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20 Conversion Optimization Tips for Zooming Past Your Competition

20 Conversion Optimization Tips for Zooming Past Your Competition

Conversion optimization (CRO) is one of the most impactful things you can do as a marketer.

I mean, bringing traffic to a website is important (because without traffic you’re designing for an audience of crickets). But without a cursory understanding of conversion optimization—including research, data-driven hypotheses, a/b tests, and analytical capabilities—you risk making decisions for your website traffic using only gut feel.

CRO can give your marketing team ideas for what you can be doing better to convert visitors into leads or customers, and it can help you discover which experiences are truly optimal, using A/B tests.

However, as with many marketing disciplines, conversion optimization is constantly misunderstood. It’s definitely not about testing button colors, and it’s not about proving to your colleagues that you’re right.

I’ve learned a lot about how to do CRO properly over the years, and below I’ve compiled 20 conversion optimization tips to help you do it well, too.

Conversion Optimization Tip 1:
Learn how to run an A/B test properly

Running an A/B test (an online controlled experiment) is one of the core practices of conversion optimization.

Testing two or more variations of a given page to see which performs best can seem easy due to the increased simplification of testing software. However, it’s still a methodology that uses statistical inference to make a decision as to which variant is best delivered to your audience. And there are a lot of fine distinctions that can throw things off.

What is A/B Testing?

There are many nuances we could get into here—Bayesian vs. frequentist statistics, one-tailed vs. two-tailed tests, etc.—but to make things simple, here are a few testing rules that should help you breeze past most common testing mistakes:

  • Always determine a sample size in advance and wait until your experiment is over before looking at “statistical significance.” You can use one of several online sample size calculators to get yours figured out.
  • Run your experiment for a few full business cycles (usually weekly cycles). A normal experiment may run for three or four weeks before you call your result.
  • Choose an overall evaluation criterion (or north star metric) that you’ll use to determine the success of an experiment. We’ll get into this more in Tip 4.
  • Before running the experiment, clearly write your hypothesis (here’s a good article on writing a true hypothesis) and how you plan to follow up on the experiment, whether it wins or loses.
  • Make sure your data tracking is implemented correctly so you’ll be able to pull the right numbers after the experiment ends.
  • Avoid interaction effects if you’re running multiple concurrent experiments.
  • QA your test setup and watch the early numbers for any wonky technical mistakes.

I like to put all of the above fine details in an experiment document with a unique ID so that it can be reviewed later—and so the process can be improved upon with time.

An example of experiment documentation
An example of experiment documentation using a unique ID.
Tip 1: Ensure you take the time to set up the parameters of your A/B test properly before you begin. Early mistakes and careless testing can compromise the results.

Conversion Optimization Tip 2:
Learn how to analyze an A/B test

The ability to analyze your test after it has run is obviously important as well (and can be pretty nuanced depending on how detailed you want to get).

For instance, do you call a test a winner if it’s above 95% statistical significance? Well, that’s a good place to begin, but there are a few other considerations as you develop your conversion optimization chops:

  • Does your experiment have a sample ratio mismatch?
    Basically, if your test was set up so that 50% of traffic goes to the control and 50% goes to the variant, your end results should reflect this ratio. If the ratio is pretty far off, you may have had a buggy experiment. (Here’s a good calculator to help you determine this.)
  • Bring your data outside of your testing tool.
    It’s nice to see your aggregate data trends in your tool’s dashboard, and their math is a good first look, but I personally like to have access to the raw data. This way you can analyze it in Excel and really trust it. You can also import your data to Google Analytics to view the effects on key segments.

This can also open up the opportunity for further insights-driven experiments and personalization. Does one segment react overwhelmingly positive to a test you’ve run? Might be a good opportunity to implement personalization.

Checking your overall success metric first (winner, loser, inconclusive) and then moving to a more granular analysis of segments and secondary effects is common practice among CRO practitioners.

Here’s how Chris McCormick from PRWD explains the process:

Once we have a high level understanding of how the test has performed, we start to dig below the surface to understand if there are any patterns or trends occurring. Examples of this would be: the day of the week, different product sets, new vs returning users, desktop vs mobile etc.

Also, there are tons of great A/B test analysis tools out there, like this one from CXL:

AB Test Calculator
Tip 2: Analyze your data carefully by ensuring that your sample ratio is correct. Then export it to a spreadsheet where you can check your overall success metric before moving on to more granular indicators.

Conversion Optimization Tip 3:
Learn how to design your experiments

At the beginning, it’s important to consider the kind of experiment you want to run. There are a few options in terms of experimental design (at least, these are the most common ones online):

  1. A/B/n test
  2. Multivariate test
  3. Bandit test

A/B/n test

An A/B/n test is what you’re probably most used to.

It splits traffic equally among two or more variants and you determine which test won based on its effect size (assuming that other factors like sample size and test duration were sufficient).

ABCD Test Example
An A/B test with four variants: Image source

Multivariate test

In a multivariate test, on the other hand, you can test several variables on a page and hope to learn what the interaction effects are among elements.

In other words, if you were changing a headline, a feature image, and a CTA button, in a multivariate test you’d hope to learn which is the optimal combination of all of these elements and how they affect each other when grouped together.

A Multivariate Test

Generally speaking, it seems like experts run about ten a/b tests for every multivariate test. The strategy I go by is:

  • Use A/B testing to determine best layouts at a more macro-level.
  • Use MVT to polish the layouts to make sure all the elements interact with each other in the best possible way.

Bandit test

Bandits are a bit different. They are algorithms that seek to automatically update their traffic distribution based on indications of which result is best. Instead of waiting for four weeks to test something and then exposing the winner to 100% traffic, a bandit shifts its distribution in real time.

Experimental Design: Bandits

Bandits are great for campaigns where you’re looking to minimize regrets, such as short-term holiday campaigns and headline tests. They’re also good for automation at scale and targeting, specifically when you have lots of traffic and targeting rules and it’s tough to manage them all manually.

Unfortunately, while they are simpler from an experimental design perspective, they are much harder for engineers to implement technically. This is probably why they’re less common in the general marketing space, but an interesting topic nonetheless. If you want to learn more about bandits, read this article I wrote on the topic a few years ago.

Tip 3: Consider the kind of experiment you want to run. Depending on your needs, you might run an A/B/n test, a multivariate test, a bandit test, or some other form of experimental design.

Conversion Optimization Tip 4:
Choose your OEC

Returning to a point made earlier, it’s important to choose which north star metric you care about: this is your OEC (Overall Evaluation Criterion). If you don’t state this and agree upon it up front as stakeholders in an experiment, you’re welcoming the opportunity for ambiguous results and cherry-picked data.

Basically, we want to avoid the problem of HARKing: hypothesizing after results are known.

Twitter, for example, wrote on their engineering blog that they solve this by stating their overall evaluation criterion up front:

One way we guide experimenters away from cherry-picking is by requiring them to explicitly specify the metrics they expect to move during the set-up phase….An experimenter is free to explore all the other collected data and make new hypotheses, but the initial claim is set and can be easily examined.

The term OEC was popularized by Ronny Kohavi at Microsoft, and he’s written many papers that include the topic, but the sentiment is widely known by people who run lots of experiments. You need to choose which metric really matters, and which metric you’ll make decisions with.

Tip 4: In order to avoid ambiguous or compromised data, state your OEC (Overall Evaluation Criterion) before you begin and hold yourself to it. And never hypothesize after results are known.

Conversion Optimization Tip 5:
Some companies shouldn’t A/B test

You can still do optimization without A/B testing, but not every company can or should run A/B tests.

It’s a simple mathematical limitation:

Some businesses just don’t have the volume of traffic or discrete conversion events to make it worth running experiments.

Getting an adequate amount of traffic to a test ultimately helps ensure its validity, and you’ll need this as part of your sample size to ensure a test is cooked.

In addition, even if you could possibly squeeze out a valid test here and there, the marginal gains may not justify the costs when you compare it to other marketing activities in which you could engage.

That said, if you’re in this boat, you can still optimize. You can still set up adequate analytics, run user types on prototypes and new designs, watch session replays, and fix bugs.

Running experiments is a ton of fun, but not every business can or should run them (at least not until they bring some traffic and demand through the door first).

Tip 5: Determine whether your company can or even should run A/B tests. Consider both your volume of traffic and the resources you’ll need to allocate before investing the time.

Conversion Optimization Tip 6:
Landing pages help you accelerate and simplify testing

Using landing pages is correlated with greater conversions, largely because using them makes it easier to do a few things:

  • Measure discrete transitions through your funnel/customer journey.
  • Run controlled experiments (reducing confounding variables and wonky traffic mixes).
  • Test changes across templates to more easily reach a large enough sample size to get valid results.

To the first point, having a distinct landing page (i.e. something separate and easier to update than your website) gives you an easy tracking implementation, no matter what your user journey is.

For example, if you have a sidebar call to action that brings someone to a landing page, and then when they convert, they are brought to a “Thank You” page, it’s very easy to track each step of this and set up a funnel in Google Analytics to visualize the journey.

Google Analytics Funnel

Landing pages also help you scale your testing results while minimizing the resource cost of running the experiment. Ryan Farley, co-founder and head of growth at LawnStarter, puts it this way:

At LawnStarter, we have a variety of landing pages….SEO pages, Facebook landing pages, etc. We try to keep as many of the design elements such as the hero and explainer as similar as possible, so that way when we run a test, we can run it sitewide.

That is, if you find something that works on one landing page, you can apply it to several you have up and running.

Tip 6: Use landing pages to make it easier to test. Unbounce lets you build landing pages in hours—no coding required—and conduct unlimited A/B tests to maximize conversions.

Conversion Optimization Tip 7:
Build a growth model for your conversion funnel

Creating a model like this requires stepping back and asking, “how do we get customers?” From there, you can model out a funnel that best represents this journey.

Most of the time, marketers set up simple goal funnel visualization in Google Analytics to see this:

Google Analytics Funnel Visualization

This gives you a lot of leverage for future analysis and optimization.

For example, if one of the steps in your funnel is to land on a landing page, and your landing pages all have a similar format (e.g. offers.site.com), then you can see the aggregate conversion rate of that step in the funnel.

More importantly, you can run interesting analyses, such as path analysis and landing page comparison. Doing so, you can compare apples to apples with your landing pages and see which ones are underperforming:

Landing Page Comparison
The bar graph on the right allows you to quickly see how landing pages are performing compared to the site average.

I talk more about the process of finding underperforming landing pages in my piece on content optimization if you want to learn step-by-step how to do that.

Tip 7: Model out a funnel that represents the customer journey so that you can more easily target underperforming landing pages and run instructive analyses focused on growth.

Conversion Optimization Tip 8:
Pick low hanging fruit in the beginning

This is mostly advice from personal experience, so it’s anecdotal: when you first start working on a project or in an optimization role, pick off the low hanging fruit. By that, I mean over-index on the “ease” side of things and get some points on the board.

It may be more impactful to set up and run complex experiments that require many resources, but you’ll never pull the political influence necessary to set these up without some confidence in your abilities to get results as well as in the CRO process in general.

To inspire trust and to be able to command more resources and confidence, look for the easiest possible implementations and fixes before moving onto the complicated or risky stuff.

And fix bugs and clearly broken things first! Persuasive copywriting is pretty useless if your site takes days to load or pages are broken on certain browsers.

Tip 8: Score some easy wins by targeting low hanging fruit before you move on to more complex optimization tasks. Early wins give you the clout to drive bigger experiments later on.

Conversion Optimization Tip 9:
Where possible, reduce friction

Most conversion optimization falls under two categories (this is simplified, but mostly true):

  • Increasing motivation
  • Decreasing friction

Friction occurs when visitors become distracted, when they can’t accomplish a task, or simply when a task is arduous to accomplish. Generally speaking, the more “nice to have” your product is, the more friction matters to the conversion. This is reflected in BJ Fogg’s behavior model:

BJ FOGGs Behaviour Model

In other words, if you need to get a driver’s license, you’ll put up with pure hell at the DMV to get it, but you’ll drop out of the funnel at the most innocent error message if you’re only trying to buy something silly on drunkmall.com.

A few things that cut down on friction:

  • Make your site faster.
  • Trim needless form fields.
  • Cut down the amount of steps in your checkout or signup flow.

For an example on the last one, I like how Wordable designed their signup flow. You start out on the homepage:

Wordable

Click “Try It Free” and get a Google OAuth screen:

Wordable 0auth

Give permissions:

Wordable permissions

And voila! You’re in:

Wordable Dashboard

You can decrease friction by reducing feelings of uncertainty as well. Most of the time, this is done with copywriting or reassuring design elements.

An example is with HubSpot’s form builder. We emphasize that it’s “effortless” and that there is “no technical expertise required” to set it up:

Hubspot Form Builder

(And here’s a little reminder that HubSpot integrates beautifully with Unbounce, so you’ll be able to automatically populate your account with lead info collected on your Unbounce landing pages.)

Tip 9: Cut down on anything that makes it harder for users to convert. This includes making sure your site is fast and trimming any forms or steps that aren’t necessary for checkout or signup.

Conversion Optimization Tip 10:
Help increase motivation

The second side of the conversion equation, as I mentioned, is motivation.

An excellent way to increase the motivation of a visitor is simply to make the process of conversion…fun. Most tasks online don’t need to be arduous or frustrating, we’ve just made them that way due to apathy and error.

Take, for example, your standard form or survey. Pretty boring, right?

Well, today, enough technological solutions exist to implement interactive or conversational forms and surveys.

One such solution is Survey Anyplace. I asked their founder and CEO, Stefan Debois, about how their product helps motivate people to convert, and here’s what he said:

An effective and original way to increase conversion is to use an interactive quiz on your website. Compared to a static form, people are more likely to engage in a quiz, because they get back something useful. An example is Eneco, a Dutch Utility company: in just 6 weeks, they converted more than 1000 website visitors with a single quiz.

Full companies have been built on the premise that the typical form is boring and could be made more fun and pleasant to complete (e.g. TypeForm). Just think, “how can I compel more people to move through this process?”

Other ways to do this that are quite commonplace involve invoking certain psychological triggers to compel forward momentum:

  • Implement social proof on your landing pages.
  • Use urgency to compel users to act more quickly.
  • Build out testimonials with well-known users to showcase authority.

There are many more ways to use psychological triggers to motivate conversions. Check out Robert Cialdini’s classic book, Influence, to learn more. Also, check out The Wheel of Persuasion for inspiration on persuasive triggers.

Tip 10: Make your conversion process fun in order to compel your visitors to keep moving forward. Increased interactivity, social proof, urgency, and testimonials that showcase authority can all help you here too.

Conversion Optimization Tip 11:
Clarity > Persuasion

While persuasion and motivation are really important, often the best way to convert visitors is to ensure they understand what you’re selling.

Stated differently, clarity trumps persuasion.

Use a five-second test to find out how clear your messaging is.

Conversion Optimization Tip 12:
Consider the “Pre-Click” Experience

People forget the pre-click experience. What does a user do before they hit your landing pages? What ad did they click? What did they search in Google to get to your blog post?

Knowing this stuff can help you create strong message match between your pre-click experience and your landing page.

Sergiu Iacob, SEO Manager at Bannersnack, explains their process for factoring in keywords:

When it comes to organic traffic, we establish the user intent by analyzing all the keywords a specific landing page ranks for. After we determine what the end result should look like, we adjust both our landing page and our in app user journey. The same process is used in the optimization of landing pages for search campaigns.

I’ve recommended the same thing before when it comes to capturing email leads. If you can’t figure out why people aren’t converting, figure out what keywords are bringing them to your site.

Usually, this results in a sort of passive “voice of customer” mining, where you can message match the keywords you’re ranking for with the offer on that page.

It makes it much easier to predict what messages your visitors will respond to. And it is, in fact, one of the cheapest forms of user research you can conduct.

AHRefs Keywords
Using Ahrefs to determine what keywords brought traffic to a page.
Tip 12: Don’t forget the pre-click experience. What do your users do before they hit your landing page? Make sure you have a strong message match between your ads (or emails) and the pages they link to.

Conversion Optimization Tip 13:
Build a repeatable CRO process

Despite some popular blog posts, conversion optimization isn’t about a series of “conversion tactics” or “growth hacks.” It’s about a process and a mindset.

Here’s how Peep Laja, founder of CXL, put it:

The quickest way to figure out whether someone is an amateur or a pro is this: amateurs focus on tactics (make the button bigger, write a better headline, give out coupons etc) while pros have a process they follow.

And, ideally, the CRO process is a never-ending one:

CRO Process

Conversion Optimization Tip 14:
Invest in education for your team

CRO people have to know a lot about a lot:

  • Statistics
  • UX design
  • User research
  • Front end technology
  • Copywriting

No one comes out the gate as a 10 out of 10 in all of those areas (most never end up there either). You, as an optimizer, need to be continuously learning and growing. If you’re a manager, you need to make sure your team is continuously learning and growing.

Conversion Optimization Tip 15:
Share insights

The fastest way to scale and leverage experimentation is to share your insights and learnings among the organization.

This becomes more and more valuable the larger your company grows. It also becomes harder and harder the more you grow.

Essentially, by sharing you can avoid reinventing the wheel, you can bring new teammates up to speed faster, and you can scale and spread winning insights to teams who then shorten their time to testing. Invest in some sort of insights management system, no matter how basic.

Full products have been built around this, such as GrowthHackers’ North Star and Effective Experiments.

Effective Experiments
Tip 15: Share what you learn within your organization. The bigger your company grows, the more important information sharing becomes—but the more difficult it will become as well.

Conversion Optimization Tip 16:
Keep your cognitive biases in check

As the great Richard Feynman once said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

We’re all afflicted by cognitive biases, ranging from confirmation bias to the availability heuristic. Some of these can really impact our testing programs, specifically confirmation bias (and its close cousin, the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy) where you only seek out pieces of data that confirm your previous beliefs and throw out those that go against them.

Experimenter Bias

It may be worthwhile (and entertaining) simply to run down Wikipedia’s giant list of cognitive biases and gauge where you may currently be running blind or biases.

Tip 16: Be cognizant of your own cognitive biases. If you’re not careful, they can influence the outcome of your experiments and cause you to miss (or misinterpret) key insights in your data.

Conversion Optimization Tip 17:
Evangelize CRO to your greater org

Having a dedicated CRO team is great. Evangelizing the work you’re doing to the rest of the organization? Even better.

Evangelize your CRO
Spread the word about the importance of CRO within your org.

When an entire organization buys into the value of data-informed decision making and experimentation, magical things can happen. Ideas burst forth, and innovation becomes easy. Annoying roadblocks are deconstructed. HiPPO-driven decision making is deprioritized behind proper experiments.

Things you can do to evangelize CRO and experimentation:

  • Write down your learnings each week on a company wiki.
  • Send out a newsletter with live experiments and experiment results each week to interested parties.
  • Recruit an executive sponsor with lots of internal influence.
  • Sing your praises when you get big wins. Sing it loud.
  • Make testing fun, and make it easier for others to join in and pitch ideas.
  • Make it easier for people outside of the CRO team to sponsor tests.
  • Say the word “hypothesis” a lot (who knows, it might work).

This is all a kind of art; there are no universal methods for spreading the good gospel of CRO. But it’s important that you know it’s probably going to be something of an uphill battle, depending on how big your company is and what the culture has traditionally been like.

Tip 17: Spread the gospel of CRO across your organization in order to ensure others buy into the value of data-driven decision making and experimentation.

Conversion Optimization Tip 18:
Be skeptical with CRO case studies

This isn’t so much a conversion optimization tip as it is life advice: be skeptical, especially when marketing is involved.

I say this as a marketer. Marketers exaggerate stuff. Some marketers omit important details that derail a narrative. Sometimes, they don’t understand p values, or how to set up a proper test (maybe they haven’t read Tip 1 in this article).

In short, especially in content marketing, marketers are incentivized to publish sensational case studies regardless of their statistical merit.

All of that results in a pretty grim standard for the current CRO case study.

Don’t get me wrong, some case studies are excellent, and you can learn a lot from them. Digital Marketer lays out a few rules for detecting quality case studies:

  • Did they publish total visitors?
  • Did they share the lift percentage correctly?
  • Did they share the raw conversions? (Does the lack of raw conversions hurt my case study?)
  • Did they identify the primary conversion metric?
  • Did they publish the confidence rate? Is it >90%?
  • Did they share the test procedure?
  • Did they only use data to justify the conclusion?
  • Did they share the test timeline and date?

Without context or knowledge of the underlying data, a case study might be a whole lot of nonsense. And if you want a good cathartic rant on bad case studies, then Andrew Anderson’s essay is a must-read.

According to a study...
Tip 18: Approach existing material on CRO with a skeptical mindset. Marketers are often incentivized to publish case studies with sensational results, regardless of the quality of the data that supports them.

Conversion Optimization Tip 19:
Calculate the cost of additional research vs. just running it

Matt Gershoff, CEO of Conductrics, is one of the smartest people I know regarding statistics, experimentation, machine learning, and general decision theory. He has stated some version of the following on a few occasions:

  • Marketing is about decision-making under uncertainty.
  • It’s about assessing how much uncertainty is reduced with additional data.
  • It must consider, “What is the value in that reduction of uncertainty?”
  • And it must consider, “Is that value greater than the cost of the data/time/opportunity costs?”

Yes, conversion research is good. No, you shouldn’t run blind and just test random things.

But at the end of the day, we need to calculate how much additional value a reduction in uncertainty via additional research gives us.

If you can run a cheap A/B test that takes almost no time to set up? And it doesn’t interfere with any other tests or present an opportunity cost? Ship it. Because why not?

But if you’re changing an element of your checkout funnel that could prove to be disastrous to your bottom line, well, you probably want to mitigate any possible downside. Bring out the heavy guns—user testing, prototyping, focus groups, whatever—because this is a case where you want to reduce as much uncertainty as possible.

Tip 19: Balance the value of doing more research with the costs (including opportunity costs) associated with it. Sometimes running a quick and dirty A/B test will be sufficient for your needs.

Conversion Optimization Tip 20:
CRO never ends

You can’t just run a few tests and call it quits.

The big wins from the early days of working on a relatively unoptimized site may taper off, but CRO never ends. Times change. Competitors and technologies come and go. Your traffic mix changes. Hopefully, your business changes as well.

As such, even the best test results are perishable, given enough time. So plan to stick it out for the long run and keep experimenting and growing.

Think Kaizen.

Kaizen

Conclusion

There you go, 20 conversion optimization tips. That’s not all there is to know; this is a never-ending journey, just like the process of growth and optimization itself. But these tips should get you started and moving in the right direction.

This article:

20 Conversion Optimization Tips for Zooming Past Your Competition

7 Ways to Turn Instagram Into an Ecommerce Purchasing Powerhouse

cup of joes coffee mug

Instagram and ecommerce are logical bedfellows. The brand-audience engagement rates here outperform all of the mainstream social channels, while the visual elegance of Instagram posts are perfect for showcasing people enjoying beautiful products in the wild. It’s lifestyle marketing but without the phoniness of high-concept production shoots – just compelling, evocative imagery wrapped up in authentic social proof. What else could an ecommerce marketer ask for? Image Source So when it comes to branding and engagement, ecommerce marketers have it great on Instagram. Providing audience members with seamless opportunities to make purchases, however, is another story. Researchers have estimated that…

The post 7 Ways to Turn Instagram Into an Ecommerce Purchasing Powerhouse appeared first on The Daily Egg.

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7 Ways to Turn Instagram Into an Ecommerce Purchasing Powerhouse

15 Ways Marketers Use Overlays to Get More Conversions

Let me paint an ugly picture for you.

The end of the month is approaching. In one week, you have to report to your boss about marketing metrics… and you’re not even halfway to your targets.

Maybe you call an emergency brainstorm meeting with your team:

giphy
Are there any last-minute email or social campaigns we can run? Image source.

Maybe you pump more money into your PPC campaigns. Or maybe you do nothing at all and start a mental list of excuses reasons you couldn’t meet your targets.

At the end of the day, you didn’t meet your goals because you’re lacking something — resources, know-how, money or bandwidth.

You need more conversions without the overhead of running a major campaign or redesigning your entire website, regardless of how you define a “conversion”:

  1. Driving immediate sales
  2. Building email subscriber lists
  3. Reducing shopping cart abandonment
  4. Generating sales leads
  5. Moving traffic to high-converting pages (to get more conversions)

Let’s see how marketers are using overlays — modal lightboxes that launch within a web page and focus attention on a single offer — to get more conversions without more overhead.

Part I: Drive immediate sales

Research indicates that an average of 68.8% of shoppers will abandon their carts — that’s well over the majority. What then can you do to secure a sale before users ever leave your site to begin with?

You offer something irresistible at the moment prospects are ready to give up.

Note that the key word here is irresistible. You’re asking for a lot (for prospects to whip out their wallets), so you need to over-deliver in value. Your offer must be generous.

Here are five high-value approaches to securing a last-second purchase from abandoning users.

1. Offer a coupon or immediate discount

A coupon or discount is the most popular way to secure last-second purchases with overlays.

Below is an example from Neil Patel of Quick Sprout, who uses an overlay to offer a massive discount on his consulting services.

overlay-ideas-quicksprout-discount

Test different discounts values, but be careful not to downplay the value of your offering with a super-steep discount, which could hurt your credibility.

Target this offer at: First-time visitors, paid traffic

Place this offer on: Pricing or sign-up pages, product pages, landing pages

2. Offer a shipping discount

Shipping is a pain point for many online shoppers. No matter how well the costs are disclosed throughout the shopping process, many will leave once they see the final price with shipping included.

For that reason, a discount on shipping can often make the difference between a new customer and a lost sale.

overlay-ideas-canvas-prints-free-shipping

In the example above, Easy Canvas Prints uses an overlay to not only offer a last-second discount on shipping, but also capture an email address in the process. More on that later!

Target this offer at: First-time or repeat visitors, paid traffic

Place this offer on: Product pages, pricing or sign-up pages, shopping cart pages

3. Offer a free gift

Free giveaways have been a standard marketing tactic for decades.

They work well on the web because a free giveaway often comes at no cost to the vendor (you), especially if you offer subscription tools or services.

overlay-ideas-crazyegg-heatmap-offer

In the above example, Crazy Egg attempts to capture abandoning users by offering a free heatmap — one of its most popular tools.

Other ideas for free giveaways include ebooks, whitepapers, estimates/quotes or consultations.

Target this offer at: First-time or repeat visitors, paid traffic, organic traffic

Place this offer on: Pricing or sign-up pages, product pages, landing pages

Never launch an overlay without this 24-point checklist

Do you have all your bases covered? Double-check your overlay design, copy and triggering with our 24-point checklist.


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4. Offer a time-based discount

Here’s where things get a bit risky. Time-based overlays can be effective because they add an element of urgency, but only if they are sincere.

overlay-ideas-time-based-discount-babyage

In the above example, BabyAge uses a countdown clock to promote a coupon, which (ideally) invokes a feeling of urgency in its users, pushing them toward the conversion.

This may be effective for some audiences, but I encourage you to test. And whatever you do, make sure your users only ever see it once. If you serve this offer on too many pages or put it in front of too broad a user segment, you risk losing credibility.

Target this offer at: First-time visitors only

Place this offer on: Pricing or sign-up pages, landing pages

5. Offer customer support

Some prospects might appreciate being able to talk to a human before they make up their minds about converting.

In the example below, Timesulin uses an overlay as a standin for a virtual salesperson, tapping you on the shoulder and asking if you have any questions:

overlay-ideas-timesulin-customer-support

Especially for more complicated or high-commitment offers, an overlay like this can help squash doubts and counter objections that your visitors have.

Target this offer at: First-time visitors, repeat visitors, paid traffic

Place this offer on: Pricing or sign-up pages, product pages, landing pages

Part II: Building email subscriber lists

If you need convincing that email marketing is an effective marketing channel, consider this eye-popping stat from the Direct Marketing Association:

Email marketing has an ROI of 3800%.

What have you done lately to ensure that your email list is continuously growing? And not a bunch of unqualified subs  — I’m talking about warm email leads that are familiar with your products and have recently interacted with your brand.

Overlays work well for building a subscriber base because it’s easy to offer value that outweighs the small ask of an email address.

Here are the four best approaches for building email subscriber lists with overlays:

6. Offer a discount in exchange for an email address

Offering deals in exchange for an email address has two benefits:

  1. It greatly increases your chances of securing an immediate sale
  2. You can establish a customer relationship through email

Have a look at this example by PetCare:

overlay-examples-petcare-discount

PetCare offers a substantial discount in exchange for an email address. It’s a win for your prospect, because they’ll save on their next order. And it’s a win-win for you, should you make a sale and snag and email.

Target this offer at: First time or repeat visitors, social media traffic, paid traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage, product pages, blog pages, company pages (ex: ‘About,’ ‘Contact’)

7. Collect newsletter subscribers

Though not as lucrative as they once were, newsletters can still drive revenue. The Chive uses an overlay to grab signups in the example below:

overlay-ideas-chive-newsletter

This type of overlay is especially effective when you’re reaching out to a user base that has already interacted with your content and likes what you have to say. It should be targeted only at repeat visitors and lower-converting segments like social media traffic.

Target this offer at: Repeat visitors, social media traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage, product pages, blog pages, company pages (e.g., ‘About,’ ‘Contact’)

8. Offer an ebook, case study or course

Ebook, case study or course offers generally convert at a higher rate than newsletters, because it’s easier to communicate the value to the reader.

Done right, this type of overlay will clearly communicate the benefit of reading, as in this stellar example from ContentVerve:

overlay-ideas-offer-ebook-content-verve

Offering a course has the advantage of securing multiple user interactions, as you can serve this offer piece-by-piece to keep users engaged.

Target this offer at: Repeat visitors, social media traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage, product pages, blog pages, company pages (e.g., ‘About,’ ‘Contact’)

Part III: Reduce cart abandonment

68.81% of online shopping carts are abandoned, according to the Baymard Institute.

People abandon shopping carts for a variety of reasons, and understanding these various behaviors can help you better optimize your sales funnel. Check out the top six reasons for cart abandonment according to Savvy Panda:

why-web-abandonners-abandon-shopping-carts

Two of the top six reasons have nothing to do with the cart itself, but rather the mindset of the shopper, who is expressing only interest in the product, not commitment.

So how do we engage cart abandoners who are only loosely committed to our products?

To extend the engagement — and build a mutually beneficial relationship — you must either:

  1. Get an email address and remarket through triggered emails
  2. Offer a discount or incentive that convinces the shopper to buy before abandoning the cart

With this in mind, here are four approaches to reduce shopping cart abandonment using overlays.

9. Collect an email (to follow up later)

Post-abandonment emails are a great way to continue telling the story you began telling cart abandoners. You can use them to build upon momentum established on your cart page, and nurture a customer relationship.

PetFlow uses this tactic well in the above example, though the “deal” is actually entry into a contest. But hey, it’s a win anytime you can have a kitten and a puppy sitting in your email form field:

overlay-ideas-petflow-reduce-cart-abandonment

Sending a cart-triggered email puts you a step ahead of most competition, as roughly 80% of retailers fail to send triggered emails after cart abandonment. Why not test following up with a free shipping discount?

Target this offer at: Cart abandoners from both paid and organic traffic sources

Place this offer on: Cart pages, checkout pages

10. Notify visitors that they’ve left something in their cart

This is a simple tactic for notifying cart abandoners they’ve left items behind at the checkout.

overlay-ideas-cart-notification-babyage

In this example, BabyAge links its overlay directly to the next step in the checkout process. This may not generate earth-shattering results, but it’s definitely something to test.

Target this offer at: Cart abandoners from both paid and organic traffic sources

Place this offer on: Cart pages, checkout pages

11. Offer telephone support

Many shoppers routinely struggle to complete online checkout processes without assistance.

For companies with complicated products or checkouts, using an overlay to offer help at checkout can significantly reduce cart abandonment.

overlay-ideas-telephone-support-massage-magazine

Massage Magazine’s example above shows how an overlay can used to help clarify the terms of complicated products or subscriptions. It also has the added benefit of grabbing a valuable email address.

Target this offer at: Cart abandoners from both paid and organic traffic sources

Place this offer on: Cart pages, checkout pages

Part IV: Generate sales leads

Generating sales leads with an overlay is closely related to our previous section on building email lists — but with a few subtle differences.

Sales leads don’t necessarily require collecting contact information in exchange for a free resource; reaching out to a visitor on your site can also produce a lead, and is often incentive enough.

Further, you can generate a sales lead by merely offering help — free advice, free quotes — on your product.

Finally, whereas marketing to email list prospects often requires multiple engagements, sales leads usually just a one-time engagement.

12. Offer a free quote or advice

Free quotes have long been used as a lead generation tactic in brick-and-mortar organizations. On the web, free quotes are a great way to offer value without actually giving anything away.

overlay-ideas-free-quote

The example above from YourMechanic uses a free quote offer to drive home the ease and convenience of using mobile mechanics.

I would generally advise against using this type of offer on paid traffic, as “paid” implies these users should already be strong leads. An offer that drives an immediate sale is better suited to this type of user.

Target this offer at: First-time or repeat visitors, organic traffic, social media traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage or any high-traffic/low-converting page, product pages, blog pages

13. Offer a resource that qualifies prospects

Offering a resource to prospects is a great way to demonstrate that you understand their pains — all while confirming that they’re a good fit for your solution.

Gr8fires created an overlay with an “installation calculator” that detailed the costs associated with installing a Gr8fires product:

overlay-ideas-estimate-calculator-gr8-fires

The results of Gr8fires’ overlay campaign were incredible: 300% increase in monthly sales leads and a 48.54% lift in sales.

As with any information resource offer, this works best if you have already established an audience. If you don’t already have a rapport with your visitors, this offer may go ignored.

Target this offer at: Repeat visitors, organic traffic, social media traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage or any high-traffic/low-converting page, product pages, blog pages

Part V: Traffic-shaping (driving traffic to high-converting pages)

As you look through your analytics, you may notice that there are certain pages on your site — like your blog homepage or ecommerce site — that don’t have particularly high conversion rates.

This is where traffic shaping overlays can come in handy.

Traffic shaping overlays allow you to direct users from a low-converting to a high-converting page, whether your conversion goal is lead generation or revenue generation.

For example, you could direct traffic from a well-performing blog post about watch reviews to a product page for the best-reviewed watch.

14. Cross-sell

Regular blog visitors likely already recognize your brand, but they could have blinders up when it comes to the calls to action you have embedded on your site.

A cross-sell overlay can help focus a user’s attention on a relevant offer.

For example, at Unbounce, our analytics showed that a roundup of the 16 Best Digital Marketing Conferences of 2016 was bringing in a lot of organic traffic.

Assuming that people who read about marketing conferences are also interested in attending marketing conferences, we served up this overlay (with a ticket discount to sweeten the pot) that directed people to our Call to Action conference microsite:

overlay-ideas-cross-sell-unbounce-cta-conf
Target this offer at: First-time and repeat visitors, social media traffic, organic traffic

Place this offer on: Homepage, blog pages, company pages (e.g.,: ‘About,’ ‘Contact’)

15. Re-engage with more content

Keeping visitors on your blog or resource library has a lot of advantages. The more they stick around, the more opportunities you have to:

  • Show visitors that you understand their pain and are uniquely qualified to help alleviate it
  • Educate visitors about your solution (ideally the solution to their problem)

A strategically placed exit or timed overlay on your blog can help keep visitors on site by recommending content similar to what they were reading previously:

overlay-ideas-content-re-engage

This type of overlay is most effective when targeted at first-time visitors.

These are the prospects that need a lil’ warming up before you ask them for their email address.

More conversions, less overhead

Next time the end of the month is rolling around and you haven’t met your targets, don’t scramble to run one-off campaigns to make up the difference.

Instead, pick one of these overlay campaigns and create a baseline of conversions every monththe type of campaign that keeps on giving without more overhead.

And when building your overlays, don’t forget the following:

The best marketing is mutually beneficial.

Conversions happen in that magical moment where your goals as a marketer align precisely with the goals of the user. You want the sale, they want the bargain. You want the email, they want the ebook.

If you focus on delivering relevant, timely offers that minimize intrusiveness and respect the user experience, your users will thank you — with their conversion.

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15 Ways Marketers Use Overlays to Get More Conversions

A Close Look At The Numbers: Content Marketing in 2016

Where’s content marketing at right now – and where’s it going? It’s easy to find a million opinions about that, but there’s nothing like a solid, evidence-backed statistic. So we assembled the numbers on email, mobile, social and a couple other things. Need a stat? We got ‘em. 1: Importance, Budget, ROI Image Source Content marketing is moving front and center in marketers’ minds. It’s regarded as critical. And budgets are rising to reflect that. Budgets for content marketing have increased every year since 2010. (Source) This year is no exception. In 2015, 51% of marketers predicted that content marketing…

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A Close Look At The Numbers: Content Marketing in 2016

Getting Engaged

You probably hear about it every week, if not every day: a spiteful or ragged relationship has ended badly. There are bitter arguments, custody battles, legal entanglements, lives and homes broken in the wake of moral incompatibility, poor choices, and a lack of sober discrimination.
It’s the predictable result of kids getting married too young or impassioned people who barely know each other rushing into marriage. The tale is often similar with designers and their clients after a rushed, ill-considered marriage.

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Getting Engaged