Make sure your online business doesn’t have a M&S moment

Marks and spencer adWith Marks and Spencer blaming its re-launched website for an 8% slump in online sales, Joe Doveton, head of conversion at Oban Multilingual, shares five things no-one tells you about web conversion.

If you’ve got a web based business, conversions matter. Increasingly, conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is an industry that internet based businesses are pouring resources into. However, there are still lots of things about CRO no-one talks about, here are our top five:

1. “My tool is bigger than yours.” Now, here’s the thing. There is a lot of clever technology out there, some of it very cheap. Just because you have a smart bit of software, it doesn’t mean you are going to be any good at CRO. Because a tool is a tool, it takes expertise to design intelligent tests to get meaningful results. Hypotheses should be researched. Web analytics need to forensically sliced and diced. Cultural differences should be assessed between customers in different countries. Competitor sites need to be benchmarked and spied upon. All of these things require confident people and lots of time. So buying a cheap tool will not save your conversion bacon.

2. Your users aren’t stupid, but they are lazy. For many years, there has been an ongoing charm offensive from usability experts rebutting the claims that users don’t scroll down the page. That attitude is old hat, they say they design with the user in mind. So far so good. However, the evidence from analytics firms says otherwise. In Western markets, users will scroll, just not very far. So, the longer the page, the fewer people will get to the bottom. In China, users will scroll. But wherever your customers are geographically based, ensure they can undertake an action within a couple of scrolls of the mouse or swipes of the finger.

3. Landing page optimisation is NOT conversion rate optimisation. Your landing page is important as it’s the first thing that your pay per click (PPC) visitors will see of your brand. It is still (often) a long way from the checkout or final transaction point. However, it’s a vital part of both the paid media mix and your conversion strategy. Bounce rates can be monitored and reduced. Search intent can be deduced. Data can be captured. Return visits can be monitored. Your landing pages may not be the gateway to a transaction for every visitor, but successful landing page testing is the glue that joins PPC and CRO together.

4. Is personalisation eating CRO, or is it the other way round? Optimisation and personalisation are solutions often bundled together, largely because the same technology often delivers both. However, they are philosophical opposites. Why? Because optimisation is about finding an optimal experience based on averages that works for average visitors with the most frequency. Personalisation is about catering for a specific individual at a specific moment in time. Neither approach is perfect but they are both steps into a customer led world of more effective design. Start from both corners. We’ll see you in the middle.

5. You Won’t Read This. I don’t blame you. It’s human nature. We’re impatient to get to the meat of the proposition. We don’t even bother that lerttes arnet in the rhgit oredr, because we only notice the first and last letters in sentence. Jakob Nielsen studied thousands of pages of web content and the web analytics that went with them and calculated from word density and page dwell times that users only read about 20% of content. So next time you spend £10,000 on a piece of content marketing, think about what you’re trying to achieve, think about the word count, think about the design, think about the user.