“Most websites lose. Almost all of them.”
Many never make a profit. Like chocolate teapots, they look nice but flop as soon as you pour hot customers into them…Making Websites Win is about how to buck the trend—to make websites that customers love and that are outrageously profitable.”
That’s the intriguing intro of “Making Websites Win” written by Dr. Karl Blanks and Ben Jesson, founders of Conversion Rate Experts.
My colleague Robert (Sensei’s CMO and Partner) handed me this book with a promise that it is a nice and pretty fast read about website conversion. Well, I got sucked into it for a bit longer than he expected (Sorry, Robert, it’s hard to let go of this treasure!)
From “diagnosis” to identifying problems and their solutions, the authors give instructions to growing any web business through conversion rate optimization. This blog post is based on the “solutions” part of the book, which I see as the checklist of the main winning websites’ ingredients.
Are written well
Give people what they want
If you think any of it is obvious, give me a moment to show you that “obvious” is still a foreign concept for a lot of your competitors. The example below is a real deal – it illustrates not one, but two things at once – the importance of good copy, clarity and understanding your visitors’ expectations.
I want you to imagine that you found a great looking picture of a bed on Furniture Depot website. You click “Product Description” and see this:
Okay, what do we have…now we know the name of AICO’s CEO (why?) and all about the sources of his inspiration. Should I even mention that we were looking for the product description of the bed? Also, the way the copy is written and formatted makes it hard to grasp the information.
Your website visitors have a need, a question they want you to answer. If you write copy for the “Product Description” paragraph, you may want to give them exactly that.
Think about what you would like to know if you were a customer. Keep it short, use simple words and avoid putting too much information in one sentence. Here’s a good example from IKEA Canada, also about the bed:
Winning websites make the benefits clear
The authors of the book suggest looking at your value proposition through the buyer’s eyes. This way, instead of the regular Value = Benefits – Costs, we have Value proposition = Pros – Cons. I love this approach.
When choosing the bed from our previous example, you weigh the pros and cons, not benefits and costs only. Compare the statements below:
1. “The bed is comfortable (advanced bed slats), the size is perfect for my huge room, I’m a fan of Swedish design (pros) but it doesn’t come in my favourite colour and the price is $300 more than I expected (cons). There is more pros than cons and the value for me is in comfort, so I want to buy this bed!”.
2. The same with Benefits – Costs: “The suppleness of the mattress is increased, the size is bigger than regular, the design is Swedish” (benefits) but the bed is out of my budget (costs)”.
The first statement sounds more like a real person’s logic.
Here are two techy examples from our own clients at Sensei:
TalentSorter Website Home page (above) uses hard data to show how users can benefit from the software.
The main heading on the LifeWIRE website states what the product does, and the list of product’s pros imitates testimonials.
Winning websites have irresistible offers
You want to make sure that the value of your product or service is always presented the best way.
To improve website conversion you need a so-called “no-brainer” – an irresistible offer for an initial purchase.
Consider these options for your offer:
- Free trial with an ongoing monthly fee
- Free sample
- Initial discount
- Cross-sell other things buyer would pay for
- Multi-buy deals (buy 1 get 1 free instead of -50%)
- Something small for cheap (to get it into the buyer’s shopping cart)
- Add valuable information for free when a buyer spends a certain amount (for example, add a health report to an expensive health supplement)
Tips to keep in mind when creating an offer:
- Encourage behaviour (Need to grow your social following? Create an offer for the order placed via social)
- Make prices look lower by shortening them (Only $29), or higher (Free gift $29.00 value)
- Use $9.99 instead of $10
- Always compare old and new price (Was $100, now $50)
- Give a reason why you’re making an offer to stay trustworthy (consider “special product-launch price” / “only for new customers” / “end-of-line clearance”).
Here’s an example of a “no-brainer” offer from MealPal (lunch service subscription) – they use price comparison for a first month, and there’s also an ongoing monthly fee.
The only thing MealPal’s website is lacking is a reason why they’re giving me such a great offer.
In reality, this landing page was available to me only with a promo code I got at a promo event, so I know I can trust it.
Although, if I saw this landing page online for the first time, I would never believe my luck – without a reason this offer seems too good to be true.
Winning websites are trustworthy
Speaking about trust. Next thing in the list is social proof.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about this phenomenon: “Social proof leads to public and private compliance – conforming out of a genuine belief that others are correct.”
In other words, it’s your way to reassure buyers that other people like them choose your company and your products.
To make your company look more trustworthy, mention your most prestigious clients on the page. Make it visible!
Check out an example from WeWork CoWorking, they made a smart move – used the place with featured clients to promote their “Enterprise Solutions”.
When it comes to bolstering the credibility of your products, testimonials, and user-generated content is priceless. You want to make sure of two things:
- You stimulate people to share testimonials.
- You utilize them and make them seen.
That’s where influence marketing techniques come in handy.
There is a number of ways to influence your clients to share reviews. Here’s a couple of ideas:
- Create a contest for the best video testimonial/unpacking video
- Create a monthly award for the best photos posted with your hashtag on social
- Give a discount for the next purchase in exchange for a Google Review
- Start featuring the best user-generated content on social (or even on your website, just like LUSH Handmade Cosmetics does on the screenshot below).
The screenshot above illustrates a number of original techniques to present your customers’ testimonials.
LUSH calculates the star rating, the percentage of customers who would recommend the product, and doesn’t hesitate to show the most liked negative reviews and the cons of the product, not only the pros. Way to go to earn real trust!
Winning websites remove risk
You would think that the term “fear of commitment” has more to do with 21st-century relationships than website conversion optimization.
And yet, your customers are nervous about their money, and a well-designed guarantee is something your website can benefit from.
Rules to keep in mind creating a guarantee:
- Address and offset the main risks
- Do not word it negatively, make it a positive promise
- Give a long claim period and a prompt refund
- Consider using the voice of your chief spokesperson
- Give you guarantee a name (just like IKEA did with her “No-nonsense return policy” below)
Winning websites manage complexity
There’s absolutely no point in adding offers and guarantees if your visitors get lost on your unorganized and overwhelming website. Follow these 3 steps:
1. Modularize your content:
- Use clearly labeled paragraphs for separate benefits/concerns.
- Encapsulate content into separate page sections/ separate pages/ groups of pages.
2. Make your navigation as intuitive as possible.
3. Make it clear when modules end and begin by using:
- Headings, subheadings
- Different backgrounds/ colours for different sections
- Paragraphs returns
- Text in bold
- Bullet points
- Separator lines
Look at another IKEA example. What can you spot on their home page? The first thing you notice are lines and a background picture to separate sections, but there’s also some bold text, headings and a list of links. All on one screenshot, not bad!
Winning websites keep attention
You don’t want your visitors to forget about you, quite the contrary – you want them to keep coming back to you. If you don’t have a one-in-a-million memorable name or crazy commercials, here’s how your website can help:
- Use ad retargeting. Show your ads to people who already visited, they are very likely to come back.
- Persuade visitors to follow you on social – keep them connected!
- Collect contact details, and then create a follow-up flow. See the BlogTO (Toronto online news outlet) example. BlogTO regularly launches numerous giveaways with extremely simple rules – all you need to do is to subscribe to their newsletter. Needless to say, their giveaways never end, and you stay subscribed forever.
Winning websites get prompt action
How many times have you decided to think your purchase through and never came back?
Oh, all those cute purses abandoned in my shopping cart…
You want immediate action? Use urgency (limited time) and scarcity (limited quantity).
This is something Booking.com illustrates perfectly.
“Booked 23 times in the last 24 hours”, “Great value TODAY”.
Read – “This is urgent, no time, you should act now!”
Scarcity is also right here – “Only 2 left on our site!”
Read – “Act while we still have any!”
There really isn’t a way to cover a whole book in a blog post, so I only listed some of the ingredients of winning websites.
If you decide to read “Making Websites Win” by Dr. Karl Blanks and Ben Jesson (which I highly recommend), you’ll find more detailed advice on usability and wireframing, improving a sales funnel, increasing a lifetime customer value, and so much more.
There is a lot more to be learned from the book, but the bottom line is that Conversion Rate Optimization is a game-changer for businesses and pretty much the future of digital marketing.
Only those who embrace the future and optimize the website conversion will win the market!
Are you with the winners?