For many companies, conversion rate optimization occurs exclusively between a product detail page visit and the time a visitor checks out. That is a very dangerous mindset, however, because it fails to take the early and middle stages of the customer journey into account.
Before users settle in to compare prices on different sites, they have a whole host of actions and places to visit. These early stage actions are a great way to acquire greater brand equity, a wider audience who can convert later on, and trust from those who are nearing the point when they can convert (but are not quite there yet).
Those who win this early stage get a leg up on the late-game-only companies on multiple fronts:
+ It becomes easier for users to click on an actual buy button if they have received good value from a company before. One of the seven principles of influence is reciprocity, and only companies that have bothered with the early stage can expect it from visitors
+ The “all stages” companies have a steady flow of people who can replace those who have already made a purchase, ensuring the well does not dry up
Before the final purchase conversion happens, it is necessary to optimize all the pre-conversion that happens along the way.
Decide on a Model for the Customer Journey
Models for customer journey stages can be powerful as they provide the entire company the same verbiage to use and follow. Some people use AIDA or Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action as a model, and that may be useful even though it misses out on everything that happens after the purchase.
Others use some type of combination between the discovery phase, the evaluation phase, the purchase phase, and the support phase. The exact terms do not matter too much, as long as marketers have a way to tell someone something akin to “that is not a keyword search people will conduct at the discovery phase, that is a purchase phase term.”
Whatever model organizations land on is probably fine, as long as three conditions are present:
+ The phases of the model are not company-centric, they are user-centric. (So, that means top/mid/bottom of the funnel is out of the question as a customer journey model.) It helps to think about user intent rather than the company’s sales funnel for these types of tools
+ Most people in the company understand the phases and can use them for day-to-day decision-making
+ The research, content generation, and calls-to-action (CTAs) are targeted to phases in the model
Think About the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)
Even before users land on a website, they can have an experience with the brand. To enhance the chances of them actually engaging, those aiming to optimize the conversion process can do a few things:
+ If you are in an industry where rich snippets can be used, do that and enhance the look of search result listings
+ Match the browser page title and meta description to the phase of the journey—if there is a common research phrase in a particular industry, educational page should say something in the title that indicates it is an answer to the question the user is asking
Those responsible for these efforts will know they are doing well when the education-level pages are receiving good click-through rates and driving significant traffic to the website.
Make Educational Content Really Good
Educational pages should match user intent. For instance, if people are looking for battery life on different digital cameras, educational page cannot be a list of battery grips; it has to actually discuss battery life on different cameras.
Do not force late-stage-intent on an early stage visitor; it is not going to work. Instead, provide the information that visitors need for that stage, build authority as users engage with the brand, and provide avenues for two scenarios:
+ For users who are ready in the moment include a callto- action for the next stage in the funnel
+ For those who are not ready provide a “return” vehicle to a site, like an un-gated PDF with more comprehensive information
It will be obvious progress is being made when the educational pages get users to return at a decent rate, and when businesses start seeing a significant number of users download assets meant to drive them back to the web site.
This link back to the web site from the assets should, of course, have campaign parameters. That will enable those optimizing the digital experience to isolate visits from educational efforts of this nature, judge the success rate of the specific assets, and make adjustments as necessary.
Use the Entire Site to Persuade Visitor — Not Just the Product Details Page
Robert Cialdini, author of Influence and Pre-Suasion and all-round trusted name in the persuasion game, says there are seven ways to influence your visitors to perform actions: liking (using verbiage and image selection to match a visitor’s taste), social proof (showing how many times the company has helped someone with a problem), consistency (encouraging smaller, micro-conversion actions), authority (showing badges of large organizations that trust your expertise), reciprocity (giving something away to establish gratitude), unity (showing that you are part of a user’s group) and scarcity (showing that the stock is limited).
Of those seven principles, only scarcity is exclusive to the product details page. The rest should be used across an entire website to make a company’s persuasion game effective.
Businesses will notice that these general persuasion techniques are working when people take pre-conversion actions across the site, so make sure to track the smaller conversions the site has including return rate for those who have seen non-product pages, PDF downloads, form fills or visits.
Putting It All Together
Remember, do not ask for the sale before providing what the user needs.
Businesses can have excellent products and airtight security but still lose out on the sale if they get greedy and only focus on late-stage visitors.
Make sure to optimize the site’s pre-conversion tasks as well. By the time a significant chunk of users get to the product details page, they should be primed to act. That’s the job of non-product content: to make the little persuasion arguments that a business is worth transacting with.
When organizations think about early stage visitors, research their tasks and create content designed to answer their questions, and create actions that will take them to the next stage in the customer journey, they persuade more visitors to act on their site. Martin Greif brings 25-plus years of sales and marketing experience to SiteTuners (host of Digital Growth Unleashed) where he is responsible for driving revenue growth, establishing and nurturing partner relationships and creating value for its broad customer base.