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The Complete Guide To Using Personas To Optimize Your eCommerce Website

State Of Buyer Personas 2016 established that approximately 60% of the survey respondents took their first-ever buyer persona development initiative within the last 2 years—a result similar to the previous year survey on personas.

It has been almost two decades since the term “persona” was first coined and used by Alan Cooper in his book “The Inmates Run the Asylum.” However, organizations still struggle to develop personas effectively. As a result, the gap between what the consumer wants and what companies provide has widened.

Look at this survey graph for a quick look into the mistakes that can taint customer-business relations, when the latter does not know its ideal customer well:

thunderhead-biggest-mistakes-companies-make-with-customers-apr2014In this blog post, we walk you through the process of creating effective personas, how your business can benefit from these, and why these should be a part of your conversion optimization strategy. Let’s begin:

How to Create Effective User Personas

To create personas that are effective, it is important to first understand what personas should not be:

  • A demographic profile
  • A market segment
  • A documentation of behavior based on a research that lacks data

Having listed the “nots” of personas, let’s deep-dive into what effective personas comprise and how to develop these. Research, qualitative and quantitative, is the foundation of personas. When based on research, personas unveil:

User Motivation

What your users want to accomplish?
What drives your users’ behaviors?

User Mindset

What do your users think?
What are their expectations?
What will make them buy?

Friction

What could be their reasons for hesitation?
What could be their hindrances?

To develop personas that can give you insights as deep as finding answers to the above questions, and a few more tough ones, we advise you to:

  • Use Qualitative Research.
  • Use A/B Testing.
  • Perform Competitor Analysis.

Using Qualitative Research

Qualitative research tools such as on-page surveys, in-person interviews, and so on can help you uncover the expectations and motivation of a user.

We list some use cases for on-page surveys to help you understand how these can be wisely used for gathering information that is required for developing effective personas:

Use Case 1. Understanding Purchase Decision

Understanding customer motivation for buying a product plays a significant role in replicating the buying behavior. If you knew precisely what motivated a visitor to buy from you, it is the next step to motivate other visitors in the same direction.

What you could ask?
  • Did you find what you were looking for?
  • What motivated you to complete your purchase?
What triggers to use?

Goal Completion: As soon as a user completes a signup form or makes payment for items in the cart, this survey should pop up to understand the true motivation behind the purchase.

Use Case 2. Determining Purchase Satisfaction

It is important to know the purchase satisfaction level to determine if there are reasons that can stop them from buying or make them buy from elsewhere. It can also help you categorize people who have high or low purchase satisfaction levels, if you are able to observe a pattern.

What you could ask?
  • On a scale of 0–10, 0 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, how satisfied are you with your last purchase?
  • The reason behind your rating. What do you think is good/bad about buying from us?

Analyzing the information that you have from your survey:

With regard to the question on purchase satisfaction levels, the information that your users reveal can be smartly analyzed to create user personas. Let’s say that you have an online apparel business. Running such surveys can help you:

  • Identify users who are not at all interested in your product (those who rate you between 0–3), users who do not have a firm opinion on your product (4-7), and users who have purchase satisfaction levels (8–10).
  • Understand the reasons behind high and low purchase satisfaction levels for all categories of users mentioned in the previous point.
  • Identify patterns, if any, in those rating your product high/low. For example, do those who rate the product on a scale of 8–10 buy the product because of “fresh styles and patterns,” do most of these people fall in the age group (20–25), and so on.
  • Build user personas based on this information.
What triggers to use?

Time spent on a page: Show the survey after visitors spend “X” seconds on the first webpage they visit. Target the survey using custom targeting to those who have made an online purchase earlier from you.

Asking these questions at the right time can help you fetch actionable information, uncover user motivations, as well as apprehensions.

Similarly, exit intent pop-ups and in-phone surveys also help you find out if your product/service is providing the value that your users and/or customers expect out of it.

Your qualitative research findings can then be dissected to create personas. Consider an example:

You are an eCommerce business selling antiallergic bedding. Your in-phone customer interview and on-page surveys help you determine one of your persona “Jane” with the following attributes:

  • Aged 32, she has very sensitive skin, which is prone to allergies.
  • She is willing to pay a little more if the product quality is good.
  • She also cares about the product being eco-friendly.

Your qualitative research would further help establish:

Jane’s motivation to buy your product: The bedding suits her needs, is priced just what she thinks is right, and can be found easily online.

Jane’s mindset while making a buying decision: She cares about her health and skin. She will not risk investing in any product that can cause allergies. She is also quality-conscious.

Jane’s bottlenecks to buying: She might return the product if she does not find it comfortable and per the quality that she expects. Style and comfort go hand in hand for her.

When you have conducted qualitative research and listed down motivations, bottlenecks, and mindset, you need to gather insights on what your user/customer is doing online. So the next logical step is to unveil Jane’s onsite behavior.

Running visitor recordings, heatmaps, and form analysis will give you different insights into your buyer’s or user’s onsite motivations, constraints, hesitations, and restraints.

For example, using form analysis can help you identify the form fields that lead to customer hesitation or customers abandoning the form.

VWO Form Analysis
VWO Form Analysis

Using A/B Testing

Let’s say that you have listed a few findings about your personas, after conducting an in-depth research. However, you want to be as sure as possible. The following attributes can be put to test:

  • Comfort vs. Style
  • Discount vs. Buy One, Get One Free
  • Value of free shipping and free returns

A/B testing can help you narrow down to attributes as close as true to your real users. Whatever assumptions, observations, and opinions you have about your users, you can A/B test them to find out what your ideal users associate more with.

Performing Competitor Research

Digital intelligence tools can help you dig deeper into competitor data to analyze their traffic. Using such tools, you can find out where your competitors are putting their effort into—social media, mobile, content, email marketing, and so on.

After you have an idea of where your competitors’ major efforts go into, you can work backward to identify the audience they are targeting for creating user personas. This elaborate and well-researched post on medium will tell you how you can crack competitor research to create user personas for your business.

Benefits of Personas for Your Business

Mathilde Boyer, Customer Experience Director at the House of Kaizen, lists 5 ways in which every business can benefit by using personas.

“Personas shouldn’t only be created to trigger user empathy within an organization. They should be built with a practical application in mind so that they can be instrumental in a Conversion Optimization Strategy. Validating personas through actual user data and connecting them to target audiences increases their ability to drive business strategies.

Creating and leveraging user personas brings 5 key benefits to Marketers and Product Owners.

  1. Connect research insights
    Develop a unified view of your customers and prospects by identifying commonalities and unique attributes to provide a deep understanding of motivations, anxieties, decision making styles and moments when users find inspiration.
  2. Strategically manage marketing budget
    User personas allow you to prioritize target audiences and shift spend based on channel performance for individual audiences. Maximize your marketing investment by focusing your efforts and budget on the profitable leads.
  3. Develop powerful brand and product storytelling
    User personas can be leveraged to tailor storylines and bring your value proposition to life. They are key to understand aspirations, desires and perceptions of your customers. They are also crucial to strike the right note with unique content created to move buyers from interests to purchase.
  4. Go beyond marketing silos
    User personas allow you to ensure continuity and complementarity of messaging and creative across all user touchpoints (ads, website, emails, offline campaigns, customer service script, sales pitch, etc.).
  5. Prioritize product roadmap
    User personas should be a valuable levier to inform your product development cycles and ensure that new features are developed to solve evolving prospects’ problems and needs.”

Other than the benefits that Mathilde talks about, personas are also helpful in bringing uniformity to every department of the business regarding who their customer is. From customer service representatives to sales to marketing to the administrators, everyone is aligned to consumer goals. This helps everyone across the business keep their ideal customers happy, and thus increase overall satisfaction as well as retention.

Why Should Personas Be a Part of Your CRO Program

Protocol80 compiles some interesting facts on why personas are awesome. We list 2 of these here as evidence on why personas should be a part of your conversion optimization program.

“In the case of Intel, buyer personas surpassed campaign benchmarks by 75%. They were more cost efficient than the average campaign by 48% DemandGen Report.

In the case of Thomson Reuter, buyer personas contributed to a 175% increase in revenue attributed to marketing, 10% increase in leads sent to sales, and a 72% reduction in lead conversion time.”

Personas can help you improve conversions by:

  • Improving your personalization efforts.
  • Helping enhance product user experience.

Improving Personalization – Content

Personas help bring in more clarity on crafting tailored content that appeals to the target audience of the business. Consider an example:

You are an eCommerce business. One of your user persona is say, Mary – The Loyal, with some of the following characteristics:

  • Visits your website frequently
  • Makes a purchase every month or two
  • Shares reviews
  • Does not purchase expensive products
  • Does not buy more than 2 or 3 products in a single visit
  • Is fashion-conscious, but does not compromise with quality

As you understand the buying behavior of this user persona, you can run campaigns with content specifically focussed at converting these users. For example, when Mary-the loyal visits your website again, you can personalize recommendations based on her last purchase, which might interest her into making a purchase.

Here are 11 examples of personalization that you can read about. We simply love how Netflix serves content based on past user views.

Enhancing User Experience – Design and Development

At the design and development level, personas work as a research tool for businesses intending to enhance browsing/buying experience for their online users. These personas that are based on usage goals, browsing and exploring behavior, as well as pain points, tell the why behind the actions that users take on a website.

Such information is critical for designing any product or service. Understand, relate to, and remember the ideal user Mary-The Loyal throughout the entire product development process. The following design and development problems can be sorted by making user personas a part of the process.

  • When design teams do not have an understanding of which design elements on the website to prioritize. In this case, design and development teams end up wasting time on either developing or optimizing features that their ideal customer, Mary-The Loyal, does not use.
  • When design teams are finding it difficult to pitch their proposal to the management. This is where they can use actual data to enhance their idea and show the actual problem they are trying to solve by making the proposed changes.

Mathilde adds to how personas help enhance user experience.

“From a UX perspective, user personas are crucial to prevent self-referential design as they allow to focus the efforts on the needs of the customers and help be mindful of designing experiences as if we, marketers, were the end users.

Data-driven personas are also the foundation to map out customer journeys and ensure full alignment between user needs or perceived needs and the relevancy and length of the experience they have to go through to achieve them.

Personas become extremely powerful when they are taken beyond their naturally descriptive focus and provide a predictive view on how your product or service improves your ideal customers’ lives once they’ve used it for a certain time. The predictive side of personas is a key asset to design future-proof products and experiences.”

To Wrap It Up

When you make personas a part of your strategy, you are trying to maximize value for your ideal users. Here’s how Alan Cooper explains this concept in The Inmates Are Running The Asylum:

“The broader a target you aim for, the more certainty you have of missing the bull’s-eye. If you want to achieve a product-satisfaction level of 50%, you cannot do it by making a large population 50% happy with your products. You can only accomplish it by singling out 50% of the people and striving to make them 100% happy. It goes further than that. You can create an even bigger success by targeting 10% of your market and working to make them 100% ecstatic. It might seem counterintuitive, but designing for a single user is the most effective way to satisfy a broad population.”

Ultimately, filling the gap between the product value as perceived by your ideal user and the actual value that your product provides, will help you convince and convert your users into buyers.

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The Complete Guide To Using Personas To Optimize Your eCommerce Website

5 Conversion Rate Optimization Challenges For Enterprises To Solve

Although the interest in conversion rate optimization is increasing over time, organizations are unable to adopt it fully. To ensure its smooth adoption and implementation, certain challenges and misconceptions need to be addressed.

interest in conversion rate optimization google trends
Google Trends

In this post, we will talk about 5 such conversion optimization challenges that enterprises face and ways to overcome them.

Challenge 1. Politics and People—A Cultural Challenge

An organization’s culture is made of 2 core components—people (skill and mindset) and their interpersonal relationships (power to influence and politics ). Creating a conversion optimization culture becomes challenging when either people lack the understanding and skill or when influential people in the organization want their opinions to be valued more than what data and facts indicate.

Political

Brian Massey, Founder, Conversion Sciences shares his view on the political challenge as follows:

Brian Massey

Why has Donald Trump’s top-down, opinion-driven leadership style been accepted by the white-collar working public in the US? Because enterprise businesses have trained us that this is how leadership works. We have a name for this leadership style: “HiPPO,” or Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. Joel Harvey calls it Helicopter Management. This is the management style of charismatic or autocratic leaders who drive action in their organizations by helicoptering in, expressing a lightly-informed opinion, and enforcing their opinion in one of the following two ways:

* They bestow budget upon the loyal.

* They threaten the jobs of the disloyal.

So marketing teams can grab the budget and buy the latest tools. But they then struggle to find the man-hours necessary to make the tools effective.

Like all big business problems, it’s a cultural issue.”

James Spittal, Chief Executive Officer, Web Marketing ROI also talks about the HiPPO effect and the political challenge that obstructs a culture of conversion rate optimization.

James Spittal

Only a small portion of changes are A/B tested, kind of like the “HiPPO” effect. The typically small and under-resourced internal CRO team madly tries to work with an agency to get as many A/B tests launched as possible and keeps up their A/B test velocity while talking to everyone about CRO. Meanwhile, a C-level executive asks for a change to be pushed straight into the source code base without it being tested, costing the organization potentially millions of dollars and because they don’t know any better.

Keith Hagen, VP & Director of Conversion Services at Inflow views politics as an obstacle in the implementation of quality insights for any CRO program.

Keith Hagen

Not all insights are equal. One insight can be worth millions; the other may not move the needle at all while the enterprise pays its employees to test and implement that insight as well.

Terming what an insight actually is, is important as well. Insights come from customers and identify a customer obstacle or opportunity.  If you are not making something better for the customer or capitalizing better on what you have, it should not be worked on. Enterprise organizations have a lot of voices, and the higher paid voices tend to influence what optimizations are made to a site.

The solution he proposes—Score Insights Based on Their Potential.

Every insight should be scored on its potential and shared across the organization. Whether the insight is about an obstacle to a purchase or an opportunity to sell more, the potential should be assigned a dollar value so that it is clear what NOT working on the insight will cost.

People

James Spittal, Chief Executive Officer, Web Marketing ROI attributes the lack of skill—technical or development—with regard to why people in an organization pose a challenge to creating a culture of CRO.

James Spittal

This challenge simply occurs because of people in an enterprise not having the knowledge, talent, or skills. Often, we see people with a graphic design, pure web design, pure analytics, or pure UX background become the “de facto” CRO team. But they struggle because it’s unlikely that they have the technical skills or development skills to be able to implement advanced A/B test ideas (major layout changes, modals, segmentation, changing cart flows, doing tests on pricing, etc.). Often, they also struggle to get resources internally or externally and build a strong business case to increase the CRO budget.

Johann Van Tonder, COO, AWA Digital, shares similar views regarding people and the lack of talent to implement conversion optimization.

Johann Van Tonder

The challenge is to find good optimization talent. While there is no shortage of people marketing themselves as CRO practitioners, only a small percentage of the candidates we screen make it into our organization. This is the same pool that enterprises are recruiting from.  

A good optimizer is both analytical and creative, with a solid grasp of disciplines as diverse as psychology, copywriting, marketing, and statistics. They are brilliant communicators with an entrepreneurial drive and at least basic coding skills. Finding them is not easy.

Solution

The first step of creating a culture of data-driven conversion optimization in any organization is to educate the people about its benefits. Any enterprise planning to implement such a shift—moving from random A/B testing to scientific conversion optimization—must first understand the “why” behind it. That’s why we have 15 conversion rate experts share why they feel it is important to step up from A/B testing to conversion optimization.

Any cultural change requires the complete support of the top management. That’s why it is all the more important to convince it about conversion optimization. Here’s how you can use data to convince your top management about why they need conversion optimization:

  • Highlight improved user experience as a double win.
  • Present a competitive analysis.
  • Stress the gaps in your current approach.
  • Show the money.
  • Show the data.

Challenge 2. No Defined Structure that Supports CRO

It’s a huge challenge for enterprises to put together a structure that supports conversion optimization effectively. There are a number of questions that arise when addressing this challenge. Would it be beneficial to hire a dedicated conversion optimization team, or would it mean only additional expenditure? Who is responsible for conversion optimization?

With regard to this challenge, some interesting observations were listed by ConversionXL’s report on State of Conversion Optimization 2016. One of the findings quoted in the report mentions, “…only 29% of people said that there’s a single dedicated person who does optimization. 30% more said there’s a team in charge of optimization, but 41% of respondents had no one in particular that was accountable for optimization efforts.”

Some companies have internal conversion optimization teams that comprise an analyst, designer, marketer, and project manager. However, should these people invest all of their time on conversion optimization? One way of dealing with this is to have all team members allocate time between core job functions and conversion optimization.

Another challenge related to the lack of structured process to conversion optimization, as explained by Tim Ash, CEO of SiteTuners, and a digital marketing keynote speaker, is the isolation of the CRO team from the rest of the teams.

Tim Ash

The biggest problem that an enterprise CRO faces is the siloing emblematic of big companies. All job functions and even departments are compartmentalized and do not communicate well with each other. So even though a CRO group or team exists within the company, it is only able to focus on limited tactical objectives and simple split testing. Typically, CRO initiatives pass through compliance and approval reviews, get watered down by the branding gatekeepers, and then languish in the IT development queue to get implemented.

At SiteTuners, we have developed our Conversion Maturity Model to grade organizations on key aspects of their optimization effectiveness. Dimensions include culture and processes, organizational structure and skill set, measurement and accountability, the marketing technology stack, and of course the user experience across all channels.

One of the biggest determiners of success is whether there is active and consistent support for CRO from high-ranking executives. If there is political air-cover and the CRO team reports high up in the company, this team can work across the silos to tackle fundamental business issues involving products and services, the business model, back-end operational efficiencies, and fundamental user experience redesigns.

Solution

Lay down a clear process for conversion optimization that needs to be followed by everyone in the organization. Create a dashboard or platform where all the conversion optimization activities are planned, updated, and reported. Share this platform with everyone in the organization. Encourage a culture where everyone contributes to conversion optimization. However, make decisions based only on data. For example, while deciding what to test and optimize, follow a scientific hypotheses prioritization framework. The benefit—though everyone gets to share their observations and hypotheses—is that only the most relevant of those are tested.

Challenge 3. Inefficient Methodology to Implementing Conversion Optimization

Paul Rouke, Founder and CEO, PRWD points out that lack of user research is one problem in the current conversion optimization methodology followed by most enterprises.

Paul Rouke

Among enterprises, a lack of an intelligent and robust optimization methodology is a major barrier to them making experimentation a trusted and valued part of their growth strategy. Lack of user research in developing test hypotheses, alongside lack of innovative and strategic testing, instead a focus on simple A/B testing, are some of the biggest barriers which prevent enterprises from harnessing the potential strategic impact conversion optimization could have for their business.

As shown below, the interest in A/B testing is far more widespread than in conversion optimization.

interest in a/b testing vs. interest in conversion optimization - google trends
Google Trends

It is important to understand that testing random ideas based on opinions is not a smart way of testing. You may get a winning variation even by testing “ideas,” but this will not help solve the real pain points that users face. The challenge, therefore, is to eliminate guesswork; and the solution is to focus on data instead.

Here’s what Brian Massey has to say regarding eliminating guess work and relying on a behavioral data-based methodology.

Brian Massey

Enterprises are missing out on an area, that is, following Moore’s Law in terms of increasing capability and decreasing costs. Behavioral data collection is dropping precipitously in price, and new capabilities are coming online weekly. Just as Microsoft didn’t realize that mobile phone market would follow Moore’s Law, enterprises run the risk of missing the growth in Behavioral Science, a discipline designed to eliminate guessing from business strategy and tactics.

Mathilde Boyer, Head of CXO, House of Kaizen and Peter Figueredo, Founding Partner, House of Kaizen also talk about what is inefficient about the current conversion optimization methodology, as followed by some enterprises.

Mathilde Boyer

Opinion-based A/B testing is the gangrene of CRO programs. It hinders the process of objective creation and prioritization of test hypothesis. This tendency can lead to situations where a high level of resources are invested in low-impact optimization activities. Generation and prioritization of test hypothesis needs to be data-driven, systematic, repeatable, and teachable to allow for expansion of optimization activities across a business.

Peter Figueredo

Companies who invest in CRO typically rush to get testing started and overlook the importance of conducting research. Without proper research for informed testing, the design process CXO has lower chances of success. If your doctors do not know the root cause of your ailment, then they are likely only treating the symptoms but not curing the disease. Research should never be ignored and should be a critical component of House of Kaizen’s CXO success.

Solution

Data-driven optimization is focused on identifying friction, understanding the why behind user behavior, and testing hypotheses based on that data/information. Here’s what a formalized conversion optimization methodology would comprise:

  1. Researching into the existing data
  2. Finding gaps in the conversion funnel
  3. Planning and developing testable hypotheses
  4. Creating test variations and executing those tests
  5. Analyzing the tests and using the analysis in subsequent tests

You can read more about the scientific methodology for conversion optimization in this post.

Andre Morys, CEO of Web Arts,  in one of his interviews, talks about what’s wrong with the methodology. According to him, 80–90% of big companies do not aim for bigger goals, which could be change in the growth rate. This is another methodology-related drawback, as the goals being set do not take the profitability into account. Andre’s interview answers many other questions related to business growth.

Challenge 4. Choosing the Right Tool to Meet the Business Goals

The decision-makers in an organization have a variety of tools to choose from for meeting their business goals.  For example, when deciding on an A/B testing tool, they have to make a choice between a:

  • Frequentist-based statistical engine
  • Bayesian statistical engine

Moreover, there are multiple tools that help accomplish specific objectives. Enterprises might use hotjar for heatmap reports, a/b testing from VWO, and some other tool for on-page surveys. Reporting becomes a pain when instead of using one connected platform, enterprises use multiple tools to execute their conversion optimization program. If enterprises instead switch to a single connected platform, they can save a lot of time and resources.

Another problem with not using a single tool for testing and optimization is that it becomes difficult to explain instances of success and failure to the top management. This could be confusing for managers who are not in touch with day-to-day implementation of the conversion optimization program.

Solution

For selecting the correct tool, decision-makers need to weigh the pros and cons of their actions. They need to evaluate the tool based on how effectively and efficiently it can solve their specific business problems. For enterprises looking to invest in a tool for business growth, here’s a post on what decision-makers need to know before investing in CRO or A/B testing software.

Challenge 5. Insufficient and Incorrect Budget Allocation

Back in 2013, most companies spent less than 5% on conversion optimization from their total marketing budget.

budget for conversion optimization - graph

Moving on to 2014, a report from Adobe says that top-converting companies spend more than 5% of their budgets on optimization. Per the conversion optimization report 2016 by ConversionXL, businesses have increased their spend on optimization. The problem, however, lies in correct allocation.

Paul Rouke talks about inefficient budget allocation as follows:

Paul Rouke

Budgets for conversion optimization within enterprises are continuing to increase, but typically in the wrong direction. Enterprises focus far too much of their marketing investment in enterprise technology. As a result, there’s little investment in people and their skills to actually harness the technology—whether building their in-house team or harnessing specialist agencies.

Enterprises which invest in Human Intelligence (HI), above and beyond technology, and AI are the ones who are positioning themselves for significant and sustainable growth. Growth is about people.

Solution

Before deciding the amount that enterprises should spend on conversion optimization, they should think about the return on investment from CRO. Organizations need to budget for the conversion optimization tool while analyzing their goals and actual gains. To read more on how to budget for conversion optimization, read this post by Formstack.

Summary 

Although the interest in conversion optimization is growing, due to certain challenges, it is not being adopted fully by enterprises. Some of the drawbacks that this post talks about are related to organizational culture, structure, methods and processes, tools for conversion optimization, and budget. These challenges are either related to adoption of conversion optimization or its smooth implementation. Solving these can help enterprises deploy conversion optimization efficiently and effectively to achieve growth and success.

Hope you found this post insightful. We’d love to hear your thoughts on challenges that enterprises face when implementing conversion optimization. Send in your feedback and views in the comments section below.

Approach_Increasing_Conversion_Rates_Free_Trial


The post 5 Conversion Rate Optimization Challenges For Enterprises To Solve appeared first on VWO Blog.

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5 Conversion Rate Optimization Challenges For Enterprises To Solve

Why Passphrases Are More User-Friendly Than Passwords


A user’s account on a website is like a house. The password is the key, and logging in is like walking through the front door. When a user can’t remember their password, it’s like losing their keys. When a user’s account is hacked, it’s like their house is getting broken into.

Why Passphrases Are More User-Friendly Than Passwords

Nearly half of Americans (47%) have had their account hacked in the last year alone. Are web designers and developers taking enough measures to prevent these problems? Or do we need to rethink passwords?

The post Why Passphrases Are More User-Friendly Than Passwords appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

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Why Passphrases Are More User-Friendly Than Passwords

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32% Increase in Conversions by A/B Testing for The Right Reasons

Good design is good business, as Thomas J Watson so succinctly put. Naturally then, the problem of business is discovering ‘good’ design. And the answer, on-going testing. Offline businesses struggle at this because data is infinitely difficult to gather. Luckily for online businesses, gathering data has never been a problem.

Over the last few years, we’ve published case studies of over 150 successful conversion optimization tests. A lot of these case studies make for some intriguing reading, and if you observe closely enough, you’ll find a few tests and changes thereof that have consistently delivered results. Today, we’ll examine a case where a handful of such ‘best practices’ (scroll down to the bottom to see my thoughts on what ‘best practices’  is) came together to deliver amazing results. Validated, all through, by data.

The Client

‘White Card Courses’ offers induction training for workers operating in the construction space across Australia. Aimed at replacing a range of other certification cards, it delivers standard and consistent training that complies with the National Code of Practice of Australia. The FAQs section on the site explains that it is mandatory for a prospect to have a white card if he wishes to work in the construction industry down under.

Such validation from the industry helps www.whitecardcourses.com.au receive strong traffic. However, sales, could always get better (wink). And for that, they looked in the direction of conversion optimization and found Conversion UP (a team of conversion specialists based out of Australia). Then, Grant Merriel at the agency turned to VWO.

The Hypothesis

Grant hypothesized that even though the home page contained the differentiating factors of the business (money-back guarantee and same-day-dispatch of certificates), they were buried somewhere deep in the page (below the fold) where no visitor ever goes. After doing his research he concluded that these trust badges were competitive advantages that deserved better visibility to create the desired impact – sales.

Three changes were proposed to the original home page

  • Change CTA text from “Click to Purchase” to “Start Now”
  • Change CTA and subheading background color
  • Add trust and guarantee badges below the hero image

How Was the Hypothesis Arrived At?

Grant explains, “Before going into a lot of data, the test idea came from solving the most common questions that customers were asking, as it suggests that there was a large disconnect between what the business offered and the website.

To understand the pulse of customers and their concerns about the site, Grant and team went through support tickets filed by users, sat down with the client for a one-to-one discussion and went through site analytic.

At this point it’s worth noting that Conversion UP didn’t test these changes because they were ‘best practices’, but because they gathered customer insights pointing towards these changes. Sadly, a lot of us a/b test certain changes because it worked for another business.

The A/B Test

Control vs Variation

The Result

The test ran on 6585 visitors over a period of 3 weeks and the winning variation recorded a robust 32% increase in conversion(visits to the payment page) from the main homepage, and a 20.9% increase in clicks on the payment page.

To put that in perspective, the control gave 21.79% conversions (visits to the payment page linked to the homepage CTA) and 10.13% on the payment page CTA. The variation trumped the control with 28.76% conversions from the homepage and 12.25% on the payment page. Both the results had a confidence level of 99.9%, which is to say the client could be 99% confident that they would achieve these conversion rates with the variation every time.

Why did the Variation Win?

To arrive at a plausible explanation, we’ll need to understand the typical user.

The average user reads about 28% of the text on a webpage, spending less than a minute doing so. We don’t have much time to impress the user and nudge him/her towards engaging with the site.

How does the learning from above tie in with web design?

The control had one color theme for its header, the hero message and the CTA button. While all three were important parts of the user experience, serving different functions – the header lays out the site structure in a palatable format for a quick browse-through, the hero message is intended to clearly communicate the core value proposition and the CTA button exists to egg a visitor towards completing a particular action. By keeping a similar color theme for these three key elements, the control created a visual barrier to the user, against taking any meaningful action.

It all comes down to contrast. Our eyes are led by colors, and the perceived contrast among different elements on a page. Zero contrast equates to zero attention.

By representing the three page elements in different colors, the variation succeeded in effectively leading the visitor’s attention from one element to another, all separately perceptible.

Messaging

Let me now tell you about Joe. He is hoping to get into the Australian construction industry. He read up on the prerequisites for a job in the industry and is convinced that he needs to get the training done and receive the white card.

Joe comes to know about White Card Courses and immediately looks up it upon internet and lands on the homepage.

He’s greeted with this hero message:

Get White Card Online $50.00” and below it,

Click here to Purchase

But Joe hadn’t gone there to purchase anything. Joe only wanted to do the training and get his white card. By to ‘purchase’, the CTA button tells Joe that he needs to finish another action first (in fact, there is no mention of beginning a course, at all). And what’s the action Joe’s asked to do? Part with hard-earned money, without any evidence or guarantee that he’d get his training.

Joe hesitates. Joe leaves.

And really who could blame Joe?

(except perhaps, Bad Design, The Evil)

With the variation, however, the messaging was changed to something more appropriate, something more in-line with the immediate intent of the visitor. If Joe visited the site after the change, Joe would find the below message instead:

Get White Card Online $50.00

Start Now

Joe is told exactly what he’d have hoped to listen. He could start with his course right away. Clicking on it would still lead Joe to a payment page. But Joe doesn’t mind it so much anymore, because he knows he’s clicked on “Start Now”, and is in the right direction.

Right direction, that’s all Joe ever needed out of life, and design. But I digress, as always.

Check out this kickass post from WordStream on creating effective call-to-action messaging.

And here’s another of those excellent belling-the-CTA (Oh, is that an almost-pun?) case studies from our archives.

Trust Badges

They work. They do,

especially on eCommerce sites that accept payment first and deliver later. The control page had no trust or guarantee badges leaving the credibility score pretty low for ‘White Card Courses’. In human-to-human interactions, their brains labor, crunching verbal and non-verbal cues to create a measure of credibility or trust. But on a web page, in the absence of any human element, visitors require clear reasons to trust.

The variation carried three badges, one each for guarantee (money-back), trust (recognized Australia-wide) and an assurance of quick turn around time.

Here are some more case studies that show why badges are a relatively safe bet in conversion optimization – Bag Servant (conversions up by 72%), Horloges (sales up by 41%), House of Kids (32% increase in conversions). Want more? Here’s a link to our resources section, simply filter by “Trust Badge” in the ‘element’ drop down box and select ‘case studies’ from the ‘resources’ box.

Wait, what about the 20.9% increase in conversion on the payments page? There was never a mention of any change to that page. True, and yet, the page converted 21% more than the control. Trust badges to the rescue again; more importantly, they appeared above the fold, ensuring that most visitors saw the badges before they clicked through to the payments page.

Grant concurs, on being asked why he thinks the variation won:

1. Change from a confusing heading to an actionable button

2. Easy to understand what the ‘Next Step’ is for the user (and above the fold)

3. Prominent supporting sales propositions just below the fold

So, Should You Too Test These Same Changes?

You could, and you should, if you see clear commonalities between your business and the ones that have already tried it and succeeded. But not because x y z businesses tested it and profited out of it. I think, and practically believe, that there’s no such thing as a best practice. ‘Best’ practices followed over time become common practices, and sooner more often than later, we’ll need better practices. Why not come up with them right away, instead of waiting for ‘best practices’ to go stale? There’s room for many new discoveries in the conversion optimization space.

Keep testing. Keep discovering.

Do you have conversion optimization ideas in mind that you’d want to test on your site, but feel that it could do with some brain-storming? Head over to the comments section and let us know!

You can engage with me @SharanTheSuresh, and connect with us @wingify

We’re listening!

The post 32% Increase in Conversions by A/B Testing for The Right Reasons appeared first on VWO Blog.

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32% Increase in Conversions by A/B Testing for The Right Reasons