Here are 3 conversion optimization examples of how to kill the “slider”.

This is not a post about how carousels kill conversions.  They can, but it’s not about that.

This post is about doing what’s best for the people who want to buy from you on your site.

Every CRO and savvy eCommerce manager I have ever met hates carousels.  In fact, we’ve never actually blogged about it because EVERYONE ELSE already did.  Bringing up carousel flaws would be akin to bringing up the Hindenburg’s.

What we at Inflow will do, however, is document the death of the carousel. But before we do, let’s talk about its birth.

Blame Yahoo! if you want

It seems like the carousel has been around forever, at least in Internet terms. Broad adoption started in the summer of 2009 after Yahoo introduced it on its homepage.

Blame Yahoo if you want

If your site still has a rotating carousel, perhaps you still have a Nokia phone?  You can check your email on it, you know!

From that point on, every website felt free to:

  • Whisk away copy while it was still being read
  • Randomly change calls to actions
  • Remove control from the user actions
  • Create “banner-blindness”
  • Periodically attract attention no matter how irrelevant to the viewer.
  • Slow page load time with multiple big images

So, for some, it might not be a surprise that there is a better way to structure an eCommerce homepage.

The death of the (unnecessary) carousel

In our 2018 Best in Class Comparative Matrix for eCommerce, we saw only 6 out of 10 sites still used the homepage hero carousel.  That number is less than half of what it was 2 years earlier.

The reason why is simple: it was never the best option for most of the sites that did it, and that statement is still pretty much true.

Optimization Away from Carousels

So, how does a site transform its homepage from having a carousel? Here are three conversion optimization examples for removing carousels.

Zappos.com

Before

A year ago, Zappos was sporting a left category nav, hero carousel and a couple of static promo areas to the right.  That made it jam-packed with options.

Zappos

After

Zappos simplified things by ditching the carousel, the left nav on the homepage and instead focusing the homepage on the things customers want most.  They are still testing this bad boy with over 5 major variants identified, so check back in February to see the winning combination. ;)

So apparently, Zappos.com never needed a slider. Note that they kept the slides, but moved 2 of them to the bottom of the site in favor of stuff users most want (a lot of which was not even on the homepage of this eCommerce behemoth just a year ago).

There’s a big lesson here for those willing to learn it and kill their carousel.

Zappos

UnderArmour.com

Before

Under Armour had a carousel last year, alternating between two and three slides.

Under Armour

After

Over the past year, they have MADE ONLY ONE CHANGE on their homepage.  That was to ditch the carousel.


Underarmour

Williams Sonoma

Before

Williams Sonoma made some minor navigation changes over the past year and added lazy-load to the homepage, which widened it a bit.

Williams Sonoma

After

For the most part, the only significant change to the homepage was REMOVING THE CAROUSEL.

Williams Sonoma

Take-Away

If you were to take the lead from these 3 best in class sites, you would blindly get rid of your eCommerce site’s carousel.  But wait!!!

You can see below that there are still 6 out of 20 Best-in-Class eCommerce sites that are standing by their carousel. You bet they have tested their homepage over the past year.

eCommerce sites carousel use

eCommerce sites carousel use

So Why?

The answer is that the carousel, as they have it, is right for them and their audience.  For now, at least, until something tests better.

This is why we test.

keith-haganAbout the author: Keith Hagan is an award-winning conversion optimization expert and Director of Conversion Services at Inflow. Keith’s insights have been featured in well-known publications, such as Moz, HuffPo, Forbes and more.

Lead generation is the lifeblood of online business and most lead generation is done via email collection.
If you grow a list of prospects who’re interested in your promotions, your business grows too. However, before you make money from your list you’ve got to get people on it. Whether you want people to download your lead magnet, sign up for your latest webinar or volunteer to test your product, you first need to persuade them to part with their highly guarded personal details – that’s no small feat.
No wonder the average opt-in rate across industries is hovering around a mere 2%. After investing a fortune in Facebook advertising, PPC ads, outsourced content, content management software, site design, and more, you only net two leads per 100 visitors. Two leads… NOT customers mind you.
Surely, your business deserves better.
Today, we’re going to cover the eight elements of a high converting opt-in page so you can boost your opt-in conversion rates and get a better return on your content marketing investment.
Ready to dive in?

Element #1: A short pre-headline to draw them in

When your prospect arrives on your opt-in page she wants to know if she’s in the right place. If she feels lost, she’ll click away. Use the apex of your page to make her stick around.
And, depending on who you ask, you have five seconds or less to do that. But how do you do it? Here’s three ways to instantly attract your reader when she lands on your page so she stays on.
#1. Name the target audience
For example, Attention dog owners, Attention Content Marketers etc.
When you name your audience you get a nod from the prospect, “Yep that’s me.” Handled correctly, this small first yes will ultimately lead to the big yes of a signup later on.
#2. Name the type of lead magnet
For example, Free Special Report, Free Training Webinar etc.
The specificity of your offer increases desire and the likelihood of the prospect staying on so as to get it.
#3. Name the referral site
For example,wh Welcome Entrepreneur Readers
Naming the referral site on your page makes your prospect feel like a diva and warm up to you and your offer.
Amy Harrison rolls out a red carpet for her Copyblogger readers. She makes them feel the love by welcoming them: specifically, heartily, personally.

image1 3

                                 Source

Your pre-headline has four main purposes:
#1. To help your prospects understand your offer…fast.
#2. To alienate those who are not a good fit for your offer.
#3. To attract those who are perfectly suited to your offer.
#4. To build rapport with your audience in an instant.
A great pre-head will keep readers on your signup page.

Element #2: A benefit-rich headline to make them want to read more

Once your prospect hangs around, use your headline to show her how your offer will benefit her and improve her life. Promptly address her concerns so she lingers on the page or you’ll lose her by the door. Quickly address her pain, paint the desired future for her, or pique her curiosity so she can’t help herself but read on.
In short, tell your prospect what’s in it for her.
Jacob McMillen’s headline is ultra-specific and has a solution that’s tailor-made for cash-strapped businesses – that’s a big benefit that’ll keep his target audience glued to the page.

image5-2

                           Source
Not only that. Your headline must also tie in nicely to the traffic source. That way the prospect’s conversion journey becomes smoother thus generating better results for your business. Jacob McMillen does this superbly as the source page to the above landing page shows:

image2-1

Notice how his CTA, the last words in his bio, are the first words on the landing page? This way the byline is perfectly coupled to the landing page thus increasing conversions. When a reader clicks his bio and lands on the landing page she smoothly continues her conversion journey – because of harmony between the two pages, conversions are likely to be higher.
On the flip side, a copy mismatch between the source page and the signup page tanks conversions.

Element #3: A few lines of crisp copy to pull them further down the page

You’ve done well if your prospect is still on your page thus far.
Your next few lines should give specific points about your offer. Show her how your offer will scratch her itch or push her towards her dream. Do that and she’s more likely to give you her details.
Use bullet points or short paragraphs. Your bullets should be:

  • Clear- use simple direct language so the prospect easily grasps your offer.
  • Crisp- keep your points brief and to the point to keep the prospect engaged.
  • Catchy- use attention-getting words to give details about your offer.

Smartblogger nails their bullet copy on this sign-up page for an upcoming webinar.

image11-4

Source

The three bullets tell you exactly what you’ll get on the webinar in a simple engaging way without laboring the point. If you’re going for the minimalist approach even a single line will do. The amount of copy on the body of your opt-in page depends on three key factors.
#1. How aware is your prospect about you and your offer? The more aware she is about you and what you do the less copy you need and vice versa.
#2. What works best for your niche? Study the most successful signup pages in your niche and do likewise.
#3. How complex is the problem you’re trying to solve for the prospect? The more complex the problem, the more copy required to convince prospects to sign up.

Element #4: A pro-looking image to help them visualize what they’ll get

Our brains process images up to 60,000 times faster than text.
To woo your prospect so she says yes to your proposal (offer), show her what she’ll get. Use a picture of the product or of people expressing the feeling you’re targeting. Pictures of animals work well too if your context allows it.
John Nemo’s book shot dominates his opt-in page on purpose. You can almost smell the LinkedIn cash splashed on the cover ☺.

image7-3

                              Source

A word of warning about pics: don’t just include a picture because you like it…that won’t help your cause. Only include a picture if it’s relevant to your offer.

Element #5: A signup field(s) to capture their personal details

You’re almost there now… your prospects cursor is hovering over the signup field. Now comes the big question…how much info do you want from her?
Numerous tests show that, in most cases, the fewer the signup fields, the higher the conversion rates. That’s why most sites simply ask for an email address and/or name only as shown in the Marketing Sherpa lead generation graphic below.

image8-2

   Source

Of course, you can ask for more than that if you want a more targeted list. Although your conversions may dip, the quality of your list will improve. Ask for what you need and no more. This makes filling the fields more desirable. You can always ask for more details later.
But, as with everything digital, conduct split tests to see what works for you and your audience instead of blindingly jumping on the bandwagon. In many cases, tests have shown that increasing the number of fields actually raised conversions.

Element #6: A bit of social proof to earn their trust

It’s natural. No one wants to go first. People do what they see other people do. That’s why social proof is a vital ingredient to the success of your page. Here are some three quick-and-easy ways of incorporating social proof into your signup page:
#1. Display your list numbers if they’re substantial
To nudge people over the sign-up line, you can use big numbers associated with your following. However, be careful as numbers can be a double-edged sword. If your numbers are small, social proof will still work, but against you! No-one wants to be a part of something small and insignificant.
Social Media Examiner uses their massive list to good effect to inspire people to join their list.

image4-4

Source

Surely, on seeing the 620 000+ social media marketing peers on Social Media Examiner’s list, a prospect will be enticed to sign up.
#2. Splash customer testimonials generously on the page
Testimonials multiply your clout score thus making it easy for people to take up your offer. Henneke Duistermaat, of Enchanting Marketing, does a neat job.

image10-3

Source

Not only does she head the page with a rich list of big sites she’s been featured on, she sandwiches her offer between two testimonials from heavyweights in her niche. Prospects are more likely to trust her word and gobble up her course.
#3. Point to influencer endorsements and press mentions
To get prospects to sign-up for a free trial, Get Response leads with an imposing figure of their current users and then they underline their authority in their space by quoting two influencers.

image9-4

Source

This is likely to cause more people to take their software for a spin.

Element #7: A privacy statement to assure them their info is safe

        
Because cyber-crime is rampant, your prospect is uneasy. Hardly a day goes by without someone being scammed or spammed online. Allay her fears…wrap your arm around her and let her know you’re not one of the bad guys. Tell her you won’t peddle her email address nor send the alien stuff she didn’t ask for.
A brief statement such as ‘We respect your privacy and will never share your infois enough as Neil Patel does.

image6-4

      Source

Feel free to get creative with the phrasing. Or, if you’re not feeling inspired, simply write ‘privacy policy’ and link to your full-blown privacy policy. And, oh, a privacy statement also serves a more personal and practical purpose: failure to include one might land you in trouble with the law. ☺
Basically, your privacy statement should assure your visitors that their info is safe. Only when they feel you’re trustworthy will they be swayed to give you their personal information.

Element #8: A strong call to action (CTA) to compel them to click

Your call to action marks the finishing line of the sign-up race. Give it some thought.
Your button copy should be specific, simple and reader-focused. Tell the prospect exactly what she’ll get if she signs up. Don’t try to be cute, clever, or cryptic, or you’ll lose out.  And please, don’t make the rookie mistake made by many content marketers – using the dismal default CTA copy e.g. signup, subscribe, or download.
Don’t leave your visitors wondering what they are clicking the button for.
Sign up. For what?
Subscribe. To what?
Download. What?
A simple formula, coined by Joanna Wiebe, will help you ace your button copy. Just fill in the blank: I want my reader to __________________.
Your answer becomes your CTA. For example:
I want my reader to:

  • Book a free call…becomes…Book my free call.
  • Get a free quote…becomes…Get my free quote.
  • Reserve a spot on webinar…becomes…Reserve my webinar spot.

Here’s a great example of powerful button copy pulled from this very site’s homepage:

Book a Consultaion Now is a proper Call to Action, or CTA

Book a Consultaion Now is a proper Call to Action, or CTA

The CTA is clear, simple, direct, benefit-focused, and urgent – all the hallmarks of a powerful call to action that converts.
Make the desired action simple and easy smoothly guiding the prospect towards your goal without much work or resistance. Use energetic verbs and the first or second person to make the CTA personal and bump up your conversions. Once your reader clicks on your button, you’ve won and now have a precious lead in your funnel.
Opt-in pages are crucial to the overall success of your business that you should seriously consider outsourcing the task if you don’t have the time or the expertise to craft them yourself.
Conclusion
Getting signups is an essential bridge in your inbound digital marketing efforts. It’s the magic link that turns browsers into subscribers, subscribers into buyers, and buyers into brand evangelists. In short, it’s the gateway into your funnel. As a serious growth-focused business owner, take time to work all these elements into your page so you increase the likelihood of success. Then you’ll hear the sound of clicks not crickets for a change.

With the use of social media and web access at all-time highs, it’s more important than ever to create powerful content that converts and makes sure that you engage with your customers. With the 2018 marketing trends in mind, leads and potential customers are looking for a personal touch. They want an account of how your product or service works, what people are happy with and what challenges they face in using it. They do not want a marketing funnel.

This is where using your customer’s voice comes in. When used right, your current customers’ voices can be used to create powerful content that actually converts leads!

For the purpose of this post, you can all but forget fancy terms and processes. Conversion funnels, influencer marketing, engagement – these all have a place in business, but it’s not necessarily here. Instead, this post is all about why interacting with current customers is so important and how you can use this interaction to create authentic content. This is the kind of content customers are looking for – and it just so happens to be the kind of content that converts.

The Importance of Leveraging Honest & Authentic Reviews

At the base of using your customer’s voice to create powerful content is a preliminary step; encouraging and gathering honest and authentic user reviews. Without customer reviews, you won’t have much to go off of when it comes to incorporating customers’ perspectives into your content planning!

Thankfully, there is no shortage of review sites available to B2B and software companies. Do your research. Take the time find one or two that fit your business and your customer profile. Then take the time to invite (and maybe even incentivize?) your customers to submit reviews about your software, your service, your product. This will have more than a few benefits for your company, including:

  1. It gives credibility: Content plan or not, opening up your service or product to authentic reviews is just a good idea – full stop. Instead of having to convincing leads with marketing language, you can rely on informative and positive feedback from current customers to help potential customers make their decision.
  2. More leads: More customer reviews means more exposure and a better ranking, which means more leads. It’s as simple as that.
  3. A pool of content: Of course, this is the focus of the post. Encouraging reviews gives you a pool of customer feedback to incorporate into your marketing content! Positive reviews can be translated into featured website content, blog posts, social media content, and more.

Using Your Customer’s Voice to Create Content That Converts

Of course, it’s not enough to simply open up your company to authentic customer reviews and leave it at that. You can take the time to translate your customer’s voice into marketing content! There are a few ways to go about this.

#1: Manage Your Potential Customer’s Expectations

You can use reviews to help potential customers understand what your service, product or software looks like in practice. Instead of imagining everything they could do with the features, customer reviews give leads the chance to explore how your product will truly work for them.

For example, sharing customer reviews that highlight specific features of your service or product will speak more specifically to a smaller target audience.

#2: Customer Experience Speaks Louder Than Marketing Language

This is absolutely the main benefit of customer reviews; you can use all of the positive quotes you want in developing a content strategy! You can incorporate reviews (especially specific and helpful reviews) into blog posts, landing pages, social media content, and even demos!

For example, try replacing the headline copy on one of your landing pages with a quote from an authentic user review. Run an A/B test and see how that page compares to others.

#3: Listen to What’s Important

If your current customers are focusing on technical support and price in their reviews, then you shouldn’t really be spending that much time on something else. Look at what features customers focus on in their feedback, and spend time developing content around those features.

For example, if most reviews focus on the quality for the price, you can use that in your marketing language for paids. Similarly, if customers are highlighting your customer service, home in on that for attracting new customers.

This should get you started on using your customer’s voice to create content that converts going into 2018!

About the Author

Brooklin_Nash-167x250Brooklin Nash writes about the latest tools and small business trends for TrustRadius. When he’s not writing, you can find him reading YA dystopian fiction (with guilty pleasure) and cooking.

Do online reviews really matter, and do they make a difference to your business? The answer is yes, they absolutely do.
Consumers increasingly use reviews left by other consumers as part of their pre-purchase research efforts, and a bad review can have serious effects on your sales.
Herd shopping psychology plays an ever effect on consumers’ behavior online. Groupon is a wonderful example of that, with deals kicking in only if a certain amount of people pay for them. Research shows that the more people have already opted in on a deal, the likelier it is new visitors will commit to it.
User reviews are not so far removed from this phenomenon.

Over 80% of people said that positive reviews would encourage them to purchase a product. The same number of people changed their minds about purchasing after reading as little as one or two negative reviews.

Fake & Negative Reviews

Unfortunately, fake reviews exist, and they exist in a massive abundance. Competitors have been known to leave bad reviews on products posing as disgruntled customers, That is why more needs to be done to help consumers identify a fake review.

You are bound to get a negative review at some point during your business career. That’s simply the reality and nature of the world. It can be devastating for a business, but most people recognize that everyone makes mistakes. A couple of bad reviews aren’t going to put the nail in your coffin and close your business down.

Here are just some of the facts why online reviews are not to be ignored:

  • 68% of millennials trust online reviews, with positive ones producing an 18% average uplift in sales
  • Consumer reviews are more trusted than descriptions that come from other manufacturers, nearly 12 times more.
  • 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business which means these decisions being made are made quickly, without much hesitation.
  • The top five industries to be affected negatively by online reviews are restaurants, hotels, doctor’s offices, hospitals and hair salons.

Negative reviews aren’t all bad; these have been known to create a buzz around your business and increase its exposure, unlike fake reviews that have been so outlandishly obviously fake and ridiculous that they go viral.
Want to learn more about how online reviews can make or break your business? Check out our infographic.

User Reviews are the King

User Reviews are the King

About the Author

Josh Wardini, Editorial Contributor and Community Manager at websitebuilder.org. With a preliminary background in communication and expertise in community development, Josh works day-to-day to reshape the human resource management of digitally based companies.

 

When you think of the machine that is your online business, what do you picture? Do you see something organic? Something mechanical?

I think it’s helpful to pick a vision. The marketing and sales functions are too complex. The tools and channels are changing faster today than at any time in history. Thanks, internet.

The advertising, marketing and sales process.

Vizualize your marketing machine to make good decisions about where to invest.

Visualizing the process helps us focus on the pieces one at a time, instead of being overwhelmed by the mass of moving parts that feed our pipes, funnels and drips. When we work with clients, we tend to talk about knobs.

Here’s what I mean.

Our Marketing Machine Looks Like A Scientific Instrument

The most powerful metric for an online marketing ecosystem is acquisition cost.

The lower your acquisition cost, the higher your profit.

The lower your acquisition cost, the cheaper all of your advertising becomes.

The lower your acquisition cost, the more places you can afford to advertise.

But acquisition cost isn’t a dial you set. It’s the product of several dials.

The Acquisition Cost Spectrophotometer

We control acquisition costs using a device called the “Acquisition Cost Spectrophotometer” (ACS). This powerful device has two dials.

1. Traffic cost

2. Conversions — Typically leads or online transactions

We plug the ACS into any incoming channel — search engines, email, referrals, social media and so on. Then we begin to play with the knobs.

If we increase the traffic costs, but the conversions stay the same, we increase our acquisition cost, and the little red warning light turns on. If we dial down the traffic costs and keep the conversions the same, acquisition costs go down, and the red warning light goes off.

So, if we can increase conversions without increasing traffic costs, we get all the benefits of a lower acquisition cost. And for the paid search channel, we can actually lower the traffic costs by raising the conversion rate because Google rewards ads with effective landing pages by placing them higher on the search results pages.

Mathematically, the acquisition cost is calculated as:

Total Traffic Cost/Conversions

OR

Total Traffic Cost * Conversion Rate

If we put our metaphor down for a moment, we know that each of these “knobs” actually involves an entire process. Our “Traffic Cost” knob is controlled by an advertising and media team focused on getting the highest quality clicks for the fewest dollars.

Our “Conversions” knob is a metaphor for a team of data scientists, developers, designers and test techs focused on delivering the right experience to entice action.

All the marketer needs to do is determine if they should be investing in traffic or conversions, then fund the teams accordingly.

Vectron Conversion Analyzer

These are the primary knobs you turn when optimizing for conversion.

These are the primary knobs you turn when optimizing for conversion.

The Vectron Conversion Analyzer doesn’t actually exist, but we can visualize ourselve adjusting the knobs as we optimize our site.

When focused on optimizing a website for a given traffic channel, there are a number of knobs we control. I visualize a “Vectron Conversion Analyzer” as a metaphor for our process.

This amazing device allows us to control a number of “ingredients” that can lead to more conversions for any given traffic source. If you read this column, you’ll be familiar with most of the knobs on this little gem.

Value Proposition

The headlines, text, and images that spell out the value being offered by your company and products. Answers the question, “What’s in it for me?”

Layout and User Experience

The way the design draws a visitor’s eye to the important parts of each page and the cues that move them step-by-step along their exploratory journey.

Should important information be moved above the fold? Is there a visual hierarchy that tells the visitor what is important?

Credibility And Authority

A site design’s first job is to make the site seem credible. It should communicate that the company and products represent an authority in the solution space that it occupies.

Trust And Security

The visual cues that tell a visitor that the site will treat any information exchanged with care and veracity.

Social Proof

What do others like me think about this company, site and products?

Splitting The Signal

The Vectron machine splits the traffic up, allowing us to test different settings at one time. This is how we determine two very important things:

1. What is lacking from the site that visitors expect.

2. By how much each change increases the site’s performance.

AB Testing gives you the feedback on your conversion optimization work.

AB Testing gives you the feedback on your conversion optimization work.

Visualizations That Help You Prioritize

We rarely have the budgets to invest in every part of our marketing machine. Having a metaphor by which you can visualize the pieces working together offers a powerful way to decide how to invest over time.

Using the visualization at the top of this page, you may not have any luck seeding your brand clouds with advertising until you’ve built brand awareness. When it rains, you should invest in the downspouts that drive leads into the soil of marketing.

If your sales close ratios aren’t flowering, you may need to look at the quality delivered by ads and conversion together. Once you have a low acquisition cost, you can again invest in more expensive advertising channels to seed your brand’s rain clouds and bring the rain.