For any business, the point of a website is to generate more business. That means achieving conversion – that moment in the experience of a website when a user turns from a prospect into a paying customer, or at least a registered lead.
How is this alchemy achieved? The truth is that conversion isn’t just something that happens – it’s something that’s “baked in” to the design and content of a given site. Businesses must take a strategic approach to conversion, by ensuring that it is the focus at every stage of web development.
Businesses which take a structured approach to conversion are twice as successful in achieving big spikes in sales. The less good news is that two-thirds of companies don’t approach conversion strategically. Of course, this means that those which choose to will have a serious competitive advantage.
The obvious question is, “How do websites ensure conversion?” All the strategic focus in the world counts for little if there’s no certainty about which techniques work, and therefore which should be included in a given web project from day one.
Before we look at those methods, though, it might be useful to set out some first principles:
- Users are demanding: if a site doesn’t grab a user within the first 5-10 seconds of their visit, they are likely to leave.
- Relevance is key: show users you have the content – and the products – they need. Use video and multiple landing pages to showcase your content.
- Speed is critical: optimise your site so it loads easily and smoothly. Even a short delay can lead to a precipitous fall in conversions.
With those basics out of the way, it’s possible to turn to specifics. What do high-converting websites do exactly to get around the above, and to ensure that more users convert, and do so reliably?
First, they adopt clarity as a watch-word. In particular, their unique propositions are placed front and centre, in hero imagery or huge headlines, video messaging and copy.
Why should a user buy from you rather than a competitor? What are they getting? Great service, expertly delivered? Quality products, direct to your door? Easy access, simple interface? Successful sites establish these kinds of pitch early, and place them at the heart of every page.
Once a site has established its pitch, calls to action become critical. How a user proceeds from understanding a proposition to being able to act on it is the key moment in a conversion process. What button does a user need to click to enter the sales process – and what makes them likely to click it?
Calls to action can be as simple as “Buy Now – Free Shipping”. But perhaps “Delivered By Tomorrow” might encourage more clicks? Successful sites consider very carefully what a target audience most wants when buying – and offers them a clear, direct route to that experience.
This is where user testing is crucial. A business only really knows what its customers want by asking them. Similarly, the best performing sites are also the most extensively tested. Try out a range of headlines, a number of calls to action: see which are most clicked, which encourage the most conversions. Don’t assume; be certain.
User-testing can take a range of forms. Focus groups and questionnaires before launch are one option. Trying different headlines on a live site over a period of time isn’t a bad idea, either. Analytics data can be key, too: collecting bounce rates and page impressions helps businesses understand what works about their site and what doesn’t.
In all cases, the key is to understand the business, the proposition and the user. In the balance between these factors will be the “sweet spot” that encourages the highest conversion rate possible.
From emphasising discounts or adding testimonials to switching colours and offering live chat, there are innumerable small tweaks that can make a huge difference amongst the appropriate demographics.
This audience knowledge, aligned with the technical know-how necessary to achieve fast-loading and attractive interfaces, will achieve success.