The Conversion Point: Leveraging the Web to Convert Visitors into Customers
Despite advances in technology and design, most Web-based marketing efforts reveal a continuing struggle among business leaders, marketers, and designers to grasp a fundamental truth - success hinges on conversion. The prospect must be able to convert quickly into a visitor, and the visitor must be able to convert quickly into a lead, an applicant, a customer, a donor, or a subscriber.
When and how conversion occurs varies from one organization to another and one campaign to another. The conversion can happen online or offline in today's multichannel world, according to the prospect's preference. Thus, every point of interaction needs to "prepare for" conversion, and that conversion should be able to be tracked. For example, the conversion point for a lead-generation campaign may be registration for an online contest or survey, while the conversion point for an acquisition campaign is typically a purchase; however, Forrester Research reports that 55 percent of U.S. online consumers shop across channels, with the purchase occurring on either a Web site, catalog, or in-store. But whatever the metric of conversion, conversion-focused strategic campaigns are most cost effective when they directly support specific and well-defined objectives. Ensuring focused objectives on the Internet serves to facilitate conversion, while optimizing customer relationships by providing additional choices and tools for interaction.
Start with Web Analytics
To determine how best to attract, hold and convert visitors at an optimal return on investment, it is essential to measure a digital campaign or Web site. This online measurement takes the form of Web analytics.
Through Web analytics, marketers can identify possible roadblocks that may be distracting visitors and diluting their focus, thereby making conversion less likely. Web analytics can serve to provide common metrics such as drop-offs, time spent, and clickstream path (direction of a visitor's travel). With a robust Web analytics function in place, not only is it possible to design better digital marketing campaigns on the front end, but also to re-engineer them continuously to improve back-end results. This process leverages the speed of the Internet to gather and assess digital campaign data such as response rates, conversion rates, and behavior. Then, using that information, it is possible to make changes to a campaign quickly - deploying new or different creative, revising landing page design or content, or buying different search keywords as a campaign is happening.
Attracting Conversion-Ready Visitors
The odds of converting a visitor into a legitimate prospect or customer go up significantly when that visitor arrives on a Web site or landing page that is "conversion ready," which means that behavior up to the point of arrival strongly indicates a propensity to convert. The two tactics that best serve to attract such visitors are targeted online advertising (via banner ad, text ad, e-mail, etc.) and search marketing.
Targeted advertising is much easier to achieve on the Web today using online research tools in combination with targeted media buying. Best practices for acquisition prescribe three specific methods for targeting conversion-ready visitors:
- Through media selections - placing ads on sites that the target audience regularly visits.
- Through the creative message - using ad content to deliver relevant messages to targeted visitors.
- Through technology - using behavioral or contextual advertising that assures that visitors in the desired demographic segment, and/or visitors who are specifically seeking the product or service, see the ad.
Visitors who come to a Web site or landing page through search engines are often the best visitors a site can receive because they arrive after specifically searching for the site by name, product, or product description. In short, relevance is delivered to prospects or customers in real time. Three methods improve search engine exposure and positioning, and thus attract more conversion-ready visitors:
- Site content - Ensure that the keywords (the phrases and specific terms that a target audience is likely to use when searching for a product or service) appear in text copy on the organization's site.
- Meta titles - Use the same terms within Meta titles that appear in the search engine results. Titles are an often under-used opportunity to market the listing to searchers. The title should explain the content of the page concisely. The description in the listing may be created by the search engine, making it more difficult to control.
- Keyword buying - Bid aggressively for the keywords that best represent how visitors search for products or services to help ensure that a campaign appears in the search results for specific targeted keywords. The ad content here is controlled by the marketer, as well as the positioning of the ad.
Engaging and Converting Visitors with Landing Pages
Landing pages are more effective as conversion points than are home pages for most digital acquisition marketing campaigns, especially when the purpose of the campaign is lead generation or e-commerce. The reason is focus. An effective landing page serves only a single campaign or, at most, several campaigns for a single product or service. A conversion-focused landing page is immediately engaging for three reasons:
- It is relevant to the ad or search that attracted the visitor.
- Its relevance is obvious because design elements such as copy, graphics, and layout are similar for the ad and for the landing page, to reinforce the connection between the two components of the campaign.
- It leads clearly to the conversion point. The action the user expected to perform upon arrival, such as completing a survey, registering for a contest, making a purchase, or filling out an application is easy to locate and complete.
Building a Conversion-Focused Web Site
Although landing pages are recommended for most digital acquisition marketing campaigns, the principles of conversion-focused design also apply to an organization's Web site. This approach takes into account the fact that visitors may come directly to a Web site in search of campaign-related information, rather than through a click on a banner ad. For that reason a conversion-focused Web site also enables greater campaign flexibility. Correctly placing campaign-related links and content on the site will ensure every opportunity for conversion of those arriving at the site because of offline marketing or natural search results.
To ensure that visitors have an experience that equals or surpasses their highest expectations, marketers and site designers need to keep guidelines in mind during development:
- Work backward, minimizing links and distractions for the visitor.
- Remember "need for speed." A typical visitor to a Web page spends only a few seconds determining its value.
- Synchronize with offline channels. Mail, radio, print, and TV advertising often drive visitors to the Web to look for a company or product, even if the campaign does not provide a Web address. Visitors and customers expect a consistent multichannel experience.
- Enable conversion from every page. Conversion-focused sites include call-outs throughout a site that lead clearly and directly to registration or purchase pages.
The conversion point for any digital marketing effort is a living thing. It should change with trends, campaign types, promotional offers, and organizational goals. However, continuously applying the principles of conversion-focused design, and optimizing accordingly, will ensure that the conversion process stays on target and continues to result in improved ROI.