Last week Ecommerce Consulting writer Kyle Duford raised a glass to increasing conversion rates with a great article. Never one to miss a good party, I’m going to belly up to the bar and share a few specific examples of conversion tactics which have delivered great results for me over the years. Note that I’m focusing on things other than ensuring that the site’s positioning, merchandising and pricing are tailored to appeal to your target market; those are basic ingredients to convert traffic. I’m going to share a few other tactics which may not be as obvious.

Example 1: The Invitation

The “invitation to the party” can take many forms, such as an email announcing a sale, or even (gasp) a direct mail piece or a catalog highlighting your current line. Whatever its incarnation, the invitation must set appropriate expectations with your invitees. It should put them in the mood to shop and to buy.

Before we scatter the ashes of all things print, please oblige me an opportunity to share a story which I think has relevance to this discussion. I remember several years ago being challenged (read: ordered) to kill a planned holiday catalog mailing; they cost too much and we live in a digital world now, was the prevailing attitude. I was able to finagle a test out of this situation, and the results were interesting. There were several factors involved across multiple test cells, but long and short, conversion rates were highest among the groups who received a print catalog. Smaller brochure-like mailers and postcards didn’t have the horsepower to compete with a catalog. And while email alone had the power to drive a lot of traffic, the conversion rates paled to the catalog groups.

Now of course, the expense of producing and mailing a catalog needs to be factored in, but all in all it was clear that certain segments preferred the catalog as a physical “invitation” to come to the site and buy. I share this story not to encourage you to run out and print catalogs; rather to elicit some thought about how you invite people to your site, and what sort of experience it sets for them. Clearly catalogs allow people the opportunity to pre-shop. What other methods could you use to replicate that experience?

Example 2: The Conversion Funnel

In my experience, the conversion funnel is the best place to start testing in order to increase conversion rates. While I have seen some obvious changes make an impact, I have also experienced significant increases in conversion by making seemingly innocuous changes to the cart and checkout pages. As an aside, if you’re not already running A/B testing (at the very least) on your site, please check out tools like Optimizely, or contact one of the consultants on this site.

While results have varied greatly depending on the product or service being sold, I have experienced conversion increases by testing changes like these:

  1. Changing the sequence of the checkout fields.
  2. Splitting the checkout into multiple pages.
  3. Asking for the shipping address before the billing address.
  4. Removing the credit card logos from the start of the checkout process.
  5. Changing the text size and font in the cart and checkout.
  6. Requesting the credit card info in the first step of checkout (this was for a recurring subscription product).

Example 3: The Email Capture

It’s a fact that not everyone who visits your site is ready to buy, so including an easy way for visitors to opt in to your email program is a good idea. It is, of course, a good way to build a list of potential buyers. But I’ve also seen the addition of a smartly designed email capture program increase conversion rates. The irony is that we were testing to make sure we weren’t hurting conversion by giving visitors a non-purchase path. The secret sauce had to do with what happened immediately after the visitor opted in.

Example 4: The Survey

This tactic may not work for every site, but I’ve seen it deliver results enough times that I wanted to include it. The benefits of surveying your visitors is two-fold. First, as I’ve discussed here before, you gain some insight from your visitors and customers. But sometimes there is a halo effect; people feel good about buying from a company that cares about what they think. Also important is the experience you create for the user immediately following the survey; that can have a big impact on conversion rates during that session.

This is just a sampling of things that have moved the conversion rate needle in my experience. These may not be appropriate for your business, but keep in mind that in the end it’s all about removing hurdles and reducing the friction for the buyer. The harder you make it to buy, and the more surprises you save for the end of the process, the more likely your users will be to leave without buying. So join me as I raise a glass to raising conversion rates.

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