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Get Better Landing Pages for AdWords with 3 Techniques to Try Today

If you’re a PPC strategist, your client’s campaigns live and die by the strength of the landing pages. If you drop the perfect paid audience on a page with no offer (or an unclear one), you’ll get a 0% conversion rate no matter how your ads perform.

The problem is that as AdWords account managers, we can be pretty limited in our ability to change landing pages. In this role, we typically lack the budget, resources, and expertise needed to affect what’s often the root cause of failing campaigns.

So how do you rescue your AdWords campaigns from bad landing pages without also becoming a landing page designer or a conversion rate optimization expert?

Below are three techniques you can use to reveal some insight, change performance yourself, or influence more relevant, better converting landing pages for AdWords.

1. Cut spend & uncover priority content with the ugly duckling search term method

Many AdWords accounts have rules that look something like this:

If the keyword spends more than $100 and doesn’t result in a sale, remove keyword.

Whether it’s automated or a manual check, the process is the same: “optimize” by getting rid of what doesn’t convert.

But this assumes that the landing page your ad points to is perfectly optimized and relevant to every keyword that might be important to your audience — a pretty tall order. But what if your target audience is searching for your offer with your seemingly “dud” keyword, and you’re driving them to an incorrect or incomplete landing page that doesn’t reflect the keyword or the search intent behind it?

The “Ugly Duckling” is a check you can do when your keyword isn’t hitting the performance metrics you want. It will help you figure out if your keyword is a swan, or a wet rat you need to purge from your aquatic friends.
Ugly duckling adwords landing page trick

As an example, let’s say your client is a fruit vendor, with an AdWords campaign driving coupon downloads. Here’s the ad group for concord grapes:

Concord Grape Ad Group

The Ad Group for Concord Grapes

The keyword phrase ‘organic concord grapes’ has a lot of search volume, but it’s performing horribly at $695 per coupon download!

An AdWord’s “rule” pausing or deleting what doesn’t work would wipe out this keyword in no time. But, before assuming a wet rat, this is where you’d take look at the (hypothetical) landing page:

the corresponding landing page

The hypothetical landing page for the fruit vendor’s Ad campaign.

The landing page never mentions your grapes are organic! No wonder your visitors aren’t converting. This is poor message match from your ad.

In this case, simply adding the high-volume, highly relevant term “organic” to your landing page is much smarter than negative matching the term your audience is using to find your product. There could be several keywords you’re bidding on that could use this swan/wet rat treatment.

Applying swan or wet rat to your AdWords landing pages

Instant wet rat: If your poor performing keyword doesn’t reflect your offer at all (ie: your grapes aren’t organic), then the keyword is a wet rat. Don’t bid on it, and consider negative matching to avoid further traffic.

Further investigation needed: Assuming your grapes are organic (or more broadly, the keyword is indeed relevant to your offer), there are several things you can try, such as:

  • Altering your ad headline: If it’s not already in there, test adding your keyword to your ad’s headline. This should drive a better quality score and cost per click, and you can see whether it affects CTR for the keyword. Because making changes to your landing page could require more rigorous review than changing ad copy, this can be a good first step.
  • Ad group break-out: If your keyword phrase is particularly long or is unrelated to the other keywords in your ad group, break it into a new ad group before including it in your headline.
  • Data-based landing page recommendation: If your keyword performance improves with the ad-specific steps above, you should now have the data you need to get your client or designer/team to feature the keyword prominently on the landing page. In the case of our example, “organic” can be easily added to the headline on the landing page.
    • In other cases, building out a separate, more specific landing page to address individual keywords could be more appropriate.
    • Depending on relevancy and search volume, you can incorporate the theme of the keyword throughout the landing page and offer.
  • Search term deep dive: Go a step further and examine the search terms, not just the keywords, following the same process. Looking at the actual search terms that do drive spend and traffic can reveal potential exclusions, match type tightening, and keywords to add.

Hypothetically, here’s what performance could look like for our keyword once we’ve optimized the ad and resulting landing page to better reflect the product:

hypothetical before and after

This keyword we were about to pause is now driving 1400+ downloads with a cost per download of the coupon. That’s below our target. Swan after all!

2. Learn about your audience with “mini-quiz” ad copy

A strong AdWords landing page isn’t just about following best practices or using slick templates. It should encompass user research, sales data, persuasive messaging, and a compelling offer, but you’ve got a trick up your sleeve: your ad copy.

Think of your ad copy as a quiz where you get to ask your audience what unique selling point is most important to them. With each ad click, you’re collecting votes for the best messaging, which can fuel key messages on your landing page.

To do this right, you have to have distinct messages and value propositions in your copy. For example, it makes no sense to run a test of these ad descriptions:

  • (Version A) Say goodbye to breakouts. #1 solution for clear skin. Try for free today!
  • (Version B) Say Goodbye to Breakouts. #1 Solution for Clear Skin. Try for Free Today!
  • (Version C) #1 solution for clear skin. Say goodbye to breakouts. Try for free today!

One of these ads will get a better click through rate than the others, but you’ve learned nothing.

A good ad copy quiz has distinct choices and results.
You’ll want to challenge assumptions about your audience. Consider this other, better version of the quiz from the text ad example above:

  • (Version A) Say goodbye to breakouts. #1 solution for clear skin. Try for free today!
  • (Version B) Get clear skin in just 3 days. Get your 1st shipment free. Order now!

Whether the winner is “#1 solution” or “Results in 3 days,” we’ve learned something about the priorities of our audience, and the learnings can be applied to improve the landing page’s headline and copy throughout. Rinse & repeat.

Turning your ads into mini-quizzes

See what your audience truly values by letting them vote with their click. Here are some ideas for value propositions to get you started with your ad copy quiz:

Note: I normally don’t suggest including messaging in your ad that isn’t reflected on the landing page (i.e. if your landing page doesn’t mention price, neither should your ad). However, if you don’t control the landing page as the paid media manager, the CTR of an ad copy test can point you in the right direction for what to add to your page, so it’s fair game in this instance.

3. “Tip the scales” with exactly enough information

There’s a widely-spread idea that landing pages for AdWords should be stripped of any features, links, or functionality other than a form. This is just not true, and blindly following this advice could be killing your conversion rates.

Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner, frequently talks about the importance of landing page Attention Ratio:

Basically, your page should have one purpose, and you should avoid distractions.

This is great advice, especially for people who are tempted to drive AdWords traffic to a home page with no real CTA. But I find it has been misinterpreted and misapplied all over the internet by people who’ve twisted it into an incorrect “formula”, i.e.:

  • He who has the fewest links and options on the landing page wins.

That’s not how it works. People need links, content, choice, and context to make a decision. Not all links are bad; I’ve doubled conversion rates just by diverting PPC traffic from dedicated LPs to the website itself.

The question is, how much information does a visitor need in order to take action?

Ultimately you want to “tip the scales” of the decision-making process for your visitor – getting rid of unnecessary distractions, but keeping those essential ingredients that will help them go from “no” to “yes” or even “absolutely.”

Here are 2 very common mistakes that are killing conversion rates on landing pages across the internet:

Mistake #1: Single-option landing pages

You’ve heard all about the paradox of choice and analysis paralysis. You know that when people have too many options, they’re more likely to choose none at all. But what happens when you have too few?

If you don’t see what you want, you’re also going to say “no.”

As an example (that you probably won’t see in the wild but it’s nice and easy to illustrate), someone’s Googled a pizza delivery service. But the landing page allows someone to order pepperoni and pepperoni only, and our vegetarian searcher leaves to order elsewhere.

At first glance, this might look like our “organic grapes” problem from earlier, but something different is at play.

Many AdWords ads today are driving to single-option landing pages, where the only choice is to take the offer exactly as-is. This can be fine when only one variation exists, or your visitors have a chance to narrow their choices later in the process.

But if your visitors’ search is more broad, don’t take away their options in an effort to simplify the page. You’ll miss out on potential sales, which is kind of the whole point of running a campaign.

Instead, driving to a category page, or one that gives your visitors (gasp) – choice! – will keep them engaged. You may also consider creating several different types of landing pages for each specific option you offer to get specific after someone’s narrowed down their options via a broader landing page.

Mistake #2: The not-enough-info landing page

Another case of “When good landing page principles go bad” is the stripped-down, bare-bones dedicated landing page that has no useful information.

A disturbing and growing trend is for AdWords landing pages to feature no navigation, links, details, or information. There’s not even a way to visit the company domain from the landing page. This is a problem, because as the saying goes: A confused mind says no.

What’s going through your site visitors’ minds when they get to a landing page and can’t find what they need?

A landing page without enough information can be just as bad (or worse) than a landing page with too much.

Whether your traffic is warm or cold, coming from an email campaign or paid ads, arriving at your home page or a dedicated landing page, your visitors need to trust that you can solve their problems before they’ll convert on your offer.

Overall, just because someone’s clicked on an AdWords ad doesn’t mean they have fewer questions or less of a need for product details than if they came in from another channel. Remember to cover all your details of your offer in a logical information hierarchy, and don’t be afraid to give your visitors options to explore important info via lightboxes, or links where appropriate.

Getting control over your landing pages for AdWords

As a PPC manager, you may not directly control the landing page, but you can remind your team to avoid conversion killers like:

  • Key questions from the top keywords that aren’t answered on the landing page
  • No clear reason to take action
  • Landing pages where choice is limited unnecessarily, leaving more questions than answers
  • Landing pages that don’t explain what will happen after a visitor takes action on the offer
  • No way for visitors to have their questions answered

Give your visitors a reason to say yes, remove their reasons to say no, and watch your conversion rates improve.

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Get Better Landing Pages for AdWords with 3 Techniques to Try Today

A Comprehensive Guide To Web Design

(This is a sponsored post). Web design is tricky. Designers and developers have to take a lot of things into account when designing a website, from visual appearance (how the website looks) to functional design (how the website works). To simplify the task, we’ve prepared this little guide.
In this article, I’ll focus on the main principles, heuristics, and approaches that will help you to create a great user experience for your website.

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A Comprehensive Guide To Web Design

We’ve Got A Lil’ Announcement To Make: Rachel Andrew Is SmashingMag’s New Editor-In-Chief

Sometimes things evolve faster than you think. Something that started as a simple WordPress blog back in September 2006, has evolved into a little Smashing universe — with books, eBooks, conferences, workshops, consultancy, job board and, most recently, 56 fancy cats (upcoming, also known as Smashing Membership). We have a wonderful team making it all happen, but every project requires attention and focus and every project desperately needs time to evolve and flourish and improve.

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We’ve Got A Lil’ Announcement To Make: Rachel Andrew Is SmashingMag’s New Editor-In-Chief

Seeing Diminishing Returns in AdWords? Here Are 5 Advanced Optimization Tactics

Being a modern-day Paid Media Manager can make you feel a bit like Sisyphus.

Your VP of Marketing has charged you with rolling a boulder uphill (continuously optimizing your AdWords campaigns even when you’ve reached your quarterly objectives).

Image via Shutterstock.

This becomes especially painful when you’re getting diminishing returns out of your optimization efforts. There are many tactics to choose from, but many of them may be a waste of time and may leave you with minimal impact.

When the going gets tough, you need to get creative and find cost/time-effective ways to keep optimizing your campaigns as granularly as possible.

Here are five advanced strategies for getting big optimization wins in AdWords.

1. Reach people who ignored you due to your budget

Before investing time into extensive research, ask yourself:

Am I getting the full value out of my existing target market?

Chances are, you’re losing market share for your target keywords (and locations) due to budget caps.

To grow your campaigns, reduce the market share loss due to budget caps.

Reality check: Are you losing market share due to budget?

Check the “Search Lost IS (Budget)” metric in Google AdWords. You’ll find it in the Competitive Metrics category.

So what’s your number? 2%, 12% or 32%?

Here’s an example: our client’s account was losing up to 32% of market share due to budget by week four. That means they were pacing stronger at the beginning of the month, but needed to slow down towards the end of the month to meet the monthly budget goal.

Search lost due to budget chart (via SCUBE Marketing)

Once you know how much market share you lost at account level, you can dig deeper into the campaign level data. You’ll know exactly which campaigns contribute to the loss. Those gems are your growth opportunities.

Search lost due to budget by campaign (via SCUBE Marketing)

Action plan: Increase daily budgets… with performance in mind

One path you can take here is to increase the daily budgets based on performance. Use three performance buckets to make decisions:

  • Great. Your CPL is healthy. Get more of it. Increase budgets.
  • Poor. Your CPL is high. You’ll spread the poor performance wider by increasing the budget. You won’t make it up by volume. Reduce budgets so you can allocate more spend to the performing campaigns.
  • Borderline. Your CPL needs work. Work on reducing the wasted ad spend and start raising your daily budgets — slowly.

Shared Budgets will help you manage your campaign budgets easier. Here’s how to prioritize your campaigns and group them into Shared Budgets:

  1. Sort campaigns by Conversions and CPL.
  2. Group campaigns into Shared Budgets based on performance. We like to have four groups — B1 through B4 — based on importance, where B1 has no budget constraints, and B4 has the most budget constraints.
  3. Calculate required monthly spend. Sum each campaign category by cost for the month. Make sure all campaigns fit in your monthly budget.
  4. Allocate respectively. Use maximum required budget for B1 first, then B2, B3, B4.

Here’s something else you can do to grow your AdWords campaign.

2. Improve market share lost due to low Ad Rank

Another great way to grow your AdWords campaigns is to reduce lost market share due to low Ad Rank. If you’re not familiar, I’ll give you a quick, practical overview.

Ad Rank is like MTV Top 40 (and if you remember Scatman, I will give you a high five). Instead of rank being based on sales of audiocassettes, vinyl and other formats across a seven day period, Ad Rank is based on three variables for each search query:

  • Your bid
  • Your Quality Score
  • Your ad extensions
Scatman (via Giphy)

I will skip ad extensions, as most serious advertisers use them already (and I hope you’re one of them).

The two variables that matter are your bids and your Quality Score. If they stay constant in your account, but your competitors keep increasing theirs, your Ad Rank relative to competitors decreases and your market share (impression share) is lost due to Ad Rank increases.

Reality check: Are you losing market share due to Ad Rank?

Just as you did with your budget, check the “Search Lost IS (Rank)” metric in Google AdWords. It’s in the Competitive Metrics category.

Search lost due to Ad Rank metric (via SCUBE Marketing)

Once again, find your number for both the account and campaign levels. Once you know, you’ll know what direction to take things in.

Your growth menu is limited to two options:

  • Bid increase
  • Quality Score improvement

Action plan: Increase your bids

If your Quality Score is high already (attempts at improving it may result in diminishing returns or a negative impact on your conversion rate), and your CPLs are healthy, you have no other choice but to increase the bids. Your CPL will go up, but you can gain a lot more conversions.

Action plan: Improve your Quality Score

If your Quality Score is low, work on improving it. You can affect your Quality Score with three factors (directly from Google):

  • Your ad’s expected click-through rate: This is based, in part, on your ad’s historical clicks and impressions. You can think of this as an estimate as to how well your ads might perform, after factoring in things like extensions, and other various bells and whistles that impact performance.
  • Your ad’s relevance to the search: How relevant your ad text is to what a person searches for.
  • The quality of your landing page: How relevant and user-friendly is your landing page?

Recently, Google has improved its Quality Score reporting. You can see the makeup of your score using historical data. This helps you to evaluate how the previous account changes affected your score.

New Quality Score reporting (via SCUBE Marketing)

The problem: you can’t take your Quality Score to the bank. It’s not a KPI.

Given that, if your conversion rates are healthy, don’t sacrifice your results for the sake of Quality Score. Yes, you may improve your Quality Score a bit, but if your conversion rate tanks, cheap clicks won’t matter.

If your conversion rates are not healthy, you can either:

  • Write more relevant ads (with focus on improving CTR and CVR)
  • Improve your landing page (with focus on improving CVR). I recommend using Unbounce to create highly relevant landing pages focused on conversions. You can improve their relevancy with Dynamic Text Replacement, responsive design and fast loading times.

Once you’re satisfied with the conversion rate, go back to increasing the bids. On to the next move you can make to strengthen your campaigns.

3. Expand into a new buyer stage

Buyers have different stages in their journey. You need to understand the buying stages for your customers, understand their differences and finally adapt your marketing to them.

To illustrate the difference between them, I’ll use an example that revolves around unicorns. Let’s say you kept your unicorn enclosed in a submarine for a few years. Your unicorn was exposed to asbestos and got a sick with mesothelioma. You decided to sue the owner of the submarine and you started looking for a lawyer. A good one. Someone like Saul Goodman.

Saul Goodman can sue anyone (via YouTube)

You may be going through any one of three different stages:

  • Awareness – early in the process. Looking for ideas or trying to identify the problem. Far from making a decision. Example: looking for symptoms or treatment options.
  • Consideration – considering potential options. Not ready to make a decision. Example: looking to find out how the settlement amount for getting your poor unicorn sick.
  • Decision – ready to make a decision. Looking for a solution. Example: looking for a lawyer.

In fact, we used this approach for real law firms. One law firm had their eyes set on the strategy behind the decision stage. We identified opportunities to expand into the consideration and awareness stages. New stages helped to double the leads. Let me visualize it:

Double your leads by expanding into new buyer’s journey stages (via SCUBE Marketing)

Reality check: Are your campaigns assigned to specific buyer stages?

Go through your campaigns and map them to the appropriate buyer stages. If you’re not deliberate on your buyer stages, your conversion rate may be affected due to poor matching between the offer and the intent of the buyer stage.

Think of the traffic temperature concept covered by Molly Pittman and Johnathan Dane. Then, review your offer and make sure it matches the intent of the buyer stage.

Offers matched to traffic temperature, with cold leads (awareness) on the left and warm leads (decision stage) on the right. (via KlientBoost)

Action plan: Identify gaps and expand into new buyer stages

Once you map your campaigns to specific buyer stages, identify the opportunities to expand.

Expand into the stages that you haven’t covered. For example, if you’re focusing on the decision and consideration stages, expand into the awareness stage.

Once you identify the missing stage(s), do the following:

  1. Perform keyword research for the new campaigns within the missing stage.
  2. Develop offers that represent the intent of the buyer stage.
  3. Create the ads and landing pages that reflect the offer.

Let’s take a look at the next step you can take toward growing your AdWords campaigns.

4. Expand into new locations

Locations may be an overlooked avenue in which to expand.

Let’s say you own a unicorn breeding business and are targeting locations within a certain radius of your office. You assume you should be targeting people living near your business.

Unicorn breeding farm (via Giphy)

Think about it again. You may be missing your opportunity. Take these two facts into consideration:

If you don’t have these in your targeted locations, you’re missing out. For example, one client, selling custom kitchen cabinets, provided us with a recommended list of locations with a wealthy population. We ran ads at those locations and the traction was small. We didn’t use the whole budget.

Then, we identified a new set of geographies — where the target audience may be working — and tested again. The leads went up by 155% in month 1 (after the change) and 30% more in month 2.

Location targeting (via SCUBE Marketing)

Reality check: Are you targeting all possible locations?

Check your target locations. Are you targeting based on where people live, commute and work?

If you’re missing any location categories, identify them.

Action plan: Expand into new location categories

Once you identified the gaps, do your research and expand. You can expand based on the following scenarios:

  1. Commuter locations. People within the existing market commuting.
  2. Work locations for existing market. People within the existing market at work.
  3. New locations for new market. New locations to reach a new audience, provided your business can operate in them.

5. Expand your offer

New customer acquisition matters — a lot. It doesn’t matter if you acquire them selling the core product or a loss leader. (If you’re not familiar with the loss leader concept, here is the rundown. A loss leader is a product that opens doors for new client acquisition.)

Once you get a customer, your goal is to increase their lifetime value. I’ve covered customer lifetime value extensively in another article.

Let’s take Starbucks, for example. There’s a reason why they’re one of the unicorns of the industry. Their marketing isn’t focused on selling a five-dollar Unicorn Frappuccino (they actually exist), it’s about acquiring a loyal customer who will generate $14,099 over the lifetime.

Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino (via Starbucks)

Reality check: Do you have a unique offer you could sell to acquire new customers?

Consider cell phone companies. Their core product is not the cell phone. It’s the subscription service. See what happens when I search for “cell phones” — I get ads from the cell phone companies.

Cell Phone Offers (via Google)

What does that mean?

These companies expanded their offers to include additional products that serve as new entry points for new customers and growth.

My question to you is this — do you have a new offer you can use to acquire new customers?

Action plan: Expand your offers

Executing this is easier than it seems. Follow these four steps to expand your offer:

  1. Research your customers to understand their expectations. I’ve covered four research methods in a separate article.
  2. Create your offer tied to the core product first.
  3. Perform keyword research representing new offer.
  4. Create the ads and landing pages that reflect the offer.

Final thoughts

You made it! Now, you have five different ways to grow your AdWords campaigns. Remember, start with the analysis first, and take action second.

Once launched, don’t forget to evaluate often, and revise. Your analysis isn’t always right. You need to try, try, and try again — until you find success.

What effective ways have you found to grow your AdWords campaigns? Share in the comments below.

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Seeing Diminishing Returns in AdWords? Here Are 5 Advanced Optimization Tactics

Documenting Components In Markdown With Shadow DOM

Some people hate writing documentation, and others just hate writing. I happen to love writing; otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this. It helps that I love writing because, as a design consultant offering professional guidance, writing is a big part of what I do. But I hate, hate, hate word processors.

Documenting Components In Markdown With Shadow DOM

When writing technical web documentation (read: pattern libraries), word processors are not just disobedient, but inappropriate. Ideally, I want a mode of writing that allows me to include the components I’m documenting inline, and this isn’t possible unless the documentation itself is made of HTML, CSS and JavaScript. In this article, I’ll be sharing a method for easily including code demos in Markdown, with the help of shortcodes and shadow DOM encapsulation.

The post Documenting Components In Markdown With Shadow DOM appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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Documenting Components In Markdown With Shadow DOM

Building Pattern Libraries With Shadow DOM In Markdown

Some people hate writing documentation, and others just hate writing. I happen to love writing; otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this. It helps that I love writing because, as a design consultant offering professional guidance, writing is a big part of what I do. But I hate, hate, hate word processors.

Documenting Components In Markdown With Shadow DOM

When writing technical web documentation (read: pattern libraries), word processors are not just disobedient, but inappropriate. Ideally, I want a mode of writing that allows me to include the components I’m documenting inline, and this isn’t possible unless the documentation itself is made of HTML, CSS and JavaScript. In this article, I’ll be sharing a method for easily including code demos in Markdown, with the help of shortcodes and shadow DOM encapsulation.

The post Building Pattern Libraries With Shadow DOM In Markdown appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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Building Pattern Libraries With Shadow DOM In Markdown

Designing Efficient Web Forms: On Structure, Inputs, Labels And Actions

(This is a sponsored post). Someone who uses your app or website has a particular goal. Often, the one thing standing between the user and their goal is a form. Forms remain one of the most important types of interactions for users on the web and in apps. In fact, forms are often considered the final step in the journey of completing their goals. Forms are just a means to an end.

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Designing Efficient Web Forms: On Structure, Inputs, Labels And Actions

Capturing supermarket magic and providing the ideal customer experience

Reading Time: 6 minutes

The customer-centric focus

Over the past few years, one message has been gaining momentum within the marketing world: customer experience is king.

Customer experience” (CX) refers to your customer’s perception of her relationship with your brand—both conscious and subconscious—based on every interaction she has with your brand during her customer life cycle.

Customer experience is king
How do your customers feel about your brand?

Companies are obsessing over CX, and for good reason(s):

  • It is 6-7x more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer
  • 67% of consumers cite ‘bad experiences’ as reason for churn
  • 66% of consumers who switch brands do so because of poor service

Across sectors, satisfied customers spend more, exhibit deeper loyalty to companies, and create conditions that allow companies to have lower costs and higher levels of employee engagement.

As conversion optimization specialists, we test in pursuit of the perfect customer experience, from that first email subject line, to the post-purchase conversation with a customer service agent.

We test because it is the best way to listen, and create ideal experiences that will motivate consumers to choose us over our competitors in the saturated internet marketplace.

Create the perfect personalized customer experience!

Your customers are unique, and their ideal experiences are unique. Create the perfect customer experience with this 4-step guide to building the most effective personalization strategy.



By entering your email, you’ll receive bi-weekly WiderFunnel Blog updates and other resources to help you become an optimization champion.


Which leads me to the main question of this post: Which companies are currently providing the best customer experiences, and how can you apply their strategies in your business context?

Each year, the Tempkin Group releases a list of the best and worst US companies, by customer experience rating. The list is based on survey responses from 10,000 U.S. consumers, regarding their recent experiences with companies.

And over the past few years, supermarkets have topped that list: old school, brick-and-mortar, this-model-has-been-around-forever establishments.

Customer experience - brick-mortar vs. ecommerce
What are supermarkets doing so right, and how can online retailers replicate it?

In the digital world, we often focus on convenience, usability, efficiency, and accessibility…but are there elements at the core of a great customer experience that we may be missing?

A quick look at the research

First things first: Let’s look at how the Tempkin Group determines their experience ratings.

Tempkin surveys 10,000 U.S. consumers, asking them to rate their recent (past 60 days) interactions with 331 companies across 20 industries. The survey questions cover Tempkin’s three components of experience:

  1. Success: Were you, the consumer, able to accomplish what you wanted to do?
  2. Effort: How easy was it for you to interact with the company?
  3. Emotion: How did you feel about those interactions?

Respondents answer questions on a scale of 1 (worst) to 7 (best), and researchers score each company accordingly. For more details on how the research was conducted, you can download the full report, here.

In this post, I am going to focus on one supermarket that has topped the list for the past three years: Publix. Not only does Publix top the Tempkin ratings, it also often tops the supermarket rankings compiled by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Long story short: Publix is winning the customer experience battle.

WiderFunnel Customer Experience Ratings Tempkin 2017
2017 Customer Experience ratings from Tempkin.
WiderFunnel Customer Experience Ratings Tempkin 2016
2016 Customer Experience ratings from Tempkin.

So, what does Publix do right?

Publix growth - WiderFunnel customer experience
Publix growth trends (Source).

If you don’t know it, Publix Super Markets, Inc. is an American supermarket chain headquartered in Florida. Founded in 1930, Publix is a private corporation that is wholly owned by present and past employees; it is considered the largest employee-owned company in the world.

In an industry that has seen recent struggles, Publix has seen steady growth over the past 10 years. So, what is this particular company doing so very right?

1. World-class customer service

Publix takes great care to provide the best possible customer service.

From employee presentation (no piercings, no unnatural hair color, no facial hair), to the emphasis on “engaging the customer”, to the bread baked fresh on-site every day, the company’s goal is to create the most pleasurable shopping experience for each and every customer.

When you ask “Where is the peanut butter?” at another supermarket, an employee might say, “Aisle 4.” But at Publix, you will be led to the peanut butter by a friendly helper.

The store’s slogan: “Make every customer’s day a little bit better because they met you.”

2. The most motivated employees

Publix associates are famously “pleased-as-punch, over-the-moon, [and] ridiculously contented”.

Note the term “associates”: Because Publix is employee-owned, employees are not referred to as employees, but associates. As owners, associates share in the store’s success: If the company does well, so do they.

Our culture is such that we believe if we take care of our associates, they in turn will take care of our customers. Associate ownership is our secret sauce,” said Publix spokeswoman, Maria Brous. “Our associates understand that their success is tied to the success of our company and therefore, we must excel at providing legendary service to our customers.

3. Quality over quantity

While Publix is one of the largest food retailers in the country by revenue, they operate a relatively small number of stores: 1,110 stores across six states in the southeastern U.S. (For context, Wal-Mart operates more than 4,000 stores).

Each of Publix’s store locations must meet a set of standards. From the quality of the icing on a cake in the bakery, to the “Thanks for shopping at Publix. Come back and see us again soon!” customer farewell, customers should have a delightful experience at every Publix store.

4. An emotional shopping experience

In the Tempkin Experience Ratings, emotion was the weakest component for the 331 companies evaluated. But, Publix was among the few organizations to receive an “excellent” emotion rating. (In fact, they are ranked top 3 in this category.)

widerfunnel customer delight
Are you creating delight for the individuals who are your customers?

They are able to literally delight their customers. And, as a smart marketer, I don’t have to tell you how powerful emotion is in the buying process.

Great for Publix. What does this mean for me?

As marketers, we should be changing the mantra from ‘always be closing’ to ‘always be helping’.

– Jonathan Lister, LinkedIn

In the digital marketing world, it is easy to get lost in acronyms: UX, UI, SEO, CRO, PPC…and forget about the actual customer experience. The experience that each individual shopper has with your brand.

Beyond usability, beyond motivation tactics, beyond button colors and push notifications, are you creating delight?

To create delight, you need to understand your customer’s reality. It may be time to think about how much you spend on website traffic, maintenance, analytics, and tools vs. how much you spend to understand your customers…and flip the ratio.

It’s important to understand the complexity of how your users interact with your website. We say, ‘I want to find problems with my website by looking at the site itself, or at my web traffic’. But that doesn’t lead to results. You have to understand your user’s reality.

– André Morys, Founder & CEO, WebArts

Publix is winning with their customer-centric approach because they are fully committed to it. While the tactics may be different with a brick-and-mortar store and an e-commerce website, the goals overlap:

1. Keep your customer at the core of every touch point

From your Facebook ad, to your product landing page, to your product category page, checkout page, confirmation email, and product tracking emails, you have an opportunity to create the best experience for your customers at each step.

customer service and customer experience
Great customer service is one component of a great customer experience.

2. Make your customers feel something.

Humans don’t buy things. We buy feelings. What are you doing to make your shoppers feel? How are you highlighting the intangible benefits of your value proposition?

3. Keep your employees motivated.

Happy, satisfied employees, deliver happy, satisfying customer experiences, whether they’re creating customer-facing content for your website, or speaking to customers on the phone. For more on building a motivated, high performance marketing team, read this post!

Testing to improve your customer experience

Of course, this wouldn’t be a WiderFunnel blog post if I didn’t recommend testing your customer experience improvements.

If you have an idea for how to inject emotion into the shopping experience, test it. If you believe a particular tweak will make the shopping experience easier and your shoppers more successful, test it.

Your customers will show you what an ideal customer experience looks like with their actions, if you give them the opportunity.

Here’s an example.

During our partnership with e-commerce platform provider, Magento, we ran a test on the product page for the company’s Enterprise Edition software, meant to improve the customer experience.

The main call-to-action on this page was “Get a free demo”—a universal SaaS offering. The assumption was that potential customers would want to experience and explore the platform on their own (convenient, right?), before purchasing the platform.

Magento_CTA_Get
The original Magento Enterprise Edition homepage featuring the “Get a free demo”.

Looking at click map data, however, our Strategists noticed that visitors to this page were engaging with informational tabs lower on the page. It seemed that potential customers needed more information to successfully accomplish their goals on the page.

Unfortunately, once visitors had finished browsing tabs, they had no option other than trying the demo, whether they were ready or not.

So, our Strategists tested adding a secondary “Talk to a specialist” call-to-action. Potential customers could connect directly with a Magento sales representative, and get answers to all of their questions.

Magento_CTA
Today’s Magento Enterprise Edition homepage features a “Talk to a specialist” CTA.

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 six months later: Turns out the “Talk to a specialist” leads were 8x 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 that product page. Magento’s most valuable prospects had demonstrated that the ideal customer experience included the opportunity to get more information from a specialist.

While Publix’s success reminds us of the core components of a great customer experience, actually creating a great customer experience can be tricky.

You might be wondering:

  • What is most important to my customers: Success, Effort, or Emotion?
  • What improvements should I make first?
  • How will I know these improvements are actually working?

A test-and-learn strategy will help you answer these questions, and begin working toward a truly great customer experience.

Don’t get lost in the guesswork of tweaks, fixes, and best practices. Get obsessed with understanding your customer, instead.

How do you create the ideal customer experience?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

The post Capturing supermarket magic and providing the ideal customer experience appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.

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Capturing supermarket magic and providing the ideal customer experience

Make ‘Em Shine: How To Use Illustrations To Elicit Emotions

As designers, we often use imagery that resonates with our audience. Yet, often we also end up with stock photos and generic icons that come across as mere decoration. Or we bypass imagery altogether. But custom images are a powerful design tool. They can tell a story and convey a distinct personality. Custom illustrations can be especially impactful. They can make our audience feel personally connected to an app or website, while being an integral part of the design.

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Make ‘Em Shine: How To Use Illustrations To Elicit Emotions

A Brief Overview On Responsive Navigation Patterns

To say that responsive web design has changed our industry would be an understatement at best. We used to ask our clients which resolutions and devices they wanted us to support, but we now know the answer is “as many as possible.” To answer a challenge like this and to handle our increasingly complex world, our industry has exploded with new thinking, patterns and approaches.
In this article, I want to look specifically at the issue of responsive navigation.

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A Brief Overview On Responsive Navigation Patterns