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Why a Killer UX Doesn’t Always Translate into Conversions

by Today's Eggspert

One person’s killer UX is another’s UX killer.

Why not copy the killer user experience of a famous site in your industry? The short answer?

You’re not them.

The longer answer is that unless you’re copying a fully optimized site with all the same variables, targets, and exact same audience, you’re likely setting yourself up for failure.

Take Target for example. Following the success of Amazon’s review software, Target purchased it and sought to implement it on their own site.

Even after copying the software and interface, the engagement with their reviews suffered. In fact, in the first month after the final Harry Potter book was released both sites sold around 2 million copies.

Amazon received 1,805 reviews while Target received 3.

Harry Potter reviews amazon Target

Will copying a leading website really help you get better results?

When you’re not sure what to do to improve your website, and you don’t want to hire help, it’s easy to turn to the leaders in your industry and assume that if it works for them, then surely it’ll work for you.

The problem is, it doesn’t work that way. Copying others has never been a good game plan. It didn’t serve well in school, and it doesn’t present better outcomes now.

Copying Websites

You see, there’s a special law in effect: What works well for your competitors won’t necessarily work well for you.

Why is that?

Two primary reasons why copying your competitors is a poor idea

Even if you take the exact design code from another website, change the logo, and use it for your website (don’t do that), you’re not going to get the same results.

That’s because there are many, many additional factors at play:

  • Do you serve the exact same market as them?
  • Do you have the same brand recognition and reputation as them?
  • Do you offer the exact same products or services as them?

Ultimately there are two main reasons why copying doesn’t work. If one of them doesn’t get you, the other will:

  1. The user interface (UI) elements you copy aren’t that good in the first place
  2. The design works fine in the original context, but doesn’t in your site’s context

First off, you’ve no idea how well their website user experience (UX) is working. For all you know, their latest facelift could have hurt their conversions and tanked their online revenue.

Next, brands have so many distinctive differences, even within the same industry, that trying to copy others will set them up for failure.

So, what is the solution?

The Real Shortcut to Conversion Success: A 5-Step Plan That Works

Consumer needs vary from company to company. The secret to a strong, conversion-driven website is a UX that has been tailored to a particular business.

That’s true for any site, from international lead-gen B2B websites to your local coffee shop with an online presence.

Stop trying to take what seems to be the easy way out. Look to your competitors, not to see what you can copy from them – but to discover where they’re missing the mark, where they’re vulnerable.

So, how do you craft a strong user experience that will convert? It begins with a strong business strategy framework.

business strategy framework

1. Hammer out your business strategy

The pathway to an effective user experience for your business begins by taking a detailed look at your business strategy.

  • How do you define success for your business?
  • What is the vision and mission of your business?
  • How do you position yourself in the marketplace in order to beat the competition?

In order to stay profitable, every business must find a competitive advantage. There are two primary ways this can manifest:

  • Cost leadership
  • Differentiation

Cost leadership is a fancy way of saying “beating your competition on price.” That’s how many disruptive companies have quickly acquired large market share in old industries. Think Uber disrupting taxis or Airbnb disrupting hotels. There are many examples.

The second method, differentiation, is typically your best alternative. Rather than get in a race to the bottom of the pricing barrel, come up with ways to differentiate on quality or some unique property inherent in your products, services, or offers.

Questions to consider:

  • How can provide something your customers would place a higher perceived value on?
  • Do you provide a unique experience that provides more value?
  • Can you configure your offers in a way others have yet to consider?

Starbucks used convenience and ambiance to sell five-dollar lattes. Toms ties your purchases to social impact concerns worldwide. And a local cleaning company provides kitchen/bathrooms only service to busy professionals.

A competitive advantage based on a differentiated user experience is an incredibly powerful force today. One thing to note is that you don’t have to have a perfectly formulated business strategy. Consider the business model canvas and use a discovery phase to test and optimize your business strategy in each of the key areas of your business model.

2. Find a way to provide value innovation

In order for a business to be profitable, it must generate a product that costs them less than the amount customers are willing to pay for it.

Take a look at the value chain below. It represents the business process you can use to outperform your competitors and optimize profits:

Value Chain

This chain applies to physical products, but it works even better for digital products and services. The feedback loop is much faster.

Value innovation is the key to making a profit.

The simultaneous pursuit of high buyer value differentiation and low business cost creates a leap in value for both buyers and the company. This means there is a true value-added (VA) occurrence when companies align newness with utility and price.

Value innovation

Value innovation is also the seed of disruptive innovation. That is the process where you begin down market where there is little to no competition and slowly gobble up market share from the bottom rather than try to push in from the top.

3. Carry out user research

Once you’ve cemented your business strategy and determined your value innovation, it’s important to validate your product’s value with real potential users.

If your target users don’t recognize your value, they won’t become customers.

As the lean startup movement has shown, testing with your target market is essential and will save a lot of heartache in the long run. Gone are the days of leaving customer feedback out of product development.

User research is how you confirm whether or not you are on the right track with your business strategy and value innovation. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but it’s important to consult your target customers as early as possible and maintain that feedback loop moving forward.

4. Build your tailored UX design

In simplest terms, UX refers to how easy and pleasant or difficult and frustrating for your website visitors to interact with your design. It’s similar to physical products like chairs or mattresses. While many of them may work sufficiently, there aren’t nearly as many that you actually enjoy using.

Interfaces and user flow should be designed toward the desired response of the users. It’s all about engagement.

This requires a number of decisive and critical actions:

  • Designing structured experiments for validation and making data-driven design decisions based on key business goals
  • Establishing the set of key conversion point absolutely essential to your website
  • Doing thorough research into the existing market space to find gaps in current offerings and discover openings that can be exploited
  • Talking directly with customers and visitors to validate and inquire about the effectiveness of the current website in its current form
  • Weaving the UX through all touch points, both online and offline, offering an experience that is frictionless

The benefit of beginning your UX design at this stage in the process is that you are building it on the solid foundation of your company’s business goals, strong value innovation, and user validation. That will give you a much better chance of driving meaningful conversions tailored to your business.

5. Iterate and optimize

It’s not over after you build on top of the proper UX strategy.

After you’ve created your design, it’s important to always be fine tuning it and adapting to industry changes. You must follow up your design process with an ongoing testing strategy and plan.

Ask yourself: What’s working? What isn’t? What do I think would work better here? How can I make that into an experiment and test it?

Now Build Your Own Killer UX That Converts

Building a profitable presence online is like anything else worthwhile in life: it takes time, effort, and consistency.

You’re too smart to fall for those ads promising “instant relief from arthritis” or “weight loss without watching what you eat,” stop falling for the marketing advisors who urge you to copy your competitors or who have nothing more to offer than stale ideas based on theory.

Your business is unique. Be proud of that. Stress it.

Don’t try to be like them… be like you.

About the Author: David Hoos is a Marketing Strategist at The Good, a conversion agency which delivers more revenues, customers, and leads. David and the team at The Good have made a practice of advising brands on how to see online revenue double through their conversion rate optimization services.

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  1. Sienna Eskildsen says:
    February 21, 2017 at 5:07 am

    I always knew the less choices you give customers the better chances of succcess Neil but I never realized that for the share buttons. Very interesting indeed and I love how you showed us the examples in these different cases. Very informative as usual here Neil.

  2. Chandan says:
    February 19, 2017 at 3:22 am

    That’s a minefield of gold nuggets. I am currently working on CRO myself and have been exploring UI changes to effect the same. Going back to the drawing board with the ideas mentioned here. Thanks!

    • David Hoos says:
      February 20, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      Thanks Chandan! I’m glad you found it helpful!

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