You’re here because you’re looking for ways to optimize conversion rates. We get it. We do this for a living. This article takes you through the exact steps we’ve used to increase sales for dozens of online businesses (in marketing language, improving conversion rates) using buyer psychology and copywriting magic.
PS: we’ve written over 840 articles in the last 13 years and you’ve just discovered our most important one. Back to regular programming now …
Our sites are only converting a tiny percentage of site visitors. We could be converting a whole lot more. Read on to see how principles of buyer psychology can dramatically boost sales without increasing ad spend.
The job of the marketer
The marketer’s job isn’t to design award-winning concepts.
The job of the marketer is to:
— Greet new visitors so they don’t bounce
— Entice them with an engaging story about why we exist and why our product must exist. These 2 stories make a big difference, as you’ll find lower in the article.
— And gently but persuasively get them to make a purchase
If we aren’t optimizing conversion rates what are we doing?
The purpose of any online business is to accelerate the growth of net profits.
There are two ways of realistically doing this:
Option 1: market to more potential customers and hope they convert (i.e., your conversion rate remains the same, but the traffic on your website goes up).
Pros: you know it works for x% of the traffic. Just get a bigger net and you can catch more fish.
Cons: 1. Inflates your ad spends; 2. Does not correct the main problem of you losing sales to visitors who’re showing interest but not converting.
Option 2: market correctly to the traffic that is already visiting your website or sales page and get them to convert.
Pros: you already know they are interested and want to buy your product. It’ll be less expensive to convert them versus finding a completely new visitor.
Cons: By not converting them, you’re not only wasting money on generating traffic, but also letting go of near-guaranteed sales.
This means we need to optimize conversion rates to increase our net profits.
We need to start our day thinking, “How do I optimize conversion rates today?” and end it with, “I did a great job optimizing conversion rates today.”
The better you are at this part of the business the faster you’ll grow.
Default Google Analytics (GA) conversion rate calculation is wrong
Looking at your default conversion rates is giving you the wrong picture. By default, Google calculates your conversion rate as # of transactions / # of sessions.
In other words, if a user visits your site today (new session start), doesn’t buy, returns 4 days from now (new session start), and buys, then Google will say your conversion rate is 1 transaction / 2 sessions, which is 50%.
But that’s not the right way to look at it. Instead, conversions should be based on users, not sessions. In reality, your conversion rate for that shopper was 1 transaction / 1 user, which is 100%. Users are more important than sessions.
So, what is your User calculated conversion rate in GA?
Now that you know your true conversion rate let’s cover another important topic.Measuring Achievable Target
Not all visitors to your site are potential buyers. It would be meaningless to go after them all. Therefore, a better approach is to calculate the “achievable target”.
“Achievable target” definition: these are people who are engaged and actively using our site. I like to define it as people who have spent 3+ minutes and seen 3+ pages. You can tweak these criteria to match your site.
How to see “achievable target” in GA for your business
Open this in Google Analytics:
Audience –> All Users –> New Segment
After clicking New Segment you should see this:
After clicking Conditions fill in these values:
Make note of the number at #5 location. This is our “achievable target” metric.
“How much more could we be making?”
Let’s say your conversion rate (by User) is 3% and “achievable target” is 10.79%. The difference is 10.79% minus 3% = 7.79%. This is the group we
could should convert. Currently, we aren’t, and that means as you’re reading this article your site is losing revenue:
Why this is happening
The reason you’re leaking sales isn’t because your product is bad, it’s because shoppers are drowning in options:
We’re living a world of exponential abundance. There are just too many options.
Psychologist Sheena Iyengar, S. T. Lee Professor of Business, Graduate School of Business at Columbia University, and Ph.D., Stanford University (1997), ran an experiment.
On one day she set a jam stall with 24 different kinds of jams.
Then, the next time she reduced the number of choices to 6 jams.
Iyengar found that while the bigger display generated more interest, the smaller display’s sales were 10x higher. That’s right, 10x higher.
What do we learn from this?
Because we’re drowning in options:
- We invest very little time in things and experiences, even for things important to us.
- We’re easily distracted. That’s why only 20% of your site visitors reach the page you really want them to see.
- When frustrated or confused, we quit. That’s why your site’s Exit rates are so high.
- We use time-saving mental shortcuts (System 1 thinking) to quickly process information. An explanation of System 1 versus System 2.
Result: What does this mean for your business?
1. Users are just not spending enough time on your site, which is hurting conversion rates.
2. A bigger problem: Marketers are responding to this all wrong
Instead of focusing on crafting more engaging experiences that get users to hang around longer, many marketers throw everything at the wall in hopes that something, anything, will stick. Notice all the elements screaming for my attention in the screenshot below:
The enemy isn’t that enough prospective customers don’t visit you. The enemy is not having enough time with promising prospects.
It’s a global epidemic: current eCommerce trends
Here is a crazy 2020 report from Wolfgang Digital:
In screenshot above pay attention to:
Average pages per session = 4
Average session duration = 2 minutes, 32 seconds
Here are those same stats from 2019:
The trend looks bad. In 2019 shoppers were spending more time on site. The time they spend on a site is the most vital conversion metric.
Enough of the doom and gloom. Let’s look at the opportunity
Let’s go and convert these shoppers that are engaged with our site and ended up not buying. 20% of all purchases are abandoned due to insufficient product information on the site (source). Let’s fix this and boost sales by telling better stories.
Why storytelling matters
There are plenty of technically superior products that have died. TiVo was an exceptional idea, well ahead of its time, and yet, sadly, it failed. This headline is both funny and sad:
On the other hand, did you know Apple’s iPod was not the first MP3 music player? I remember having one long before the iPod. What Apple did differently was to tell a better story:
1,000 Songs in Your Pocket
Stories sit at the heart of your conversion strategy. All other conversion best practices pale in comparison to the power of a bloody good story.
Share of wallet
An American household earning an annual income of $78,635 spent about $20,000 on consumer goods in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in the most recently available data published on Sept. 10, 2019.
This $20,000 in annual spending is what we’re going after. But so are millions of other marketers. If we want to outmaneuver them we’re going to have to outthink them. Continue reading to learn our secret.
Use buyer psychology to tell more effective stories
The art and science of retail marketing have been changing since the days of this 1897 Sears catalog (the most valuable item in my office):
What hasn’t changed is the psychology of average shoppers. Our brains have not evolved at the same rate as technology. The things great Stoic philosophers struggled with 2000 years ago are the same things you and I struggle with today.
A great marketer is one who understands buyer psychology.
You’re already a good storyteller
Imagine there was a way to transport engaged site visitors to your office. Out of 100 how many would you be able to close?
I’m betting the number is more than your site’s conversion rates. Why is this? It’s because:
- Your in-person story is animated and full of life. Your energy is clearly visible.
- In-person, your pitch has a set structure that you’ve perfected over the years. There is a start, middle, and end. Contrastingly, your site can be navigated in 27 different ways. This is a problem. It’s like starting a book at chapter 2, jumping to chapter 12, then back to chapter 6.
- You’re able to pick up facial cues and improvise when pitching in person.
Why can’t we have the same conversion impact online? We can!
“Rishi, cut to the chase and show me how to make more money”
Big picture stuff
As a marketer I’m juggling 3 things:
- Minimizing bounce: by immediately showing users they’ve reached the right location and enticing them to explore further. We explain this in the landing page section below.
- Lowering exits: when users encounter unanswered questions or friction, they exit. 20% of all purchases are abandoned due to insufficient product information on the site (source).
- Improving engagement: higher engagement = more sales. How is this done? By crafting compelling content that flows naturally (6th-grade reading level) and amplifies desire by satisfying their subconscious (System 1) buyer psychology.
And we need to apply this balancing act across the entire buying journey. From awareness to interest to desire to action (the point where our hero pulls out her credit card.)
Step 1: extract soul of the story and use it to build our content strategy
As marketers, we could try a whole bunch of tactics to convert new visitors but if you’re looking to get the biggest bang you need to nail 2 things: “why we exist” and “why our product must exist”. Using these 2 seeds we need to build our overall content universe.
Think of your content universe as a giant toolbox containing everything we’ll ever need to build to marketing campaigns. It might feel like a pain to assemble in the short term but will massively simplify the next 3 years of your life. Learn from my mistakes.
Buckle up: Crafting Buyer Psychology Marketing Content.
Step 2: deploy buyer psychology marketing content across the buying journey
The marketing content we’ve crafted needs to be broken down and applied to each step of the buying journey (Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action). You’ll need to resolve questions like: when should “this” part of the story be revealed? How do we want to explain “that” aspect of our story?
The buying journey isn’t just your site. It has 2 principal components:
A: on-site experiences
These are things we are doing to optimize conversion rates while the shoppers is on the site.
Within your site the 2 pages that drive the biggest conversion impact are:
- Landing pages
- Product pages
So that’s where we need to start applying our newly created marketing content.
1: Landing pages. 68% of your site visitors are new (Databox survey) and your landing page is what they see first. These visitors have a need but don’t know who you are.
They’re thinking, “I have 4 tabs open, why should I trust you?”
Therefore, on the landing page, our first step
should be has to be addressing “why we’re different”. You’ve already written it, now it’s time to show it off.
2: Optimize the heck out of your product page. Apply conversational eCommerce techniques to your product page.
Congrats, you’ve made good progress. Your time on site was originally 2 minutes and by really working on your content strategy you were able to increase time on site to 3.5 minutes. This is great, and you saw an instant lift in conversion rates.
But it’s not enough. We’ve now converted a sizable percentage of our target, but there’s more work to do. We want to get to the whole pie.
Here’s the thing: even if we remove most of the site friction we’ll still hit the limits of user attention. Many site visitors simply aren’t ready to buy today. They need more time to think about the purchase.
Don’t let these users walk away and think on their own. As a marketer, I want to be right next to them and help them think through the decision making.
But the user isn’t going to sit on my site for the next week and I can’t depend on them to return to my site. So I’m going to do the next best thing: get their permission to keep in touch via email.
B: off-site experiences
These are things we’re doing to optimize conversion rates once the user has left the site.
Create a subtle hook to take buyers who aren’t ready to buy today and add them to an email series that matches their natural buying cycle.
Using email channel allows us to convert our pitch into:
A: bite-sized chunks: As we saw at the top of the presentation buyers have short attention spans. Force feed too much and they will ignore our entire message. A better idea is to stick to very specific themes and craft content so that even if the reader reads 30% of the content they would have got the full story.
B: format it like a funnel. Typical playbook:
Email 1: why we exist
In email 2: why our product must exist
Email 3: dealing with resistance
Email 4: customer stories
Learn more about email nurture strategy here: Ultimate Email Nurture Campaign Guide.
Step 3: collect feedback and improve
We collect feedback in 4 ways:
- Validating ideas via A/B tests
- Action buttons
- Calculating funnel improvement metrics in Google Analytics
- Conducting user interviews. We validate strategy resonance by interviewing 2 audience groups:
- Hot Prospects. To this group we ask:
- What feature are you most drawn to?
- What detail is still unclear?
- If you didn’t buy how would you make do?
- New Buyers. To this group we ask:
- What was happening in your life that caused you to pick us?
- What else were you looking at?
- Why now?
- What clinched it?
- What nearly prevented you from buying?
- Hot Prospects. To this group we ask:
Step 4: return to step 1.
A little about us
We’re glad you read this entire article about optimizing conversion rates. We already like you. We are Frictionless Commerce and over the last 11 years, we’ve thought about just one thing: how do we get online shoppers to convert? We’re fascinated by buyer psychology. And once we understand how your site visitor thinks we use our 9 point copywriting process to convince and convert them.
If you are active on LinkedIn you
can should definitely connect with me. I post ecommerce conversion ideas on LinkedIn every day.