Running a website is a big endeavor: you have to worry about design, updates, blog management, marketing, and conversion rates. Perhaps you set everything up just right, offering visitors amazing design, engaging content, and everything else they might want – and yet conversion rates are still not where you want them to be. With every positive change you make, conversion rates don’t budge, or only move slightly. What does it take to convince users to complete an action?
As website owners, we take numerous measures to ensure that Google fully understands our website’s purpose: we make changes to the code and improvements to our content, invest in building an effective internal-link system and improving user-friendliness, use CTA to decrease bounce-rate and increase conversions, and employ countless other tactics to adapt our website to search engine algorithms. The primary factor, of course, is that we aim to please is the user. However, how much do we really know about our visitors’ wants, needs and motivations for purchase? In order to achieve a high conversion rate, and before mapping out a plan for necessary solutions to implement in our website, we first need to understand the way our users think.
The Psychology of it All
Before I touch upon some examples, it’s important to clarify that conversion is an end, not a means. In order to achieve conversion, i.e. purchase or registration, a user must first undergo a sub-conscious decision-making process through which he assesses the trustworthiness of a website and the incentives for completing the action.
It is human nature to search for signs of trust. For this reason, it is crucial to have trust signs prominently displayed on your website and on payment pages. In their paper Signs of Trust: a Semiotic Study of Trust Formation in the Web, Kristiina Karvonen and Jarmo Parkkinen claim that e-commerce is at a low because people are finding it harder and harder to trust online companies: “…if e-commerce is to thrive, creating consumer trust is a necessity – or else there will be no transactions. Not only money, but also private information about an individual customer”. In other words, in this day and age, it is more important than ever to gain the trust of users, and it can be key for boosting conversion rates.
As a general rule, people have an extremely hard time taking a risk without first seeking a sign of trustworthiness. According to Carolyn McLeod in her paper entitled Trust, “Trust can have enormous instrumental value and may also have some intrinsic value. In discussing its instrumental value, I will refer to the “goods of trust”, which include opportunities for cooperative activity, knowledge, autonomy, self-respect, and overall moral maturity. Because these goods may benefit the trustor, the trustee, or society in general, they are therefore social as well as individual goods…”.To put it simply, trust is an intrinsic part of selling anything – whether it is a product, a service, knowledge, or an entire brand.
Some ways to invoke a sense of trust among visitors is by including features such as money-back guarantee, secure payment pages, and an easily accessible FAQ section. These components go a long way towards gaining the trust of consumers who will be more likely to complete a purchase, yielding a higher conversion rate. However, trustworthiness isn’t sufficiently established by displaying trust signs on product pages and the homepage alone; they should appear prominently on registration forms and checkout pages as well. In addition to these trust signs, it is important to incorporate symbols of professional organizations your business is a member of, customer testimonials, and press published in significant publications.
Another important catalyst in the user’s decision making process has to do with removing doubts pertaining to the actual product or service being offered. This can be achieved by prominently displaying relevant FAQs. Today, it is most likely to complete a purchase after their third or fourth visit to a website, partly due to the mental process I’ve outlined above. Therefore, if we can establish trustworthiness and remove doubts quicker among users, it stands to reason that we can speed up conversion.
Putting Theory into Practice: How to Optimize Trust Signs
Once we understand the mental process that our customers undergo before coming to a decision, it’s time to put our conclusions into practice. Below is a guide to improving your website’s trustworthiness as perceived by your visitors by using FAQs, Testimonials, Security Symbols, Client Logos, and offering a Free Trial period.
By answering a set of relevant questions that are frequently raised by users, we can help dissolve doubt and move them closer to making a purchase. If we fail to do this, the customer may feel information about our product or service is lacking and, naturally, turns to Google to retrieve more information. From this point, there are a number of possible scenarios:
1) Once the user has left our site, he may not return
2) The user may become distracted and forget the goal of his original search
3) The user may backtrack on his decision to purchase and/or deliberate between a number of options without coming to a decision
4) The user may purchase the product or service from another source
5) The user will find the information he was after and decide to purchase from our website, ultimately finalizing payment
As evident from the list above, all but the last scenario work against our interests. Therefore, it is crucial to provide the information they need to finalize a purchase right there in our website.
Where should you start? One way to compile a FAQ list is to turn to services that conduct surveys for companies interested in getting familiarized with their clients, such as qualaroo.com – one of my favorites. This service enables us to easily conduct a survey among our visitors and displays results in a set of friendly reports.
To gain insight as to the issues that hinder your customers’ experience, you can ask the survey takers to perform a number of actions in the cart, the payment page and any other page – then include the answers to their questions in the relevant FAQ page. It’s important to pay attention to the following parameters when writing the survey:
1) Be clear! Don’t leave room for doubts. If you want to know what the user thinks of your website, instead of asking “What is your general impression with our site?”, ask questions such as “How simple/difficult did you find the navigation throughout our website?”, “Were you able to find what you were looking for easily?” and “Was the purchase process easy-to-understand or did you experience problems?”.
2) Be focused! Avoid asking questions that are too general or that could be understood differently by different people. If you’re interested in finding out how easy it is to leave details, don’t ask “Would you be interested in leaving your details in this website?”, but rather “How simple is it to fill out the form in the website?”
3) Be thorough! Ask many questions and break down processes into components to make the survey easy to understand, and to receive detailed answers.
Another way to become familiarized with the issues and questions that users raise regarding your website is to consult Google Analytics. By defining a simple segment, you can extract the common search phrases pertaining to FAQs. Though many people shy away from defining regex formulas, there’s no reason to panic – simply copy the code below onto the search window and everything will work out easily. What this code does is effectively define which segment to pull search phrases from, for instance: pulling only queries that contain words like ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘why’ etc.
In order to define this segment, simply press the little arrow on the top left hand corner (see image):
Then, click Create New Segment.