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How to improve website conversions - Part 1: First Impressions

One of hardest questions you have to try answer as an e-commerce business or manager is why customers come to your website, but fail to buy? You spend a lot of money getting people to your online store, but your conversion rates could always be better right? The fact is, many things in combination influence why we buy. That’s why I decided to put together a series of articles that tries to offer some guidance on how to improve website conversions by addressing some of the influencing factors that put shoppers off when they visit your site. In this first article I’m going to cover first impressions – they genuinely count. Imagine yourself as a shopper walking down a high street. You see a great deal of shops that try to entice you inside with clutter-free, modern and well presented shop fronts. But as you walk along you come to a shop with a handful of promotional banners, randomly placed products and out-of-date looking shop window. It stands out from the rest for all the wrong reasons.

Not everyone has a big budget to invest in creating an inviting look and feel to their store. But investing a bit of money to make small changes can make a big difference.

This offline experience is no different when it comes to shopping online. As UK consumers we have never shopped online as much as we do now. Which means we are constantly benchmarking one website to the next subconsciously. If we come across a site that doesn’t look as good as others, that first impression gets imprinted on our minds and is lasting. In a matter of seconds, a consumer instinctively knows whether to stay or go.

So how well do you understand what your visitors think of your site?

What does good look like in your competitive set and where do you sit within that?

What impact does that make when it comes to the value perception you give off?

I’ve pulled together some examples of UK sites that leave a good and a bad first impression. I appreciate that shoppers from other parts of the world have differing views on what a good vs. a bad first impression looks like so remember that I’m looking at these sites through the lens of a British shopper.

To start with here’s an example of a web store I think needs some TLC.

online carpets homepage image
online carpets homepage image

It looks so congested. With pictures and colours that don’t draw the eye. In fact when I landed on this site my eye was drawn to the Artificial Grass mini banner in green. This left me a bit confused by the proposition given the name of the site. There was also a flickering image that hurt my eyes. When you take a moment to it is easy to see what the company is selling but personally this didn’t convince me to stay any longer. It looked very generic and had a discount feel to it, which immediately makes me think about price. They guarantee the lowest prices but so do a dozen other sites, so I’m left scratching my head a bit. I imagine what this online experience would look like offline and it feels very in your face.

Contrast this with the image below and you’ll notice a big difference.

secret linen store homepage image
secret linen store homepage image

The Secret Linen Store has a beautifully, well-presented website. It’s clean and uncluttered, with stunning imagery. The moment you land on the home page, the colours blend nicely with the text. Headings modestly prompt you to explore the range and the offer is clearly communicated. It’s a welcoming site for sore eyes.

Let’s get a bit more objective about what makes people abandon a site visit.

Business 2 Community highlights 11 reasons customers abandon their visit:

  1. Unprofessional Web Design
  2. No Terms of Conditions, Refund Policy,
  3. Unclear Contact Information
  4. Too many mistakes on the site
  5. Advertisements
  6. Auto sounds and auto play videos
  7. Loading time
  8. Lack of key Information
  9. Distracting colour schemes
  10. To many Pop-ups
  11. Complex checkout process

From the 11 reasons above, I’ve created some tips you can follow to improve website conversions, which I believe address the most important reasons above:

  1. Avoid clutter on the landing page unless you specifically want to create a kind of bargain basement / bazaar-type feel
  2. Ensure that pages load quickly
  3. Ensure colours are well balanced and appropriately used within call to action buttons or banners
  4. Have an easy to find and understand refund policy. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and answer all the typical questions they might ask.
  5. Use pop-ups and adverts selectively with different types of customers – should existing customers get the same pop-ups as new ones?

The first impression leaves a lasting impression. If a customer is impressed from the moment he or she arrives you’ll notice your bounce rate improving. When you see that metric improving give yourself a pat on the back - you have achieved the first hurdle.

Measuring first impressions - bounce rate

You're probably familiar with bounce rate, but for those of you who aren't it's the percentage of visits to your website which result in only a single engagement hit before the person visiting your site decides to leave. It's akin to the proportion of people who walks into a shop, look around and leave quickly without doing anything, because they realise it's not going to give them what they want or need.

You can track bounce rate using Google Analytics, but you must make sure you have your analytics set up correctly to avoid improper measurement. There are a number of things that can adversely affect bounce rate - here's a great article by Yehoshua Coren that provides more detail, and a quote I think is worth sharing from that article:

"...Additionally, and I’m still surprised by how many times I see this, having the GA tracking code more than once on a page is a sure fire way to bring your bounce rate down to zero.  As my friend Caleb Whitmore puts it, “A 3.8% bounce rate isn’t really good, it’s broken.”

Don't forget to check back for the next post in our website conversions series coming soon!

photo credit: E-Commerce Visa (Test tamron 17-50 2.8) via photopin(license)