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Consumer Experience Optimization: The Root of Conversions

By Jon MacDonald | 9 minute read

A good conversion rate is the result of a healthy consumer experience, not the cause. This is a bold challenge to older brand assumptions.

A strategy centered on the tactics of conversion rate optimization rather than on the consumer experience misses the point.

To focus on conversion rate is to get the cart before the horse.

We’ve seen clients who insist on using email pop-ups for list building, for instance. To justify the tactic, they point to increased conversion rates – and since higher conversions lead to more sales, anything you do to boost conversions will automatically lead to more revenue… right?

Wrong.

The conversion rate that matters most is your conversion to sales – tempered by cancellations and returns, or a dwindling lead pipeline. We’ve found, consistently, that poor consumer experience invariably leads to fewer sales and more desertions.

You can achieve an opt-in conversion rate through the roof… and still fail in business.

Let’s take a few minutes to look at some old assumptions and some new realities.

Developing a Consumer Experience Strategy that Works

We’ve seen it happen consistently. Shifting the mindset away from the focus on conversion rate tactics and towards consumer helpfulness will move consumers from browsers into buyers.

By developing the consumer experience strategy for your website, you’ll do more than increase your conversion rate. You’ll also boost the average order value and see revenues jump in the right direction.

This shift in focus isn’t conventional, but it works.

Your conversion rate is a symptom of consumer experience, not the cause. Click To Tweet

At The Good, our mission statement is “To remove all the bad online experiences until only the good remain.” Consumer experience is really the foundation of what The Good is all about.

These Old Assumptions Don’t Pan Out Anymore

Old habits die hard, and that’s surely the case when it comes to marketing. Brands often want to hold on to what once worked, rather than grab on to what does work.

What are those old assumptions? Here are a few of the most dangerous:

  • Most visitors aren’t sure what they want, but they definitely want to learn all about the brand.
  • People don’t know what they want. You have to tell them what they want.
  • Every guest needs to know all about our brand – because it’s the brand that got them to the website in the first place!

These old assumptions, like telephone booths and phone books, don’t go away quickly. They fight and claw until the end. But brands that throw out the old assumptions and move towards the new reality will move ahead of the competition.

The New Reality Leads to a Better Consumer Experience Strategy

The new reality isn’t good because it’s ‘new.’ It’s good because it’s what works right now. It’s good because it considers what people really want, instead of leading with what we want to give them.

Here are some of the principles that identify the new reality:

  • People are already looking for something specific, they have a need they want solved, and they believe your product (not your brand) just might provide that solution.
  • Consumers search for solutions to their needs, and the search engines are much better at providing links for what they want than your brand’s marketing.
  • The less friction there is between consumers, their research to find the best products to solve their need, and checkout, the better. If they aren’t looking for your company history, there’s no need to push it in front of them.

This new reality goes beyond conversion rate optimization. It confirms that the various components of conversion rates and conversion rate optimization are dependent upon consumer experience optimization.

The new reality calls for a fresh look at your overall marketing strategy.

Drop the old consumer experience assumptions; lead with the new reality. Click To Tweet

Get More Sales with an Effective Consumer Experience Strategy

Obsessing about gaining a few more points in your conversion rate, before making sure your site is aligned around your customer’s goals, is a waste of time and money.

There are more pertinent obstacles in your way than conversion rate. Start with the big rocks. You can worry about the smaller stones later.

How can you clear those rocks?

Here’s how to get started.

Answer the following six questions with real data, not gut feelings. These insights are designed to smooth out the path from consumer attraction to customer conversion.

6 Steps to a Consumer Experience Strategy That Works

Use accurate, up-to-date data to evaluate the site you want to invigorate. Avoid short-cuts and guesses.

1. What are your top 3 customer personas?

The starting point for creating a winning marketing strategy is customer identification and personalization.

Customer personas are “composite descriptions of your general customer types, based on research.” Tools to aid in their development include customer interviews, surveys, customer service feedback, and plenty of research.

It’s all too easy to think you can develop personas based on your experience only. That’s almost always a mistake. Dig up the data first. Then compare those findings to your gut-level characterizations. You may find yourself more than a little bit surprised.

The Good, for example, worked with a large manufacturing firm to fine-tune customer identification. Management showed us 18 different personas they had created. While they had done an excellent job of identifying the various reasons someone would buy from the company, there wasn’t a true persona on the board.

We walked them through the customer persona creation process and narrowed the 18 “personas” to just two. With the sharper focus on their most profitable sector, they were able to make much better use of marketing spend and see a correlating boost in sales.

Why go to all the trouble of creating personas?

We’ve often said that “a site designed for everyone is a site that converts no one.”

You can’t please everyone; you’re not a chocolate muffin. You’re a business with goods and services that appeal to some people much more than to others.

Your job is to identify those high-probability buyers and focus your efforts on reaching them with your offers. If there aren’t enough people who fit the personas you develop, then it’s time to take a hard look at your business plan.

What do you do with the personas, once you create them?

We suggest three primary places where customer personas should be prominent:

  • Ask every member of sales and marketing to place them in plain sight and refer to them constantly
  • Make them a part of every discussion when prospects and pipelines are a part of the conversation
  • Use them to prep the team before attending conferences or networking events – make sure every member of the team knows how to identify and connect with your best customers

2. What are the top 3 reasons customers visit your site?

It’s possible for a website to post content that pulls a tremendous amount of traffic, yet end up with dismal sales.

How can that be?

When The Good comes across that situation, we first check to see if the site is targeting the correct audience. Many inadvertently cater to the wrong crowd.

If college students, for instance, love your website because it helps them with their research papers… that’s great community service, but not great business if you’re trying to sell to physicians and hospitals.

You have to know who you want to attract. Make sure that’s who you’re getting. Good websites get the right traffic. Great websites get the right traffic AND discourage the wrong traffic from coming back by solving for the needs of the right traffic.

3. What are the top 3 things visitors do on your site?

Ideally, you have a well-defined path your prospects follow. From first contact, to relationship development, to website visits, getting the sale, then following up after the sale, you know exactly where you want people to go and what you want them to do on your website.

Use analytics to determine how well that path is followed. Are there barriers preventing people from moving smoothly along the trail you have set forth?

Or perhaps they have found a better path than the one you laid for them, and you should start optimizing for where the traffic is flowing?

This is crucial work. That’s why The Good designed an assessment tool to score websites and benchmark key areas of conversion. You can get a free Stuck Score™ here: Get Your Score.

4. What are the top 5 customer searches on your site?

Ecommerce sites often make a big mistake when looking at analytics. They give plenty of weight to the keywords used to find and visit the site, but pay little attention to the keywords and search terms visitors use on the site.

Onsite search is a gold mine. It not only tells you more about who your visitors are and what they’re looking for, but serves as a pointer to help you fine-tune website navigation.

Many users prefer a search box to a menu bar. You can do much to help user experience (UX) by including a search function on every pertinent page, keeping the search box consistently located, designing it to be easily identifiable, and making sure results are quick and accurate.

5. What are the top 5 products by revenue and volume?

You can’t be everything to everyone, but you can be the go-to supplier for a select audience when those individuals or companies need what you sell.

We often find companies directing marketing dollars and efforts to products or services that should be cut. Conversely, we also find companies neglecting to keep investing sufficiently in their top-selling goods.

Think like a gardener. Prune what’s not necessary in order to give your finest plants room and food to grow.

Identifying your top sellers, both by sales volume and contribution margin, will help you take a close look at your business and your marketing budget allocation.

6. What is the first name of someone on your customer service team?

We’ve seen companies spend tens of thousands of dollars on consumer research and/or user testing, yet fail to consult their own customer service team.

Customer service can provide invaluable data sourced directly from your audience to answer questions like this:

  • What do my customers complain about most in regards to my website?
  • What content do my customers want that I don’t yet provide?

Empower your customer service department with a realization of their value to the company. Don’t leave them feeling isolated, thinking nobody really cares what customers are saying.

Check these nine simple questions to ask customer service regularly: How to Improve Consumer Experience.

Developing a Consumer Experience Strategy that Works

Customers who visit your ecommerce website have given you the gift of their attention and the permission to speak to them.

Say something valuable.

Make it a good experience. They will reward your effort.

Would you like to get a snapshot of where you are, right now, at providing exception consumer experience?

Get your Stuck Score™. It’s complimentary, insightful, and the best thing you could do today for your brand’s bottom line.

About the author: Jon MacDonald is Founder and President of The Good, conversion rate experts who deliver more revenues, customers, and leads. Jon and the team at The Good have made a practice of advising brands on how to see online revenue double through their conversion rate optimization services. Connect with Jon on Twitter.

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