SES New York 2008: Converting Visitors Into Buyers

This session was focused on converting visitors into buyers. Although the focus was primarily on e-commerce sites, the concept of conversion was extended to include b2b conversion points such as white paper downloads, e-newsletter sign-ups and subscriptions.

There was a lot to take in – four speakers who presented for approximately 20 minutes each, so I’ve summarised the main learnings for this post (speakers are listed at the bottom).

  1. Ensure you know what all your conversion points are and track them individually. You should consider tracking mini-conversions, such as the step from one part of the journey to the next, so you can work out when people abandon their trip through the conversion path.
  2. A site needs to be as persuasive as possible – this ties in to Eisenberg’s Hierarch of Optimisation in the Redefining The Customer session I blogged about yesterday.
  3. Test, test, test, test, test. Search marketing should be approached in the same way as direct marketing. Segment your users, try different pages for different users; move calls to action; constantly conduct A/B testing and if something does not work you can change it back. (Amazon A/B tested the position of the checkout cart, and it’s now on the right hand side of the site because it generated a higher conversion rate than when it was on the left hand side. The decision was not taken by an exec, or someone within the company, it was the outcome of testing.)
  4. What people see and when they see it has a direct impact on what they buy (or what action they take). This relates to Michael Sack’s supermarket analogy. Why is the milk always in the back of the supermarket? Because it has been proven that people buy more when they take a longer route through the store. The placement of the product has been tested. The flow of the store is scientific. This approach should be used with web sites so that we ensure we getting the most out of each visitor.
  5. A home page is a really bad idea. Continuing the supermarket theme, it’s like presenting a consumer with a giant shelf full of products and asking them to choose what they want. In reality there are thousands of doorways into a web site, so you need to make sure that the right doorways are in place and that you provide people with what they are looking for once they walk through. (Apparently there is a Web Aisles White Paper about this so I’ll have a dig around and see if I can find it).

Types of Tests We Could Conduct

  • Top 5 High Bounce Rate Pages
  • Top 5 High Exit Rate Pages
  • Top 5 Lowest Time Spent on Pages
  • Top 5 Key Pages (checkout page, final sign up page)

Tips For Converting Visitors Into Buyers

  • People like product images and interacting with images.
  • Test headlines.
  • Optimise forms.
  • Add call to action buttons.
  • Don’t make users wait too long – make sure files, images etc download quickly.

My next post is going to be on Universal Search and how it is affecting click activity, so keep an eye out.

Mike Moran, Distinguished Engineer, IBM
Nigel Ravenhill, Program Manager, McAfee
Michael Sack, Director, SEM technology & Development, Idearc Media
Howard Kaplan, COO, Future Now Inc

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