Turning visitors into customers; this is key to an e commerce marketing strategy and the central aim of most Conversion Rate Optimisation programmes. Whether your primary goal is direct e-commerce sales, qualified lead generation or even an affiliate hand-off to a partner, you will still need to assess how to get your visitors to take the next positive step with you.
In Conversion Rate Optimisation, the first step to improving your conversion rates is to look at your website data. Your data should tell you where you are losing most of your visitors on the path to becoming customers. What your data probably can’t tell you, however, is why you are losing them. And when you are looking to increase your conversion rates, why is perhaps the most important question.
This post will look at some of the most common reasons so why your visitors aren’t converting into customers. It will also point out what sort of patterns to look for in your web analytics data that would suggest your website might be suffering from these conversion issues.
So why aren’t your visitors now customers?
They can't work out how
It’s not that your visitors don’t want to buy from you, they are just a little confused as to how…! And eventually, that confusion becomes frustration and surrender – and you’ve lost another potential customer to a competitor.
The issue here is that often we feel as though our own websites are perfectly easy to navigate around – that’s usually because we’re familiar with them and we rarely access them with the intent to purchase. That lack of intent to purchase removes all of the pressure from us, and therefore we click around without the usual due care and attention.
The best way to combat this issue is to think about the process a visitor has to go through to become a customer – we call this the Conversion Flow. At each step of that process, a visitor must take certain actions to move onto the next step. Usually, this involves clicking CTAs (or other links) but could be more complex such as form completion or login/registration steps. So write down what your Conversion Flow is, and check that the method to get through to the next step of the flow is the most obvious one available on that page – a simple technique, but a good basis for establishing an easily-navigable site.
If you think this might be an issue for your website, one of the best ways to confirm, it is to look at path analysis within your web analytics tool. Path analysis identifies the subsequent steps taken by visitors, and what you are looking for is a sizeable portion of them accessing a page, going to another page, and then returning to the first page. We often refer to this as looping, and it’s a sure sign that visitors are struggling to find their way around.
They don't have all the information they need
Turning visitors into customers has a lot to do with driving decisions. For a visitor to become a customer, they have to make a number of decisions throughout your website. And in order to make those decisions, they need to have certain information available to them. A basic example of this would be the price of an item – if a visitor doesn’t know what an item is going to cost them, chances are they are unlikely to proceed with a purchase.
This point is not entirely dissimilar from the first in that we can often be blind to this sort of issue on our own websites. Again, our detailed knowledge of our businesses can work against us as we often know without thinking the cost of delivery, or the ins-and-outs of the returns policy.
So once again we should return to our Conversion Flow but apply a slightly different thought process. Alongside each step of the flow, write down the decision(s) a visitor has to make in order to move to the next step successfully. And under each decision, note the information you believe to be required in order to make that decision. Now compare what you’ve written down to the information available on the site at each of those steps – and if this is an issue for your website, you’ll likely find that the two do not match up!
Identifying this type of issue through web analytics often isn’t as simple as spotting something like looping, but there are still ways and means. If for example, you uncovered that your returns policy information was one of the missing bits of information from your product pages, this could be contributing to low conversion rates. To test this out, try looking at the conversion rates of visitors who did view that policy information vs. those who didn’t, and that might help you to realise the conversion contribution that it makes.
They aren't convinced your site is secure
As we’ve seen earlier, turning visitors into customers is about helping them to commit to decisions. And probably the biggest decision they will have to make is whether to provide you with their payment details. Even the most voracious online shopper wants to keep their personal details secure, so this is never an area to cut corners.
Often one of the main causes of this issue stems from the idea that security messaging only needs to be shown at the point where personal information is required. This might be enough for larger brands with well-established reputations, but for smaller, less well-known businesses, “we’re safe & secure” is a message that should resound throughout the site, so don’t rule out homepages or category pages either. This way, once the visitor reaches the point where their information is required, they don’t hesitate as the message has already been driven home in previous steps.
Identification of security concerns is usually quite a straightforward process. If you can see big conversion drop-offs when visitors get to pages requiring personal details (& particularly payment details), you can probably be fairly confident that you have a security perception issue.
They are fed up fighting your mobile experience
The growth of the mobile web and “mCommerce” has been well-documented in recent years, and for a high proportion of sites now, mobile has the largest single device type share of visits. In response to the expanding mobile market, a wide variety of businesses from enterprise level down to garage start-ups offer their visitors responsive websites, designed to adapt to the smaller screen.
There is a common misconception however that a responsive website is therefore by default a “mobile-optimised site”. And adhering to this principle can result in the loss of a lot of potential customers. Let’s consider the definitions of these two terms:
Responsive website – the structure of the page changes based on the width of the viewport of the screen viewing it
Mobile-optimised website – designed to work effectively on a mobile device.
Of course, the operative word here is “effectively”, but it isn’t just about comparing it to your desktop or tablet experience. The choice of device a visitor makes to access your website can say a lot about the external factors to their visit, and therefore their intentions and goals. Recognising these goals and reflecting them on your responsive design is what will turn it into a genuinely mobile-optimised website. And if you don’t do this, there is a high likelihood that your mobile experience is frustrating your visitors and preventing them from becoming customers.
Identifying that your mobile experience is sub-optimal can be challenging through web analytics, as it shouldn’t just be as the result of a comparison between device performance. As mentioned above, different devices suggest different visitor types and therefore different goals, so mobile performance should be judged based on realistic goals for that device. Speaking more generally, high-level user experience metrics such as bounce rate and time on page/session time can give an indication of how “optimised” your website is for mobile visitors. In addition, free to use diagnostic tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights can help to identify any technical reasons why the load-time of your mobile experience could be negatively impacting conversions.
Their patience is exhausted
Unlike the previous four points, the exhaustion of patience is death by attrition. All of the above issues could kill your chances of converting visitors to customers on their own if they are serious enough, but the exhaustion of patience is often overlooked, or considered less important. Let’s consider the facts.
Our commitment to completing a task is in direct correlation with our perception of the benefit of completing the task – in other words, if something is worth doing, we will persevere with it. But that perseverance will only go so far and for a good reason. When we first contemplate a task, we consider its benefits and then assign a notional level of effort proportionate to those benefits – we don’t want to put in more effort than the value of the reward at the end of that effort.
So how does this apply to websites and converting visitors to customers?
Firstly, any visit to a website is done with a purpose – i.e. the visitor has a task in mind when they arrive, and therefore they have already assigned their notional level of effort. In short, your website has a finite amount of that visitor’s attention to turn them into a customer.
Secondly, it is within your gift as a site owner to increase or decrease that level of effort – any negative experiences (such as the four above) will erode that effort, but any unexpectedly positive experiences (unexpected as the visitor by default assumes they will have a positive experience) can increase it. That increase can be driven by instilling a greater sense of value in the task (therefore the effort increases proportionally) or by making their experience simpler than they initially thought.
So finally, don’t be tempted into thinking that “minor” visitor experience issues aren’t costing you, customers. On their own, perhaps they are not, but no issue is an island, and cumulatively, they can have a very restricting effect on your bottom line.