We are so excited to be teaming with Aabaco Small Business by Yahoo for a series of webinars focusing on tactics to boost revenue. Our first webinar in the series was today. In case you missed it, we wanted to provide you with the details. Here’s an approximate transcript of the webinar.
I’m going to be covering some fundamental tactics that go into building a site so that you that can properly engage your visitors and entice them to convert. I’ve broken today’s session down into three key tactics.
The first tactic is Visual Optimization. Your site needs to be free from distractions, but still be visually engaging. The next tactic is Functionality Optimization. You already know that in order for your store to be successful, it needs to be easy to navigate. But, if you want to take your store to the next level, you need to also leverage strong Call-to-Action elements. The final tactic I’ll be sharing is Checkout Optimization, which will help you convert those visitors that you qualified with the first two tactics.
So, let’s dive right into Visual Optimization. I want to start off with a common dilemma. Too often, I encounter merchants that want to base their site design, layout, etc. solely off of their personal tastes. When you do that, you are setting your business up for failure. One of the most important things you need to understand is that you are an individual person with your own likes and dislikes. Your personal tastes are not going to be the same as all of your visitors.
What should you base your design off of then? Well, there isn’t any one specific thing that goes into making a great design. The answer is a combination of best practices, feedback, testing, and your branding. I want to focus on those middle two for a second – feedback and testing. Before you get started implementing anything we share today, I want to highly encourage each of you to do something for me – right off the bat I’m giving you a little bit of homework.
So, we’ve established that each of your visitors has their own personal taste. They also have their own personal opinions. Here’s your homework – I would encourage you to gather as many of these opinions of your site as possible. Now, don’t go ask grandma or your wife or your kids. Ask people that aren’t going to be afraid to give you and honest critique. Better yet, ask real shoppers. You may be shocked to find out what some people’s first impressions of your site are.
Maybe they find your favorite part of the site a distraction to their shopping experience. Maybe they overlook the most important message you’re trying to put out there. The point is that this kind of valuable feedback is important to help you visualize your site from a shopper’s standpoint. You want to be able to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and design from the ground up based upon your user’s experience and needs. And, this should also be an ongoing process. Continue to gather feedback from your customers on a regular basis.
Once you have that feedback and make changes, test, then test again, and test some more. If you are serious about improving your website, invest in some testing tools. There are sites out there like usertesting.com that can help you get quality feedback about your customer’s shopping experience. Try out some A/B testing. You always want to make sure that the changes you’re making are actually having a positive impact on your site. This is why knowing your metrics is so important. We’re going to dive a lot deeper into metrics in our next session, so make sure you come back for round two.
Now, at this point, you may be saying something like, “I’m passionate about my business. Shouldn’t my design represent me?” Well, Yes and No. Let’s say you started this company, it represents something you are passionate about, and it’s basically all of your dreams incarnate. Of course, your design should represent that to some degree. This is where building your brand comes into play. Branding is creating a unique and memorable perception of your company. It’s something to recognize you by. It sets you apart from your competitors. We don’t have time to stress all of the importance of branding during this session, but we are going to touch back on it more in Part 3, if you want to join us. Going back to the original question, the answer is also “no”. What I mean by that is – your design shouldn’t be a sole reflection of your personal tastes. We know that your personal tastes aren’t going to be an optimal experience for all of your visitors – no matter how good your tastes are.
This is where best practices come in. Any good designer knows that in order for a design to be successful, it needs to function in a way that’s both good for user experience and conversions. The best designers master the art of mixing your company’s branding with functional design elements, so that you’re left with a nice blend of your tastes and profitability.
There is obviously going to be some cross over between visual and functional optimization, but I’m going to try to focus on some best practices for a few minutes that are primarily visually based. Best practice number one – free your site of distractions. For example, we used to use a client website as an example for a special custom feature we built. Now this site wasn’t ugly by any means, but the client wanted it designed based solely on her personal preferences down to the letter and there was no convincing her otherwise. When we referred prospects to this site so they could check out the feature, people inevitably made comments about the design as well. All of the feedback was similar. They said the site was too distracting, too cluttered, looked like a giant advertisement, etc. Obviously, these are not the types of things you want your visitors to say about your store. This is why you need to follow some best practices in design. Otherwise, you might end up with a design you love, but that doesn’t work for your customers.
There are a lot of things that you can do to avoid distractions, but two big ones to focus on are animated or moving objects and spacing. More companies are eliminating animations and rotation. Overuse of animation can be visually distracting for your customers. Not to mention, it can slow down your site load speed, which can have a negative impact on conversions. If you have a rotating banner area or a featured product carousel, you may want to consider disabling the auto scroll feature and allow your customers control over the navigation. Next tip: white space isn’t wasted space. Proper use of spacing and padding between elements is necessary to draw the eyes to important elements. Elements that are too close together can cause disinterest. They can also distract from other elements, lead to confusion, or worse yet – give your site and advertisement feeling.
In addition to removing distractions, focus on making the more important elements on your site more engaging. For example, improve your product photography. Hopefully, in an effort to declutter and improve your Visual Optimization you have already removed your left navigation, at least on the product pages. If you want more information on why this is a good idea, there was a great article and discussion on the Community Forum. If you click the “Academy” link, the article is “The case against left-column site navigation” by Adam from 2/3. It’s a good read if you want to check that out. Removing that left navigation give you more screen real estate, which will make it easier to feature larger product images.
Your product images should be the largest thing on the item page. The idea here is to give as much detail as possible so that your customers can feel like they are actually seeing the product as they would at a physical store. Click-to-enlarge or zoom are some great features you can add to your store to help with this. As for the photos themselves, for most products we recommend a nice clean shot on a white background. However, it’s also a great conversion tool to include alternate photos that are engaging. For example, show the item while it is in use or from many different angles. As a bonus, you could even feature a video. All of these things will help reassure your customer that they are ordering the product that is right for them.
You’re probably all familiar with the “above the fold” practice. In days long past, before your mouse came with a scroll wheel the practice was to jam as much content as you could into the available view port so that the customer wouldn’t have to scroll to see information.
We’re in the year 2017. Your visitors know how to scroll and are willing to scroll. If you’re still adhering to that old practice, your tactics are about as out of place as KISS makeup at a Justin Bieber concert.
Does that mean that “above the fold” is no longer relevant at all? No, it just doesn’t mean the same thing that it did back then. Things today look a lot different than 10 years ago. With smart phones and tablets, we now live in a world with multiple folds. There have been studies done on thousands of web sites that track a visitor’s eye movement when looking at pages. In general, these studies show that the majority of the content viewed is above the fold on the device they are using. However, if the content above the fold is appealing enough, visitors do tend to scroll for more information.
How many of you have heard of the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule or the law of the vital few)? For those that haven’t heard of this, it basically states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
In sales, that usually translates to 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers or 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your products. While this isn’t a universal truth, it applies to many cases. This is why you should be digging into your metrics to determine what your best selling products are and who your best customers are. Use this info to help you determine what’s important to promote on your website and what’s just a distraction. Focus on putting extra effort into your photography and content for these items. Also, these are the best products to strategically feature.
Let’s switch gears a bit and talk about Functionality Optimization. Fast forward – using the 80/20 rule, you’ve now identified your best selling merchandise. Once you’ve given those products some visual love, focus on how you’re going to improve functionality to sell those items. One great way is to feature those profitable items on your homepage. However, not everyone comes to your site via the home page. Therefore, it’s imperative that you have a good navigation experience throughout your whole site.
To elaborate on what I said earlier, the conclusion to most of the eye tracking studies is that most users look at a page in roughly an F shaped pattern. That means approximately that their eyes travel across the top of the screen left to right, the middle of the screen left to right, and somewhere near the left top to bottom. Keep in mind this is not a perfect F, more of a blobby scribbled F.
One of those horizontal F lines is usually your top navigation. This is an important feature on your website. The majority of your customers are going to navigate your site either using the search feature or your navigation menu. The way you build out your navigation menu can have a huge impact on user experience. Did you know that simple things such as having an odd number of navigation elements or highlighting sale based elements with a different color can have a significant impact?
Another thing to consider is the total amount navigation elements you have. Information overload and choice paralysis can be a problem if you present your customer with too many options. You don’t have to offer links to everything you offer in your navigation. Make sure that your best sellers are represented and focus on those. For example, if you have a drop down menu for “Shop by Brand” you may want to list a handful of links to your top performing brands and then a link to “View All”.
Let’s talk about the other primary method of navigation – the search box. The design of the search box itself can have an impact on your revenue. It’s an extremely important tool and it should be very visible on your site. If your search box is too small or blends in too well with other elements, you could be losing money. As far as the search itself goes, make sure you evaluate your needs. Some stores carry very large amounts of products or have complex search needs. There are 3rd party companies that specialize in custom search solutions that can help you deliver the search capability you need.
Whether it’s a category page or a search results page, your customers might need additional means of narrowing down the product selection. It’s important to understand the different ways that your customers need or want to shop. For example: by size, by style, by price, by brand, etc. If these are important avenues to your customers you should offer these filtering options.
Having a good navigation experience will ensure that your visitors can easily find the information they are looking for on your site. However, they still may need some prodding to get through the steps and to get into the checkout. This is where quality Call-to-Action elements come into play. In order to be a good CTA, it needs to be engaging and provoke the visitor to do something. This is accomplished by using strong action words, sending a clear message, and making it clear what’s going to happen when you click it.
For example, if you add a banner on your site that is an image of shoes, it doesn’t provoke the visitor to do anything. If you add some text to the image that says, “Shop Shoes”, at least the customer knows what’s going to happen if he clicks it. Now, if you use an image of specific shoe and use engaging text like “All New Nike Air Jordans. Get Yours Today”, you create a strong clear message that garners a bit of excitement.
There have been tons of studies on word choice for CTA elements. I strong recommend reading a few to get some ideas and then try some out to see what works for you. When it comes to CTAs, don’t be afraid to A/B test. There can be a surprisingly large difference between two versions of CTA for the same thing. It’s all about find what works for your visitors. This goes for any CTA on your site whether it’s a banner, button, or something else. You can even beef up your add to cart buttons with security text and cart or lock symbols. The ultimate goal is to funnel your visitors into the shopping cart.
This kind of messaging also goes a long way in your Checkout Optimization. You can improve your conversion rates by including security information in your checkout. Secure text, such as “256BIT Encryption” and “Secure Checkout” have a positive impact on cart conversions. Furthermore, widely recognized trust badges, such as Norton, McAfee, BBB, etc. help build trust with your customers and increase conversions.
Keeping the shopping cart visible throughout the checkout process is a key feature. Customers want to have the security of knowing they are ordering the correct products throughout the entire process. On the same token, make sure you over an Order Review page where customers have a last opportunity to make changes to their order. In general, the less steps in the checkout process the better. However, adding this one step is necessary. It is a large comfort for your customers and will reduce the number of cancel requests you receive.
The main goal of Checkout Optimization is to reduce shopping cart and checkout abandonment. Here are some helpful tips to avoid abandonment.
- Make sure your pricing is competitive. If you’ve build some brand loyalty or have great customer service you might be able to get away with slightly higher prices. However, if your competitors have a significant price advantages over you, chances are your customers are going to take the better deal.
- Offer Free Shipping. I can’t stress this enough. Free Shipping has become a staple among internet retailers – so much so, that online shoppers have come to expect it. If it’s feasible for you, offer it.
- Don’t ask for too much data. The checkout is not the place for this. Make the majority of your checkout fields related to the ordering process. Remember that the easier it is to checkout, the higher your conversions will be.
- Address any feelings of doubt that your customer may have by offering reassurance. Easy access to your return policy and contact information (especially live chat) is a great way to accomplish this.
- Make sure your site speed is up to par. Long page load times will decrease your conversions.
- Make sure that you show clear progress indicators. Your customers should easily be able to see what step of the checkout process they are on and what is left to go.
- Offer PayPal or other alternatives such as Amazon Pay. Some customers really appreciate the extra layer of security PayPal provides them.
Another important part of Checkout Optimization is increasing your Average Order Value (AOV). Increased conversions are great, but if you can make each of those conversions worth a little more, you’ll be in a great position. Here are some tips on increasing AOV.
- We already talked about free shipping. If it’s not feasible for you to offer free shipping on all orders. Try offering free shipping with a minimum purchase amount. Set this minimum purchase amount slightly higher than your current AOV.
- The same thing applies to dollar off and percentage off promotions. Don’t forget that you can offer tiered promotions. For example, $10 off $100 or $25 off $250 with code SAVENOW.
- Create a sense of urgency. You can do this by putting expiration dates on your coupons. When you put items on sale, add a “Sales Ends” date. Also, there are some great 3rd party tools out there to help you close the deal with special offers like, “Order in the next 20 minutes and get…”
- Make good use of Up-Sells and Cross-Sells. Related items always do well. Remember that customized picks always perform better than generic or broad categories.
- Create a customer loyalty program.
- Create product bundles. Offer several products together for a discounted price. For example, if there are two products frequently ordered together; offer a 3rd product in the bundle to get a product sale you wouldn’t normally get.
- Create volume discounts. These are great incentives to increase quantities.
- Consider Remarketing to capture some of those hot leads that have left your site.
Always remember that not all of these tips will work out well for your particular store. I’d like to stress again the importance of checking your metrics and doing A/B testing. It doesn’t do you much good to be making so called improvements to your store if they are actually hurting your bottom line. In our next session, we’re going to get deeper into looking at your metrics so that hopefully you can get a good idea of how your site is currently performing. You’ll want to have current data on your site so that you have something to compare your new data to after you make optimizations.
Would you like to join our next webinar? Sign up here!
Check out our second webinar transcript for Tactics to Boost Revenue – Part 2: Deploy Strategic Marketing here.