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In the last issue of Web Wholesaler, I explained how to overcome a high bounce rate of visitors arriving on your website, only to immediately leave without taking one step deeper into your site. One of the specific strategies I provided to help overcome visitor abandonment was to clearly communicate your calls to action. For this issue, I want to expand my explanation of this strategy, and further define how you should implement it across your website, to convert more visitors into prospects and potential customers.
A prominent psychiatrist Dr. Victor Frankl explains, "Between stimulus and response, there is space. In that space is the power to choose your response." This observation has a practical application in building customer experience scenarios. Between every two points in the scenario, whether it be a keyword search and the resulting ads, a click through on an ad and the resulting landing page, or a click on a website link and the resulting secondary web page, your customer has the power to choose their response.
Simply offering stimulus (a call to action) does not immediately drive a customer response. It is your call to duty to provide the right stimulus and corresponding support to motivate your customers to respond favorably. This has to be communicated within their best interest; therefore, choosing the right stimulus demands a clear understanding of what matters most to your customers at their moment in time.
Asking for Action
Asking for action is a critical requirement for generating customer momentum through the customer experience value chain. Merely presenting navigational links, stating a marketing message within your ad copy or passively sitting back to wait for visitors to act will fail to motivate the action needed to pull customers through the value chain and towards action completion.
In a typical offline sales process, an effective salesperson leads a buyer through their buying stages using powerful leading questions. Because of their dedication to planning the sale, they relate the benefits and advantages of their products/services to the buyer's needs/problems through succinct nuggets. The nuggets may be presented through more than verbal communication, such as via sales sheets, ROI calculations, or demonstrations.
Overall, effective salespeople ask questions that motivate forward action through a buyer's purchasing process. This questioning process helps build a succession of, "yeses," up to the final, "yes," required to close the sale. Your website, in effect a virtual salesperson, employs links, images, and copy across the customer experience value chain to motivate forward progress. High performing web businesses also use powerful calls to actions to ask customers to take the next step.
A call to action is a hyperlink, copy, image or other design element that attracts, interests and motivates your customer to take action, such as a purchase, an email opt-in, or a click through to the next page. A call to action asks a customer to take a particular action now.
Assuming your customer experience value chain is designed to fit your customer's buying process, both of you (buyer and seller) achieve your individual goals using the same calls to action.
The objective of a call to action is not always to close a sale. As I have explained, not every customer visiting your website is ready to buy, but most arrive with a goal in mind. Therefore, calls to action also provide customers with the opportunity to learn more about you, your product/service, or business practices. They can also resolve questions about credibility, policies like privacy, shipping or guarantees, benefits/advantages, and whether or not you are the solution to their problems.
The type of call to action you present to your customers depends heavily on your knowledge of your customers. Knowing your customers (your market) is vital to designing calls to action relevant to their buying needs.
A particular web page may have multiple calls to action, each acting to satisfy the varying needs of customers at different stages within their buying process. Looking at the six visitor types I have talked about, different types are motivated by different calls to action. For example, an evaluator may be drawn to the phrases, "view product comparison," or, "watch product demo," while an information gatherer may be motivated by an article download or view.
Designing Effective Calls to action
When implementing a call to action, keep these strategies in mind:
- Make it measurable. A click through is measurable using a web analytics program that provides click-stream or path analysis tracking. For example, you need to know how many customers clicked from your entry page to a specific secondary page to determine conversion path obstacles.
I highly recommend adding Google Analytics (a free yet more powerful analytics program than what most web hosts provide) to help you measure your call to action performance. You can visit www.zencartoptimization.com for a tutorial on implementing Google Analytics into an e-commerce platform.
- Make it more than just a link on a page. A call to action takes customers where they need to go to satisfy their buying process requirements, while concurrently moving though your intended sales process. Once they feel confident comfortable and satisfied to purchase, a call to action has to be there to close the deal. EVERY PAGE has at least one (and ideally more than one) call to action to guide the customer to their intended next step and towards your intended next step in the sales process. Do not rely solely on your navigation structure to direct a customer to the information they need to feel confident in purchasing from your website.
- Make it easy for visitors to know where to click. When planning how to integrate your calls to action, remember Steve Krug's instructional title from his usability book, Don't Make Me Think. Make it easy for customers to know where to click and why. Use a different font size, bolding, images and white space to offset and highlight the call to action. Make the call to action prominent and obvious. Depending on where the call to action occurs (within the copy, left rail, right rail, within an image), determining the most effective way to clearly present the call to action is frequently a trial and error process; a good reason why implementing a website analytics program is so important.
- Assume nothing. You have heard the old saying that, "When you assume, you make an AS%$# out of U and ME!" Your call to action should make your customers' next step decision convenient and straightforward. Think about how best to create the information scent for your visitor types, and remember, it is your responsibility to help guide your customers towards satisfying their intentions. Do not make them guess or search. Sure, you cannot satisfy every customer, but by just satisfying 10 percent of them, your website sales would absolutely skyrocket.
- Play on emotions. Market research has suggested that customers buy on emotion and support their decision with logic. Humans are certainly emotional creatures. By speaking to the emotional side of your customer, you stand a greater chance of hitting the right chord to start them singing your web business' praises. Make them happy, and they will reciprocate. Using calls to action like, "Imagine...," or, "You deserve...," help customers internalize the message and connect emotions to the solution. Story telling is also a powerful way of connecting emotions to calls to action.
- Use conventions when appropriate. Often, using conventions (such as standard blue hyperlinks) helps reduce a customer's learning curve on navigating your website. However, keep your visitor types in mind when doing so. If you are targeting sophisticated customers, blue hyperlinks can easily be overdone. Instead, the use of bold text with an appropriate mouse over color change and action oriented copy ("View product comparison") could work more effectively. The key is not to force your customers to THINK, "is it clickable or not?" On the flip side, keep in mind that customers know the web is an interactive medium, and may at times click anything and everything.
- Use elements other than links. Headlines, images, and blocks of text can also serve as calls to action. People click on images and practically everywhere else on a website. Behaviors have adapted to the clickable interoperability connected with navigating the web.
- Build momentum. Recall that customers are moving through the customer experience value chain based on their intentions in achieving their goal. Each step through the experience chain is an acknowledgement that a customer feels that they are heading down the relevant path. The momentum built from this movement can accelerate the customer towards their goal.
- Define what customers can expect after click through. An effective call to action tells the customer what they should expect after clicking through. A click through is like opening a door; let them know beforehand what is on the other side. This goes back to creating the information scent. You want to lure people to the click through by letting them know that what they are seeking is closer to being found on the other side of the click through.
- Place calls to action in prominent locations. The location of your calls to action is vital. Consider using top real estate locations, such as the upper right corner of a web page, above the fold, along the right rail of the web page near the middle of the screen, and the center or the top left rail (below the logo or masthead.) The best locations vary widely across different websites. I recommend using eye tracking research studies published by MarketingSherpa.com to help you pinpoint top placements for websites similar to yours.
- Set up clickable areas via image maps. Image maps highlight a region that defines where a visitor can click. If you are adding a call to action to an image, do not just map the text itself; consider mapping a larger portion of the image. Once you attract a customer's attention with your call to action, make it easy for them to click through. Some members of your target audience may not be masters of mouse maneuvering or they may be rushed, so make it as easy as possible to hit the call to action bullseye!
- Test, measure, and test and measure again. Changing just one word in your call to action may send your click through rates, whether in an ad or on your website, through the roof. Conversely, unless you test and measure, you may never know which changes (maybe again just one word) had a positive or negative effect. Test different areas on your website and discover which motivate your customers to act.
As PETCO.com discovered with their HACKERSAFE security logo in the example discussed earlier, if a customer requires a sense of security, then placing a SSL logo at the lower left corner of our website may cause it to be, "out of sight and mind." But by understanding a customer's goals, we can arrange the right information and supporting credibility and trust factors to be easily noticed during the pursuit of their goals.
Tara Scanlon wrote ("Seductive Design for Web Sites", UIE.com, July 1, 1998), "When users go looking for information, they have a goal." It is your responsibility, as the buyer's assistant, to help your customers achieve their goals. The process of helping customers buy includes helping them find not only the information they want, but also the confidence in trusting it. In this sense, "finding," means that you should clearly identify where the information is available and how best to access it on the website.
Online copywriter and best-selling author, Nick Usborne, explained it well when he wrote: If visitors read your homepage and become interested in something you are selling or offering, what should they do next? Where should they click? Are they ready to go directly to the order page? One way or another, you need to make it simple and obvious to the reader what he or she should do next." ("Creating Momentum: Guide Site Visitors Forward to the Next Page", MarketingProfs.com, November 28, 2006)
Guide and instruct your website visitors where they need to click. By helping them navigate your website, you drastically increase your odds at increasing your website sales.
Kevin Gold is managing partner of Enhanced Concepts, a leading conversion marketing firm specializing in turning web visitors into leads and sales through proven web marketing strategies. Kevin is a contributor to multiple national publications and editor of the blog, www.BlahtoBling.com - improving the online customer experience to increase website sales. Learn more at www.EnhancedConcepts.com.
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