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Your growth strategy and the true potential of A/B testing

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Imagine being a leader who can see the future…

Who can know if a growth strategy will succeed or fail before investing in it.

Who makes confident decisions based on what she knows her users want.

Who puts proven ideas to work to cut spending and lift revenue.

Okay. Now stop imagining, because you can be that leader…right now. You just need the right tool. (And no, I’m not talking about a crystal ball.) I’m talking about testing.

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So many marketers approach “conversion optimization” and “A/B testing” with the wrong goals: they think too small. Their testing strategy is hyper focused on increasing conversions. Your Analytics team can A/B test button colors and copy tweaks and design changes until they are blue in the face. But if that’s all your company is doing, you are missing out on the true potential of conversion optimization.

Testing should not be a small piece of your overall growth strategy. It should not be relegated to your Analytics department, or shouldered by a single optimizer. Because you can use testing to interrogate and validate major business decisions.

“Unfortunately, most marketers get [conversion optimization] wrong by considering it to be a means for optimizing a single KPI (e.g – registrations, sales or downloads of an app). However conversion optimization testing is much much more than that. Done correctly with a real strategic process, CRO provides in-depth knowledge about our customers.

All this knowledge can then be translated into a better customer journey, optimized customer success and sales teams, we can even improve shipping and of course the actual product or service we provide. Every single aspect of our business can be optimized leading to higher conversion rates, more sales and higher retention rates. This is how you turn CRO from a “X%” increase in sign ups to complete growth of your business and company.

Once marketers and business owners follow a process, stop testing elements such as call to action buttons or titles for the sake of it and move onto testing more in-depth processes and strategies, only then will they see those uplifts and growth they strive for that scale and keep.”Talia Wolf, CMO, Banana Splash

Testing and big picture decision making should be intertwined. And if you want to grow and scale your business, you must be open to testing the fundamentals of said business.

Imagine spearheading a future-proof growth strategy. That’s what A/B testing can do for you.

In this post, I’m going to look at three examples of using testing to make business decisions. Hopefully, these examples will inspire you to put conversion optimization to work as a truly influential determinant of your growth strategy.

Testing a big business decision before you make it

Often, marketers look to testing as a way to improve digital experiences that already exist. When your team tests elements on your page, they are testing what you have already invested in (and they may find those elements aren’t working…)

  • “If I improve the page UX, I can increase conversions”
  • “If I remove distracting links from near my call-to-action button, I can increase conversions”
  • “If I add a smiling person to my hero image, I can capture more leads”, etc.

But if you want to stay consistently ahead of the marketing curve, you should test big changes before you invest in them. You’ll save money, time, resources. And, as with any properly-structured test, you will learn something about your users.

A B2C Example

One WiderFunnel client is a company that provides an online consumer information service—visitors type in a question and get an Expert answer.

The marketing leaders at this company wanted to add some new payment options to the checkout page of their mobile experience. After all, it makes sense to offer alternative payment methods like Apple Pay and Amazon Payments to mobile users, right?

Fortunately, this company is of a test-first, implement-second mindset.

With the help of WiderFunnel’s Strategy team, this client ran a test to identify demand for new payment methods before actually putting any money or resources into implementing said alternative payment methods.

This test was not meant to lift conversion rates. Rather, it was designed to determine which alternative payment methods users preferred.

Note: This client did not actually support the new payment methods when we ran this test. When a user clicked on the Apple Pay method, for instance, they saw the following message:

“Apple Pay coming soon!
We apologize for any inconvenience.
Please choose an available deposit method:
Credit Card | PayPal”

marketing-strategy-payment-options
Should this client invest in alternative payment methods? Only the test will tell!

Not only did this test provide the client with the insight they were looking for about which alternative payment methods their users prefer, but (BONUS!) it also produced significant increases in conversions, even though that was not our intention.

Because they tested first, this client can now invest in the alternative payment options that are most preferred by their users with confidence. Making a big business change doesn’t have to be a gamble.

As Sarah Breen of ASICS said,

We’re proving our assumptions with data. Testing allows me to say, ‘This is why we took this direction. We’re not just doing what our competitors do, it’s not just doing something that we saw on a site that sells used cars. This is something that’s been proven to work on our site and we’re going to move forward with it.’

Testing what you actually offer, part I

Your company has put a lot of thought (research, resources, money) into determining what you should actually offer. It can be overwhelming to even ask the question, “Is our product line actually the best offering A) for our users and B) for our business?”

But asking the big scary questions is a must. Your users are evolving, how they shop is evolving, your competition is evolving. Your product offering must evolve as well.

Some companies bring in experienced product consultants to advise them, but why not take the question to the people (aka your users)…and test your offering.

An E-commerce Example

Big scary question: Have you ever considered reducing the number of products you offer?

One WiderFunnel client offers a huge variety of products. During a conversation between our Strategists and the marketing leaders at this company, the idea to test a reduced product line surfaced.

The thinking was that even if conversions stayed flat with a fewer-products variation, this test would be considered a winner if the reduction in products meant money saved on overhead costs, such as operations costs, shipping and logistics costs, manufacturing costs and so on.

marketing-strategy-jam-study
The Jam Study is one of the most famous demonstrations of the Paradox of Choice.

Plus! There is a psychological motivator that backs up less-is-more thinking: The Paradox of Choice suggests that fewer options might mean less anxiety for visitors. If a visitor has less anxiety about which product is more suitable for them, they may have increased confidence in actually purchasing.

After working with this client’s team to cut down their product line to just the essential top 3 products, our Strategists created what they refer to as the ‘Minimalist’ variation. This variation will be tested against the original product page, which features many products.

marketing-strategy-product-offerings
This client’s current product category page features many products. The ‘Minimalist’ variation highlights just their top 3 products.

If the ‘Minimalist’ variation is a clear winner, this client will be armed with the information they need to consider halting the manufacture of several older products—a potentially dramatic cost-saving initiative.

Even if the variation is a loser, the insights gained could be game-changing. If the ‘Minimalist’ variation results in a revenue loss of 10%, but the cost of manufacturing all of those other products is more than 10%, this client would experience a net revenue gain! Which means, they would want to seriously consider fewer products as an option.

Regardless of the outcome, an experiment like this one will give the marketing decision-maker evidence to make a more informed decision about a fundamental aspect of their business.

Cutting products is a huge business decision, but if you know how your users will respond ahead of time, you can make that decision without breaking a sweat.

Testing what you actually offer, part II

Experienced marketers often assume that they know best. They assume they know what their user wants and needs, because they have ‘been around’. They may assume that, because everybody else is offering something, it is the best offering―(the “our-competitors-are-emphasizing-this-so-it-must-be-the-most-important-offering” mentality).

Well, here’s another big scary question: Does your offering reflect what your users value most? Rather than guessing, push your team to dig into the data, find the gaps in your user experience, and test your offering.

“Most conversion optimization work happens behind the scenes: the research process to understand the user. From the research you form various hypotheses for what they want and how they want it.

This informs [what] you come up with, and with A/B/n testing you’re able to validate market response…before you go full in and spend all that money on a strategy that performs sub-optimally.” Peep Laja, Founder, ConversionXL

A B2B Example

When we started working with SaaS company, Magento, they were offering a ‘Free Demo’ of the Enterprise Edition of their software. Offering a ‘Free Demo’ is a best practice for software companies—everybody does it and it was probably a no-brainer for Magento’s product team.

Looking at clickmap data, however, WiderFunnel’s Strategists noticed that Magento users were really engaged with the informational tabs lower down on the product page.

They had the option to try the ‘Free Demo’, but the data indicated that they were looking for more information. Unfortunately, once users had finished browsing tabs, there was nowhere else to go.

So, our Strategists decided to test a secondary ‘Talk to a specialist’ call-to-action.

marketing-strategy-magento-offering
Is the ‘Free Demo’ offering always what software shoppers are looking for?

This call-to-action hadn’t existed prior to this test, so the literal infinite conversion rate lift Magento saw in qualified sales calls was not surprising. What was surprising was the phone call we received 6 months later: Turns out the ‘Talk to a specialist’ leads were far more valuable than the ‘Get a free demo’ leads.

After several subsequent test rounds, “Talk to a specialist” became the main call-to-action on this page. Magento’s most valuable prospects value the opportunity to get more information from a specialist more than they value a free product demo. SaaS ‘best practices’ be damned.

Optimization is a way of doing business. It’s a strategy for embedding a test-and-learn culture within every fibre of your business.

– Chris Goward, Founder & CEO, WiderFunnel

You don’t need to be a mind-reader to know what your users want, and you don’t need to be a seer to know whether or not a big business change will succeed or flop. You simply need to test.

Leave your ego at the door and listen to what your users are telling you. Be the marketing leader with the answers, the leader who can see the future and can plan her growth strategy accordingly.

How do you use testing as a tool for making big business decisions? Let us know in the comments!

The post Your growth strategy and the true potential of A/B testing appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.

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Your growth strategy and the true potential of A/B testing

Testing Credit-Card Numbers In E-Commerce Checkouts (Cheat Sheet)

As a developer, I work a lot with e-commerce websites and, as a result, with a lot of payment gateways. I’m fortunate that I get to work on many different projects for different clients, each with its own unique challenges. I have, therefore, found myself working with a lot of different payment gateways over the years, from the more familiar ones like PayPal and Stripe to some lesser known ones.

Testing Credit-Card Numbers In E-Commerce Checkouts (Cheat Sheet)

While I love the variety of my work, I generally find working with payment gateways to be frustrating. I’m sure I’m not alone in this opinion! For many payment gateways, the documentation is poorly written, lengthy and, at times, difficult to find.

The post Testing Credit-Card Numbers In E-Commerce Checkouts (Cheat Sheet) appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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Testing Credit-Card Numbers In E-Commerce Checkouts (Cheat Sheet)

The Xanax-Free Approach to Relieving Anxiety on Your Landing Page

landing page friction
This is what happens when you cause anxiety on your landing pages. So stop it. Image credit: Lostateminor.com

We all know someone who isn’t willing to give away their personal information — that person who will never do banking online and thinks you’re an idiot for giving any website your name and email address, let alone your credit card number.

People using the internet already have a level of anxiety about just being online. They’re increasingly suspicious of every page they visit. They’re worried about privacy, they’re worried about having their banking information stolen and they’re worried that they’re not going to get what they pay for.

Consumers are educated about the internet, and they want reassurance that they’re dealing with a company that they can trust their information with. Your landing pages are no exception; they need to work extra hard towards reducing anxiety and building trust with consumers.

Without that trust there is no conversion.

Let’s take a look at five common mistakes that could be causing anxiety on your landing pages – and how you can avoid them.

1. You have weak message match

Imagine clicking an ad that advertises one thing, but winding up on a landing page that has little or nothing to do with that thing. What would you do? Probably panic and hit the back button!

That cognitive dissonance is caused by poor message match: a measure of how well your landing page copy matches the phrasing of the ad that brought people there.

Being promised one thing and then finding another causes anxiety and will most likely make visitors bounce.

What you can do about it

Make sure that your headline is neatly matched up with the message in your ad to reassure people that they’re in the right place. Keep the color palette and typography consistent from display ads to your landing page, and make sure to repeat the specifics of the offer.

Consider the example below by content marketing analytics tool Pathful. Their ad starts out with a simple, green color scheme, and asks whether or not you’re interested in finding out more about how content can affect your business:

ad-reduce-friction

Upon clicking, visitors are taken to this page, where they’re greeted with a nice, big headline that repeats the core message from the ad and assures them that they’re in the right place. Anyone who answered “yes” by clicking on the ad will arrive at a page that speaks directly to the expectations created by the ad.

landing-page-reduce-friction

For bonus points, Pathful should consider A/B testing an ad headline that matches their page’s headline more closely. Dead-on message match like that reassures prospects that they’ve made a “good click.”


You pay for PPC ads, so make them count. If you don’t mind your message match, you’re wasting money.
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2. Your forms are too long

How much information do you need from your visitors? Do you really need 15 form fields of info in order to convince them to convert?

This form below from one of the pages we looked at on Page Fights is asking for too much from an initial contact. It may well be that they need all of that information in order to pre-qualify someone for their program, but this step could be taken later.

landing-page-form-friction

Long forms cause friction – and friction leads to anxiety.

In his epic blog post, The Most Entertaining Guide to Landing Page Optimization You’ll Ever Read, Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner discusses the difference between perceived and actual friction.

Perceived friction might be the shock of seeing a long form and worrying that it’s going to take too much time to fill out. The solution to this issue is to either make the form shorter, or break it up so that you collect the information you need on more than one page.

Actual friction happens when physical barriers cause visitors to abandon your page. In this case, that could be the time it takes to fill in the form. Friction may also be unclear instructions or even inline form fields that disappear when you put your cursor in the field. These things confuse visitors and cause them to leave.

What you can do about it

Keep those forms short! Ask for only as much information as is necessary to begin a working relationship with your prospects. If you get their name and email address, you can start asking for a little more information with each new point of contact, starting with the first email you send them.

As always, the caveat here is that the number of form fields that’s right for your landing page will be decided by the visitors. How do they decide? You test a few different variations, and along the way, you’ll find out by which number of fields is most effective.

Who knows? You may even learn that a lengthy form and a bit of friction is an acceptable tradeoff for more qualified leads.

3. Your “facts” are not believable

You’re dealing with a savvy, educated audience who is willing to do further research if they smell something fishy.

Your landing page could have most of the elements of conversion centered design, but start spouting some questionable facts about your product and you’ll put your readers in full-on skeptic mode.

Not only will your prospects cease to trust you – people might even call you out on it, like in the image below. This “rapid hair growth” business made a few seemingly spurious claims, and a fellow has taken the time to build an entire website debunking those claims.

testimonials-gone-wild
This guy really didn’t believe this testimonial about rapid hair growth. He didn’t believe it so much that he started a website to debunk the claims.

The same applies to hard-to-believe claims used in testimonials.

Testimonials aren’t the “magic bullet” that they’re sometimes made out to be. If they’re not credible, they can reduce conversions.

If you try to pull the wool over your prospect’s eyes, you get the anxiety flowing and the bounce rate rising.

What you can do about it

Stay honest. Use facts that you can verify. Use testimonials from real people who have used your product. It’s as easy to spot sincerity as it is to spot a fake, and testimonials can really help your conversion rates — so long as they’re straightforward and honest.

Oli is fond of saying, “testyourmonials.” What’s good for one page may not work on another, so be sure to test those testimonials!

4. You’re using a lot of words that mean nothing

One of our friends, copywriter extraordinaire Henneke Duistermaat, has at least 17 words that she’d like to see people stop using on landing pages.

All that marketing gibberish like “state-of-the-art” and “world-class” doesn’t actually mean anything to anyone. Is your product “innovative?” Really? How so?

And woe unto those of you who use the word “leverage” on your landing page copy. Woe, I say! You’ve used a word that doesn’t really mean anything unless you’re selling levers. You know what else you’ve done? You’ve just created a bounce-able level of anxiety.

What you can do about it

You can start explaining what you mean instead of using meaningless buzzwords.

“State-of-the-art” doesn’t mean anything real to anyone. Tell prospects what they want to know: what your product does and how it’ll take away their pain.

Talk about the features and benefits of your product using simple, explanatory words. Describe what you’ve got to your potential customers the way that you would describe them to your grandma. You don’t want your grandma to feel anxious, do you? Good. Make it that easy for everyone.

5. Nobody knows who you are

The simple fact is that, unless you’re a major brand, people may not know who you are. If folks don’t know who you are, they’re unlikely to trust you with their personal details.

Consumers are becoming a lot more savvy. One study showed that almost 75% of respondents paid attention to the URL address in browsers looking for “https” connections. From one of the respondents:

For the payment itself, I always seek some trusted logo and the URL bar logo and the URL address.


About 75% of people look for “https” in browser bars when making a purchase.
Click To Tweet


If you don’t show that you’re running a legit operation, your visitors are not likely to want to hand over their personal information.

What you can do about it

Give your visitors a reason to trust you. People expect to see a privacy statement, terms and conditions, and trust seals that they’re familiar with.

Trust seals are third-party badges that show people that your page is meeting high security standards, such as employing the use of HTTPS  or SSL data security.

Be careful, though – too many trust seals on one page can actually add further anxiety. Be sure to place those seals in a high-visibility spot so that they can be seen.

Not sure exactly where to put it? Start A/B testing until you find the right spot.

How will you reduce landing page anxiety?

Now that you know a little bit more about your potential customers, you’re probably starting to feel a little empathy with them. You know that they have real fears, but you also know that you can alleviate those fears.

Get to know your prospects, their anxieties and what they need from you to convert. Then give it to them.

Anxiety is a massive killer of conversions. By demonstrating your trustworthiness, you reduce the consumer’s perception of risk and allow them to make the purchase they want to make.

What other methods do you use to reduce anxiety on landing pages? Let us know in the comments below!

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The Xanax-Free Approach to Relieving Anxiety on Your Landing Page

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4 Ways a Lack of Clarity Could Be Killing Your Conversions

What's for sale?
Don’t expect your customers to buy anything if they can’t understand what’s for sale. Image source: Terry Robinson.

What’s the most important ingredient of a successful landing page? Witty copy? A beautiful design? An oh-so-clickable CTA?

It’s clarity — creating a page that allows anyone to quickly determine what your offer is and if it’s right for them. If someone can’t understand what you’re selling, they’re certainly not going to be interested in buying it.

Unfortunately, it’s also incredibly easy to mess it up. Creating a clear page requires that you put yourself in the shoes of your audience, ignoring all of the context that you have and they don’t. Which is easier said than done.

That’s probably why it was the most prominent problem with the landing pages in this month’s episode of Page Fights — a grand digital coliseum (okay, it’s a Google Hangout) in which landing pages are critiqued by a team of expert judges, including Unbounce’s own Oli Gardner, Peep Laja from Conversion XL, and this month’s guest Jay Baer, author of Youtility.

Read on for the top clarity lessons culled from this month’s episode, or check out the recording for a more visceral landing page takedown experience.

1. You’re not showing the product

It might seem too obvious to point out, but showing the product you’re selling is critically important. If your product is visible, like a physical item or software, show it. If you’re selling an invisible good — like insurance — illustrate the positive impact it will have on the user’s life.

This is crucial to helping your customer imagine themselves using the product and experiencing its benefits.

Hey Gluten Free, a gluten-free product subscription service, comes close to pulling this off, but falls short in the execution.

Hey Gluten Free

This landing page was a favorite among the judges, and Oli thought the headline did a great job of effectively communicating the product’s value to prospects. But compared to the strong copy, the imagery didn’t carry its weight.

They’ve relegated their actual product shots to a cluttered corner of the hero image, while illustrations of boxes adorn the rest of the page. As Jay pointed out, this introduces a lot of uncertainty:

Well, this might sorta kinda maybe be the product we eventually give you.

Hey Gluten Free is unique in that their product is essentially randomized, with a different box of goodies arriving every month. Still, this landing page could have been elevated from strong to stellar by displaying an actual box, with actual products inside, front-and-center.

PetitePuf, an organic cotton candy cart service, made a similar mistake.

Petite Puf

While you’re welcome to rent a cart — complete with various flavours, décor and “spinning artists” — for your next classic muscle car jamboree, their core focus is on catering weddings. Their site is packed with beautiful photos of nuptial table-settings, happy brides and brides-to-be and seriously delicious-looking candy floss.

It’s a shame, then, that none of this imagery made it onto their landing page.

The sole photo here features the cart and cotton candy as an obscured background decoration, with a lone, faceless woman in the foreground. Jay suggested more product and customer-centric photography and perhaps a short video showing people enjoying the candy.

Whichever way they decide to approach it, PetitePuf would be wise to heed Oli’s advice:

Bring the delight the cotton candy will bring to your wedding guests front and center.


Make it easy for your potential customers to imagine themselves using and loving your product.
Click To Tweet


2. You’re speaking your own language, not your audience’s

PetitePuf’s troubles didn’t end with their imagery – Peep took them to task for their confusing form copy.

I understand you want to be cute, but that shouldn’t impede reading your content.

Petite Puf form

In general, the judges had many problems with their form copy:

  • “Chat With Us” is a misleading and ineffective headline. Not only is this not a chat, but the headline should reinforce what the user is here to do. In this case, that’s requesting a quote or finding out more about the service.
  • As Jay mentioned, “We need your name so we can say hi!” is a strange and unnecessary justification.
  • “Sweet nothings? Sure thing.” What?

While nobody would suggest that sterile copy is something that PetitePuf should aspire to, anything that makes your proposition more difficult to understands needs to go.


If your “clever” copy doesn’t clarify the value of your product, trash it.
Click To Tweet


But at least PetitePuf’s copy calamities were confined to the form alone. The same can’t be said of Bosky, purveyor of sunglasses made with FSC certified wood.

Bosky

First problem: what on earth is FSC certified wood?

As Jay pointed out, Bosky’s page is packed with confusing copy, extolling the virtues of “base-six curvature,” “skateboard construction” (???) and “stainless steel hinges with a three-point mount” – all while burying what these features actually mean for the wearer.

Jay’s advice:

What these guys need is 20% as much copy and just an FAQ. Describe in clear language what it is you do well.

Terminology that might seem accurate or downright impressive to you has a good chance of being totally lost on an unfamiliar reader. Unless your page is targeted at a demographic that lets you assume a base level of knowledge, you should really write your page without making any assumptions.


Don’t write your copy like you would an email to your colleague. Speak your audience’s language.
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3. You’re telling the story backwards

Clarity isn’t just about what you say. It’s also about how you say it and, in this case, what order you say it in.

vetPromotion is a social media management tool aimed at busy veterinary practice owners.

vetPromotion

It’s a pretty cool idea, but vetPromotion has to convince those managers that social media marketing is something that should be a priority to veterinary business. It’s here that vetPromotion drops the ball, digs a hole and buries the ball in it.

Only after explaining their product in several (increasingly confusing) ways do they begin stating the case for social media in vet practices.

This was totally backwards. To their credit, vetPromotion took the feedback to heart and overhauled their page after the show, doing more to prime their prospects on the benefits of social media before going for the conversion.

So what does this mean for your landing pages?

If your product makes it “easier to do X,” you have to convince your audience that “X” is worth doing at all.


If you make it “easier to do X,” your landing page has to convince that “X” is worth doing…
Click To Tweet


4. You’re putting form before function

Landing pages can — and should! — strive to be beautiful and fun, but that should never get in the way of your visitor understanding the value of your offering.

Consider this page from Imation. It’s about their Nexsan line of enterprise data storage. But can you tell?

Imation
The very confusing adventures of Captain Lumenwrangler.

Here’s what Peep had to say about it:

I’ve never in my life seen such a disconnect between a landing page and the product a company is selling.

To be clear, it’s immediately apparent to anyone who visits that this page has had a ton of effort, money and love poured into it.

But that doesn’t make it good.

It doesn’t show or explain their product in any meaningful way. It’s packed with tons of copy, but none of it explains what Nexsan is, what problem it is they solve and why anybody should care.

It’s obvious that Nexsan was trying to inject some delight into the fairly dry topic of enterprise data storage, but the execution falls short. The idea is heavy-handed, the plot uncompelling and the five-click, seven-form-field ask far too demanding for what’s given in return: a pretty boring comic strip.

Imation Comic
The real nightmare is having to fill out a new form for every single page of this comic.

To their credit, Nexsan seemed to take the criticism in stride:

But hopefully they’ll take it to heart, too. Oli said it best:

What this page needs is a superhero named Captain Clarity.

Captain Clarity is the hero this page deserves, and gosh, does it ever need him right now.

Your prospects don’t come to your landing page to be impressed by flashy artwork or a self-indulgent narrative. They came to you because they have a real problem. It’s your job to help them solve it as expediently as possible.


Your prospects have a problem that they need your help solving. So don’t waste their time.
Click To Tweet


Bring clarity through real cleverness

“Clever” is a word that’s gotten a pretty bad rap among conversion rate optimizers. But when we call out landing pages for being too “clever,” what we really mean is that they’re failing to achieve the cleverness that they’re striving for.

To be clever is to be ingenious and adaptive, ready to approach problems from a new perspective. And it’s also about knowing when restraint is warranted.

So I encourage you: be truly clever. Seek out ways of communicating your value that are uniquely yours, while remembering that your audience is counting on you to be clear and honest with them.

And once your truly clever landing page is ready for prime-time, put it to the ultimate clarity test: submit it to next month’s Page Fights!


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4 Ways a Lack of Clarity Could Be Killing Your Conversions

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Color your way to Conversions!

Red means passion, black is equal to luxury and yellow gives a feeling of freshness. Use orange for your CTAs to increase conversions and this case study proved that red is a better button color than green… BLAH!

There are more than 16 million colors and any great blog-post that you come across on the internet will tell you the “feelings” conveyed by only a handful of colors. If you sell to people from different ethnicity and cultures, choosing colors for your website can become even more difficult as one color that relates to wealth and prosperity in a country may relate to mourning in another. How do you go about it then?

In this post I will help you choose colors for your website’s CTAs, background and other important entities that you want people to focus on. A believer of “one size doesn’t fit all” and “data (not opinions and experience) gets most respect“, I will not be able to spill out some magic potion and tell you the exact colors you should use. But I promise to take you through 3 actionable tips that you could go back and test right away to increase your website’s conversions.

1) Color the Primary Goal of your Website to Make it Stand Out

Imagine a shopping list of 20 items, all items written in blue ink except for one which is in red. If asked to scan this list for 10 seconds, which item do you think you are most likely to recall later? Multiple experiments have confirmed that outliers (or the item in red in the example) is what people remember most often. This is because of a phenomenon known as the Von Restroff effect (also known as isolation effect) which states that an item that stands out is more likely to be remembered than others.

Applying this to your websites, if you want your calls to action to get immediate attention, make them stand out. Use a color that has high contrast compared to your background and that hasn’t been used for any other entity on the page. Look at how Facebook and LinkedIn do it on their homepage:

Facebook homepage
LinkedIn homepage

Choosing a contrasting color for your primary CTA is not very difficult. You just have to look for a color diagonally opposite to that of your background color or most-used color on your page from the color wheel.

color_wheel

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Let’s for a moment go back to the red button v/s green button case study. Have a closer look at the screenshot below. You will find that the color scheme of the original page has some emphasis towards green. The Performable logo is green, the screenshot used on the page has some elements in green and one of the features also has an icon in green. A quick scan doesn’t really make the CTA stand out from the rest of the elements. I wouldn’t be surprised if testing the original page against a variation with the CTA in yellow or orange would produce same or better results.

red_green_button_case_study

The important takeaway from this case study is to create a visual contrast for your goal. End of the day, it’s not the button color that is going to sell your stuff but how prominently you display it for people to take a decision before abandoning your website for the competitors’.

2) Choose Colors that are “All”-User Friendly

In United States alone, about 7% of males (roughly 10.5 million men) and 0.4% of females have some form of color blindness. In Australia, these percentages are 8 for men and 0.4 for women. The most common problem being difficulty in telling red from green.

Needless to say, when deciding colors for your website and the areas where you want people to focus on, it becomes imperative to keep in mind people who have some form of color blindness. And if you have a SaaS product, that shows some results in charts and graphs, it becomes even more important to choose the right colors so that they are easily distinguishable for everyone. See below, how a contrast between foreground and background appears to people with certain forms of color blindness. You will notice that while eyes with normal vision would easily be able to read the text, people with Protanopia and Deuteranopia (most common forms of color blindness) will just not be able to read what’s written.

Normal vision:

normal_color_vision

How the above appears to people with Protanopia:

protanopia

And to people with Deuteranopia:

deuteranopia

Image Credit: Studiopress.com

Common solutions to ensure a great experience for everyone:

  • Choose colors many steps away from each other on the color wheel
  • Use tints (mixture of color with white) for background and shades (mixture of color with black) for foreground (or vice versa). Or make one element even more dark and the other even more light to create better contrast.

3) Train Visitors with your Color Key

Consider how bar graphs work. To look at data of one particular type, you just follow its color or pattern. Once you understand what a particular color or pattern bar stands for, you are able to compare easily focusing only on that particular color or pattern.

Similarly, if you use one color consistently on your website for a particular CTA (say signup), you will subconsciously train your users with the meaning of that color on the website. As an example, let’s suppose someone is evaluating a SaaS product on your website. And you have a shiny orange button for free trial on every page. When done evaluating their eyes will look for the orange thing, on whichever page they are, to sign up.

This way, you can even tell them which colors correspond to a heading, which means links and which call for a purchase.

See how CampaignMonitor does it beautifully. CTA buttons on all of their pages, which ask people to sign up for an account, are in green. And for no other CTA has the same color been used. This createa a consistent visual memory for visitors.

campaignmonitor_homepage

Let’s Talk

How has your experience with website colors been? Tried any A/B tests that worked well? Or may be which didn’t? Would love to hear all of it in the comments section below!

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Color your way to Conversions!

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14 Actionable Tips to Increase Travel Website Bookings

14 CRO tips

So the visitors land on your travel website, search for flights and accommodation and then randomly leave without completing the booking — almost on a whim. If your website has also been seeing a similar trend, then you are not alone.

On an average, more than 95% traffic coming on hotel, airline and tour packages websites leave without completing the purchase process. Why? Because travel eCommerce is one of the trickiest online businesses — thanks to lengthy marketing funnels, complex search parameters, complicated checkout processes, multiple forms and massive personalization. The average conversion rate (% of website visitors turning into customers) of travel websites is a dismal 4% — far below the 10% conversion rate of financial and media firms.

Travel conversion rate

But you can always improve this figure by optimizing your website so that more visitors turn to customers. Here are 14 tips you can implement on your website to make more visitors convert — complete the transaction.

1) Make your ‘Site Search’ smart and intuitive

Search box
William Shatner pointing his finger towards the search box acts as a directional cue for visitors

For no other industry is the search function as critical as for travel websites. In the case of eCommerce stores, visitors operate in the ‘browsing and finding’ mode. They may or may not use a site search. But when it comes to travel sites, the entire premise of the prospective transaction is based on site search. Only when a visitor selects a location and a date, will he find relevant results from which he/she will make a choice. Not only should your site search be extremely fast and accurate, it should be as intuitive as possible.

There are four key search parameters — date, location, budget and number of people. You can use drop-down menus for calendar and locations, and pre-define different budget categories for visitors to choose from. You can also save their booking history and populate past search parameters for convenience.

Personalization
Expedia gives the visitors a Scratchpad in which their search history is saved

2) How and what you display in site search results is crucial

The result page that appears after a visitor inputs his search combination can overwhelm a visitor into abandonment if the information is presented in a haphazard manner. It’s important that the visitor gets all the needed information without having to leave the funnel. The flight and hotel options should be displayed in a clean layout with pricing being highlighted.

Search results page
Priceline encapsulates its call to action button (Choose) and Price to draw visitors’ attention

An editable search bar should also be prominently displayed so that the visitor can modify the search results without hitting the back button.

3) The progress bar is your lifeboat

Progress bar

The booking process is extremely complex with many steps in the booking funnel – hotel booking, flight booking, amenities, cab pick and drop. Complex booking experiences make travelers switch to higher cost offline channels. In a survey conducted among US passengers, it was found that at least 18% of travelers don’t find online planning and booking easy.

It’s extremely difficult to cut down on the amount of information that must be collected during the booking process. But dividing the process into identifiable steps makes customers’ life much easier. These identifiable steps are like road signs — the customer will know what lies ahead after they complete that step.

4) This is the add-ons market: Upsell and Cross-sell with elan

Cross-sell and Up-sell

Would they want to add on travel insurance as a package deal? Or perhaps, get flight seats with extra legroom at a little extra cost? Or may be extend the trip by three days to get a steal of a deal? The options for add-ons, cross-sells and upsells are immense in the online travel business — extra baggage, hotel upgrades, meals — all are additional services that could be clubbed with the booking to increase the average order value.

According to a TripAdvisor survey, free Wi-Fi is the most requested hotel amenity with 89% of travelers wanting it, followed by free parking and breakfast. However, you need to take care of two things when it comes to upselling and cross-selling. First: Don’t offer an upsell option when the visitor is at the checkout. You don’t tell the traveler what they don’t have and confuse them when they are about to close the deal. Secondly, don’t auto-check the add-ons as the customer might not notice them at that point but would get mighty pissed when they see the inflated cost at the checkout.

5) Personalization is the key

The incredible thing about online travel is that every booking is personalized to some extend. One traveler might always go for free Wi-fi as a criterion for hotel booking while another might always choose flights with 100% on-time record. Using a personalization tool to remember travelers’ booking history will help you make relevant offers the next time they come to your website. You could also track their in-session activity to understand their behavior and booking habits.

Recommendations
Travelocity makes recommendations to travelers on the basis of their past results

When you display the search results, you could also put badges on thumbnails to highlight a particular feature the traveler requested the last time. It’s a great way to catch their attention and offer relevant information really fast.

6) If you know them enough, offer recommendations

This is the second part of the personalization process. If a traveler has booked with you a couple of times, that’s good enough information for you to offer trip recommendations. If there is a lot of consistency in their booking behavior — sea-facing hotels, family trips, spa and recreational activities — you can assume he/she is a leisure traveler and accordingly recommend similar travel experiences.

A global hotel chain ran an A/B test in which it replaced its search widget with a recommendations widget on its search results page. This increased the hotel’s revenue by $658,000.

7) Leave no room for ambiguity

Any information that is vague and open to reader’s interpretation is a potential conversion barrier. The multitude steps involved in the booking process are anyways a hindrance to smooth web experience. Review all the information throughout the funnel for ambiguities.

For example, when you ask visitors for their age, you might be showing them three options to choose from – kid, adult and elderly. Now you might think you have communicated yourself clearly but what about someone who is 17? He definitely does not think of himself as a kid and neither is he legally an adult. Or what about someone who is 59? An adult or elderly? There’s always some room for confusion here. And if the ticket prices vary according to these groups, then the visitor won’t think twice before abandoning you for some other website which clearly states the age group, like this:

Clarity of information

Here’s another example of ambiguity. By looking at their analytics, Expedia found that many of their visitors were clicking the booking button but weren’t completing the transaction. After some analysis, they found that an optional field on the booking form (called ‘Company’) was confusing the travelers. The visitors thought the field required them to enter their bank name. Having entered the bank name, they then went on to enter their bank address (not home) in the address field. This was causing the credit card transaction to fail. Expedia simply deleted the ‘Company’ field and reaped in higher profits. (Here’s the full case study)

Here’s a look at what all information leisure travelers are interested in at the time of planning a holiday.

Information sought by travelers

8) Make room for the last minute traveler

Last-minute queries on mobile device for hotels and accommodations went up by 79% during January 2012 compared to 2011. Tap into this most obvious market segment by prominently displaying a ‘Express booking’ button on your homepage.

9) Make them an offer they can’t refuse

The world of online travel is an unfair one. Google analysis shows that an average travel shopper visits 22 websites (Yessir, not a typo) in multiple shopping sessions before finally booking a trip. Planning a holiday is a thoughtful and complicated process with the visitor going on a ‘Control + W’ spree at the slightest of whims and inconveniences. You have to get their attention really fast and make them act right away in order to score transactions. One of the ways to do that is by using the Urgency principle — one of the six persuasive psychology principles mentioned in Robert Cialdini’s book ‘Influence’.

Last few tickets available at discounted price’
Book now to get a free hotel upgrade’
Book in the next one hour to get free wine on arrival
‘Get complimentary breakfast if booked in the next 30 minutes

There are endless ways to generate urgency and dissuade the visitors to go on a website hopping spree. However, be reasonable and don’t make a promise you can’t keep because that will just tarnish your reputation.

Creating urgency
Booking.com constantly updates its booking status to create a sense of scarcity and urgency

10) Wear nice shoes

Men are judged by the appearance of their shoes. And the authenticity of your business is judged by the appearance of your website. Shoddy design, clumsy layout, too many rotating image carousels, misspellings, bad grammar, unrecognizable security logos and no trust badges are all signs of a possible fake. Online frauds are the order of the day and visitors are ever more cautious about revealing their personal and credit card information online. Hence, it’s very important that your website oozes trust and authenticity.

Marriott homepage
Marriott’s homepage has a minimalist classy design which evokes credibility

When you are asking for their credit card information, display a security seal along with it. Use testimonials, customer reviews, media coverage and privacy policies to win the visitor’s trust. Hotels and airlines should ensure their booking processes are secure.

Planetamex, a travel agency, didn’t come across as credible due to the use of dated logos and award seals on its website. They ran an A/B test and replaced the homepage banner with the one built around the credibility markers of the AMEX brand. This new version increased their phone call conversions by 48%.

11) Don’t make them hunt for the login button

Login button

The customers will return to your website to update, modify or cancel their bookings or just to look up flight schedule, flight number, hotel location or any of the various pieces of information that make a booking. They will also come back to look up their frequent flier miles or seek information about the loyalty programs. Make sure you display the Login button pretty prominently on the homepage as Delta does above so that the customer doesn’t have to frustratingly hunt for them.

12) Reviews are a goldmine

Reviewers' ratings

Reviews are a great form of social proof in any kind of online business. But if you are into the travel business, their importance can’t be emphasized enough. Here are some thundering facts about reviews in the online travel business.

A word of caution though. Don’t go about faking reviews, because frankly it shows.

13) Make sure your website works seamlessly across all devices

If you haven’t done this by now. Get up from that couch and get to work right away. Because if your mobile and tablet sites are not optimized for conversions, you are pissing off a mighty chunk of potential customers, and losing reputation and money alike. Want some hard facts? Here are a few:

Mobile and tablet data(Source: The Connected Traveler Report)

Invest in a responsive design so that the visitor has a seamless experience across all devices. And if you have different websites for mobile and tablet, make sure they have the same functionality and features.

14) Invest in cool tools

Let’s face it. The competition in online travel and hospitality segment is immense with little distinguishing one website from another. If you want to be noticed amid the crowd, you will have to go an extra mile and offer a unique service and tool no one else is offering (or at least offer it in a cooler way).

Kayak offers an ‘explore’ tool that let’s you scan the world map for places you can travel to within a specified budget.

Explore tool

Similarly, Bing Travel had a cool ‘price predictor’ tool which would forecast whether fares for a particular flight and location would increase or go down. Alas! Microsoft killed the tool earlier this year, much to the disdain of travelers.

The First Optimization Step

If you are just beginning with the optimization process, looking at the maximum drop off page in your analytics would be a good starting point to fix the leaking conversions. Should you have any questions about website optimization, conversions, A/B testing and Matthew McConaughey, please drop in a message in the comment section.

The post 14 Actionable Tips to Increase Travel Website Bookings appeared first on VWO Blog.

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14 Actionable Tips to Increase Travel Website Bookings