EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 266 - July 11, 2010 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 8

Five Steps to Improving Your Ecommerce Conversion Rates - Guest Column

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Shmuli Goldberg is Director of Marketing and Communications for ClickTale, which provides insights into customers' online behavior through its Customer Experience Analytics. We invited Shmuli to submit a guest column for today's AuctionBytes newsletter to share with readers five tips on improving conversion rates, information garnered from ClickTale's experience in studying client websites for actionable intelligence.

Five Steps to a Better Conversion Rate, by Shmuli Goldberg

In the highly competitive online marketplace, capturing the attention of fickle shoppers is an ongoing challenge. Independent research shows that, on average, as many as 50% of site visitors leave after viewing just one page of most websites. Enticing them to stick around long enough to make the sale is crucial, and site designers seem to be forever locked in a hunt for the elusive Holy Grail of ecommerce: the perfectly optimized page that converts visitors into customers.

If only it was that easy. But, the fact is, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to site optimization. Each business model, each audience and each customer are unique in their own way. A cookie-cutter, formulaic approach is unlikely to deliver the desired results.

Instead, the key to boosting site conversion is to understand visitors' behavior on your site - what is it about your site specifically that draws and holds their attention, motivates them to click on, and ultimately, to buy. Understanding how visitors interact with your site unlocks valuable feedback that is critical to boosting conversions and your bottom line.

There is a strong correlation between site visitors' eye movement and mouse movement - visitors tend to drag the mouse pointer over the areas they view in tandem with their eye movement. By deploying mouse-tracking software on your site, you can uncover visitor behavioral patterns that can reveal incredible insights into which areas or features of a site draw visitors' attention - and which do not.

Based on extensive analysis of thousands of visitor browsing sessions across many multitudes of websites, there are some best practices that can be employed to help improve site performance:

Use effective visuals.
Stunning images and video capture visitors' attention and encourage longer interactions. Heatmap data of visitors' mouse movements indicates that people are drawn to faces, so use attractive faces whenever possible.

Make headlines that grab attention.
Crafting direct, short headlines that focus on visitor benefits (not product features) capture visitors' attention and intrigue them to read on.

Give visitors what they want.
To create the optimum level of engagement and conversion, you must cater to your audience. Design the site in such a way that it serves your customer - not you. Ask yourself whether the site/page/form, etc. offers real value to your audience, why should they care and how useful it is to them.

Keep it simple.
Design signup forms and checkout pages to be as simple as possible. The least-intrusive and fewest-question forms are the top performers. The more you ask of site visitors, the less likely they are to provide information.

Test, revise, repeat.
Sometimes minor adjustments can make a major impact on site performance. By making small changes - and testing the results each time - you can fine-tune each page to achieve the optimum results. The ability to observe visitor interactions with real-time behavioral analytics provides near-instant feedback on site adjustments to help you know when you've hit the sweet spot with a particular feature - or when to pull the plug to stave off disaster.

One of the best ways to gain incredible insight into your site visitors' wants and desires is to watch them browse - just as you would in any bricks-and-mortar storefront. By deploying an effective Customer Experience Analytics system, you can keep an eye on site visitors' behavior as it happens to see what aspects of your site work well to engage customers, and which seem to be less appealing.

This ability to "look over their shoulder" enables you to identify hot spots, areas that draw and hold visitors' attention - and cold spots, those that visitors ignore - and make changes to improve performance throughout the site.

While there may be no magic bullet for boosting conversions for all ecommerce sites, these guidelines have served thousands of site owners extremely well, based on direct visitor browsing data tracked by real-time behavioral analytics software. Functional web analytics has evolved considerably since the early days of click-through analysis and measuring time spent on each page. By shifting focus away from the raw statistics and more toward the visualization of customer behavior, you can gain a much better sense of what works and what doesn't - and why.

About the Author
Shmuli Goldberg is director of marketing and communications for ClickTale, the industry leader in Customer Experience Analytics (CEA), providing businesses with revolutionary insights into their customers' online behavior. ClickTale tracks every mouse move, click and scroll, creating playable videos of customers' entire browsing sessions as well as powerful visual heatmaps and behavioral reports that perfectly complement traditional web analytics to reveal actionable intelligence for dramatically improving conversion rates. For more information, visit Clicktale.com.


About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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