terms of time and money; and psychological value-the emotional benefits that customers get from your products or your company.

Value is a trade-off. Value is the perceived worth of something in relation to the total cost that customers pay for it. This definition underscores the fact that value is a trade-off between costs and benefits.

Value is contextual. You cannot divorce the value of [something] from the context in which it will be used .... Unless you understand the end-usage context, you run the risk of creating value propositions and offerings that are irrelevant for customers.

Value is relative. Customers never assess value of an offering in isolation. They always consider value relative to alternatives. These alternatives may not be other products or systems, but other ways of accomplishing the same goals or doing nothing at all .... By understanding competing alternatives, you will also be able to focus on points of differentiation relative to these options and ignore points of parity that clutter and dilute your value proposition.

Value is a mind-set. The value mind-set is grounded in the belief that the sole purpose of a company is to create value for its customers and to be compensated equitably for its efforts. Therefore, everything the company says and does should revolve around its customers-not its products. This is a radical shift in perspective, and few companies truly embrace this idea despite their claims of being customer-focused.

Thinking well worth considering.

The value of whatever you are doing out there in cyberspace lives solely in the minds of your visitors. They decide what value means to them, and then they look to you to see if you provide it. So ask yourself if your persuasive system identifies the qualities of value that are important to your visitors. And then ask yourself if your site truly communicates these values effectively.

1 "Fundamentals of Value." Mohanbir Sawhney. Net Gains, CIO Magazine. July 1, 2003. http://www.cio.com/archive/070103/gain.html.

Volume 88: 3/01/04

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