SES Update: Converting Visitors Into Buyers

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To open the session, Converting Visitors Into Buyers, Mike Moran with IBM outlined the principles of direct response marketing (DRM) as they apply to the Web. For starters, DRM is run by the numbers. Similarly, search engine marketing (SEM) is driven by keywords, messages and landing pages. On average, SEM leads cost .45, while DRM leads cost $10. In SEM, it’s as simple as visitors, conversion rate and conversions. To increase leads or sales, you need to increase the number of visitors or the conversion rate. Increasing both elements has a compounding effect on overall conversions. For B2B companies, you can monetize leads (i.e. white papers) by backward calculating the value of each lead based on conversion value. Moran highly recommends Google Analytics as a starting point for measuring conversions. To track offline conversions, he recommends utilizing product customization features, printable coupons and unique 800 numbers. Moran suggests understanding what visitors do on your site (i.e. learn, shop, buy, get information or use support). For B2B or service models, be sure to integrate offline conversion actions (i.e. phone calls) and measure each step in the process. Continually test and improve various elements of the process (i.e. products, content, prices, policies, experience). Moran used Amazon’s shopping cart placement A/B test as an example of how to improve conversion rates (Amazon saw a 1 percent increase from placing the cart on the right). He also advises it’s better to do it wrong and fix it quickly, then delay the process and attempt to get it right out of the gate. He’s written books on the topic, like Do It Wrong Quickly and Search Engine Marketing Inc., which you can get samples of on his site, mikemoran.com.

Next up, Nigel Ravenhill with McAfee discussed his experience with Website conversions. He started by outlining what affects conversions from a macro to a micro perspective. Macro influences include competitive landscape, customer demographics and overall brand recognition. Micro influences include site design, pricing, shipping, payment options, product reviews and warm & fuzzies (guarantees, certifications, etc.). Ravenhill then outlined the A/B testing methodology used for evaluating the HackerSafe product. The raw data for the 12 month test included: 335 A/B tests (unique sites), generating $1M from 63M visitors. Aggregate conversion rate was 1.68 percent and average conversion of 2.71 percent. Interestingly, he indicated that conversion rates internationally were consistent. Site types included in the test ranged from bridal footwear and publishing to book and office furniture retailers. The highest conversion rates ranges from 1 percent (shoes) to almost 25 percent (auto loans). Ravenhill compared two different supplement sites, which had nearly identical conversions (2.88 vs. 2.98 percent), where one had a clean look, educational articles, product reviews and alternative payment options, yet is was the lower converting site. What seemed to separate them was the busy look, free shipping and number of trustmarks (4 vs. 2). He recommends the following books to read up on conversion optimization by the following authors: Tim Ash, Bryan Eisenberg and Kaushik.

Next up was Michael Sack from Idearc Media, who covered “orchestrating the experience.” He introduced the concept of engineering an experience (i.e. why the milk is in the back of the supermarket). Translating the scientifically designed supermarket experience to your Web site and you’ll see greater conversions. For example, constantly test the placement of products on your site. Keep in mind that what people see and when they see it affects conversion rates. Sack used PriceChopper.com as an example of information overload: 50 links on the home page combined with confusing navigation has the net effect of information overkill (and is also inconsistent with the offline experience). He’s simply not a fan of the concept of the home page, which is like a store with one big shelf for all products.

Unfortunately, I had to cut out early for lunch with a very smart and prolific writer, who I can’t name, but you’ve read one or more of his best sellers if you’re a marketer.

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