It’s dangerous territory to make assumptions, over-generalize, or depend on logic or even so called “best practices” to make decisions about site changes.
My team and I launched an e-commerce website a few years ago, and here are four ways we tried to break through common conversion pitfalls in order to ensure we increased our own conversions:
Assumption #1 – All Of Your Ideas Are Great Ideas
You’ve had these experiences countless times… you had a great idea for the site that was informed and re-enforced by “best practices.”
You sold it to the team by explaining how your idea will help “people engage with the brand which will increase sales”. It was, in fact, a great idea!
But the problem is that more than 60% of all of our “great ideas” as marketers turn into failures when run as a split test — that is, those great ideas statistically decrease our conversions and work against us.
I visited the Blinds.com office a while back, and they have a visual representation of the percentage of tests that actually result in a win for their website.
For each test that results in a positive uptick in conversions, they put a marble in the right test tube, and for the other tests, they put them in the left.
As you can see, their team saved themselves potential sales losses by not permanently implementing their ideas because they thought that they’d work. We find this something to celebrate, rather than mourning the ideas that didn’t work as well as we thought they would.
“But I thought [Insert Idea Here] would work great — What Did I Do Wrong?”
Have you ever been so close to something that you can’t get a fresh perspective on it? Often times, the same is the case with your website. Your idea may be great for somebody that has been to the site 1,000 times, but for a first-time visitor, your idea may hurt more than help.
For our own e-commerce website, StandishSalonGoods.com, we tried running a test where we introduced a “Why This Price?” message on our products over $2,000.
We weren’t selling as many of these custom products as we expected, so we wanted to build value around the price, and explain what features this product has to constitute the high price tag.
When the test had run its course, the results told us that there was a 5.9% decrease in users adding to their cart. We have a few hypotheses as to why this is, including:
- We fell into the common sales trap of over-selling. By explaining WHY the price was the price, we said too much, or brought something to the forefront that actually hurt the sale.
- Users didn’t realize how high the price was, and by highlighting the pricetag, it drew too much attention and caused users not to buy.
Though we won’t know exactly why the test resulted in a negative result, what we do know is that the conversion rates went down, and we saved $32,000 in revenue loss by not implementing that variation to our website.
At the end of the day, you aren’t your client. They’re not going to always have the same concerns and buyer’s anxiety as you, which is why we test.
Assumption #2 – Your Competitors “Must Be Doing Something Right”
Just because other competitors are successful and doing something “cool,” it’s not always the best way for you to do it, too.
If your success was built by offering something unique to your space, stick to your guns and don’t let your competitors change that about your business.
Don’t just assume that because a competitor is doing something, he or she really knows what they are doing and are making more sales than you are. It doesn’t always work out that way.
Ask yourself what your unique value propositions (UVPs) are and put yourself in your customers’ shoes to see what they would say about your brand.
In 2012, Kmart and Sears watched as Toys ‘R’ Us had success with year-round layaway programs, so they each implemented the same strategy in their stores.
Forbes analyzed the data and found that in the year following, Toys ‘R’ Us, despite having more competition for this service, gained more shoppers while the other two dropped off.
They found that:
It’s more important to have relevant offers and services for your target audience, rather than just focusing on what your competitors are doing and offering.
Ask Yourself: What can you offer that your competitors cannot?
Copying your competition is a recipe for being a distant second to your competition.
If your prospect wants something you both have, they have two options: you or them. At best it’s a 50/50 proposition.
However, if you have something truly unique, and your prospect wants it, then there’s a 100% chance that they’ll buy from you if they choose to buy it.
Assumption #3 – Your Friends Are a Good Outside Opinion
This is one of the very first lessons we learned with our eCommerce startup. The first version of our website was incredibly innovative and sexy… but at the end of the day it was too innovative and sexy.
The early days of our business produced good sales, but the luster wore off shortly after.
Our designers, team members, friends and family told us we had built something great.
I asked my mom…. She loved it. I asked my friends…. They were fans.
But friends and family are just that, friends and family. They’re your support system and not your naysayer. They will give you the news you want to hear, and not what you need to hear.
Dig deeper and get past the top customers who already love you, and your friends and family.
You have 99% of your prospects who aren’t buying from you — this is the place to start looking for answers. Talk to those who don’t buy from you and find out why.
The best way to get this type of feedback is by simply picking up the phone and asking questions; avoid the temptation to email a survey link.
Helpscout found that only one out of every 27 users will voice their opinion if they weren’t satisfied with their experience.
So, don’t just rely on the opinions of those that formally complain in order to make changes — go talk to the other 96% of your shoppers who didn’t speak up and find out how you can improve your service and website.
Here are a couple of examples of types of questions to ask that are centered more around their experience with your website than their opinions overall:
We made several phone calls to prospects who added products to their carts but didn’t purchase, and we learned what was going on. A few questions that we asked our lost prospects were:
- We understand you likely purchased somewhere else by now. Would you mind telling us why you chose them over us?
- What was your first impression of our site? Did your impression change as you spent more time on our site? How so?
- If you were to buy again in the future, would you consider our site? Why or why not?
- If you were to discuss our site with a friend in the future, how would you describe us?
The wording of these questions leads to very specific and personalized answers, as opposed to asking someone to rank their experience without giving any real insights about why.
I also stay away from asking questions like, “What would you like to see from us?” or, “what would make your experience better?” I find that a typical web visitor isn’t super creative here. They’ll frequently ask for discounts and/or make general statements about making the site easier to use which doesn’t really get to the root of their decision making process.
In our case, we discovered the painful truth because prospect after prospect told us that we were “too expensive.”
But we weren’t too expensive… so after deeper interrogation, we learned that there was a perception that we were expensive.
Even though our prices were very competitive, and sometimes even lower than other companies, the design and aesthetic made the products look out-of-reach for the small-budgeted customers we were targeting.
How did we correct our over-designed website?
We ditched the beautiful website and quickly implemented a standard $300 website stock template, and our sales increased by 350% overnight.
Below is the second version of our website. Instead of a template that highlighted artistry and high design, we went with a template that was familiar, highlighted the value that the users were getting, and created a huge emphasis on affordability through copy, graphics, and price presentation.
Assumption #4 (BONUS) – Beautiful Design is Everything
Nobody asks their creative agency to build them an ugly website. But, as we learned, beautiful websites can sometimes have unintended consequences.
Additionally, focusing on aesthetics can detract from the fundamental principles of your business that need to be communicated in order to convince people to buy from you.
We’ve found through A/B testing that rather than focusing in so much on changing design, pricing, or discounts, there are a few categories that hold more value and impact on conversions:
Clarity: What is it that you sell?
Find ways to clearly communicate what your product or service is by using photos, copywriting or videos.
An as a bonus, users are 400% more likely to watch videos when the same content is written on the page, and after watching are 60% more likely to complete their purchase.
Credibility: Why should users buy from you? Add more details about your warranty, guarantees and other policies.
Also bring to the forefront your testimonials and customer reviews; a study by Reevo found that product reviews can increase product conversions by 50% with the mere presence of a review, and 250% if there are more than 50.
Exclusivity: What do you offer that users can’t get anywhere else? Make sure this is clear from the moment users land on the website, whether that’s a tagline beneath the logo, badges on your product pages, or copy throughout the site.
Zappos even has it’s exclusive collections featured on the home page, making sure users know that these specific products can only be found on their website.
“How should I proceed with site improvements?”
When you’re focusing on design as the primary factor, you can miss bigger opportunities. Design is rarely the reason people leave a website; users will find the button if they want what you’re selling.
Remember that 60% of A/B tests fail. This suggests that we’re too focused on the way things look rather than the way to best communicate the principles of Clarity, Credibility and Exclusivity.
Push your testing and experimentation. Create your testing roadmap around the concept of creating more value and increasing the level of confidence that your visitors have in your company.
By taking the wisdom I’ve learned from launching an e-commerce website, you can save time and effort by focusing in on creating a valuable experience for your visitors.
- Identify Your UVP(s) in comparison to other companies in your industry.
- Make sure it’s crystal clear why your product / service is unique throughout your website by adding new copy, photos, and videos that communicate those points clearly.
- Start calling people (like… on the phone) who have abandoned cart, or leads that have gone cold and ask them why they didn’t do business with you.
- Start adding elements and A/B testing around things other than design; test your copy, adding more customer reviews to the product page, or badges that identify unique features.
- Never. Stop. Testing. Even if you double your conversion rate after a few tests, don’t leave it there. Always push the envelope and strive to keep improving your website.
Our team has continued to test and improve checkout and lead conversions by 950% by running hundreds of test variations on Standish.
It all started with the $300 template, but from the moment we launched, we never settled or stopped trying to find our next conversion breakthrough.
When you visit the website today, you will see an emphasis on our unique value propositions communicated with badges, graphics, videos and copy.
Are you inspired to run your next value-based A/B Test? Have you seen more impact on running tests that feature your unique offering vs. design?
Brice McBeth founded Reap Marketing, the only digital marketing agency that hired itself to build an e-commerce business and optimize its own conversions by over 950% on its way to creating a multi-million dollar store that disrupted the salon equipment industry. He wrote about the journey in his book, Salon Chairs Don’t Sell Themselves. Connect with Brice and pick his brain at ReapMarketing.com.