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Each search query typed into Google delivers page upon page of worthy results, firing users off to several million more websites on a daily basis for all their needs, from research to idle browsing and shopping.

Even in niche markets it is becoming increasingly difficult for online retailers to retain and interest their target users on their website itself in a market where competition is intense.

The practice of making your web page a compelling place to be and crucially, give customers what they want in a matter of seconds, is known as conversion optimisation: making the most out of the people who come to your site and turning them into customers.

So what are the tried and tested ways of standing out from the crowd? What do you need to pay attention to when building and designing a website? Here are my top five considerations for creating a compelling – and successful website – to bring home the leads.

1. Think emotional

Many people think they act consciously when they go shopping. However, studies have revealed that 95 percent of all purchasing decisions – online as well as offline – are based on emotional impulses.

This applies especially to female customers: women spend more time browsing and rarely have a specific target when going shopping. They are emotional, visual, and have high expectations.

Therefore, the golden rule of advertising psychology is: information and emotions need to be transmitted in a way that is both, clear and concise.

2. Make it easy to fall into a sale

The Apple store is a lesson in usability and the art of inviting the customers to an almost-complete sale by the time they get to the checkout. By retaining the customer’s details and auto-filling their address, credit card details, giving easy gift options for those people who want to make present-buying simple and quick.

This is why advertisers should become acquainted with the essentials of usability and optimising user experience. Just as in brick and mortar stores, in e-commerce, the customers’ needs should be the top priority.

This applies for customer service, but also for the usability of the website so making things easier for customers to find what they’re looking for, or optimising product feeds to respond to the nature of the customer. Being able to predict what a person may want to buy in future, or in addition to their current purchases, had been a goldmine for businesses such as Amazon.

Tools that have been proven to work are:

  • Likes, reviews, and outfit suggestions from other members give shopping a social component.
  • Discount information and a customer-friendly user experience give the user the feeling of buying something tailor made to their style and taste.
  • Transparent purchasing conditions create trust and promote a feeling of security. 

3. Know thy customer

Getting to intimately know the type of person that you want to attract is a less obvious first move for marketers than you might think.

Putting the time and effort into customer research to understanding the personas that visit and respond positively to your site – and working to ‘replicate’ those sales -  to understand site visitor intent against satisfaction.

However at times a formulaic approach works across many different models. For example, fashion websites and often voucher deal sites use the same tools to reach out to their customer and instigate a feeling of need, or a feeling of urgency.

Showing a countdown often lowers the availability of an offer for a user, triggering an unpleasant feeling of loss which customers then want to avert by making an impulse purchase.

Lastly, showing reviews given by other customers give the impression that their peers were satisfied with the product.

4. Improve, improve, improve

Developing a continuous programme of improvement using conversion optimization lets you find out which design version works best. Without knowing it, website visitors are often shown different design versions and the reactions to them are measured.

This is known as multivariate testing. With a little bit of background knowledge in psychology you can create interesting new website versions. These versions compete against each other in a split traffic test, and in the best-case scenario it will quickly show you what goes down well with the visitors.

Develop the business case and invest – successful cases show that CRO requires dedicated staff or a specialist agency. 

5. The form factor

Taking notice of how the eye takes in the visual aspects of your website is key to the success of a brand, the customer return rate, and in some cases, the abandonment rate of baskets.

In order to achieve the desired outcome from a user visit – a lead or a sale –the customer needs to first of all notice the offer. Since we mostly process information through visual images, “activating” or inviting a customer to take notice can be best achieved with pictures.

Various kinds of stimuli work well in this situation:

  • Physical stimulus: rich, widespread colors.
  • Cognitive stimulus: thought-provoking and controversial images.
  • Emotional stimulus: displays of human emotions such as freedom, love, and happiness.

If you want to confront the user with stimuli on your website, we recommend getting acquainted with advertising psychology. To impart a few pointers, we have come up with four cornerstones of emotive imagery:

  • Pictures of people are noticed faster than pictures of objects.
  • Colour images work better than black and white ones.
  • Round shapes are more pleasing to the eye than angular ones.
  • …and lastly, warm colors create a more comfortable atmosphere than cold ones.

However, these generalizations are not always directly transferrable to the world of online, and they do need to be tested and prove their effectiveness with each target group.

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Published 26 February, 2013 by Ellie Edwards-Scott

Ellie Edwards-Scott is Managing Director at QUISMA and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

4 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

Gemma Holloway

Gemma Holloway, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

A really good blog - I think web designers are finally starting to understand the underlying motivations of users when developing websites.

I have previously written some blogs based on this topic, such as the impact of colour on conversion rates and how to use emotion to drive conversions both of which are very specific elements but can have such powerful influence over the user. I think your blog sums up these points very well.

I think user psychology will continue to become more important within our industry and I for one am very excited about that.

over 3 years ago

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Dr. Joe Schaefer

Isn't it funny how we say things like "web designers are starting to finally figure out what people want". Unless I am mistaken, web designers themselves are PEOPLE and should have know all along what people wanted to see in a website. The problem is the same as with any advertising, the designer or copy-writer is often too involved in what they can create. When our aim is to be clever, we stop communicating immediately. This problem is solved by an ego-less, objective view of everything you put out to the public. Great topic for your article. Thanks

over 3 years ago

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