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Conversion Rates Improved With Persuasive Design (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this posting we have focused on Usability aspects. Let's continue.

Persuasive Design

A more than — just the technical facts — product description with detailed photos, audio, and video showing how the user will benefit from taking action seems to be state of the art. Also show the user the benefit on the emotional level.

A short list of methods used to increase conversions (not complete).

  • High quality photos and graphics, also from virtual products like ebooks.
  • Audio
  • Video
  • Real testimonials from happy customers
  • Bonuses for taking action now
  • Guarantees ( there are actually five level of guarantees that go way beyond the minimum required by law)
  • Free samples
  • Limited the number of choices the customers can make at some point to a buy or no-buy decision.

Good persuasive design is not about manipulating users into something they don't want. The goal of persuasive design is to get the user to make the right decision by providing as much relevant information as possible and answer each and every question the user might have about the product or service at this point.

For example, I wanted to book a flight to Germany for my family and me last Christmas. I checked out two airfare search engines and found a couple of good flights. However, I could not decide on booking the flight we liked most, because there was no info available about pets on the plane. We have a little maltese dog. Then, I simply took the second best offer from a different airline, because they allow booking with “pets in the cabin” and give all necessary information about it.

By the way, most site for comparing airfares are actually even far away from having good usability (the level below persuasive design). Have you ever tried to find the best airfare, when your schedule is quite flexible? Most of the time you need to check out each and every single day, starting from scratch all the time. This is annoying.

Finally take the risk out of the game and show the users that they cannot loose anything. At the same time this will make sure that the refund rate stays low, where it belongs.

Persuasive design is about understanding the users decision process and providing the information to support a decision in all stages of the buying process.

Users can be in four (4) different stages, when they come to your site.

  1. Browsers, who look around to get an idea of what they want.
  2. Evaluators, who already know what they need, and start shopping around.
  3. Users that are Ready-to-buy.
  4. Already Customers, who you can upsell.

Pick up the user, where he is at, and bring him to the next level and support the task he needs to perform at this particular stage. This will naturally move the user from one stage in the buying process to the next.

Many Web sites are structured that way to provide different entry points. In contrast the one page sales letter implements links to the shopping cart all over the page to support this mental model. Assuming that a ready-to-buy customer will read less than a Browser, who might read more and scroll all the way to the bottom to the page, before making the buy or no-buy decision.

In terms of persuasive design content is much more important than the technical features of the site and shopping cart. Users decide on the facts and the answers to their questions, and the emotions that arise. That's why audio and video work very well in addition to plain text, because the message (the content) has a higher emotional level.

The copy, the content must support the users to make their choices.

  • Why, your product?
  • Why, is this product better then another one?
  • What are the key features?
  • How do I benefit from this product?
  • What do other people think about the product? Testimonials.

But there is more than the pure product description. The transaction elements on your site need to be labeled carefully.

  • Why, do you need my Social Security Number? What are you going to do with it?
  • Why do you need my phone number? Tell, them. Otherwise you get a lot of invalid entries,
    e.g. 111 1234567

Persuasive design does not stop with supporting the buy or no-buy decision process. I have written earlier, that you should provide an entry point for returning customers.

But what about the users that decide not to buy, or opt-in. At least give them reasons to come back to your site. Ask them to bookmark your site, because you are providing top content on a regular basis that they don't want to miss. Or again, ask them to opt-in to your email list. But don't be too “pitchy”. Even though they did not decide to buy in first place, they eventually will come back, if their experience was good during their first visit.

For many sites the returning visitor aspect will be probably more important than the first-come and buy aspect, because most people don't buy the first time.

The best strategy for getting users to return is ongoing communication. That is why email newsletter are so important. I recommend to have a newsletter and keep three principles in mind.

  • Give the user reason to opt-in
  • Provide value with your newsletter, that the user opens it and reads it.
  • Give reasons to return to your Web site and buy your products without pitching.

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John W. Furst


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