STACKING THE DECK


Tips for increasing online conversions.


MARKETERS CAN BE a greedy breed. Eager to convert website visitors into oоvorog plavers. they often use pushy tactics online that would never be tolerated in a bricks and mortar environment. Does your website require a registration before someone can make a purchase? Do you ask for a lot of personal information that isn't necessarv for the transaction? All of these very common Tactics are killing your conversion rate. If ou're having trouble getting visitors to complete a transaction online, read on.

Whether your conversion action is a game download, subscription programme or other transaction, the key to getting vour visitors to convert involves making a dear, predictable and easy path for them to transact with you. Here are some techniques to help you optimise your transaction process and forms to minimise anxiety - reduce abandonment and. ultimately, increase conversions.

Don't force registration

If you want to really annoy your visitors, particularly those who are ready to act on your offer, one of the surest ways is to force them to register before being able to transact with you.

Marketers and website owners commonly implement registration because they view it as a service to their visitors. Registration may streamline future transactions by storing visitor preferences, payment methods and other information in an account so that repeat customers don't have to re-enter the data, but forcing registration can be a major conversion killer, as many web users find it to be a nuisance (at best) or overly intrusive (at worst).

If your site currently requires new customer registration before a visitor can proceed to the transaction, remove it. If you want to offer users the option of registration, move the offer to the end of the checkout process. At that stage, visitors have significantly more invested in the transaction. They are less likely to abandon the process and more likely to supply the requested additional information, particularly if you let them know the benefits of registration.

Resist the urge to up-sell at the last minute

Another common tactic during the transaction is to introduce last-minute up-sells, cross-sells or special offers. This is fine if it is handled before the checkout step (for example, by displaying added benefits that come with higher membership levels), however, during the checkout process such tactics should be carefully reconsidered. Usually, there is a trade off between higher value per transaction and lower overall conversion rates. The method by which a secondary offer is presented greatly affects its potential impact. Efforts should be made to minimise disruption and surprise.

Remove the navigation

One of the keys to making the user experience easier is to remove choice and simplify the transaction process. An easy way to do this is to change the navigation information available on your form pages. The main menu that is used during the earlier stages of the decision process is no longer applicable during the action stage, and could serve as a distraction that causes visitors to leave your form and move backwards on your conversion path.

If your site currently requires new customer registration before a visitor can proceed to the transaction, remove it If you want to offer users the option of registration, move the offer to the end of the checkout process where visitors have significantly more invested in the transaction. "

Likewise, if your landing page is designed for a single conversion action, you should not use the navigation or page structure from your main website. You should remove the navigation completely, or limit it to specific information related to your conversion action. This is particularly true if you are paying for the traffic stream directly (via PPC or banner ad purchases). In such cases, I often recommend removing the navigation altogether. Sometimes, you may still want to have your logo link back to your main site but you should realise that this is a potential traffic leak, and that some people will wander off to your main site, never to return.

If you feel that your main site contains content that is necessary for the conversion action, you should copy it onto the landing page (or a supporting page on your standalone micro site). Do not link off to the main site for such supporting information, as you run the risk of your visitors getting lost, distracted, or both.

Ruthlessly edit your forms

A long and imposing form will turn many people away. Forms should be ruthlessly edited to remove extraneous fields that aren't necessary for the transaction. The value of the incremental information gathered in a longer form will rarely outweigh the benefit of having many more people completing the process.

The most important part of form creation is minimising the number and complexity of form input fields. Ask yourself: "is this information absolutely necessary to complete the current transaction?" Be sure you are only asking for information that you need at that moment. Resist the temptation to ask for information that may not be needed at all ('How did you hear about us?') or that can be collected later in the process (after you have established more trust with the visitor). If your form has fields labelled 'Required', take a look at all the remaining fields and consider removing them.

Once you have removed all extraneous fields and are certain that you are asking for the bare minimum of information from your visitors, you can further streamline your forms with these techniques:

• Clarify the purpose of the form with a headline or description. Be sure it describes the benefit that the visitor will receive by completing the form.
• Shorten form labels as much as possible.
• Organise form fields into logical groups, and label each group with a category subhead.
• Eliminate any strong horizontal separators in longer forms.

Don't surprise the visitor

If you have a visitor who is ready and willing to complete your form, the last thing you want to do is introduce any eleventh hour surprises that might erode trust or cause the visitor to re-think his or her interest in completing the transaction. Some examples of unwelcome surprises include:

• Not warning people about the supporting information that they will need to have at hand in order to complete the transaction.
• Not specifying all acceptable payment methods up-front.
• Introducing pop-ups.
• Making peripheral or unrelated special offers.
• Including price increases, or extra terms and conditions.
• Asking for information in a nonstandard or illogical order.
• Using nonstandard or unclear text captions on your buttons.

In order to ease anxiety and manage the expectations of your visitors, your website should always show the visitor's progress during the transaction. If there are three steps in the sign-up process, let the visitor know how many steps remain. Better yet, use descriptive labels on a timeline at the top of the page, showing the visitor what action he or she is currently taking, and what actions are coming up.
Most transactions have a final point-of-no-return. Usually, this involves clicking a button after filling out form information. It is critical to provide last-minute reassurances on the page where this point occurs. Final reassurances include:

• A summary of the information that has been provided (services or membership plan ordered, personal information, billing method and price).
• Terms and conditions (the fine print).
• Spelling out exactly what will happen when the action is taken.
• Validation and risk reducers (satisfaction guarantee or privacy and trust symbols).

Final thoughts

Convincing a visitor to take a desired conversion action is a major feat, but only half the battle. It only counts if they actually complete the process. The techniques outlined in this article will help improve the odds of your visitors completing the transaction. But keep in mind that even when your transaction process is optimised, you will still have some people who bail out. Some visitors may decide that they want to continue their search for alternatives. Others may need the approval of another person (such as a co-worker or spouse) or may not have the proper payment method or necessary supporting information to complete the transaction. Still, others may simply want to sleep on the decision before completing the transaction. But for all the rest, following these tips will make sure they stay focused and committed to their decision, all the way through to your confirmation page.
 
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