Whether a customer enters your website from Facebook, search, email, display, or another inbound marketing channel, your goal as a marketer is to be relevant and encourage them to convert. To increase the chances of a successful online session, you must create an online experience that extends beyond the landing page to the entire website visit and even subsequent visits.
Here are four simple ways for brands to increase conversions by delivering a consistent and relevant online customer experience.
1. Identify your customers. The first step toward maintaining consistency and delivering relevance is to understand your customers. There are a number of opportunities throughout the online session to identify the unique attributes of the customer and create a more impactful online experience.
Start by understanding whether customers are coming from an affiliate, email, or social referrer; or if they're coming from search, what information can be gathered from the search terms that triggered their visit? You should also take into account technographic information to identify what type of device or browser the customer is using to access your website.
As a marketer, one of your biggest assets when it comes to relevance is the combination of your technology and your people. Importantly, you must understand the resources you have available within your organization. Ask yourself what testing tools you'd like to have as well as what capabilities exist within your current platform.
You should then identify the level of business unit support that is available to achieve your goals. For instance:
2. Keep your website consistent. In order to achieve message consistency throughout the website experience, you must mirror your inbound channels beyond the landing page. Leverage the user characteristics you've identified to increase the depth of engagement with customers who visit your website.
For example, say a customer is searching for a new MP3 player and clicks on an ad that offers free shipping on all orders over $100. There are multiple opportunities within the landing page and then throughout the website experience to deliver a more impactful and consistent browsing experience.
As a baseline, start with your brand's value proposition by reinforcing the content in the ad that triggered the customer's initial visit (the free shipping offer). This handshake from the ad to the website makes the customer realize that she's come to the right place, and that you understand what she's looking for.
You can take this a step further by working with your merchandising team to determine the right product recommendation assortment for the category visited most often by the customer. A great starting point is to remove any ancillary products that weren't pertinent to the particular searching session and increase the number of related products shown alongside the MP3 players (like protective cases).
You can further call out items you're displaying through product badging, which means adding an overlay to product thumbnails that highlights specific product features, e.g., a "best seller" badge.
3. Think local. Demonstrating contextualization about the customer's geography is another way to boost relevance throughout the browsing session. When the customer visits your website, the web browser can tell you her location based on the IP address. You can further drill down to the Zip code, city, state, or country level and determine relevant messages to deliver.
In fact, many web browsers now have a literal language setting that enables you to reinforce the initial channel that triggered the customer's visit by translating the message she saw in the ad to a more relevant language.
Beyond translation, there are additional opportunities to use the customer's geography to promote any physical storefronts you have nearby. For instance, if you have a brick-and-mortar store within 10 miles of the customer, try highlighting a message like "see more products in store." You can also experiment with campaigns to incentivize in-store pickups and returns.
There are also sales tax implications you can leverage to encourage conversions among customers shopping from tax-free states. Some states have back-to-school, tax-free holidays (take a look at the Federation of Tax Administrators website for ideas). Knowing what these states are, and where your customers are coming from, can present opportunities to highlight messages around a tax-free shopping season - a de facto promotion that doesn't hurt your overall margin.
These location-based targeting methods deepen engagement with the customer by taking information that is relevant to her and delivering a customized experience based on geography.
4. Make it a landing session. When thinking about how to drive consistency from inbound marketing traffic, focus on a "landing session" as opposed to the singular landing page. This means maintaining message consistency from the initial page, which may have optimized for multiple elements, throughout the entire session since oftentimes conversion doesn't happen on the initial landing page. To drive conversions, ask what you can do to bring that same level of relevance from the landing page to other pages in the customer journey.
Don't be satisfied with merchandising only the first product in a search result. If you know your customer is searching for waterproof jackets, for instance, try offering her related items like hiking gear, backpacks, or sleeping bags. However, make sure to provide an anchor for the customer to easily get back to the category assortment that started her session.
Once the customer adds an item to the cart and visits the checkout page, she has made a commitment. When this important event occurs you must reaffirm the very first offer the customer saw via the specific inbound marketing channel and give her an indicator that the process is in place for her to redeem that offer. Creating a consistent and highly relevant customer experience will have a dramatic impact on conversions.
Maintain Consistency Throughout the Customer Journey
Oftentimes the customer lifecycle is more than a single visit process, so it's important to maintain consistency across multiple visits. For example, a customer that searches for an item at 9 a.m. may complete that purchase several hours later. Therefore, you must reinforce those same properties and attributes that led to the initial 9 a.m. session when the customer comes back at noon.
Understanding the customer's purchase behavior, and mapping out a consistency program that helps trigger customer actions, will lead to a more relevant experience for the customer and make a substantial impact on your bottom line.
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Nathan Richter advises top enterprise clients including Best Buy, QVC, Urban Outfitters, Sports Authority, and PETCO on website optimization. A veteran of digital marketing and online retailing, Richter has extensive hands-on experience helping enterprise clients implement successful multichannel marketing campaigns. Richter has directed online marketing and site optimization programs for David’s Bridal, QVC, The Franklin Mint, and dELiA's.
December 12, 2013
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