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HOW TO SELL ANYTHING

Turning Browsers Into Buyers

How to improve conversion rates.
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Anyone who does business online worries about how to boost Web traffic. But traffic is only part of the story. Equally important is the conversion rate--the percentage of customers who actually buy something. On average, companies report that only 3 percent of Web surfers actually buy, according to a survey by Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation.

Fortunately, there are new tools that can help companies convert browsers into buyers. A company can design several versions of its website and use one of many new software packages to track how each design affects the conversion rate. It's called multivariate testing, and many consulting firms specialize in it. But free tools also are available, including Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Website Optimizer.

Below, we look at how two companies boosted conversion rates. Stamps.com, which allows users to print postage and shipping labels from any computer, redesigned its website after testing 12 versions of its site with consultancy OTTO Digital. The company's conversion rate rose by 20 percent. Vitamin maker Jigsaw Health tested 10 different designs, with help from consulting firm Future Now. The result: The conversion rate rose from 10.3 percent to 19.6 percent. Take a look at the lessons both companies learned from the process. The changes on display may seem small and subtle, but the effect on conversion rates has been anything but.

Stamps.com

Explain What You Do
The original headline, "Never Go to the Post Office Again!" communicated a benefit of using Stamps.com. But the new, larger headline, "Postage on Demand," communicates more succinctly what Stamps.com actually does.

Put The Logo On The Top Left
The Stamps.com logo was beefed up and moved from the top right to the top left because research shows that viewers' eyes are immediately drawn to the top left of a website.

Clarify The Offer
The company enlarged the $80 bonus offer and the wording was clarified. Marketing director Sebastian Buerba suspects that customers viewing the old site believed they needed to pay $80 in order to get the scale, postage, and supplies. The new wording itemizes the various aspects of the offer, and highlights the fact that it's risk free.

Make The Call To Action Clear
In the original layout, the call to action was a small button labeled "Sign Up" attached to the $80 offer. But "Sign Up" is intimidating to customers, implying a lengthy form with lots of personal information, says Buerba. The new language, "Get Postage!" is direct and urgent. Also, the button is now red, larger, and centered at the bottom of the page.

Find The Perfect Image
The original graphic featured a computer with the Stamps.com logo. Buerba felt that confused visitors to the site, some of whom thought Stamps.com was selling a computer. Some even thought it was a postage scale. The new central image is a picture of a stamp on an envelope. "You want to show customers what they're actually getting," says Buerba.

Jigsaw Health

Keep Viewers On The Page
The old site featured a long, bright orange navigation bar along the top with nine different options. The bar "gave customers too many ways to leave the page," says Patrick Sullivan Jr., Jigsaw Health's co-founder and president. Now the navigation bar is eliminated.

Think Small
Even small changes can have a powerful effect. Jigsaw took "68%" out of the headline and replaced it with "2/3rds." Even though two-thirds is actually less than 68 percent, the fraction is simple and communicates its message without forcing the viewer to do any math.

Make It Easy For Customers To Buy
The button exhorting visitors to take the magnesium assessment test was too prominent on the old site. After taking the test, customers rarely went back to make a purchase. On the new site, there are several yellow buttons, but all of them lead to a purchase. As a result, the average time a visitor spent on the site before buying was cut to 12 seconds, from 25.

Remove Clutter
Creating a cleaner site was a big goal. By removing the promotional code material from the right-hand side and eliminating the note to retailers, Jigsaw was able to focus more on the product and the call to action. "If you don't need it, get rid of it," says Sullivan.

Create Urgency
On the original site, the passage about magnesium deficiency was short and dreary. Now that section contains more information, and the most dramatic parts are in bold print. "We pulled out the pain in the new version," says Sullivan. "It demonstrates more urgency."

Last updated: Sep 1, 2007




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