Have you ever been really interested in purchasing something online, only to confirm that your two worst ecommerce nightmares have come true; first, it’s not available on Amazon, and second, the only website that it’s available on is super shady looking. There’s a good chance that you might second-guess purchasing that specific product at all. That’s going to lead you to start researching alternative products. Now if that website’s experience was so incredibly amazing, you probably would’ve made the purchase without having a second thought. What would the characteristics of that website experience be? An ecommerce website that was designed and built to convert. While this topic could encompass thousands of variables, we’re going to focus on four big areas: the user journey, marketing automation, advocacy, and data tracking.
The user journey is the path that a user follows in order to make a purchase. There are various paths a user can follow before a conversion can happen. You’ll want to take into account that a visitor may enter your site through either direct, referral, social, or search channels. They may also enter your site by means of a product video or awareness article. So now that you’ve gotten their attention, you’ll need to re-route the prospect back into your funnel with more content, lead magnets, and offers.
The user journey should consist of a flowchart and decision tree. If your path to conversion requires 10 steps, then let’s begin at the end with what happens after the conversion: another incentive, customer review or referral, and a newsletter signup. These are what we call ‘micro-conversions,’ and they will help you achieve your goal KPI’s much faster. Now let’s work our way back from the completed transaction, to the checkout process, to the product research, to the homepage, to the organic search term. What was the term that drove them there? Now that you know it works, it should be sprinkled into your other channels as well.
Next, map that same path from social media and direct, if that was how the user initially got to your website. Direct could be any single primary, secondary, or tertiary page. For example, if a user drives to an “about” page, they’re likely looking for company information that will help establish trust. After they’ve finished reading your unique story, we need to push them further down the funnel. A good user experience should seamlessly shepherd the prospect down the funnel until they’ve made the purchase. They may also seek additional information before making a purchase, so it’s important to continue serving up content that answers their questions during their user experience.
Some products can be bought on impulse, while others may take several engagements and various touch points to keep pushing the prospect further down the funnel. One powerful tactic, which can be as simple as email capture, can help you establish the beginning of a long term relationship with your prospects. Acquisition platforms like SUMO make it easy to grow email lists from your website. We’re also big fans of the mailchimp email marketing service, which integrates with almost every content management system available. Many CRM’s have their own marketing automation features built-in, usually at an added cost. If your CRM doesn’t offer this feature, there’s a good chance mailchimp has an integration available.
Based on where the website visitor left off, you can segment your audience lists. For example, creating an intent list for visitors who add to cart, but never complete the purchase. From there, you can send out a personalized email with the items and offer a discount to trigger the close of the sale.
Building community and advocacy should be the next area of focus when improving user experience. One of your greatest sales channels will always be referrals. Websites should assist in this process, and even encourage users to spread the good word. Discounts and other incentives are great triggers for turning customers into advocates. Remember when Dropbox first came onto the market? Their user base spread like wildfire by offering ‘free space’ for every referral sign-up linked to your account. Some refer to this tactic as hacker marketing, but it has also worked well for companies like Apple, who included the default email signature “Sent from my iPhone” on everyone’s phone. Early adopters were proud to show off their shiny new toys, and it turned into a free advocacy campaign for Apple.
So how does this translate to the website experience? It could be in the form of an offer in your transactional emails after purchase, or even on the confirmation page following a purchase. Keeping the customer engaged at all stages of the funnel, instead of ending the user experience at the end of the funnel, is key to building retention.
Customer reviews have also become the new form of social media. Sites like Amazon have built up their own micro-communities within the rating system. Prospects are likely to trust real customer reviews over anything that a brand claims on their website. The team over at BazaarVoice have done a fantastic job of creating an off-the-shelf platform for customer reviews. In addition to ratings and reviews, it’s feature packed with curation, Q&A, personalization data, sampling, and more.
Imagine building a retail store for an entire year. Your soft launch is a success, and now you have opened the doors to the public. You start collecting surveys in return for a 10% discount on their next purchase. After analyzing the surveys, you come to realize that major changes need to be made in order to address customer feedback. Your first thought is probably, how much will it cost, and secondly, why didn’t I think of this beforehand? The beauty of digital is that we get to react on the fly and make changes in a cost-effective manner. Every necessary tweak such as headlines, CTA’s, and prioritization of information (if your website is developed correctly) could marginally increase your sales and conversion rates. Innovative companies like Salesforce now offer built in AI tooling, known as Einstein within their Cloud Commerce CMS. Einstein takes data reporting to the next level with automated changes to the user’s experience within microseconds. These changes are based on user behavior, and companies like Black Diamond saw a 15% increase to their revenue upon enabling Einstein’s personalized product recommendations. Not every company can afford an enterprise level software package like Cloud Commerce.
In addition to running Google Analytics, there are several tools that you can use to help optimize your experience even further. Google Search Console gives you a preview of your search engine results pages (SERPS) as well as the keywords that drove users to click on your site. HotJar is another popular tool we use often to track engagement. Quickly install heatmaps and measure your clicks, taps, cursor movements, and scroll depths across desktop and mobile. Users are not making it to the product page? There’s a story within every heatmap, and you’re likely to pinpoint the issue quickly when you’re actively tracking it.
A/B testing is also an essential component to data reporting. Tools like Optimizely and Google Optimize allow you to A/B test on the fly. I also recommend using an SEO service to monitor your website’s search performance. SEMRush and Moz Pro give amazing insight into your site health, keyword positioning, backlinks, as well as tools for competitor research.
Building a great user experience is no easy feat, and will require a lot of breaking and fixing. Poke holes in your experience as much as possible. If you’re developing prototypes in an agile matter, it’s easy to test your assumptions even quicker. If you have any tips or hacks out there for increasing your conversion rates, hit me up in the comments.