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Do You Smell? 3 Ways To Use Site Scent To Increase Conversion

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In the book Always Be Testing, Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) expert Bryan Eisenberg mentions the concept of “scent trail” on a website. “When you abandon your scent trail,” he says, “you strand visitors and destroy the persuasive movement on your site.”

What he’s saying is we lay a scent as online marketers that funnel people into our landing pages, product pages and through checkout. When your scent contains friction points, or distracting “smells,” it creates disconnects and causes your visitors to pause. That’s bad. Test and CRO all you want. But focus your tests on two fundamental drivers that lead to conversion in the first place — User Experience (the flow) and Offer (the money). These are the main scent trails leading retail shoppers into checkout. Remember, you’re goal as a good online marketer is to hone in on a site shopper’s interaction and cut their friction points while you magically close the turnstiles behind them. This way you funnel them into a greased buy flow. If you do it well—like many sites do—the visitor can’t even tell, which ultimately benefits everyone.

Here are three key issues to consider when developing your CRO strategy related to site “scents,” and your efforts to cut friction points.

1.  Scents are alive and leave a trail — In its simplest form, a visitor’s scent trail either ends good (thank you page) or bad (abandons). Their scents typically involve multiple steps and multiple pages, or visual touch points. Since you’re spending good money to drive people through these touch points, start with your site analytics to identify where funnel leaks occur. Where are your bail-out points? What’s causing this? How are users interacting with the page?  To keep from spinning your wheels, identify the holes in your flows by locating trouble areas. There are several good heat mapping and visitor recording tools to help you better understand this.

2.  Scents reveal relevancy, and relevancy creates action– Online interaction with ecommerce is about action, whether a person is browsing or buying. Action indicates intent, and intent creates movement and fosters stick-rate. This is good. It cuts visitor bounces and bailout. Within five seconds, a site shopper asks themselves, “Is this what I want?” They evaluate your page before expressing further intent to continue down the scent trails, or bail out. If they answer yes, they continue their session and move forward. So make sure you’re delivering a consistent UX to the visitor from their origination point.  As an example, leverage the major brand elements and messaging in your marketing origination points (PPC, Display, Email) by re-serving them on-site. Continuity in UX is crucial, especially to a cold shopper, because without it they are likely to conclude real quickly, “This isn’t what I want,” and bail.

3.  Scents keep you focused so you stop wasting your time and energy – I like to say, In Data We Trust and everything else is just your opinion, which doesn’t really matter. So the cool functionality your dev team built is worthless unless it’s fast, and you have the UX data supporting its created lift by helping the visitor stay on scent and be funneled along. The same can be said of CRO:  Conversion rate optimization is worthless unless your turn time on your tests are deployed fast. Your testing plans need to address current site scents, especially where scents go stale (bail points), and from here you can laser-in on your experiments quickly —leveraging traffic—so you test rapidly and don’t burn your time and resources chasing 10 different scenarios.

Remember: Work hard to test and tweak so you’re not stranding people. Ecommerce is about movement, and site scents help you keep your visitor’s movement focused.

Image: Search & Rescue by Shutterstock

About the Author

Daryl Logullo is a 13-year veteran of D2C and B2C retail ecommerce. He is currently leading a world class ecommerce team at Kellyco Metal Detectors, the world's largest metal detector superstore for outdoor hobbyists and enthusiasts, including gold, silver, treasure and relic hunters, located in the Orlando, FL.

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  1. Interesting concept, and great article. To the point of #2, limiting a landing page (from an external campaign such as an eNewsletter) to a single action to click will have a dramatic effect on conversion. It might cause a slightly higher bounce, but you'll be trading that for more desired interactions.