Magazine article CRM Magazine

The Psychology Behind E-Commerce Website Optimization: Companies Must Approach Their Web Pages the Way They Would Their Sales Conversations

Magazine article CRM Magazine

The Psychology Behind E-Commerce Website Optimization: Companies Must Approach Their Web Pages the Way They Would Their Sales Conversations

Article excerpt

Selling products online can be tricky, with the slightest nuance in the page's design or message turning the customer away and eliminating all chances of conversion for good. This is one of the central problems tackled in E-Commerce Website Optimization, by Dan Croxen-John and Johann Van Tonder, colleagues at AWA, an e-commerce conversion optimization agency. Associate Editor Oren Smilansky spoke with Van Tonder to learn why--to quote the subtitle--"95 percent of your website visitors don't buy, and what you can do about it."

CRM magazine: In the book you explore the psychology of online customers. What led to your interest in the topic?

Johann Van Tonder: I was working in a corporate, global internet business firm, and in the division that I led, there were a number of e-commerce operations in delicate situations. They needed to either be fixed, sold, or killed. I was faced, every day, with how to make something out of an underperforming thing. I started out in all the classic ways--trying to move things around on a page and following best practices. After a while, I realized that things weren't what they appeared to be. People buy in different ways. You have to understand their core motivations. It sounds like such an obvious and straightforward thing, but it's not. You have to really get under the skin not only [of] your customers but also those people who evaluated your product and chose not to buy it.

Where do companies tend to go wrong when trying to boost conversion rates?

A lot of people do some sort of best-practices analysis. They look at their page and they say, "OK, well, this button or image can be bigger; how do we improve the top half of the page?" That's the wrong starting point. The starting point [should be] what is the behavior on this page, what are the decisions we need to make here, and how do we shift that behavior and influence those decisions? When I started doing this, I didn't understand and appreciate how much of this is just plain, simple, sales.

Do you mean that it's the language of sales, the persuasion aspect, or something else?

Persuasion marketing is a big part of it, but how the conversation unfolds is, I need something, I come to search for information, your offer enters the fray, I evaluate it in the context of others, and the conversation builds on that. …

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