That’s how long you have to make an impression when a visitor lands on your website, according to research.
Enticing copy and crisp design will only take you so far. If a visitor can’t navigate around your site with ease they will bounce.
So what can you do?
Well, don't get discouraged — you have more influence than you may think over whether the visitor bounces or converts. You can design a customer journey that delights at every opportunity and seamlessly guides new visitors to conversion. In this article, I’m going to show you five strategies to craft and optimize your customer journey, each honing in on a specific interval of the conversion funnel.
Optimize Landing Pages
The landing page is the beginning of your customer journey, so it’s paramount that you put your best foot forward and make an immediate impact. Landing pages are more than just SEO beacons to net idle visitors; they give you the opportunity to influence where your customers go, they shape a new visitor’s first impression of your brand, they communicate any preliminary information you want, and they set the tone for the rest of the shopping experience.
While every landing page should be designed differently according to their unique purposes, digital marketing expert Neil Patel lists 12 essentials every landing page needs:
- Solid Headline - Grabs attention or instantly explains your site’s value.
- Persuasive Subheadline - Holds, feeds, and guides users’ initial attention
- High-quality Image - Adds atmosphere and explains site information visually, and can even promote certain products.
- Explanation - At some point, you need to explain your site’s value, whether in your headline, subheadline or even in the image.
- Value Proposition/Benefits - A pitch for your services, more specific than the explanation (can even be listed in bullets).
- Logical Flow - The landing page is a microcosm for your site, so give it its own cohesive customer journey with the order and layout of elements.
- Pain Points - What pains do your service or products absolve?
- Pleasure Points - What positive benefits do they bring?
- Testimonials - Customers respond better to testimonials than a brand “bragging” about themselves.
- Contact Info - Contact info is more than just a call-to-action, it verifies that you’re a legitimate business with a real address and phone number.
- Guarantee - What you promise will vary depending on your industry.
- Call-to-Action - Punctuate your landing page with calls-to-action to guide how your customer’s journey proceeds.
Keep in mind that you want your landing page to cater to your customer’s needs, not your own, so choose options for where they want to go. To discover this, the best place to look is behavioral data...
Learn from Behavioral Flowcharts
Even the most seasoned designer’s instincts lead them astray every now and then. There’s just no substitute for data when it comes to anticipating your visitor’s behavior.
A behavioral chart lays out the pages your shoppers go through. For example, if most of your visitors go directly from your home page to “Men’s Shirts,” you’ll see this in a behavioral chart. In essence, it’s the data behind a customer journey.
Google Analytics offers behavioral charts as part of their free services, so if you don’t have it installed yet, there’s no better time than now. Here you can clearly see past customer journeys, with insights on where to direct your traffic, which products can be linked together, and the opportunity to discover patterns between successful purchase journeys.
Pay attention to which channel each customer arrives from, demographic location, and geographic location. You’ll be able to devise multiple customer journeys for shopper groups with different behaviors and can even dedicate an optimized landing page to each group.
Spending time digging in the data for actionable insights can lead to a major boost in conversions.
Be Meticulous With Every Detail
When crafting a customer journey, the devil is in the details. Plotting out the rhythm and flow of pages is standard, but carefully planning the micromoments in between can take a site from good to great.
Even tiny moments of irritation add up to tarnish your site’s UX -- we’ve all been on the wrong end of terrible UX. So you need to go through with a fine-tooth comb to eliminate any disturbances (and add pleasant ones where you can). Here are a few common micromoments to look out for:
- Redundant Steps or Pages - Can you get rid of a step or page to streamline your customer journey? Can you combine some to make the process faster?
- Automatic Cursor Placement within Field - If a search field is the only option on an page, loading the page with the cursor already there saves the user from an extra click. Think of Google’s home page, where you can start typing your query immediately without bothering to click the search field.
- Confusing/Ambiguous Navigation - Every second your visitor has to stop and wonder where to go or how to get there is a second of bad UX. Be straightforward with navigation, even if it means reducing the amount of options.
- Confusing/Ambiguous Text - Unconventional copy like “Let’s Go!” instead of “Submit” can cause momentary confusion, which sidetracks the user and damages the UX. Be clear and concise with your form labels, button call-to-actions, and instructional text.
- Interactive Feedback - Every user enjoys feedback for completed actions like completing a purchase, adding an item to their cart, registering, etc. Include a small microinteraction for confirmation, whether a brief message, sound effect, or animation.
- Opportunities for Delightful Design - Look for unobtrusive opportunities to place delightful elements, such as a colorful character, a clever quip, or captivating animation. Don’t make them too grandiose, though, or they’ll distract from the main trajectory of your customer journey.
Again, direct statistics take most of the guesswork out of handling your microactions. Services like Crazy Egg offer click testing and heat maps so you can see where your users click and reveal redundancies.
Simplify the Checkout
Cart abandonment is the Lex Luthor to eCommerce’s Superman. With Baymard putting the latest cart abandonment rate at just shy of 70% (69.23%), most of your customer journeys will end in disappointment for both parties.
If you could do something to reduce your cart abandonment rate, wouldn’t you? Customers prefer simple and clearcut checkouts with minimal steps and distractions. On top of that, the faster the checkout, the less time they have to reconsider.
Checkout is the time to break out your best UX techniques. Reduce the amount of interaction as much as possible — for example, if you can calculate their city and state from just their zip code, you can remove two steps. The visual design as well should be clean and minimal to keep shoppers focused on the task at hand.
Cart checkout design is an art all on its own, so for a more in-depth guide, check out these 9 best practices to optimize checkout design from LemonStand.
Test and Optimize the Sign-Up Page
Last we’ll talk about a secondary fail-safe to bridge the gap from customer journey to online purchases. The free trial signup is the perfect middle ground: there’s no risk because it’s free and the customer already has one foot in the door for a completed purchase.
This works especially well for SaaS companies as a way for customers to discover first-hand the value of their service. If you impress in the trial, you’ve won a customer.
Like the landing page, the free trial signup has its own miniature customer journey and the best way to optimize for conversions is testing. LOTS of testing...
Here are five tests you can experiment with:
- Remove Distractions - Try removing the top navigation bar and footer from the sign-up page. Let the user focus solely on completing the sign-up form by eliminating any other navigations on the page. If a visitor wants to keep exploring your site they can always hit the back button.
- Use Social Proof - If you’re not already using social proof, try it today. Marketers have been using customer testimonials and logos since the beginning of advertising because it works. You might be using it on your homepage, but experiment with it on the sign-up page to build trust and credibility.
- Minimize the Number of Fields - Yes, collecting data such as industry, budget, and location is extremely valuable. But, if your sign up page is asking for too much upfront, drop it and find methods of collecting this data once they’re already in the trial.
- Offer Social Login - Using a social login form in place of a traditional form has been proven to increase conversions. Give your audience the opportunity to choose which sign-up option is most convenient for them.
- Keep it Simple - Cut everything but a simple social login form. Keep it simple as you could be over-selling and overwhelming visitors at the wrong time.
There is no silver bullet for optimizing sign-up pages. You must test, test, and test again to find out what works for your business.
Once a user has signed up, it’s all about frictionless onboarding. Emma O’Neil outlines five techniques to help ensure successful onboarding in this killer article on Optimizely. My personal favourite is the “Foot in the Door” technique and I encourage you to check out the full article to learn more.
Stay tuned for my next post which will build on customer onboarding and show you how to boost trial conversion rates.
Not only is a smooth customer journey critical for creating an exceptional user experience, it’s also one of your strongest business tools for influencing your audience and increasing conversions.
If you’re neglecting the customer journey, you’re neglecting your customers and losing out on revenue. It’s really that simple.