As I was preparing for my SES Extreme Makeover session, analyzing the lucky businesses that were chosen for a free makeover, I became fascinated with a particular e-commerce site.
There was no question that the pages on this site performed exceptionally well. Bounces were under 20 percent and the exit rates were very low. I also knew this company had been testing using Google Website Optimizer.
Clearly, this company was dedicated to continual improvement and working hard to improve its conversion rate. The analytics shouted proof that someone was minding the store.
So why was its overall conversion rate painfully low?
I dug deeper into the analytics, going back and forth between the numbers and the site. Then I knew exactly what was wrong. I was curious if my staff would be able to see exactly what I saw.
As much as I'd like to brag about my staff for being brilliant (they indeed are), I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, they're trained to look where others don't. Without hesitation, they saw exactly what I saw.
All Is Well...on the Surface
The marketing was good and relevant, the site was well designed, the landing pages and product pages were sticky, and traffic seemed to move through the site with ease. Even the checkout process was good. Instead, the site suffered from a severe persuasion scenario problem.
The site attracted interested prospects and gave them enough big call-to-action buttons and shiny products to browse, but made it difficult, even impossible, for prospects to gain any resolve to buy the right product for them. This is a site with a slow drip. Prospects are falling off one by one in hundreds of different places. It's proof that landing page optimization isn't enough.
Moving Beyond Best Practices, Usability, and Testing
The site is nice, well lit, well run, but not selling. So how do you begin fixing the problem? First, you have to understand it a bit.
We created a simple, one-dimensional persona who was early in her buying process. She knew she needed a certain product but didn't know where to start. The site sells sporting recreational goods with the average price point in the hundreds of dollars. This isn't an impulse-buy type of site.
We clicked through the site as this persona and, no matter where we started, we ended up hitting a virtual brick wall, confused and frustrated. The site seems to have good prices but little guidance on what products are best for the beginner. The site even offers packages to make it easier for the customer.
Yet it didn't help the persona answer the question: which is the right package for me? Even when we were a persona further along in the buying process, we still had a heck of time sorting and finding the right products for our need.
Simple persuasion issues not addressed on product pages and category landing pages are the Lilliputians sucking the lifeblood out of the site's conversion rate. Proof again that too many sites spend way too much time and money on best practices and page performance to the detriment of site performance.
The Good News
This site will get a makeover that will undoubtedly stop many of the drips. Some solutions are as simple as adding a little copy to category pages, creating several pages specifically addressing the needs of different buyers, and leveraging some great content already on the site.
The site can serve as a lesson to those of you who have come up short on your optimization expectations. It can remind you to optimize not just for better page performance but also for the actual visitor using those pages.
Here are a few steps you can take if you're suffering from a slow-drip persuasion scenario problem:
Are you spinning your wheels, looking at your site analytics and running out of things to optimize or test? If you're willing to share your situation with my ClickZ readers, tell me your story. My staff and I will select one or two sites to look under the hood of and share findings in a future column.
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.
March 19, 2014