11 conversion rate optimisation (and digital marketing) tips for 2011

More and more marketers are using content optimization solutions to improve digital conversion rates, and subsequently increase revenues, brand loyalty and ROI on all marketing efforts. So, if you’ve already adopted some form of A/B or multivariate testing, behavioral targeting or website personalization for your site, or are thinking of doing so—great. This year, get the most out of these solutions and capture your revenues and ROI faster: come prepared with clearly-defined goals and objectives, as well as these lessons I have learned optimizing with some of the biggest brands in the world.

1. Be Prepared for the Real Buying Season

Retail and travel sites undoubtedly stay busy year-round, with peak selling times during the obvious seasons. But if you’ve waited to test and optimize your promotions or discount offers on the day before Christmas, you’re too late.

Take vacationers for example. While we know the peak vacation times occur in June to August and November to December, most consumers have begun their search, booking and buying efforts months beforehand. Website conversion rates (and revenues) are more likely to skyrocket when you’re optimizing on destinations and promotions in March and September. Then, focus on a product recommendations and behavioral targeting strategy to upsell, cross sell and increase engagement.

2. Never Stop Optimizing

Most of us currently running A/B and multivariate testing should be following the 95% confidence rule of knowing when to end a test, and identify a “winner”. However, over the course of running thousands of tests, with millions of users, for hundreds of clients, we have seen that using a “continuous optimization” methodology is great route to consistently increasing website conversion rates—by always serving the best performing content.

Your site should be treated as growing and evolving centerpiece of your brand. Many factors can change how even your most loyal customers use your site, perceive your brand and impact the products they are purchasing. If at one point your tests reveal a “winning combination”, there’s a great possibility they could very well discover a new one, based on your live, ever-changing, visitor feedback.

3. Watch Your Tone (and Copy)

Website wording is an often-overlooked area when it comes to optimization plans. Most brands have a universal standard on brand tone and copy, but using this one-size-fits-all approach on a website can be a conversion rate killer.

Ensure your copy is both brand and consumer friendly by testing a variety of copy and language tones, such as neutral/passive vs. aggressive voice or casual vs. conservative tone. For example, financial services sites often convert better with passive tones, due to the highly sensitive nature of information being transmitted by users. Be mindful of your various traffic sources, and test copy across multiple landing pages and promotional offers.

4. Don’t Overdo Dynamic Elements

Flash, video, Flash, music, pop-up ad, Flash…did I mention Flash? While executing Flash elements or banner ads on your website can allow you to circulate more advertising or give your site an added professional quality, you’ll send your visitors into a dizzy spell if it’s too much. Numerous tests with our clients have shown that visitors need at least 1-2 static page elements in order to maintain their focus, and thus their ability to convert.

5. Clean Up Your Errors

Error messaging is an important component for any site, especially when it comes to sealing the deal with a customer, since most user-input errors occur during the check-out, registration or form process. Pay careful attention to the location, design, display and wording of your error messages. If a visitor doesn’t see it or understand it, repeated frustrations will only lead them exiting your site before the most important conversion of all: the sale.

6. Stop Repeating Yourself

It’s great that you’ve decided to hold a sale or introduce a promotion, but mentioning the word “free”, “discounted”, “improved”, etc. too much will only make visitors question your offer or product, and diminish the likelihood that they convert beyond your promotional page. Test the location, font, and number of times certain eye-catching or promotional words appear on landing pages, and you just might discover that sometimes, less is more.

7. Play Nice, Corporately Speaking

It’s no secret that it takes many forms (and people) of marketing in order to meet your brands revenue goals. And today’s internet-savvy consumer population is sure to land on your website at some point, so it’s best keep the lines of optimization communication open. Ensure all marketing departments and relevant employees are in the loop, so that SEO, direct mail, email, PPC, call centers, etc. are primed to collect and use the right optimization data when you’re ready to move to a true multi-channel marketing approach.

8. Play Around with Pricing Presentation

Time and time again, marketers are surprised at the impact that font, location, showing/not showing, and color of product pricing has on website conversion rates, While no single pricing strategy is correct for all brands, don’t be afraid to test it. We have found that some sites perform better without revealing the price before the product gets to the cart, while others convert visitors better by being up front about it. See what your visitors think—the results may surprise you.

9. Determine Relevancy (of Anything and Everything, for Everyone)

A “general audience” approach to your digital marketing strategy will only get you so far: delivering tailored, relevant messaging to individuals will ensure conversion rate increases along with improvements in revenue per visit, cart sizes, and consumer lifetime values. Look into deploying website personalization techniques alongside content optimization. One of our airline customers dynamically targeted Featured Destinations on their ‘Inspire Me’ page using behavioral targeting techniques, and drove an immediate 35% increase in conversions and higher levels of customer loyalty.

10. Don’t Be Afraid to Let Go of Brand Guidelines

Multivariate and A/B testing is an investigation not only into your website elements, but also your brand. If your consumers perceive you differently than you believe them to, your website approach could be hurting conversions. Sticking strictly to the brand guidelines—whether in what you choose to test or change—might never lead you to discover that some brand-approved copy, tone, colors, page template, or call-to-actions, are holding you back from higher conversion rates. MVT and A/B testing solutions provide the opportunity to “survey” consumers without them knowing it, allowing you to gain real, live brand insights, and even more revenue over time—if you’re willing to adjust those guidelines accordingly.

11. Prepare for Mobile Optimization

I don’t even have to tell you that this is one the biggest revenue opportunities for any marketer these days, so let’s cut to the chase: this year alone, smartphone sales will double and app sales will reach $15 billion. Consumers have come to rely on mobile devices for shopping, price comparisons, work, banking, social interaction, on-the-go research, and the overall management of their, well, lives. So, if you really want to be a true mobile player, find a way to deliver your customers a unique, personal, and relevant experience, and start using those testing and targeting practices on your mobile sites and applications.

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A career long evangelist in online, Mark Simpson is the founder of Maxymiser where he is focused on increasing conversions and Web site engagement for clients through all verticals including Asda, Santander, Virgin and Cancer Research. Prior to Maxymiser Mark headed up online marketing and business development for Travelport and focussed in particular on the acquisition of ebookers, Octopus Travel, Hotel Club and RatesToGo. Prior to Travelport Mark was part of the team taking Hitwise to market at on its start-up in the UK.