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The marketer has one job: optimize conversion rates.
Your site is only converting a tiny percentage of site visitors.
You have a great product that does its job, but if we can’t get visitors to experience your creation then nothing else matters.
Before we tell you the solution, you need to know the real conversion rate of your site.
Default Google Analytics (GA) conversion rate calculation is wrong
By default, GA calculates conversions by Visitor. As a business, we care about conversions by User. There is a subtle but important distinction.
“How much more could we be making?”
Let’s say your current conversion rate (by User) is 3% and the “achievable target”❓ is 10.79%.
The difference is 7.79% (10.79% minus 3%).
This is the group you
could should convert. Currently, you aren’t, and that means as you’re reading this article your site is leaking revenue:
Why this difference in numbers?
The reason you’re leaking sales isn’t because your creation is bad; it’s because shoppers are drowning in options:
We’re living in a world of awesome abundance. There are just too many options online. You could outspend the competition but that’s not sustainable. A much better way is to optimize conversion rates of visitors (we like to call these folk heroes) who are on your site right now.
12 years, 3 insights
Our entire conversion optimization philosophy can be summed into 3 ideas:
1: Your product page is the most important page on your site
2: Your product story (defined below) is the invisible hand that influences visitors to buy
3: How the product story is presented is what delivers the unfair advantage
1: Product page
12 years ago product pages didn’t mean anything to me. I was simply interested in A/B testing to maximize conversions.
We tested homepages, category pages, checkout flows (mobile and desktop). If it had visitors, we tested it.
But, as time went by, a pattern started to emerge.
Sure, a few of the locations mentioned above (homepage, checkout, etc.) occasionally produced good results but there was only one page that was predictably good at driving results: the product page.
Why product pages matter so much
Irrespective of how you draw visitors to your site or the page they first see, they will eventually filter down to your product page.
Visitors who navigate to product pages are telling us something. They’re saying, “I see all you have to offer but this, right here, is what I’m most interested in at this point.”
Our visitor has made their intention crystal clear and my job as a marketer is cut out.
I need to give them the information they are looking for in order to close the sale.
Another way to think about this is that your product page is the last stage of the window-shopping experience. Once they proceed beyond the product page they will need to pull out their credit card. Evolution has trained us not to pull out our credit cards.
The product page is where our hero will make the crucial buy / no-buy decision.
2: Product story
Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter. The thing we’ve spent the last 12 years researching.
While marketers have been experimenting with things like popup strategy, design, funnels, responsive design, etc. the thing that actually gets visitors from landing on your site to placing their first order is the story they experience.
Product story definition
A product story is a special type of story that’s designed to connect with visitors and make them fall in love with your creation. The job of the product story is to educate and convert new visitors.
The first shock for many is the word story. We think stories make sense for Hollywood but not eCommerce.
We didn’t get an MBA to be labeled a storyteller.
Whatever your discomfort around the term, this much is clear, stories are at the heart of marketing.
Stories have been with us for thousands of years.
A historical perspective on why storytelling in marketing matters
For over 27,000 years, since the first cave paintings were discovered, telling stories is how we’ve communicated as a species.
Language led to the creation of culture, and culture was propagated via stories. One could argue without stories we would not be who we are today. Stories were used to help communicate knowledge from the experienced to the inexperienced. Without them, new generations would repeat mistakes, which would significantly impede generational progress.
Stories would form around topics like what fruits were safe to eat, what hunting areas were the most promising, what social behavior was acceptable (or not). In the absence of stories, the young would make the same mistakes their elders made when they were their age.
These stories helped compound human knowledge. With each member adding a little on top of what had been known previously.
What we learned over 27,000 years can’t be forgotten in 20 years.
To dig deeper into storytelling and see interesting facts about storytelling read this article: Storytelling in Marketing: Your Secret to Optimizing Conversion Rates.
The curse of knowledge
Your creation, the thing you spent countless sleepless nights over also has a story. The cruel irony is that often the creator is the one who doesn’t understand the brilliance of her own invention. This kinda makes sense because you’ve spent so many hundreds of hours thinking about it that it doesn’t feel as special as it did when you first started.
We’re not optimizing for you
If our goal was to convert you we’d be screwed. But we’re not optimizing for you, we’re optimizing for a shopper who has a very specific need, no idea how to solve it, and somehow landed on your site. This visitor (we call them heroes) is problem aware but has no clue how to solve it. They are also dealing with little or a lot of anxiety. They may have also been burned in the past. This is the person we’re trying to help.
A useful way to think about your product story is to think of it as a Sherpa (guide). The product story greets visitors when they first arrive, connects with them, and guides them through the whole journey.
Why product stories matter
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 wasn’t the first MP3 music player? What Apple did differently was to identify a better way to tell their product story:
Your product has an amazing story. It just needs to be brought to life.
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 convince and convert in-person?
I’m betting the number is more, way more, than your current conversion rate. Why is this? It’s because:
- Your in-person story is animated. Your energy is clearly visible. This engages the user.
- You’re able to pick up facial cues, ask questions, get clarity, and customize your pitch based on the user’s needs.
Why can’t you have the same conversion rate on your site? You can! That’s why we exist.
Note: sometimes the creator is too close to the problem to realize the brilliance of their creation. In such instances, a trained guide can help bring out the magic of your product story.
Two aspects of a compelling product story
Product stories have 2 building blocks:
- Why we exist
- Why this product must exist
“Why we exist“: this story aligns the visitor with the creator’s journey.
Next comes “why this product must exist.” Here we are letting our visitor know that for a very specific type of buyer, there is no better product.
Think of these 2 elements as hurdles in a relay race:
When the user first lands their natural question is, “I’m meeting you for the first time. Google is showing me a number of candidates. Why do you deserve my attention?”
The “why we exist” story exists to answer this question. It gets the visitor over the unfamiliarity barrier.
Your “why we exist” story really matters. KoMarketing did a survey where they asked “Once you’re on the homepage, what information do you want to see available?“. 52% said About / Company Information.
Once the visitor crosses this unfamiliarity barrier you have their attention. Next, the user will think, “I like who you are and what you stand for, but what makes your innovation special?”
Now is your chance to share the “why this product must exist” story.
“Visitors don’t care about you”
Some argue “why we exist” and “why this product must exist” are too seller-centric.
They ask, “why will the buyer care about how great we are?”
Here’s how the process actually works. We start by working with the client on the first draft of the story. In that draft “why we exist” and “why this product must exist” are written from the perspective of the seller.
Then, we make tweaks so that when the visitor engages with the story they’re able to see themselves at the center of it.
Crafting the product story
At this point, you know what a product story is and its importance. Now we need to share the actual process we use at Frictionless Commerce to develop it. Here is our secret sauce: How To Develop A Product Story.
3: Maximizing impact
We’ve made a lot of progress.
We’ve done the hard part of crafting the product story. Now comes the final challenge.
Presenting the story for maximum impact.
This would be easy if all visitors were very similar. Then we could just show one story to all and call it a day.
But visitors aren’t a monolith.
Joe from Connecticut might be looking to solve the same problem as Mary from Long Beach but both could go about it in completely different ways. They may have 2 entirely different learning styles.
The marketer has 2 options:
Option 1: take into account the learning preferences of all the thousands of Johns and Marys who visit the site and craft a story that pleases all. I can speak from experience here, this is
really hard impossible to do. But even if you can achieve it you’ll end up with something that’s a little for everyone. But that also means your story isn’t something really important to someone. And that’s what is needed to massively improve conversion rates.
Option 2: When Mary visits format the story to Mary’s preferences and when John visits format the story for him. This is done using Active Participation (explained below). Not only does Active Participation allow us to personalize the story, but it also allows gives us story effectiveness feedback from actual buyers (versus relying on the CEO or marketer, neither of whom have purchased on our site in the past 6 months). It’s our conversion optimization game changer.
6 gifts Active Participation gives
1: Surfaces content that most interests our visitor
2: Formats content to match visitor personality
3: Personalizes based on visitor’s awareness level
4: Identifies struggling visitors
5: Identifies “research mode” visitors
6: Ensures important details are noticed
Active Participation is explained in glorious detail in this article: Using Active Participation on Product Pages.
ABOUT FRICTIONLESS COMMERCE
Product pages matter because that’s where our prospects make the crucial buy / no-buy decision.
We specialize in Shopify product pages. Watch your bestseller convert 20% better in 90 days. Our process.
If you like doing the hard work yourself, our founder Rishi shares conversion ideas on LinkedIn every day. Connect with him here.
If you want to make your life easier and still increase conversions, jump on a call.