Bart De Pelsmaeker Bart is a digital marketing veteran and the founder of Readz, a platform used by brands of all sizes to create superior content experiences. His writing has been featured in Sparksheet, Business2Community, Skyword and other martech publications. He speaks regularly about tech and marketing, most recently at the World e-Reading Congress, American Business Media, and the Integrated Marketing Summit. Connect with Bart on Twitter @BartDP
Most people visiting your site will likely be browsers: Els Aerts from the usability agency AGConsult had found that less than 5% of users typically are using search (and found that on blogs it drops to lower than 1.5%). Furthermore, she found that browsers and swipers typically have larger shopping carts on e-commerce sites. Luckily, optimizing for browsers/swipers in a digital world does not exclude optimizing for searchers. If you want more detail on how to design web pages and digital content for better conversion with browsers and swipers, read this article for more detail: These Disastrous Web Design Errors Will Kill Your Conversion Rates
Catherine Tims Catherine Tims is the owner of Ivy League Content, a Key-West based writing business specializing in research-intensive articles for the web. With a background in linguistics, Cat worked as a University writing teacher before she entered a career in higher ed administration. When the Internet took over the world in the early aughts, she immediately switched to online marketing and writing for the web, and has never looked back. You can follow Cat on Twitter @IvyLeagueWriter.
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In a famous scene from Mad Men, Don Draper perfectly summarizes the way conversion rate optimization should be approached.
He's pitching to Kodak, whose previous ad campaigns centered upon the "new" technology of flash bulbs. Kodak had been hyping the flash capabilities of their cameras, while Don saw things from a much broader perspective:
'TechnologyTechnology is a glittering lure. But there's the rare occasion when the public can be engaged upon a level beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product.'
-Don Draper, Mad Men Episode 13
In essence, Don was talking about user experience. He suggested that his clients take a holistic approach to marketing their products and focus on how their products enrich their customers’ lives. So rather than merely supply a need for the customer, go one step beyond and satisfy a deeper urge within the customer's heart. For Kodak’s customers, this urge was to connect . . . nostalgia, Don described it. For your customers, the urge is to have a good user experience, however, that may translate for your product and website. So how can you engage visitors to your site so that they love your store and actually buy things? And how can you ensure the buying process keeps your customers engaged and leads to brand loyalty? It begins with the experience your visitors encounter when they land, navigate, purchase, and pay. Taking Don Draper's message and applying it to modern-day CRO, make the purchase of your product an experience rather than just a purchase. Build a customer experience that contributes in every imaginable way to a great user experience, and you won't destroy everything you've managed to create in the way of engagement and branding. Here are 4 ways to do that.
1. Know your customer and then offer her the lifestyle she wants
A common rule of thumb in marketing is to design for the ideal customer, not the whole world of traffic. Nordstrom has continually shown that it's a leader in this technique. Long famous for its unbeatable customer service, Nordstrom caters to shoppers who are willing to pay more in exchange for a better experience. They offer unconditional free shipping and free returns... no minimums, no limits, and no questions asked. On their homepage, you'll notice that they’re not going after bargain shoppers... it's not their market. There are no discount banners, only gorgeous images featuring expensive-looking clothing set against a rich background. Currently, they're targeting their market with a feature they call "Pop-In @ Nordstrom." With the Pop-in, Nordstrom has managed to capture the magical essence of style bloggers and incorporate that into their already wonderful corporate ecommerce site. This helps them attract people who normally interact with fashion through a funkier, more independent paradigm: the independent fashion blogger. She’s real, she’s eternally creative, and she offers a down-to-earth interpretation of what the big names in fashion are offering each season. This, combined with the new long-form home page design, gives the retailer a fresh feel that lends itself to the younger crowd they’re trying to attract.
Blog-like features such as continuous scroll and "Q&A with the Designer" also give the website a style blogger feel, which serves to engage the right audience. The pop-in shows clothing, accessories, home goods, and shoes in contextual scenes that make you feel as if you're shopping at a lifestyle brand.. and perhaps that's what Nordstrom has managed to become.
It's about branding. Nordstrom is already famous for its impeccable customer service strategies as well as its no-strings free shipping and free returns on anything, anytime. Therefore, they don't need to push that information - their reputation speaks to that. Which means they're freed up to speak more directly to the customers about other benefits.
'Focus on the people who will buy.'
- Joanna Wiebe, Conversion Copywriter at Copy Hackers
Want to understand the psychology of your target customer and incorporate that in your marketing to increase conversions? Read this article:
12 Practical Ways to Learn What Your Customers Really Want Split testing by CityCliq revealed this to be true. After testing several value proposition statements, the company found that the positioning, “Create a webpage for your business,” significantly outperformed the original: ”Businesses grow faster online!”. Take a look at the results:
They discovered that prospective customers already knew about the advantages of being online, so the original statement wasn't speaking to them. Like the Nordstrom customers who already know about free shipping and returns, CityCliq's visitors were looking for something more: They wanted a way to make the process of getting online easier. A webpage builder satisfied that urge. If you are looking to create solid value propositions, read this article on how to get value propositions right.
2. Optimize for browsers and swipers, not only searchers
Every ecommerce shopper is unique, but thinking of different types and behaviors and optimizing the experience for these different behaviors can increase the overall results of a site significantly. Browsers are people who want to explore your site as a new user or see what’s new or what is trendy as a returning visitor. These people choose to spend some time on your site for a good look-around. Searchers know exactly what they want. They have done research, or are in the process of doing it, or might be looking for a replacement for something they already have. Their goal is simple: speed. The faster the user can get to the desired result, the better.
4. Help visitors focus on the right thing (your call to action)
On your home page and especially on your product pages, give focus and guide the visitor's eye so they can fulfill your call to action and not get distracted. Distraction from the main goal is a common problem with cluttered websites. Removing even the slightest distraction, like social sharing buttons, has been shown to increase conversions, as it did with, a hardware site in Finland. Their product pages weren't bad, as far as UX goes... good, large pictures, few distractions, a bullet list with a paragraph, and multiple views of the product. But the social share buttons were a bit distracting. Testing revealed that removing them caused an 11.9 percent increase in "add to carts." Even one distraction can decrease the power of your most important CTA. Neiman Marcus's sale site,, does a pretty terrible job of helping visitors focus when they land on the product pages.
There’s a nice big call to action button on the right-hand side that immediately grabs my attention, except it's not the "Add to Cart" button. Take a look: The "Free Shipping" CTA is at least 4 times larger than the "Add to Shopping Bag" button, and the color is a few levels higher. These changes increase noticeability and will create some urgency with your buyer too. To learn more about how to create urgency and how it can impact your sales, read this article: Creating Urgency: How To Get Site Visitors To Buy Your Products Now It wants the visitor to learn more about how to get free shipping. Click it, and a pop-up tells her to spend $99. Well, they've just distracted the user from viewing a product they dug deep to find, and now they're derailed from the sales funnel. How will they ever put $99 in the cart when they're being pushed off the purchasing pathway? Another company with competing Calls to Action was Drukwerkdeal. After removing cross-selling options from their product pages they saw a 5.6 percent increase in completed orders. Again, the links to related products were distracting the users from the call to action and product images. Here’s the before:
And the after:
Designing with user experience in mind prevents these types distractions.
3. Leverage visual content to increase recognition and context.
Provide good great pictures which allow the visitor to feel as if she's seeing the product in person. Henri Bendel, purveyor of fine handbags, does a fantastic job with this. Their images allow the shopper to "see" inside the handbags, helping her to imagine how her things will look inside the bag. What Bendel is doing is the closest thing to actually having someone try the bag in person.
This approximation of reality is further promoted with a "how we wear it" feature on every product page. This encourages women who've already purchased the bag to share how they wear it, further enabling the approximation of actually trying the bag in a physical store.
A study by Nielsen Norman Group found that users tended to scrutinize photos of real people and ignore images which were purely decorative. Images depicting real people were treated as more important than stock photos of models. Getting your visitor to imagine herself using your product is an important part of the sales process. The same applies for any conversion goal: Make it easy for the visitors to imagine the benefits of your product, and more of them will convert. That's exactly what occurred when a digital marketing conference changed its hero image on the landing page for the signup website. After changing the image, conversions improved by 40.18 percent. What was the difference? The new image showed visitors what it might be like to attend the conference. The original image simply showed a laptop screen.
So, find a way to make your images not just large and clear, but also good enough to make the shopper get a sense of what the product feels like, what it's like to use or wear the product, and how the product fits into her life.
The moment has come in ecommerce development where every retailer should be striving to create a bond with their target audience... in essence, to become something of a lifestyle brand. While we can't tell you how to brand your company, we can tell you that branding is key to good UX. If user experience is guiding every design decision you make, then you'll be better able to draw visitors into the world of your brand. By incorporating the following four tips into your CRO efforts...
  1. Targeting the right customer and offering him the lifestyle he wants with a well-designed homepage that reflects those values
  2. Catering for searchers/swipers and searchers
  3. Working on visual content to engage the customer and make him or her feel as if they're seeing the product in real life
  4. Showing well-designed pages that direct the eye to the call to action without distraction
...we hope you've learned a few techniques for doing just that. Keep user experience top of mind, and you’ll make better decisions with your ecommerce project.
The holistic CRO strategy: go one step further to turn average ecommerce pages into extraordinary revenue generators.
By Bart De Pelsmaeker and Catherine Tims
Proven marketing strategies from real companies.

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