While we would always recommend running split test experiments as the best way to optimise your websites' conversion rates, some sites simply don't get enough traffic to be able to successfully run a programme of experiments.
So sometimes we look to proven techniques - ones that have worked over and over again not just online but offline too - to improve performance. Some of these are best suited to homepages and landing pages, while others can be adopted for specific types of web page.
1. Use social proof
The best way to demonstrate trust in your product or service is to get your actual customers to praise it. You can do this via testimonials. Testimonials are essentially statements made by your customers describing how they feel about your product. They are an example of what is known as 'social proof'.
The most important thing is to make sure your testimonials look and sound authentic. Include the customer's full name, location and photo if possible, to make it as clear as possible that it’s a real person.
Social media sites provide good opportunity to gather feedback on a product or service, as their viral nature tends to provoke opinion. Alternatively you can email the customer directly and simply ask for it. If they are a satisfied customer then it shouldn’t be too difficult to get.
Remember though to always get permission from the customer to show testimonials on your site.
2. Include a limited time offer
A limited time offer is a great way to create buzz around a product or service, and combat inertia. Fear of missing out is a powerful motivator for potential customers, so try to play to this where you can.
If you do offer a limited time discount or deal, make sure you honour it by reverting to the full price after the period has elapsed. Failure to do this will show a lack of integrity, and customers will start to see through your advertising and start questioning the authenticity of your brand.
A countdown clock can be an effective tool to use to create a sense of urgency, but make sure it looks professional.
You could also test different prices to see which offer is most profitable for you.
3. Include an opt-in form
Most successful marketers and companies would agree that their email subscription list is the most valuable asset they own.
It allows them to repeatedly market offers to existing customers and warm leads who already have knowledge of the company.
But the days of getting people to sign up for a newsletter without a 'value exchange' are long gone.
With the volume of emails in people's inboxes these days you need to make sure you are providing something useful to the subscriber.
Consider offering new subscribers to your website or blog a white paper, report or short training course (you can use an autoresponder for this) so they feel they are getting something of value.
Also make sure you email quality content on a regular (but not too regular) basis. For the best results test and optimise the send frequency, and segment your audience if you can.
4. Offer a money-back guarantee
If you truly believe in your product or service you should put your money where your mouth is and offer a money-back guarantee if a customer is dissatisfied. It can very effectively remove any barriers to purchase.
It also speaks volumes to customers about the perceived quality of your product.
Generally if the product is good you will gain far more than you lose through product returns. But make sure the time period you choose is long enough to make an impact - if you want to be really bold offer a 365 day window for returns. 2 or 3 months are also good.
As with the limited time offer, it’s critical that you stick to your policy and honour any request for a refund, whatever the reason.
5. Use benefits-driven copy
This is a basic requirement, but it's astounding how often companies don't do it.
If you’re selling a product or service, then list its benefits rather than its features. Features are what your product does, while benefits are the ways your product can help your customer.
Create short, styled bullet points to make the benefits stand out, and easy to read. It's a good idea to include your main benefit in the page headline and sub-header on a homepage or category page.
6. Don't forget the call to action
You've done all the hard work, now you need to lead your potential customer to the next stop on the customer journey. Don't forget to ask for the sale or lead with a call to action.
The call to action is normally a button or link. Make sure you have enough of them so they get noticed, but don't overcrowd your page with them.
Having a persistent call to action that anchors to the top of the screen as you scroll down the page can work well. This ensures it’s constantly in the visitor's field of vision.
7. Make it as easy as possible to buy from you
It only takes a customer a split second to click away from your site if they can’t find what they want.
It’s imperative that you make your website buy journey as simple and intuitive as possible if you want prospects to buy from you.
If you have a checkout process on your site, try to include only the absolutely necessary steps and minimise the number of clicks to purchase. Also, allow first time visitors to buy from you without registering (i.e. by guest checkout).
If you have web forms, be absolutely ruthless about the number of fields you include. Remove any fields that are ‘nice to have’ – that is, that aren’t absolutely essential for the visitor to be able to complete the task in hand. Hubspot found
that reducing the number of form fields from 4 to 3 increased conversion rates by almost 50%!
Bear in mind you can always follow up with the customer after they have subscribed or bought from you to get this information. The important thing is to get that conversion.