Who do you want to run your store – Lady Gaga or Lady Thatcher?
Probably neither, but bear with me :).
Lady Gaga would bring in the traffic, but she would also waste a lot of time singing and chatting and probably drinking.
Lady Thatcher would, as only an ex-Prime Minister and strong armed diplomat could, work out whether those customers want to buy a bottle. She would try one sales pitch, if it didn’t work she would move on to the next customer and try something a bit different. You may not like her style but she would get results.
Actually – you probably want both
Lady Gaga may be more interesting but I’m afraid we have to talk about the Lady Thatcher side of websites ;)…
Let’s go back a step – to your website
You’ve hired the best web developer in town. He has more acronyms than a medical professor – expert in SEO, PPC, PHP, ASP, and SEM. He makes an eCommerce website that looks like something from NASA and Picasso. He has even integrated that new fangled social media stuff. You’re impressed and have every right to be.
You launch the website
Nothing happens but he prepared you for this. He told you that it needed some traffic from Google Adwords in the first few weeks and then slowly search engines would start to send traffic. Makes sense (and confirmed to be true by your geek brother-in-law).
And they were right
They had also installed tracking software (Google Analytics) that tells you how many visitors you are getting. And slowly but surely you start to get more and more. Before long you are happy with traffic.
But not with sales
Sales in fact seem minuscule versus the number of visitors to your site. Thousands come and immediately fly out the other end without doing much at all.
Your wife asks you how your website is going
You mumble something, and then need to urgently do something outside.
The fact is that only a tiny percent of visitors buy anything – and you ain’t goin’ to tell the wife that … she was the one who raised her eyebrows when you told her that you needed to spend lotsa money on a website.
Truth be told you may have hired a very good web developer or purchased a system from one of any number of good wine eCommerce companies. You may even have hired an excellent internet marketing person who is ensuring you get lots of traffic to your great website.
The problem is that … no one knows
No one knows why the website has a low conversion rate. They are all experts at what they do – web design and internet marketing – they have well-considered opinions and, heck, you’re not dumb either. But you really need some facts, not speculation on your dime.
Finding out what no one knows is done through something called Landing Page Optimization.
And that is what this series of posts are all about. And that was also my attempt to make a dry but extremely important subject interesting 😉 .
I know many readers liked my posts about that sexy area of internet marketing – social media – and I’ve seen my readership levels take off as I’ve covered twitter, facebook, bloggers, social media objectives and measurement.
I am doing some more research on social media that I’ll share soon
But at the end of the day this blog is about a wine retailer boosting sales. So having looked at the Lady Gaga of Marketing, Social Media, we’re now going to go look at the much more boring Lady Thatcher of Marketing, Landing Page Optimization. Trust me it’s worth it.
Landing Page Optimization
The experts I follow in this subject area are Conversion Rate Experts (more about them in later posts) and a guy from San Francisco called Tim Ash who owns a firm called SiteTuners and literally wrote the book on this area.
Essentially what Tim says is that it’s unlikely you’ll ever find out why your visitors aren’t buying, even if you’re a so-called Internet Marketing expert (er, like I say I am 🙄 ). So if no one knows, then leave it up to your customers’ vote, albeit unconsciously but seamlessly, on your website pages.
By offering two or more versions of the same webpage and see which one converts the best.
Direct marketers have been doing this since Claude Hopkins in Chicago in the early 1900s. He used newspaper adverts with coupons. He had two ads with differences in various elements, like the headline or picture, with a different coupon for each, that the housewife cut out and took down to the local store. The more coupons redeemed the more successful that particular ad. Pretty basic retail marketing huh?
Exactly the same principle applies for the internet and is being used extensively today. This is not some obscure science it’s very mainstream – so mainstream your competitors are probably doing it…
And it is a warp speed version of the old coupon method. It is made possible because websites allow you to track large (and therefore) statistically valid numbers of visitors, to see which particular webpage variants convert better than others.
Some simple examples are:
- Two exactly the same web pages but with two different headlines. One says, “Featured Napa Valley Merlot”, the other says, “Napa Valley Merlot – the heart of Wine Country, the Marquis of Grapes, but at Everyday Prices”.
- Or perhaps on a product page you have a Buy Now button versus and Add to Cart button. Or the button is at the top, or at the bottom, or both.
You could have experts giving you their opinions on what is best – or just find out yourself.
Google Website Optimizer
You usually install Google Website Optimizer – “usually” because it’s free vs other expensive options. This puts code on the two variants of the page as well as on the shopping cart completion page (also colloquially known as the “Thank You” page). Google Website Optimizer then randomly presents the different variant pages to different visitors. The page that gets the most visitors to the “Thank You” page, i.e. purchases/conversions, is pronounced the winner.
Here’s how the Google Website Optimizer team puts it:
The page that gets the most conversions is pronounced the winner – eventually.
The more volume and sales you have the quicker the process. Google Website Optimizer has some complex statistical math working in the background and it will only call a winner when there are enough completion pages to be statistically valid.
To speed this testing process up you often will use an indicator of success like email newsletter sign ups or even change the page to shopping cart entry rather than shopping cart completion. Sometimes, I’ve known, er, friends to not wait until Google Website Optimizer says it’s statistically valid but make a call after about 30-40 sales. Not that I suggest that, well, okay I may have done. More of that in another post.
The Japanese call this Kaizan
That is incremental improvements that, over time, equal large improvements. Which is what we’re doing here. Rarely are there large improvements from one test. It is more likely that there are a series of small improvements from many tests over many parts of the “Funnel”.
The Funnel and Landing Page Optimization
I think most people understand the sales funnel. It is described in different ways and I’ve used it too with social media measurement, and my general overview of selling wine online. Tim Ash uses it for Landing Page Optimization.
He uses the “Acquisition > Conversion > Retention” terminology.
What I call Traffic. It’s the top of the funnel. Visitors may come from your efforts in SEO, Banner Ads, Adwords, Affiliates, Blogs, Social Media in the online word and advertising, word of mouth etc in the off line world.
What I call conversion, sometimes :). Tim says this is when a visitor to a landing page takes a desired action. So he’s including signing up to a newsletter as a conversion, whereas for an eCommerce store I would only count sales.
==== Sidebar on Blogs and Conversions ====
Note for this blog I happily call an email/RSS sign up a conversion. I only coach or consult to a small number of clients but have a large number of readers. So if I was to wait for sales I could be waiting years – but if I wait for email or RSS sign ups then the process of testing is much faster.
So please sign up to an email if you like my posts, it truly sends me a signal (amongst others)!
What I call Repeat Business. This is where you build on the initial permission of a sale to further develop the customer relationship. For example a customer opting into receive a newsletter at the time of sale.
Traditionally this is email but can also be blog feeds as well as your reward and loyalty program.
The aim is to improve each part of these processes incrementally. Improve parts of your landing page headlines, buttons, cart layout, email newsletter sequence etc.
So rather than expecting growth of 20% immediately
e.g. $1000*20% growth = $1200
e.g. $1430.77 = $1000* 1%*1%*1%*1%*1%*1%*1%*1%*1%*1%*1%*1%*1%*1%*1%*1%*1%*
or each of the three processes improves by 1% every month for 12 months.
And it compounds like interest rates.
The Myth of the Perfect Conversion
Lastly let’s cover what Tim calls the myth of the 100% conversion.
There is no 100% conversion. Visitors can be split into Noes, Maybes, and Yeses.
The aim is to concentrate on the Maybes. Firstly the more Yes-Maybes, then the Maybe-Maybes and then the No-Maybes. There are many good reasons why visitors to your website may not purchase, not the least being they got a poor search result and immediately leave your page. They may also not be in a purchasing frame of mind – just researching.
The graph based off the one in Tim’s book, though I have slightly altered it.
The Noes aren’t going to buy no matter what you do. The Yeses have decided to buy so leave them to it. The Maybes are where you’ll make a difference in your website.
In the next posts we’ll bring this subject area to life by showing you what to concentrate on and giving some examples from the Conversion Rate Expert guys.
Any thoughts so far?