online sales conversion

Conversion analysis reveals some missed opportunities

The New York Observer paints a pretty stunning picture of one attempt to launch an online newspaper Web site. Was it to be expected, or is this an online sales conversion problem?
The article states that, after a $4 million overhaul and redesign, newsday.com, the online arm of the Long Island daily Newsday had attracted only 35 subscribers in three months.
Author John Koblin also writes that, since moving the site content behind a “pay wall,” traffic has dropped from 2.2 million monthly unique visits to 1.5 million in just three months. This may not be surprising, since there is little free content available from the online newspaper.

Does Content Want to be Free?

I don’t think so. The price people will pay for content is determined in part by:

  1. The price placed on it – What do others think it is worth?
  2. Relevance – Should I care about it?
  3. Timeliness – Am I getting information when I need it?
  4. Uniqueness – Can I get the same thing somewhere else for free?

If your content wants to be free, then you haven’t branded it with at least one of these aspects.
Newsday’s content should pass the test with flying colors.

  1. Price: They’re pricing it at $5 a week.
  2. Relevance: It is certainly relevant to residents of Long Island.
  3. Timeliness: New stories every day and breaking news.
  4. Uniqueness: How many online news sources are there for Long Island?

As you will see in my Website review of Newsday.com (see video) they didn’t make the case. To some extent the content – stories, videos and applications – should make the case by itself. However, the site has the same categories, layout and value proposition of many news sites.
So far, all Newsday.com has done is put a price on it’s content.

The proper way to charge for online content

What Newsday’s designers and developers failed to tell management is that newsday.com runs on computers, and computers can monitor the activities of those reading the online edition. This means you can test just about anything in the court of public opinion.
Instead of changing everything, newsday.com should have tested their way into the new business model.
Test the variety of business models to be available: micropayments, donation strategies, “pay for everyone” strategies, as well as the “pay wall” approach.
Test how much “free” content is needed to keep site traffic up.
Test how to present pricing.
Test the price points that will deliver subscribers.
Of course, a testing strategy doesn’t deliver a $4 million pay day to an agency and development team. There are few incentives for patience. If management didn’t think they had the time for a measured rollout before, they certainly don’t now.

Newsday.com Reacts

Key Page Review-Free consultationBlog BobBlitz.com posted a chart showing four possible layouts for the Newsday.com site. It appears that newsday.com is “enhancing its website” by “updating its color scheme.”
I don’t believe this is going to help.
It’s great that they are asking their readers what they think, but Newsday’s problems are elsewhere when you look at it through the eyes of a Conversion Scientist.
Here is my Key Page Review of Newsday.com. Watch to find out where I believe Newsday has gone worked to prevent subscribers from completing a transaction on their site.
Would you like a similar analysis of your site? Request a Conversion Sciences Key Page Review.
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Are you a Whack-a-mole Company? You should be.

Wikipedia calls Whac-a-mole a "Redemption Game"
Wikipedia calls Whac-a-Mole
a “Redemption Game”

Every industry has them. Your company may be one of them. They are the whack-a-mole companies, sticking their virtual neck out, and striving to do things better, driving online sales with an evolving ecommerce marketing strategy.
And they often get whacked.
But the companies I’m talking about hunker down in their holes and plan their next chance to pop out again, with more force. It’s in their blood. The Internet is becoming the place they stage their emergence.
These whack-a-mole companies may sell products that range from the common to the mundane. Zappos was a whack-a-mole company. They started out in online sales of shoes. In ten years, Zappos outshone their competitors and sold an almost $1 billion business to Amazon.
The GoodLife Team is a whack-a-mole company in the very competitive real estate market. They are small by the standards of their peers, but like Zappos, I expect them to pop out of their hole with such force that they will leave the table altogether, flying free of the hammers that seek to drive them back.

Patience and Impatience

Whack-a-mole companies are both patient, and remarkably impatient. They are remarkably impatient to try new things. They aren’t careless. Successful whack-a-moles seek to find out what works and what doesn’t quickly.
Yet, they are patient in the long run. They know that they’re going to get whacked a few times, and they prepare for the blows. Theirs is a journey of learning and persistence.
I am drawn to these kind of companies. It is them that I find myself writing for.

Ecommerce Whack-a-moles

If you are a budding whack-a-mole in your industry and want to turn the Web into a powerful sales channel, find out how the highest-converting sites on the Web use ecommerce marketing strategy to maximize conversion rates and online sales. “Conversion” is the magic that makes you stronger than your competitors.
It gives you the force to fly free of your industry Whac-a-mole table by slashing your online sales costs.
Be free, my plastic mole friends!

Brian Massey Marketing Strategy and Conversion

Photo courtesy O Mighty Crisis Blog.

Playing it safe will keep you from getting hurt — and from getting customers

Social media and wrestling. The Conversion Scientist Fast Company columnist Sam Ford offers an insightful and entertaining treatise on how Corporations — and brands and small businesses – can take a page from the world of “professional” wresting.
In short, Ford follows his own advice with this column.
His assertions are well-suited to illustrating what it takes to communicate online; to communicate in a way that gets visitors to stick around and take action.

“An Appropriate Level of Spectacle Is Crucial”

The outrageous costumes, the drama, the crowd: all contribute to an air of excitement that inevitably makes you stop for a moment while channel surfing. This will also stop the visitor that is surfing the Web.
On your site, you need a hook to draw your visitor in. To assume that they are visiting because they know they want to learn about your company is naive. You’ve got to hook them first.

“Humor and Charisma Always Make a Connection”

It is especially true in the B2B world that humor and charisma seem to have no place. “After all, we’re all serious business people here.” If this is your attitude, kiss the customers goodbye.

“Create a Serialized Connection with Your Audience”

Conversion happens around great content. Great content happens more than once.
There are so many ways to send serial content – email, social media, news wires, blogs – that you should be frothing from the mouth to crank out the articles, posts, papers, audio and video to feed the monster. This monster poops business.
You can even serialize an article. For instance, there are 10 tweets in this post alone. Can you guess what they are?

“Shiny New Objects” Don’t Last

This is a corollary to the last item: Big ideas may carry the day, but what about the next day and the day after that?
Marketers need an editorial calendar for your communications. Get the budget and the resources to be a content machine.

“Your Audience Uses You as an Excuse to Build Community”

Facebook groups can work. LinkedIn groups can become vibrant. When this happens, it is because you have found a seed group of fans who love the product and the opportunity to associate themselves with it.
This doesn’t happen because of price discounts. It happens when you join the conversation.
Wrestlers throw each other into the crowd. What are you throwing in to your crowd?

“Your Audience Is Always Performing”

The other thing that works in Social Media is giving your “crowd” a stage on which to become a performer. Blogs offer comment sections, for example. Let them post, upload, rate, review and comment. Give them a stage.
There is more at the Fast Company blog.
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Photo courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/static/