In keeping with recent articles in which I’ve shared tips that didn’t make it into our new book (my utterly devious strategy for encouraging you to discover what did), I offer you this from usability guru Jared Spool, the guiding force behind User Interface Engineering. Trust me; Jared’s tip is no throw-away. It gets at the philosophical heart of improving your conversion rates.
Imagine I have a magical device that tells me when anyone who is in a 2 mile radius of where I'm sitting has run out of milk. I drive to their apartment only to find them sitting there with an empty carton of milk and a dry bowl of cereal. I put them into my car and drive them to the nearest convenience store. And, just to ensure they purchase, I give them the money to buy their milk. What are the odds this person will buy milk in this instance? 100 percent, right? The convenience store would really have to screw up big to not sell milk to this person at this moment.
This is what my company does online. We find people who need products. We bring them to sites that have those products. We give them the cash to buy the products. And we watch to see how the site does at selling the products to the people who want them.
The average e-commerce site only manages to sell someone a product they really want, under these odd conditions, 30 percent of the time. 70 percent of the time, the customer who knows exactly what they want runs into some show-stopping obstacle that prevents the purchase.
Look at your annual revenue from your site. Assume that only represents the 30 percent who are successfully purchasing. That means there is another 70 percent (more than twice your current revenue) who are trying to buy from you, but failing. That's the opportunity that you're currently leaving on the table.
We're not even considering the people who haven't decided what they want yet. We're only talking about those people who are ready to purchase from you. There's a very good chance you could double your revenues just by figuring out what is stopping your purchasers from purchasing.
Don’t be fooled by the deceptive simplicity of Jared’s tip. It speaks to the very reason so many Web sites suffer from truly horrible conversion rates that fail to satisfy the business objectives: folks try to solve the crummy-conversion-rate problem bass-ackwards!
The industry average for online conversion still hovers around 2 percent, give or take. That means 2 out of every 100 folks complete an ebusiness Web site’s conversion goal. That also means 98 out of every 100 folks stop clicking. They choose to end their online dialog. They bail. (Holy-moly ... ninety-eight percent! And pundits say 52 percent of the popular vote constitutes a political mandate!)
Most folks ask, “How can I increase that 2 percent conversion rate?” when the question they should ask is, “What am I doing that is driving 98 percent of my audience away?”
You’re thinking that’s the same question, right? Not exactly! When you ask how you can improve the 2 percent, you tend to focus on how you can “sell better,” which leads you to make incremental fixes to your sales process – what we call “the low-hanging fruit.” Of course these will improve your conversion rate … in tepid increments.
When you focus on the 98 percent, you open a whole new dimension centered on helping your visitors “buy better.”
Helping folks “buy better” involves careful attention to usability, information architecture, search engine optimization strategies and other issues that influence the user interface. But at the core, it depends on your ability to marry your sales process with their buying processes. You have to understand who your visitors are, their motivations, their needs, their buying patterns and where they are in the buying decision process so you can connect them to exactly what they need to make the decision to buy from you.
Truth is, you’ll “sell better” only when you help them “buy better!” So what if a 100 percent conversion rate is a pipe dream? That shouldn’t stop you from dreaming big and investing the effort it takes to get as close to that 100 percent as you can. Zero in on the buying decision process, deftly interweave it with your sales process, and you can treat yourself to dramatic improvements that satisfy both of those conversion questions.
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You'll also want to keep an eye on our publications page. We've been working on creating resources that will help you put many of our principles into practice more easily and more efficiently. We're just about to release several of our newest products, including Which Sells Best?: A Quick Start Guide to Testing for Retailers and The Conversion Experts Handbook.
I could see you nodding your heads when I discussed the need to marry your sales process to your visitors’ buying decision processes. “Yep,” you murmured. “That sounds about right.” Then I heard a collective pause, some head scratching and this: “Uh, nice theory, Grok. But how do I put it into practice?”
You make this theory a reality in our business through hyperlinks. Hyperlinks that persuade action. Hyperlinks that answer the questions your visitors ask by providing relevant information. Hyperlinks that allow buying to co-exist happily with selling. Hyperlinks that establish and sustain persuasive momentum.
So let me introduce you to the hyperlinking strategy that is the backbone of a persuasive Web site.
For illustrative purposes, we’ll be in the grommet business – Grok’s Grommets! (A grommet allows you to make a secure hole through another material, like the holes shoe laces go through.) We make brass, steel and titanium grommets. We have three different ways grommets can be joined for light-duty, medium-duty and heavy-duty applications. But you can only buy our grommets from authorized retailers.
The core of our grommet sales process is aimed at helping folks find the grommet that’s right for them, then getting them to skedaddle off to one of our authorized grommet retailers. Each step in our sales process requires a visitor to take a specific action. Our site goal is to get folks to Locate a retailer near you. But we acknowledge that on the path to our ultimate goal, folks might want to: Contact a representative; Submit your form; View all steel grommets; View grommets by application.
Calls-to-action are the hyperlinks that move your visitor through your sales process. You create a call-to-action hyperlink by pairing an imperative verb with an implied benefit.
Calls-to-action give your visitors the opportunity to take the action you want them to take. These are the links that are critical to you, the ones you want your visitor to click on. Without these links, you can’t achieve your goals.
Sam Sailmaker is coming in very early in the buying process – he’s just starting out, so he’s definitely not ready to locate the nearest retailer. He needs to understand his fastening options to decide if a grommet is the best solution for his application. A terribly conscientious fellow who wants to create the best sail possible, Sam also wants to understand what makes for a superior grommet.
Points-of-resolution are the hyperlinks that answer the questions your visitors need to ask you. These links help resolve sticking points in the buying decision process. You create point-of-resolution hyperlinks with nouns and place them where your visitors are most likely to ask their questions.
These links have nothing to do with hierarchy. Folks are never required to click on a point-of-resolution to move through the sales process; the links simply let visitors collect the information they need to feel confidence in making a decision.
Sam needs us to answer his questions by laying out and comparing different fastening options, explaining grommet applications and how grommets are made. So, even before we try to sell him on the value of Grok’s Grommets, we offer pages that will answer his buying process questions about grommets in general:
Grommets, Buttons or Zippers? We offer Sam information about the advantages and disadvantages of his available fastening options (even though we don’t sell buttons or zippers). The point-of-resolution hyperlink pointing to this page might say “when you need to fasten material together your choices are grommets, buttons or zippers.”
Common Uses of Grommets. We explain how various industries make use of grommets. The point-of-resolution hyperlink might say “You might be surprised by all the industries that have discovered ways to use grommets.”
Grommet Technology. We examine the differences between okay grommets and stellar grommets. The point-of-resolution hyperlink might say “Grommets have improved greatly due to new grommet technology.”
You must resolve Sam’s questions before you can start selling him on Grok’s Grommets. No resolution, no Grok’s Grommets!
A point-of-resolution hyperlink takes the visitor to a resolution page, where the question is answered with totally relevant information. A resolution page can offer additional point-of-resolution hyperlinks, so a visitor’s path through resolution pages often seems circular. Resolution pages frequently need to link to one another, hence "resolving" door. Think of those hotel lobby revolving doors.
Now think of the nightmare scenario where you’re stuck in one of those doors and can’t get out. You can’t ever lead your visitors into a dead end! You must either offer another answer or return your visitor to the sales process.
If at any time, on any of those resolution pages, Sam feels confident his buying process questions have been answered and is ready to exit, he'll find carefully worded hyperlinks – Choose the Grok Grommet that’s right for your industry – that lead him back into our sales process. These exit links, worded as a call-to-action and interwoven into the copy on a resolution page, relate more to the sales process than the buying process – they introduce our product-specific solutions to the questions Sam is asking.
Creating the perfect interrelationships between selling and buying requires an understanding of what people do with what you offer, how they approach buying what you offer and which questions will influence their decision to buy. Accounting for and designing with point-of-resolution hyperlinks can be complex.
But the complexity that comes from marrying your sales process to their buying decision process is part and parcel of a persuasive Web site. It can't be avoided. More than that, you don’t want to avoid it. A commerce site without point-of-resolution hyperlinks is nothing more than a glorified, relentlessly linear PowerPoint presentation that will convert only a handful of your visitors.
I really don’t want that for you! The click’s the thing that helps visitors meet their needs and you achieve your goals. So, marry selling with buying through call-to-action and point-of-resolution hyperlinks – truly a match made in heaven.
May 9th saw the official release of Call to Action. Response has been phenomenal! Our first edition retails for the absurdly low price of $13.95. But there aren't many left, and the second edition will retail for $25.95.
"Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg are #1 in the online conversion game and there is no #2." - Patrick Byrne CEO, Overstock.com
"Steve Krug nailed Web marketing philosophy in his book, "Don't make me Think." Now it's time to get practical. Creating a website requires a customer-centric focus and Bryan Eisenberg & Jeffrey Eisenberg hand you the how-to, step-by-step guide to getting the job done. Separating the user from usability, monitoring persuasion paths, choosing colors, creating copy - you'll find the best advice distilled from a career of testing and measuring, not pontificating and PowerPointing." - Jim Sterne, Author, Producer of the Emetrics Summit and President of the Web Analytics Association