Have you ever walked into a store, turned around, and walked right back out? You bounced. Maybe you didn’t like the look of the store itself, or perhaps you realized the store didn’t sell the type of merchandise you needed. Whatever the case, you took one look and got out of dodge. The same thing happens on your website, and it’s not a good thing. Learning how to reduce bounce rate makes your site “stickier.” It’s more inviting. Visitors want to hang around for a while — and maybe even buy something or convert on one of your offers. A…
For a long time, we’ve thought of interfaces strictly in a visual sense: buttons, dropdown lists, sliders, carousels (please no more carousels). But now we are staring into a future composed not just of visual interfaces, but of conversational ones as well. Microsoft alone reports that three thousand new bots are built every week on their bot framework. Every. Week.
The importance of Conversational UI cannot be understated, even if some of us wish it wasn’t happening.
The most important advancement in Conversational UI has been Natural Language Processing (NLP). This is the field of computing that deals not with deciphering the exact words that a user said, but with parsing out of it their actual intent. If the bot is the interface, NLP is the brain. In this article, we’re going to take a look at why NLP is so important, and how you (yes, you!) can build your own.
Speech Recognition vs. NLP
Most people will be familiar with Amazon Echo, Cortana, Siri or Google Home, all of which have an interface that is primarily conversational. They are also all using NLP.
Aside from these intelligent assistants, most Conversational UIs have nothing to do with voice at all. They are text driven. These are the bots we chat with in Slack, Facebook Messenger or over SMS. They deliver high quality gifs in our chats, watch our build processes and even manage our pull requests.
Conversational UIs built on text are nice because there is no speech recognition component. The text is already parsed.
When it comes to a verbal interaction, the fundamental problem is not recognizing the speech. We’ve mostly got that one down.
OK, so maybe it’s not perfect. I still get voicemails every day like a game of Mad Libs that I never asked to play. iOS just sticks a blank line in whenever they don’t know what exactly was said.
Google, on the other hand, just tries to guess. Like this one from my father. I have absolutely no idea what this message is actually trying to say other than “Be Safe” which honestly sounds like my mom, and not my dad. I have a hard time believing he ever said that. I don’t trust the computer.
I’m picking on voice mail transcriptions here, which might be the hardest speech recognition to do given how degraded the audio quality is.
Nevertheless, speech recognition is largely a solved problem. It’s even built right into Chrome and it works remarkably well.
After we solved the problem of speech recognition, we started to use it everywhere. That was unfortunate because speech recognition on it’s own doesn’t do us a whole lot of good. Interfaces that rely soley on speech recognition require the user to state things a precise way and they can only state the limited number of exact words or phrases that the interface knows about. This is not natural. This is not how a conversation works.
Without NLP, Conversational UI can be true nightmare.
Conversational UI Without NLP
We’re probably all familiar with automated phone menus. These are known as Interactive Voice Response systems — or IVRs for short. They are designed to take the place of the traditional operator and automatically transfer callers to the right place without having to talk to a human. On the surface, this seems like a good idea. In practice, it’s mostly just you waiting while a recorded voice reads out a list of menu items that “may have changed.”
A 2011 study from New York University found that 83% of people feel IVR systems “provide either no benefit at all, or only a cost savings benefit to the company.” They also noted that IVR systems “score lower than any other service option.” People would literally rather do anything else than use an automated phone menu.
NLP has changed the IVR market rather significantly in the past few years. NLP can pick a user’s intent out of anything they say, so it’s better to just let them say it and then determine if you support the action.
Check out how AT&T does it.
AT&T has a truly intelligent Conversational UI. It uses NLP to let me just state my intent. Also, notice that I don’t have to know what to say. I can fumble all around and it still picks out my intent.
AT&T also uses information that it already has (my phone number) and then leverages text messaging to send me a link to a traditional visual UI, which is probably a much better UX for making a payment. NLP drives the whole experience here. Without it, the rest of the interaction would not be nearly as smooth.
NLP is powerful, but more importantly, it is also accessible to developers everywhere. You don’t have to know a thing about Machine Learning (ML) or Artificial Intelligence (AI) to use it. All you need to how to do is make an AJAX call. Even I can do that!
Building An NLP Interface
So much of Machine Learning still remains inaccessible to developers. Even the best YouTube videos on the subject quickly become hard to follow with subjects like Neural Networks and Gradient Descents. We have, however, made significant progress in the field of Language Processing, to the point that it’s accessible to developers of nearly any skill level.
Natural Language Processing differs based on the service, but the overall idea is that the user has an intent, and that intent contains entities. That means exactly nothing to you at the moment, so let’s work up a hypothetical Home Automation bot and see how this works.
The Home Automation Example
In the field of Natural Language Processing, the canonical “Hello World” is usually a Home Automation demo. This is because it helps to clearly demonstrate the fundamental concepts of NLP without overloading your brain.
A Home Automation Bot is a service that can control hypothetical lights in a hypothetical house. For instance, we might want to say “Turn on the kitchen lights”. That is our intent. If we said “Hello”, we are clearly expressing a different intent. Inside of that intent, there are two pieces of information that we need to complete the action:
The ‘Location’ of the light (kitchen)
The desired state of the lights ‘Power’ (on/off)
These (Location, Power) are known as entities.
When we are finished designing our NLP interface, we are going to be able to call an HTTP endpoint and pass it our intent: “Turn on the kitchen lights.” That endpoint will return to us the intent (Control Lights) and two objects representing our entities: Location and Power. We can then pass those into a function which actually controls our lights…
function controlLights(location, power)
console.log(`Turning $power the $location lights`);
// TODO: Call an imaginary endpoint which controls lights
There are a lot of NLP services out there that are available today for developers. For this example, I’m going to show the LUIS project from Microsoft because it is free to use.
LUIS is a completely visual tool, so we won’t actually be writing any code at all. We’ve already talked about Intents and Entities, so you already know most of the terminology that you need to know to build this interface.
The first step is to create a “Control Lights” intent in LUIS.
Before I do anything with that intent, I need to define my Location and Power entities. Entities can be different types — kind of like types in a programming language. You can have dates, lists and even entities that are related to other entities. In this case, Power is a list of values (on, off) and Location is a simple entity, which can be any value.
It will be up to LUIS to be smart enough to figure out exactly what the Location is.
Now we can begin to train this model to understand all of the different ways that we might ask it to control the lights in a different location. Let’s think of all the different ways that we could do that:
Turn off the kitchen lights;
Turn off the lights in the office;
The lights in the living room, turn them on;
Lights, kitchen, off;
Turn off the lights (no location).
As I feed these into the Control Lights intent as utterances, LUIS tries to determine where in the intent the entities are. You can see that because Power is a discreet list of values, it gets that right every time.
But it has no idea what a Location even is. LUIS wants us to go through this list and tell it where the Location is. That’s done by clicking on a word or group of words and assigning to the right entity. As we are doing this, we are really creating a machine learning model that LUIS is going to use to statistically estimate what qualifies as a Location.
When I’m done telling LUIS where in these utterances all the locations are, my dashboard looks like this…
Now we train the model by clicking on the “Train” button at the top. Do you feel like a data scientist yet?
Now I can test it using the test panel. You can see that LUIS is already pretty smart. The Power is easy to pick out, but it can actually pick out Locations it has never seen before. It’s doing what your brain does — using the information that it has to make an educated guess. Machine Learning is equal parts impressive and scary.
If we try hard enough, we can fool the AI. The more utterances we give it and label, the smarter it will get. I added 35 utterances to mine before I was done and it is close to bullet proof.
So now we get to the important part, which is how we actually use this NLP in an app. LUIS has a “Publish” menu option which allows us to publish our model to the internet where it’s exposed via a single HTTP endpoint. It will look something like this…
The very last part of that query string is a q= variable. This is where we would pass our intent.
https://westus.api.cognitive.microsoft.com/luis/v2.0/apps/c4396135-ee3f-40a9-8b83-4704cddabf7a?subscription-key=19d29a12d3fc4d9084146b466638e62a&verbose=true&timezoneOffset=0&q=turn on the kitchen lights
The response that we get back looks is just a JSON object.
Having a smart bot is only half the battle. We still need to account for any of the actions that our system might expose, and that can lead to a lot of different logical paths which makes for messy code.
Conversations also happen in stages, so the bot needs to be able to intelligently direct users down the right path without frustrating them or being unable to recover when something goes wrong. It needs to be able to recover when the conversation dies midstream and then starts again. That’s a whole other article and I’ve included some resources below to help.
When it comes to language understanding, the AI platforms are mature and ready to use today. While that won’t help you perfectly design your bot, it will be a key component to building a bot that people don’t hate.
Great UI Is Just Great UI
A final note: As we saw from the AT&T example, a truly smart interface combines great speech recognition, Natural Language Processing, different types of conversational UI (speech and text) and even a visual UI. In short, great UI is just that — great UI — and it is not a zero sum game. Great UIs will leverage all of the technology available to provide the best possible user experience.
Special thanks to Mat Velloso for his input on this article.
You have a professional website that looks attractive, your pages load up quickly as well, and you’re a master storyteller. Yet, you’re still struggling to make your casual website visitors make a purchase, or contact you for a quote. It can be very frustrating. However, you’ve got to understand no matter how great your website is, you can’t control people’s decisions 100%. But there are steps you can take to steer their decision making processes in the right direction. There are several reasons why website visitors aren’t converting. Here’s the proven 7-step process to take a ‘casual’ visitor who just…
It’s 2017, and the robots are here. However, artificial intelligence (AI) is nothing to be feared. In fact, AI will help boost your sales, increase conversions while ensuring that your business thrives and stays relevant in an ever-changing world. If you have resisted AI up until now because it sounded too complex, we’re going to explain how it can turbocharge your sales in plain, understandable English. We’ll be covering everything from chatbots, personal assistants to how AI can ramp up your email marketing efforts – as well as tighten up your security. As a business owner, this could be the…
If you’re stuck in a job you hate and have dreams of becoming a designer and working in a creative role that fills you with excitement daily, the road to entering this completely new industry can feel daunting. Making a major career shift late in life to follow your passion is scary. Not only is it sometimes difficult to know where to start to learn about an expansive field like design, but it can also feel risky, especially if you’re working a secure job.
You’re designing a landing page for your Real Estate client, and you turn to “best practice” advice articles to help guide the way.
But there’s a nagging voice at the back of your mind:
Does this “best practice” advice apply indiscriminately to my industry? Does this author really know anything about my audience at all?
“Best practices” become “better practices” when they are industry-specific.
When our design team was recently wireframing new landing page templates for the Unbounce builder, they set out to create industry-specific templates that addressed this truth: different audiences belonging to different industries behave differently. They have different pains, different motivators and different disincentives.
Firm believers that data needs to inform design, our design team sourced their research in two key areas:
Data from the Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report: The report includes average conversion rates for 10 popular industries, as well as Machine Learning-powered recommendations around reading ease, page length, emotion and sentiment.
High-converting customer landing pages: Our designers looked at the top 10 highest-converting Unbounce landing pages in those industries, and analyzed common design and copy elements across the pages.
Our design team then combined insight from these two key areas of research to build out content and design requirements for the best possible landing page template for each of the 10 industries.
One of these industries was Real Estate, and now we want to share their findings with you.
See a breakdown of their process for designing the Real Estate page template at the bottom of this post, or read on for their key findings about what converts in the Real Estate industry.
Which copy elements convert best in the Real Estate industry?
The data scientists and conversion rate optimizers who put together the Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report found that for Real Estate lead capture landing pages, short n’ sweet is better: overall, they saw 33% lower conversion rates for longer landing pages.
This chart shows how the word count relates to conversion rates for the Real Estate vertical. On the x-axis we have word count — on the y-axis, conversion rate.
This was consistent with what the design team saw across high-converting Unbounce customer landing pages in Real Estate: pages were relatively short with concise, to-the-point copy.
The Unbounce Convert Benchmark Report also revealed that in the Real Estate vertical, prospects want simple and accessible language. The predicted conversion rate for a landing page written with 6th grade level language was nearly double that of a page written at the university level.
This chart shows how conversion rates trend with changes to reading ease for the Real Estate Industry. On the x-axis we have the Flesch Reading Ease score — on the y-axis, conversion rate.
According to the Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report, 41.6% of marketers in the Real Estate industry have at least one page that converts at less than 1.3% (in the 25th percentile for this industry). Download the report here to see the full data story on Real Estate and get recommendations for copy, sentiment, page length and more for nine additional industries.
The Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report used an Emotion Lexicon and Machine Learning to determine whether words associated with eight basic emotions (anger, anticipation, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise and trust) affected overall conversion rates.
While these emotions did not seem to dramatically correlate with conversion rate in the Real Estate vertical, fear-based language was the exception. We saw a slight negative trend for pages using more fear-inducing terms:
This chart shows how the percentage of copy that evokes fear is related to conversion rates for the Real Estate vertical. On the x-axis we have the percentage of copy that uses words related to fear — on the y-axis, conversion rate.
If more than half a percent of your copy evokes feelings of fear, you could be hurting your conversion rates.
Here are some words commonly associated with fear on Real Estate lead capture landing pages: highest, fire, problem, watch, change, confidence, mortgage, eviction, cash, risk…
When our designers looked at the top 10 highest-converting Unbounce customer landing pages in the Real Estate vertical, they took a close look at the calls to action and found that:
Every page provided a detailed description of the offer
Almost all had a “request a call back” or “call us” option (other CTAs included “get more info,” “apply now” and “get the pricelist”)
Most did an excellent job of including button copy that reinforces what prospects get by submitting the form
If you use a “call us” CTA on your landing pages, make sure you try out our CallRail integration. This will help you track which calls are a result of your paid spend and landing pages!
Here are some examples of the forms and calls to action on some of our highest-converting Real Estate lead capture landing pages:
The usual suspects (benefits, social proof, UVP…)
Without much exception, the pages featured a lot of the copywriting elements that one would expect to see on any high-converting landing page (regardless of vertical):
Detailed benefits listed as bullet points
A tagline that reinforces the unique value proposition or speaks to a pain point:
And not surprisingly, testimonials. One page went above and beyond with a video testimonial:
Which design elements convert best in the Real Estate industry?
The highest-converting Real Estate landing pages included lots of imagery:
Beautiful hero shots of the interior and exterior of properties
Full-width photography backgrounds
Our designers also studied other design features as basic guidelines for the template they were then going to create.
While these specifics are meant to be taken with a grain of salt (you may already have brand colors and fonts!) they could serve as a good starting point if you’re starting completely from scratch and want to know what others are up to.
Many of the high-converting pages had:
Palettes of deep navy and forest green
Orange (contrasting) call to action buttons
The highest-converting landing pages in the Real Estate industry sit at 11.2%. If your Real Estate page converts at over 8.7%, you’re beating 90% of your competitors’ pages. See the breakdown of median and top conversion rates (and where you stand!) via the Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report.
Behold, the template our designers created
After synthesizing all that research, our Senior Art Director Cesar Martínez took to his studio (okay, his desk), and drafted up this beautiful Real Estate landing page template:
Not only is the template beautiful, it was created by analyzing actual data: what makes for a high-performing landing page in the Real Estate industry via the Unbounce Benchmark Report and high-converting customer pages.
Footnote: The design process
Curious about the process our designers used to develop this data-backed Real Estate landing page template? Here are the steps they followed:
For the 10 highest-converting customer landing pages, they analyzed all common elements (such as form, what type of information is collected, what type of offer, if there are any testimonials, etc). This allowed them to build their content requirements.
They referred to the word count recommendations in the Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report and designed for that word count limit.
They referred to reading ease level recommendations for that specific industry from the Benchmark Report and shared the information with their copywriter.
They sketched out a rough idea of their potential landing page template.
They selected typography and colors relevant to the industry based on what was popular in the 10 examples.
They named their imaginary company in the industry and sketched out some potential logos. They picked photography built out a moodboard.
That helped them gather all the information they needed to build out their template!
Editor’s Note: In the world of web design, we tend to become preoccupied with the here and now. In “Resilient Web Design“, Jeremy Keith emphasizes the importance of learning from the past in order to better prepare ourselves for the future. So, perhaps we should stop and think more beyond our present moment? The following is an excerpt from Jeremy’s web book.
Design adds clarity. Using colour, typography, hierarchy, contrast, and all the other tools at their disposal, designers can take an unordered jumble of information and turn it into something that’s easy to use and pleasurable to behold. Like life itself, design can win a small victory against the entropy of the universe, creating pockets of order from the raw materials of chaos.
The Book of Kells is a beautifully illustrated manuscript created over 1200 years ago. It’s tempting to call it a work of art, but it is a work of design. The purpose of the book is to communicate a message; the gospels of the Christian religion. Through the use of illustration and calligraphy, that message is conveyed in an inviting context, making it pleasing to behold.
A/B testing and conversion rate optimization (CRO) are not synonymous, but often confused.
A/B testing is exactly what it says—a test to verify different sets of variations on your website. Conversion rate optimization, however, is much more than just testing.
Conversion optimization is a scientific process that starts with analyzing your business’ leaks, making educated hypotheses to fix them, and then testing those hypotheses.
Conversion optimization is a process that needs to be repeated, but A/B testing is a technique. A formalized conversion optimization process can advance somewhat like this:
Tracking metrics and identifying what parts of the conversion funnel need fixing
Analyzing why visitors are doing what they are doing
Creating and Planning your hypotheses for optimization
Testing the hypotheses against the existing version of the website
Learning from the tests and applying the learning to the subsequent tests
To further clear up the air around the two terms, we got in touch with the top in line conversion rate experts and picked their brains on the same. The experts tell us about their experiences with A/B testing and conversion optimization and why you should switch to the latter.
Back in 2007, I could already see that a huge gap was developing among companies that are perfecting a process for conversion optimization and those that are following the easy advice of so many consultants.
Instead of selling top-of-mind advice, I focused WiderFunnel on refining the process of continuous optimization for leading brands. For each of our client engagements, we run a holistic CRO program that builds insights over time to continuously improve our understanding of their unique customer segments. The results speak for themselves.
Ad hoc A/B testing is a tragic use of your limited traffic when you realize how much growth and insights structured optimization program could be delivering. In an example that we published recently, a structured CRO program is exactly what this company needed to double its revenue two years in a row, over the ad hoc testing it was previously doing.
The most effective conversion optimization program seeps into the bones of your organization. Decisions that were once exclusively creative in nature gain a data component. Much of the guessing drains from your online marketing. We call this “rigorous creativity,” and it marries your best marketing work with insights about your visitors. It cannot be accomplished by running a few tests, but comes from asking daily, “Do we have some data to help guide us? If not, can we collect it?” The rigorously creative business is good at finding and creating this data and using it to maximize visitor satisfaction and business profit.
Without a strong CRO strategy that encompasses the experience visitors have discovering, using, exploring, and hopefully eventually converting on your site, you’ll always be plugging holes in a leaky bucket rather than building a better container.
The best opportunities to improve conversion usually aren’t from changing individual pages one at a time with a multitude of tests, but rather by crafting a holistic, thoughtful experience that runs throughout the site, then iterating on elements consistently with an eye to learning, and applying knowledge from each test to the site as a whole.
An AB test should come at the end of your homework. If you’re just AB testing, you’re probably gambling. Your tests are based on things you’ve read on the Internet, gut feeling, and opinions. Some of your tests will be winners, most of them losers. Because you’re shooting blanks.
The homework is data analysis and user research. This will reveal the problem areas and why your visitors are leaving or not doing what you want them to do. The better you know the dreams, the hopes, the fears, the barriers, and uncertainties of your users, the better you’ll be able to work out a test that will have a real impact.
In case you’re in doubt, impact seldom comes from design changes. Don’t change the color of your button, change the text on that button. Not randomly, but based on what users want and your knowledge of influencing people.
Don’t focus too much on the design. Focus on your offer, your value proposition, and how you sell your stuff.
Don’t sell the way you like to sell. Sell the way your customers want to buy.
André Scholten, SEO and Site Speed specialist, Google Analytics
Create a strategy that makes your clients happier and don’t focus on the money. Single non-related tests on the conversion funnel follow each other up, based on abandonment rates, judged on their influence on revenue. That’s not a strategy but more an operational process where test after test is conducted without vision. You should create a test culture within your company that tests everything that will make your website a nicer place for your customers. Give them feedback possibilities with feedback or chat tools to learn from these. Take their wishes into account and create tests to verify if their wishes are met. Create a test strategy that focuses on all goals: not only the money, but also information-type goals, contact-goals, etc. It will give you so much to do and to improve. That’s a holistic approach to testing.
“Winging it” may work for musicians and cooks; but in marketing, any decision made outside of a holistic CRO program is a bad one. Only through testing will you find the right message, the right audience, and the right offer. And only after you nail these critical elements will you see the profits you need. It doesn’t matter how small or new your business is, take time to test your ideas. You’ll be glad you did.
To say an online business is great due to AB Testing is like saying a Football team is great because of their stadium. It is the entire team framework that leads to winning. An optimization frameworkintegrates A/B testing as one component that includes the team, the brand, advertising, and a solid testing strategy. This is how industry-leading websites win year after year.
Rich Page, Conversion Rate Optimization and Web Analytics Expert
Many online businesses make the mistake of thinking that A/B testing is the same as CRO and don’t pay enough attention to the other key aspects of CRO. This usually gives them disappointing results on their conversion rates and online revenue. Web analytics, website usability, visitor feedback, and persuasion techniques are the other key CRO elements that you need to frequently use to gain greatest results.
Gaining an in-depth visitor feedback is a particularly essential part of CRO. This helps you discover your visitor’s main needs and common challenges, and forms high-impact ideas for your A/B tests (rather than just guessing or listening to your HiPPOs). Gaining visitor insights from usability tests and watching recordings of them using your website is particularly revealing.
Peter Sandeen, Value Proposition and Marketing Message Development Expert
Just about every statistic on A/B test results says that most tests don’t create positive results (or any results at all). That’s partly because of the inherent uncertainties of testing. But a big part is the usual lack of a real plan.
Actually, you need two plans.
The first plan, the big picture one, is there to keep you focused on testing the right parts of your marketing. It tells if you should spend most of your energy on testing landing pages, prices, or perhaps webinar content.
The second plan is there to make sure you’re creating impactful differences in your tests. So instead of testing two headlines that mean essentially the same thing (e.g. “Get good at golf fast” and “Improve your golf skills quickly”), you test things that are likely to create a different conversion rate (e.g. “3-hour practice recommended by golf pros”). And when you see increased or decreased conversion rates, you create the next test based on those results.
With good plans, you can get positive results from 50–75% of your tests.
Roger Dooley, Author of Brainfluence
Simple A/B testing often leads to a focus on individual elements of a landing page or campaign – a graphic, a headline, or a call to action. This can produce positive results, but often distracts one from looking at the bigger picture. My emphasis is on using behavior science to improve marketing, and that approach works best when applied to multiple elements of the customer journey.
Conversion rate (CR) is a measure of your ability to persuade visitors to take action the way you want them to. It’s a reflection of your effectiveness and customer satisfaction. For you to achieve your goals, visitors must first achieve theirs. Conversion rate, as a metric, is a single output. CR is a result of the many inputs that make up a customer experience. That experience has the chance to annoy, satisfy, or delight them. We need to optimize the inputs. Ad hoc A/B tests cannot do this. Companies that provide a superior experience are rewarded with higher conversion rates. Focus on improving customer experience, and you’ll find the results in your P&L, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow statements.
Thinking beyond the individual A/B test as optimization is a natural part of gaining experience. We all probably started off by running a handful of ad hoc tests and that’s okay—that’s how we learn. However, as we grow, three things may happen which bring us closer towards becoming more strategic:
1. We become conscious of ways in which we can prioritize our testing ideas.
2. We become conscious of the structure of experiments and how tests can be designed.
3. We think of a series of upcoming tests which may or may not work together to maximize returns.
Here is one example of one test strategy/structure: The Best Shot Test. It aims to maximize the effect size and minimize the testing duration, while doing so at the cost of a blurred cause-effect relationship.
Running basic A/B tests based on best practices is okay for a start. But to really get to the next level, it’s important to see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. This gives us a better understanding of what exactly we’re testing for and reach for results that fit the specific goals of the organization.
Kristi Hines, Certified Digital Marketer
Depending on your business and the size of your marketing team, you may want to go beyond just testing your website or a landing page. You may want to expand your A/B testing to your entire online presence.
For example, try changing your main thing (keyword phrase, catch phrase, elevator pitch, headline, etc.) not just on your website, but also on all your homepage’s meta description, your social media bios and intros, your email signatures, etc.
Why? Because here’s what’s going to happen. If you have consistent messaging across a bunch of channels that someone follows you on, and all of a sudden, they come to your landing page with an inconsistent message (the variant, if you will), then they may not convert simply because of the inconsistency of your message. Not because it wasn’t a good message, but because it wasn’t the message they were used to receiving from you.
As my own personal case example, when I change my main phrase “Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, business blogger, and certified digital marketer.” I don’t do it just on my website. I do it everywhere. And I don’t do it for just a week. I do it for at least two to three months unless it’s a complete dud (i.e., no leads in the first week at all).
But what I usually find is when I find a good phrase, I’ll start getting leads from all over the place. And usually they will say they went from one channel to the next. Hence, don’t just test. Test consistency across your entire presence, if possible. The results may be astonishing.
I do think that Conversion Rate Optimization as a marketing discipline goes beyond just a series of A/B and/or Multivariate tests. As external factors such as your brand and what other people say about the business (reviews and referrals) can also heavily impact how a site can perform in terms of attracting more actions from its intended users/visitors.
For instance, positive social proof (number of people sharing/liking a particular product or a brand on different social networks) can also influence your customer’s buying process. And improving on this aspect of the brand involves a whole different campaign – which would involve a more holistic approach to be integrated to your CRO program. Another factor to consider is the quality of traffic your campaign is getting (through SEO, PPC, paid social campaigns, content marketing, etc.) The more targeted traffic you’re able to acquire, the better your conversions will be.
A full-fledged conversion optimization program goes a long way and is a lot more beneficial than ad hoc testing.
So what are you waiting for? Let stepping up to conversion optimization be your #1 goal in the new year.
I recently spoke with a back-end developer friend about how many hours I spend coding or learning about code outside of work. He showed me a passage from an Uncle Bob book, “Clean Code”, which compares the hours musicians spend with their instruments in preparation for a concert to developers rehearsing code to perform at work.
I like the analogy but I’m not sure I fully subscribe to it; it’s that type of thinking that can cause burnout in the first place.
The following is a case study about how RuneScape followed a structured conversion optimization (CRO) program to increase revenue on its website.
RuneScape is a fantasy massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). It was developed by Jagex and launched in January 2001.
The popularity of the game is enormous. RuneScape has welcomed over 250 million players to its world since its release. More than 2 million users play every month, and millions more watch avidly through social channels.
RuneScape has consistently strived to deliver a great experience to its users—not just limited to the game but also on its website. After all, it’s the website where users find forums and game guides, and buy in-game items.
The CRO Team
Rob Marfleet, UX Specialist at Jagex, takes care of User Experience and CRO across the payment flow on the website (the payment gateway and its preceding pages). Dave Parrott, Payments Services Director at Jagex, and Nastassja Gilmartin, Payments Manager at Jagex, help Rob in identifying testing opportunities and analyzing test results.
Rob Marfleet, UX Specialist at Jagex, takes care of User Experience and CRO across the payment flow on the website.
Rob works with teams of designers and developers that help facilitate implementation of winning test variants on the RuneScape website.
Additionally, Rob takes help from Disha Ahuja, Client Success Manager at VWO, to utilize the VWO platform to its full potential.
About the Case
About 50% of users on the RuneScape website arrive as direct traffic. The other half of the traffic consists of users from referrals, social media, and email marketing campaigns.
Rob adds, “This is mainly down to RuneScape enjoying a very loyal user base, with many players having played for several years.”
The CRO team aims to optimize high-potential pages, that is, pages that are closest to the payment gateway and require minimum effort in optimization. The Treasure Hunter page on the website is one such high-potential page that the team chose to optimize.
The Treasure Hunter page lets users buy keys to unlock treasure chests in the game. The treasure chests contain items that can be used within RuneScape.
Rob explains, “Treasure Hunter activity is an optional mini-game within RuneScape—keys are earned through play, but can also be gathered in bundles that are purchasable on the site.”
This is how the original page looked like:
On clicking Continue on the Treasure Hunter page, users are directed to a Payment page where they can choose from multiple treasure chest packages.
The RuneScape CRO team thoroughly analyzed the Treasure Hunter page and identified optimization opportunities. Next, the team used VWO to capitalize on these opportunities.
The CRO team followed the following process to improve conversions on the RuneScape website:
Setting a Goal
Finding Opportunities for Optimization
Analyzing Test Results
Setting a Goal
The goal of the optimization campaign was to grow revenue by increasing the number of purchases.
Finding Opportunities for Optimization
The team at RuneScape studied a heatmap of the Treasure Hunter page. The heatmap showed that a significant number of users were clicking the Get Keys section on the page—a section which was not clickable. Users perhaps either wanted a direct access to the keys or wanted to search for further information.
Next, the team watched visitor recording sessions on the page and observed that a lot of visitors on the Payment page returned to the Treasure Hunter page. The team realized that the Treasure Hunter page probably did not offer sufficient information about the treasure chest packages to users.
The team hypothesized that providing details about treasure chest packages on the Treasure Hunter page will lead to greater conversions on the Payment page.
Based on the hypothesis, the team created a variation of the Treasure Hunter page. The variation included a new section highlighting four treasure chest packages. Here’s how it looked:
An A/B test was run to find the better performing version between the original page and the variation.
Analyzing Test Results
The test ran for a month from August 15–September 13, 2016. The variation outperformed the control and increased the number of purchases by almost 10 percent.
Rob shares his learning from the A/B test:
“I think one of the more important aspects to take note of here is that the page variation actually resulted in less traffic to the payment page, but increased the amount of purchases made. Effectively, we can say pretty confidently that by giving the users package information upfront, we created higher quality traffic to the next stage, simply through transparency, and informed the user before going forward—users who went to the purchase page already knew what they were after.
This is incredibly useful when considering other areas of the payment flow—if the effect can be replicated, it can potentially translate to more wins.”
The CRO team did not stop after it found success with the A/B test. The team felt that the variation can be optimized even further.
The team realized that the offer of four treasure chest packages can possibly leave the users spoiled for choice. The team hypothesized that recommending one of the packages to users will help them choose better and, consequently, increase conversions.
Based on this hypothesis, the following variation was created:
The variation featured a Recommended package. This variation was pitted against the winning page from the first A/B test.
The variation won and further increased the number of purchases by almost 6%.
Experience Using VWO
Rob shares, “As a hands-on user of VWO, I’ve personally experienced how quickly it allows prototyping and testing of new ideas, features and content. The ability to push changes, without having to involve multiple teams to relaunch areas of the site can’t be praised highly enough, and the ability to reverse those same changes instantaneously is equally as useful. It’s allowed me to run a number of campaigns straight away that would normally have to be scheduled further down the line, at a more opportune moment, and that’s pretty invaluable.
Using the actual software is very straightforward and easy to understand—campaigns can be built in a short period of time, and having Disha available any time to help determine the best testing practices has definitely helped me find wins—she’s super friendly and eager to help, and I’ve already implemented several testing campaigns that have been borne out of collaboration between her and myself, one of which, is in the process of being fully implemented on the site.”
What Do You Think?
Do you have any recommendations on how RuneScape can further improve user experience and conversions on its website? Did you get any conversion optimization ideas for your own online enterprise? Tell us using the comments section below.