Transforming Marketing Investments into Results: Principles for Experience Optimization

By Jeff EckmanAugust 28, 2019

As a marketing leader, you and your team may be investing significant resources to drive quality interest and traffic to your digital properties—your site, landing pages, apps, mobile experiences, etc. And as it becomes increasingly challenging to keep visitors engaged, your efforts may not be yielding the conversion volume necessary to meet desired business goals. In fact, according to the Gartner Digital Consumer Experience Index, 84 percent of consumers across industries say their interactions with digital experiences fall short of expectations.

Encouraging more quality engagement with digital properties requires an ability to understand visitor experiences at a deeper, more genuine, and more customer-centric level. Doing so enables the identification of opportunities for customer journey optimization that need to inform the creative optimization process required to engage your target audiences at increasingly greater levels.

Here are some principles for consideration when looking to optimize customer experiences that produce exponentially better results. These have been compiled for improved business outcomes—not only better conversion rates, but better conversion quality.

  • Experiences should be conversational and customer-centric: Encouraging more prospects to take more quality actions toward becoming customers requires rethinking how we approach websites and landing pages. Think about a traditional web experience as a journey that is comprised of multiple, quick steps. In fact, paid search acquisition campaigns are just that—they start with a keyword search, the presentation of a few ads, a click on the most relevant ad, and then what? The visitor lands on a website or landing page where most of those visitors (up until this point, highly engaged visitors) then walk away. This immense drop-off can be mitigated by retaining the speed and relevance of the prior steps in the journey and by developing simple, conversational and customer-centric experiences. Of course, the effort required to develop the simple experience is often the opposite of simple!

But let’s break it down. First, provide your visitors with experiences that put them in charge and allow for self-identification and increased engagement. This involves changing the overall structure of the content to enable more visitor-centric behavior. Consider the following when building experiences:

– Simplify content for the user by using customer-centric language.
– Limit the number of click options per-page.
– Break up and spread content across sequential steps or pages.
– Optimize content for speed and momentum, to accelerate the path to conversion.

Finally, think about building entire experiences, rather than trying to get the conversion ‘on the first page.’

  • Analyze and optimize customer journeys with a visual-first approach:

Viewing and understanding screen-based experiences through the eyes of visitors requires laying out the sequence of events that visitors actually see and experience over a matter of seconds or minutes, where most of the drop-off occurs. This can be done by mapping out thumbnails of each part of the journey, overlaying the statistics (e.g. traffic volume, bounce, engagement, and conversion rates). This allows you to visually analyze where loss is occurring and where visitors are engaging, at a holistic experience level.

Of course, it can also help to use page-level analysis tools including heatmaps and others. But the real opportunities for growth lie in what happens across multiple steps or pages. At Blue Green, we decided several years ago to create a tool (Blue Green Analytics) to help us do this type of analysis in real-time.

  • Ensure continuity across micro-steps in an experience: Whether the desired conversion is to have prospective customers complete a purchase, fill out a form, download a case study, or submit an email address, it’s important to pay very close attention to continuity (or the lack thereof) across sequential interactions in the customer journey.

For example, it is well-accepted practice that keywords and messaging used in an ad should also be incorporated into the web experience. And ideally, each progressive step that follows should provide more and deeper opportunities to move closer to conversion through a continuous stream of relevant ‘call and response’ actions. A deeper discussion on this topic can be found in this Search Engine Land article on “SEM continuity” which I co-authored with Paul Benson of Synapse SEM.

  • Think high-contrast, A|B|C testing: Testing and learning in the traditional sense is not practical, as things that are learned can have a short shelf-life—context is always changing. Further, rather than test to learn, why not test to earn?

Continuously test entire experiences against a control (i.e. your current or existing experience), and ensure these new experiences vary significantly from the control in terms of design, content, and Keep the control in the traffic mix only for as long as it makes sense from a financial standpoint. That is, once the control is underperforming to the degree that by keeping it you are losing money, shut down that control.

A high-contrast, entire experience approach works with lower volumes of traffic—and therefore can produce faster results—than traditional on-page or multivariate testing. For more on statistical significance in A|B testing or multivariate testing, see this Wikipedia article for a primer.

To hear more from Jeff in person, be sure to join us for Connect to Convert at the Westin Boston Waterfront, September 25-27, where Jeff will be speaking on personalizing your conversions. Register Here!

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