While strategies and technologies for driving traffic to websites have evolved dramatically over the past 10 years and opened up the top of the funnel, techniques for converting this traffic haven’t changed much during that time. Marketers spend $45 billion per year trying to get customers to convert online, but conversion rates are painfully low: about 2%. Add to this dilemma that the odds of connecting with a prospect drop 100 times by not responding within 5 minutes.
Real people expect a real-time response, especially in this always-on society where we can turn to the Web for instant answers. Consumers want information here and now, particularly if it’s relevant to who they are and what they’re doing. They’re going to stop tolerating static experiences on the Web, just like they have everywhere else. Businesses need to respond in real time, with relevance, to customers and prospects—live—on the main channel where they interact. It’s time websites start acting like consultative salespeople.
Whether you’re a B2B or B2C marketer, your site should engage and educate visitors, and encourage them to convert. Have it respond differently to visitors if it’s their first or fifth visit, depending on the referring site, or based on the actions they take on your site. Personalize the digital experience for each customer in real time, based on what you know about them and their behaviors. Show knowledge of those visiting your site and relate to them in real time and over time, responding in a contextually helpful way. Give the people what they want and you’ll be rewarded with a leap in conversion rates.
But even with the right technology in place to deliver dynamic, personalized content, how do you get your website to act like your best consultative sales rep? Start by thinking about how they act:
- Give a warm and relevant welcome, and establish a rapport before starting to sell. Such actions show the prospect you’ve thought about them and the questions they may ask. For example, Gardener’s Supply Company greets shoppers with international IP addresses with information on secure and cost-effective shipping to more than 200 countries and provides details about what to expect at check out and beyond. Their carting rate has increased 162% since launching this campaign.
- Help people take another look. So often a buyer will take a look, think they know what they are looking at, and move on. But because the sales rep believes in their product, service, or company, they say, “No, wait. This is relevant for you. Take another look.” They give the visitor a clear and obvious action to take, with a compelling message or offer. Imagine a blog on a B2B website, where a prospect comes and scans only one post. When his cursor starts heading for the navigation bar to leave the site, a personalized message pops up offering an eBook related to the topic of the blog post he was reading. A registration form for the eBook captures the email address, to keep the relationship going.
- Build trust over time. After welcoming the visitor and getting him to take a second look, a sales rep would work to build trust over time. Like the rep, a website should educate and inform, prove claims with testimonials, showcase relevant content, and add value at every touchpoint throughout the site. Acquia has increased leads on its website when it identifies a visitor as a developer by what they click on or where they came from. Right on its homepage there is a targeted message, offering tools and information for developers. This added value is how Acquia gain the confidence of their buyers.
- Strike while the iron is hot. A good salesperson will always be closing deals. But she doesn’t say the same thing every time orshe’ll turn off the visitor. So she’ll present progressive calls-to-action, appropriately. Similarly, prompts on a website may ask a prospect to sign up for its blog. Now a relationship is building, so when the consumer returns to the site, don’t ask him to sign up for the blog again. If your site has the technology in place to identify that visitor, offer him a demo or a free trial instead.
Whether you’re making small changes to your existing site to get it to act more like a sales rep, or redesigning the site to deliver dynamic, personalized content in real time, it’s imperative that you understand your visitors’ needs and—at the moment of close—talk to their pain. Think of every click as a conversion point, or the next step in the conversation: The moment they click you know something about them, so use that information to respond.
Also, use your Web analytics to understand what may be driving visitors away, where the best customers are coming from, and why. That’s what your best salesperson would do. Then adjust your strategy by saying something more relevant to them. Better yet, ask them why they keep coming back but not converting. And use this information to respond and engage better next time.
Last, test and optimize real-time Web marketing campaigns to drive engagement and increase conversions. Always test against a control group to see the lift that personalization delivers. When marketers moved from email blasts to triggered, behavior-based email messages, they saw a 2 to 22% leap in results. We’ll see this leap again when we provide a contextually relevant Web experience, just like a good sales rep would do.
Karl Wirth is CEO and cofounder of Evergage