Optimizing the On-Site Engagement Experience

by Pete Prestipino

When we create compelling experiences for users and measure them accurately, we can make incremental gains towards improving the financial return on advertising and the return on other marketing efforts like social media or search engine optimization.

Increasing site effectiveness and visitor satisfaction through on-site engagement optimization ultimately results in a higher conversion rate, which is why it is so important.

By not engaging in optimizing consumers' ecommerce experiences, merchants ultimately risk generating fewer sales over time. That alone should be reason enough to consider routine testing of page elements - and combinations of them - to generate more revenue from each user session.

Many merchants are surprised at the number of users who abandon their shopping carts before they reach the checkout. While Web analytics tools can show us the specific percentage of shopping cart drop-off, they don't show us the element that caused the drop-off.

Let's look at a few best practices for optimizing the ecommerce landing page experience. While it's important to seriously consider these tactics, it's even more important to test them thoroughly before a full-scale roll out.

Long For Repetition
Repeating an offer throughout a landing page provides an additional chance of persuading users. Take advantage of this. While we can't always control the thoughts of our users, we can control the words we use. Since repetition makes a deep impression on the subconscious, repeating an offer and the products' main benefits on the shopping cart or order form makes you master of the situation.

Don't Be Needy
Collecting user information and building rich user profiles has its merits, but asking for too much information at the outset of an interaction can be off-putting for potential customers. Limiting the amount of data that's initially collected will result in modest yet important gains in conversion percentage. Consider using Ajax or DHTML to hide optional form elements. Both technologies allow page sections to be opened or collapsed without reloading the whole page.

Provide Reassurance
There is no greater reassurance for consumers than understanding their concerns are shared by others. Whenever merchants ask for information they should also provide a timely reassurance. For example, many e-mail marketers include SPAM statements such as "We hate SPAM as much as you do" and a link to their privacy policy. And some merchants include trust symbols such as the HackerSafe logo. Perhaps the easiest, most effective and least intrusive way to provide a sense of assurance is to remind users of merchants' guarantee and returns policies.

Publicize Alternative Ordering
Despite vast improvements in online security since the Web's inception, there are some users who are still not confident about providing a credit card to an unknown entity. Displaying additional ordering mechanisms such as by phone or fax allows merchants to provide their customers with a way to order that is preferable to them. Sometimes the presence of a phone number can increase reassurance, even if consumers don't actually call.

Don't Shortchange Users
It's happened to most of us at some point during our online experience; buy something today and see a coupon for the same product a day later. If you have an "enter coupon" field on your shopping cart, consider testing whether this element is turning people away. People often resent ordering when they see that others are getting a better deal. Provide a link to a search result for "company name" coupons on a search results' list or developing a special sales page and linking to it from a landing page or order form. This is a progressive approach to minimizing the problem.

You will find the elements that convert browsers into buyers are different. For this reason, it is imperative that you test often, test repeatedly and keep track of performance - always with the focus of beating the original conversion.

PPC Landing Page Design Trends
Each niche and marketing channel you engage in will present its own optimization challenges. If you want to convert more visitors into paying customers, consider looking at websites advertising on the most competitive search terms within the most popular Web topics (e.g. entertainment). Website Magazine reviewed 10 landing page designs within the ringtone niche last month and uncovered some trends and common threads.

By developing limited paths for users, using prominent images, strong calls-to-action and leveraging content teasing, you too can uncover more sales. Read "PPC Landing Page Design Trends."