Is Your Website Design a Barrier to the Sale?
This advice was contributed and written by Kristin Zhivago, Author of Roadmap to Revenue and Revenue Journal
Right now, John is coming to your website. He has one very specific question about your product.
He has already done research on your type of product, including talking to others, visiting other sites, and reading what others have to say about your type of product in reviews and discussion groups.
When he gets to your site, he wants his answer, now. Instead, he is greeted by a large, alternating billboard that takes up about half of the home page. There are four main messages on the billboard, and they cycle through every couple of seconds.
John is in a hurry. Deadlines are pressing down on him. No way is he going to patiently wait for all four screens to appear. He's seen these website billboards before - they're all the rage now - and he immediately ignores the one on your site.
He quickly scans the text on your home page trying to find a link that will help him get the answer to his very specific question. He doesn't see anything encouraging.
He clicks away.
You've just lost a customer - and you don't even know it. Not just this time, but for all time. He has decided that you can't answer his question, so he won't be back. He knows that if a company can't answer his question the first time, it's unlikely they'll answer his questions later. He won't make the same mistake twice.
In this all-too-typical scenario, John encountered three of the most common website barriers to the sale:
1. Your website design is elevating flash over function. Website designers like to do the coolest thing. It is the main source of their job satisfaction. That need is in direct conflict with the need of your customer, who is going to give you about two seconds to answer his question. Full-screen Flash intros (which have fortunately fallen out of favor) were the worst offender, but the rotating billboards are in the same category. They are clowns blocking the foyer of your store, literally preventing people from shopping.
2. Your website reflects internal thinking rather than customer thinking. Your marketing plan is solid. Everyone has agreed on the product strategy and corporate positioning. It all makes sense. Unfortunately, what makes sense to you is not in line with your customer's buying process. I can say this with confidence because I always interview customers for my clients before making recommendations, and my interviews always reveal the gaps between what company managers think and what customers think. The disconnects are significant and they definitely act as barriers to the customer's quest to buy.
3. Your website doesn't "meet them where they are." By the time someone visits your website, they're in the middle of their buying process movie. The plot is well-advanced. They want a happy ending, fast. They don't need you to tell them what their problems are (far too common in this age of personas). They don't need you to tell them how great you are. They need answers. Answers to very specific questions.
How to turn your website into buying-process-support machine
There is a very straightforward solution to all of these problems. Start by interviewing your current customers, by phone, asking open-ended questions such as:
- How's it going - with our product and our company?
- Why did you buy from us?
- What was the "critical characteristic" you were looking for, and how did we satisfy it?
- What else did you look at?
- What was your buying process - who was involved and what were their concerns?
- What's your biggest challenge right now?
- If you were looking for this product again, and didn't know about us, what would you type into Google?
- If you were CEO of our company tomorrow, what's the first thing you would fix?
You only need to conduct at least seven interviews in order to see definite trends. As a result of your interviews, you should generate two reports: A Conversational Report in which the conversations are transcribed, anonymized, and organized by topic. You should then analyze and summarize your findings in a separate report. These reports should be given to all appropriate managers.
Reading these reports will be like drinking from a fire hose of customer truth. You will all see where you've been missing the mark, and what customers really want from you. You will all know how customers see you and what you need to do. The subjectivity and uncertainty - which pervades all marketing efforts - will disappear.
Use this information to lead a two-day brainstorming meeting where you create a promise you can keep (your real brand), agree on the questions that customers have, figure out how you're going to answer them, map out the customer's buying process, and redesign your website so it facilitates, rather than impedes, the buying process.
Yes, this will take some work. But it's a heck of a lot better than the click-away-and-never-come-back alternative.
Zhivago Management Partners, Inc. Jamestown, RI 02835
Skype/LinkedIn: KristinZhivago Twitter: @KristinZhivago
Related MarketingZone Articles on Website Design
How to Create a Website for Your Business
- Top Website Suppliers
- Usability Testing
- Writing Website Content
- SEO (search engine optimization)
- Graphic Design
- Websites - you'll find all the MarketingZone articles about websites here
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