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Advanced Google Analytics Features

Advanced Google Analytics Features
This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Without advanced customization, Google Analytics is useful, but very limited. To fully use its potential, you must dig a bit deeper than the default settings. This is especially true of events, and only once you implement some custom event tracking will Google Analytics be able to truly shine. We will cover multiple advanced Google Analytics posts in this series.

Advanced Google Analytics Features
This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Without advanced customization, Google Analytics is useful, but very limited. To fully use its potential, you must dig a bit deeper than the default settings. This is especially true of events, and only once you implement some custom event tracking will Google Analytics be able to truly shine. We will cover multiple advanced Google Analytics posts in this series.

e-Commerce Value Proposition – How to Stand Out

e-Commerce Value Proposition

e-Commerce value proposition is more or less the same as any value proposition. I guarantee that you’ve seen and read far more value propositions than you’re aware of – because they’re everywhere. They’re on home pages and landing pages. They’re on Facebook ads and sales pages. They’re on freeway billboards and curbside restaurant menus.

“Eat at Joe’s – Home of the Foot-long Corndog”

And they pop up in the most unexpected places.

When the voluptuous Italian movie star Sophia Loren said the Hotel Ritz Paris was “the most romantic hotel in the world,” that was a value proposition.

But, for how prolific value propositions are, confusion surrounds them. You’ll find a number of variations on this 4-point list of what a value proposition does.

A value proposition:

  1. Defines who your customer is
  2. States what your product does
  3. Establishes why you’re unique
  4. Shows the end benefit
What is a Value Proposition
What is a Value Proposition

Sophia Loren’s “The most romantic hotel in the world” statement does all of these things. The Hotel Ritz Paris is for lovers; they will find romance there; more romance than anywhere else in the world. Place that sentence next to a photo featuring Sophia’s generous endowments – and you have your benefits. *Photos are used in value propositions a lot, either as supporting players or integral parts.

Value propositions look deceptively simple, don’t they? But they are one of the most important statements you’ll ever make for your e-commerce products. They require thought, consideration, substantial research, and ongoing testing. Furthermore, they’re worth the effort.

When they work, value propositions make the difference between getting the sale – and boosting your bounce rate.

What is a value proposition?

A value proposition expresses what is unique and desirable about your product – but they aren’t a list of features. It answers the question: What differentiates your product from the competition? And the answer must be grounded in something your target audience desperately wants.

However, this approach presupposes that the product is already designed, already built, and just needs the right words to tell people why they want it (because you know they will want it if you just explain it correctly).

And that isn’t a safe assumption to make. In fact, the authors of the book Value Proposition Design take the opposite approach.

e-Commerce value proposition before product?

Value Proposition Design authors Alex Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Greg Bernarda and Alan Smith contend that a value proposition is one of the first steps to creating a product customers want.

For e-commerce stores just starting out, this may be an especially useful way to think about value propositions – as not separate from, but integral to product design. It’s certainly a way to differentiate from Amazon and other e-commerce giants and build something uniquely suited to your ideal clients.

This approach actually has much in common with the Lean Startup methodology. It begins with identifying your ideal customer and mapping what they value, then seeing if and how your idea fits.

In fact, problem-solution fit takes up much of the book, beginning with a multi-page, step-by-step exploration of the ideal customer – their desired outcomes and benefits they seek, the pains they experience, and their “jobs” (what they’re trying to get done). Using that list as a foundation, you can then describe how our product/service can create those desired outcomes and how it can alleviate pains.

From there, you would not only be able to build your value proposition, but have the information required to build the product prototype itself (or a minimum viable product, if you’re Lean).

But let’s be real here: most businesses, and certainly most copywriters, only think about creating a value proposition once the product is in motion.

You’re asked to assume that problem-solution fit has been found, and maybe it has.

I would argue that it’s in your best interest to check – because without that core problem-solution fit, your value proposition won’t work.

Check your fit (and find the raw materials for your value prop)

To check your problem-solution fit, you don’t have to interview a hundred ideal customers – thank goodness. There are a number of methods you can use to gather qualitative and quantitative data, like using NPS scores to identify your brand advocates and selecting a few to interview about why they use your product, what their pain points were before the product, and how, specifically, your product/service helps them achieve their ideal outcomes.

That’s a really good way to check your fit, while also gathering first-hand information and quotes you can use later when constructing your value proposition.

Once you have a few options for value propositions, you’ll want to ensure fit by testing them, as Jamie W did for ZapFlash (as shared on CopyHackers). Jamie found that the wording in Option B resonated with the college student segment of her audience:

Value Propositions Can Be Tested
Value Propositions Can Be Tested

Copywriter Lauren Van Mullem uses qualitative data to inform her value proposition copy in a slightly different way that is also very effective, and a little faster and easier. She uses testimonials.

“When I need to very quickly understand a product or service’s value, I ask my client to send me all the testimonials they’ve received from their ideal clients – and only their ideal clients. The ones who pay the most and are happiest with what they receive. Then I read through all of the testimonials and categorize them based on the benefits and pain points they state. Patterns emerge very quickly, so sorting them into just a few categories is easy. These categories very clearly show the value people get from the product or service, and the core needs that drove them to buy. Out of that foundation, I can write every other piece of marketing, including a value proposition.”

She also has another hack – taking excerpts of the actual words and phrases used within the testimonials.

“Using the exact same words and phrases as the ideal client is a psychological trigger that makes you sound familiar to other similar people. Cialdini, in a nutshell, tells us that people buy from people they like – and people like what’s familiar. What is more familiar than reading the same language you would use? The way we speak and write marks us culturally, socioeconomically and geographically, and as marketers, we can use that to create a feeling of kinship.”

So, compile your testimonials. Sort them into themes and categories, and highlight words and phrases that perfectly encapsulate common pain points and benefits. From that pool of material, you’ll find where your solution fits, and how to sell it. Then, as always, test.

How to write your value proposition

Writing a value proposition is a little like making pumpkin pie – everyone has their own favorite recipe. And, if you want a great recipe, you’d do well to ask the best pie bakers you know. Here’s how three of the savviest copywriters and marketers approach value propositions.

Joanna Wiebe, Conversion Copywriter, Founder of Copy Hackers

A value prop expresses what your prospect strongly desires 1) that only you offer or 2) that you offer best / most interestingly / most beautifully / most affordably / etc. A quick formula for your value prop is this:

Our customers are loyal to us because they want {highly desired X}, and we offer them that {in Y way}.

Amazon can say, “Our customers are loyal to us because they want a huge selection of brands they love at prices they love, and we offer them that with fast, free shipping.” Even Walmart can’t say that. Alibaba may be able to say the same, though, which is perhaps where the convo shifts from value prop to brand – is it a coincidence that Amazon is now running highly emotional ads, like the dog-and-baby or man-walking-dog commercials, to make us feel something for their brand?

Brand is the ultimate differentiator.  

And that brings us to the real question: What do your customers really care about? Yes, the whole world wants the best stuff for zero dollars delivered instantly. But what do YOUR customers care about? And does what they actually care about highlight a chink in the giant’s armour? For example, might your customers really want to know the people behind the business? They can’t get that from Amazon. Do they love a great personality? Amazon doesn’t have that. Do they go batsh*t crazy for killer design? Amazon definitely doesn’t have that.

Punjammies couldn’t be more different than Amazon, and their value proposition works exceptionally well for their audience, making these pajamas unlike any other sleepwear online.

PUNJAMMIES Value Proposition
PUNJAMMIES Value Proposition

Their homepage reads:

PUNJAMMIES(R) are loungepants made with hope by women in India who have escaped human trafficking. Whenever you purchase PUNJAMMIES(R), you invest in the freedom and dignity of these women and girls who are working to forge a new life for themselves and their children.

Now that is a powerful differentatior.

Angie Schottmuller, Growth Marketing Advisor & Keynote Speaker

Ask a client for their value proposition, and you’ll likely hear their latest sales promotion (e.g. 2-for-1) or get a deer-in-the-headlights reaction. It’s a misunderstood, outdated, fluff phrase. Just referencing the word “proposition” misdirects our desired thought process. (We’re targeting simple, meaningful facts — not opinions, schemes, or sexual suggestions.)

Instead, ask clients to describe their DIFFERENTIATOR.

  • How does your product/service differ from status quo? (i.e. Describe the contrast of current and future state.)
  • How does your product/service differ from the competition?

Descriptive responses to these questions identify key features from which we can derive benefits/value. If you’re stuck on features, ask, “Which means?” Repeat this process until you reveal the feature’s meaningful benefit, impact, or usefulness for the customer.  

Example Product: HP Spectre Laptop.

Differentiator: Solid-State Drive (SSD) [feature] >> No moving parts [feature] >> Runs silently and loads faster [benefit]

We have no idea what makes us unique unless we compare ourselves to others. Identify your differentiator to discover your value.

Differentiator is the new value proposition.  – @aschottmuller

The Purple Mattress company cleverly places their value proposition in the blurb you see on the search engine results page. In fact, not only do they declare themselves to be “the world’s first” and “the biggest mattress-tech advancement” – they even made up their own differentiating test, essentially creating a value proposition out of thin air.

Purple Mattress Value Proposition
Purple Mattress Value Proposition

The “Raw Egg Test”? No other mattress company has ever claimed that.

Talia Wolf, Conversion Optimization Consultant & Trainer

When asked “What is your value proposition?”, most companies reply with a long list of features, pricing and benefits that makes them different. However, there are many brands in the world targeting the same customer as your own; and some have better products, better features and better pricing than your own.

So, how do you really stand out? By emphasizing the customer’s value.  

This isn’t to do with the amount of features you have or how many years you’ve been in business; it’s to do with the customer’s emotional value.

Marketers tend to forget that there are people behind those screens, not just devices and geographical locations. People buy on emotion. They face different challenges and are searching for the one to solve it for them. In order for you to stand out, you will need to highlight what’s in it for your customer – how does your solution make them smarter, safer, happier or even loved?

Once you identify those key emotions and values your customers are looking for, you will be able to translate them into your design using color psychology, persuasive copy, the right images, fonts and many more.

So next time you’re crafting your value proposition, remember: what customers really care about isn’t the what, it’s the why.

Purple Carrot, an ingredient + recipe delivery service (like Blue Apron, only vegan), perfectly leverages the key emotions of their target audience in their value proposition.

Purple Carrot e-Commerce Value Proposition
Purple Carrot e-Commerce Value Proposition

Who wouldn’t want a mouth-watering vegan meal that makes them feel great?

Value proposition design

Successful value propositions aren’t just about the words – they’re about effectively conveying an idea. And ideas are communicated as much through images, psychology, color choice and design decisions as by the text on the page.

Shanelle Mullin, Content & Growth at ConversionXL, shares a recent study the ConversionXL Institute conducted of how value propositions are displayed.

ConversionXL Institute recently studied (via eye-tracking and a questionnaire) a few common ways sites display value propositions: 3 simple bullets, 3 bullets with descriptions, 5 bullets, and a short paragraph.

We found that you should limit other elements on the site or, at least, other elements near the value proposition. All elements on the page should be super relevant to the value proposition.

Ambiguous imagery was found to be a major source of confusion and misunderstanding.

In our study, the headline was “Get A Complete View Of Your Personal Finances” and the imagery was three different devices displaying the same financial dashboard. We found that an overwhelming amount of participants then focused on just one element of the value proposition, “connecting all devices.” For some, the imagery even made them think about “selling computers.” Yikes!

Frilly wording wasn’t found to influence perceived understanding, but it was found to influence recall. Test explicit descriptions of features and benefits for yourself.

Lastly, don’t worry about your value proposition being too long. We found that users noticed the value proposition more quickly when it included more text (i.e. took up more real estate) and they spent longer on it when there was more to read. Instead, worry about communicating clearly.

Of course, value propositions aren’t relegated to the “Hero” or header section – you can also put them on Facebook ads that lead to landing pages, like Vinley Market.

Vinley Market’s Value Proposition
Vinley Market’s Value Proposition

Vinley Market’s value proposition is consistent between their Facebook ad and their landing page, but not identical (due to character count constraints, no doubt):

Ad copy: “We are obsessed with uncovering the best boutique wines at amazing prices.”

Landing page copy: “We are obsessed with uncovering the best boutique wines that majorly over deliver for the price.”

Notice that the copy on the landing page sounds much more like a value proposition because of the “the best X” “that [differentiator]” construction. Design-wise, their landing page is clear, with minimal distractions, and they have a rather lengthy value proposition statement that covers what they do, what a primary fear of their target audience is (avoid the trap of pretty labels), and a promise that they’ll make it easy.

They also do one very important thing: They offer social proof that the wines will, in fact, be good (another psychological trigger from Robert Cialdini) by promising to send only “the bottles our buyers are most excited about.”

It’s great e-commerce copywriting because it makes the value you can expect so very clear, while covering common objections and addressing common fears.

So you’ve got your value proposition – now what?

Hurray! You’ve written your value proposition, your designers have crafted a simple, yet powerful image to go with it, and you’ve got your call-to-action button primed and ready.

Now what?

Pop the bubbly and relax?

Hah! No.

The most important part of the value proposition process is the one that’s talked about least – testing. Even if you think you did everything right, even if you consulted your customers, triple checked fit, used their language, and honed your benefits – the only way to ensure your message resonates with your audience enough to measurably increase conversions and sales is… to measure. You have to track what happens.

You’ll need to measure and understand the traffic reaching your page, including what they’re reading most (or least), how long they’re on the page, and how many click your CTA button and convert into customers.

Then, you can begin to A/B test variations on your value proposition wording and delivery to optimize it and win more conversions.

Then you can pop the bubbly.

Has an e-commerce value proposition recently caught your eye (or earned your dollar)? Share it with us on Twitter @Objeqt.

e-Commerce Value Proposition

A value proposition expresses what is unique and desirable about your product – but they aren’t a list of features. It answers the question: What differentiates your product from the competition? And the answer must be grounded in something your target audience desperately wants.

How to Run a Test to Optimize Conversions

How to Run a Test to Optimize Conversions

Testing is what makes the conversion optimization process tick – it’s the heart and soul, the raison d’etre, the very foundation upon which optimization is built.Testing will optimize conversions = wins! And it’s not hard to do. 

Every online store can and should test to improve their conversion rate optimization. But not every store does. Some are woefully behind the times, giving stores who are actively optimizing the advantage.

But don’t expect that advantage to last for long. CRO is the future. We’ve written this post to help you get there a little faster, so you can get the edge on your competition.

Why you need to test to optimize conversions

Testing is essential to identifying and implementing optimal solutions to amorphous problems (as well as clear-cut problems) like, “Why isn’t my landing page converting as much as I think it should?”

Even if you haven’t done so formally, when you have a problem like a landing page that isn’t performing well, you form a guess – a hypothesis – as to why. Maybe you think it’s taking too long to load, or the “buy” button color or placement isn’t attention-grabbing enough. Maybe your web analytics holds a clue, or the qualitative surveys you’ve sent out hint that the reason could be a lackluster product photo.

Guesses – hypotheses – are often flawed, weak, or plain wrong, but we mostly realize that only in retrospect. The only way to know for sure is to test your theory.

Testing enables you to avoid costly mistakes, like deploying a ‘solution’ that causes new or exacerbates existing problems (instead of improving conversion). Testing also allows you to select the top-performing solution out of multiple available alternatives, thus avoiding suboptimal results, that are nonetheless improvements over the original content.

All the preliminary research and hypotheses creation you’ve done has lead to this point in the process: Creating the test. Here are the basic principles involved, so you can begin testing to optimize your conversion rates.

A/B Basics: A Testing Plan

Like embarking on any campaign (in warfare or marketing), you first need a plan of attack. If you read our post on Hypothesis Creation, you already have a foundation that is easy to build upon. (If you haven’t read it yet, read it now – we’ll wait).

Planning begins by choosing your criteria for which hypothesis you test first. There are number of methodologies CROs use to do this, four of the best known being:

  1. The PIE model
  2. The PXL model
  3. The TIR model
  4. The ICE model

PIE model

PIE stands for Potential Importance Ease. It was developed by WiderFunnel agency as a means to prioritize tests and create testing plans. This model prioritizes hypotheses based on which have the highest potential for improvement, and the greatest possible impact (or importance), AND which require the least amount of effort to implement. Big improvement, big impact, little effort – with these three criteria scored from 1-10 (with 10 being the best score).

One variation is to penalize solutions that require great effort, or grading effort on a scale of 10 to 1 (with 1 denoting the most effort). The result: You’ll have a list of hypotheses to test that go from easiest to hardest, most impactful to least.

PXL method

This model was developed and is used by ConversionXL. It represents an answer to problems inherent in the PIE method, namely the considerable subjectivity involved in making assumptions about Importance and Effort. It introduces a system of grading based upon multiple individual elements, such as position of the content on the page, developer effort required to implement change, length of time and amount of traffic necessary to test effectively, etc.

The strength of this method is that it is customizable. The only problem is that you may omit some important factors. Use with caution.

TIR model

TIR model stands for Time Impact Resources. It advocates prioritizing tests according to time needed to complete the test, impact of the change on the conversion rate, and the resources necessary to implement the change (most often in terms of man/hours or number of people involved). This model uses a 1 to 5 grading scale.

ICE model

Impact Confidence Effort model was developed by Sean Ellis, founder of the GrowthHackers. It prioritizes hypotheses to test by:

  • Impact on conversion
  • Confidence that the test will actually be successful
  • Effort needed to implement the change

ICE seems like an ideal model – aren’t we all after impact on conversion? But, it also has the drawback that the second element, confidence, is subjective. When it comes to testing, subjectivity isn’t good – it’s where mistakes happen.

Once you choose a way to prioritize your testing order, the next step is to form a plan. Ideally, your plan will include all the hypotheses to be tested, and a deadline by which you’ll be finished. Each test should have a definite time limit, which is typically included as part of your hypothesis.

Your plan will also include which type of test to use for each hypothesis.

Finding the Right Test for the Job

For every hypothesis you must select the most appropriate test type to use.

A/B tests

A/B testing (or split testing) is the most straightforward variant of the test. It compares just two versions of a page: The existing version and the proposed variation.

AB Testing to Optimize Conversions
AB Testing to Optimize Conversions

The variation can have one major element changed, and possibly one or two minor ones changed. The two pages are set up in parallel, with A appearing to one audience at the same time B appears to another group of viewers, and are tracked through the testing tool (such as Optimizely or VWO or Google Optimize). The traffic reaching the page URL is split in predetermined proportions between the two variations, typically 50/50. The test is allowed to run until it reaches statistical significance.

Statistical significance is the percentage at which the test results are considered valid, and not the result of pure chance. In CRO, 95% is often used to validate significance.

Once the test has reached statistical significance, we can be reasonably confident that its results are valid. That is the moment when we call a winner between A and B and conclude the test.

But, we’re not quite done.

To increase our confidence in the result, we can shift a larger proportion of the traffic to the winning variation to ensure the result holds with larger samples. Or, if we are confident enough, we can transfer the entire traffic to the new web page, eliminating the losing variation altogether.

(When A/B Testing Goes Wrong) A/A testing

If you strongly suspect that your A/B tests return a false positive, you can use the A/A test to ensure external pollution (aka. “noise”) isn’t rendering your results inconclusive. This type of experiment is conducted by splitting the traffic in equal parts between the two identical pages. If there is no sample pollution and everything is normal, your A/A test should be inconclusive. However if you can call a clear winner with some statistical significance, something’s not right.

The Good & Bad of A & B

The A/B test has certain advantages and limitations. On one hand, it’s relatively simple to set up and can be run effectively with relatively little website traffic. We can also be reasonably sure that the proposed change is actually what is causing better performance of the page, since the variations are strictly limited. It’s fast to run, results come quickly, and you can be confident that you’ll see an improvement.

However, this type of tests suffers from some limitations that severely narrow its field of use. The most critical limitation is the most obvious: You have to identify a single alternative you want to test.

In the real world, it’s far more likely to have multiple variations that can be proposed with equal validity. The more variations we add to the page submitted to A/B testing, the less we understand how much each individual change affects the result. We may end up with a better performing page, but we will never know which change was responsible.

The solution to this is to run multiple A/B tests in sequence to see the effect of each change. This, of course, requires more time.

A/B tests work best when we have two clear alternatives that we want to test. We may also be forced to use A/B tests when the website doesn’t have enough traffic to conduct any other type of test.

In most other circumstances, running a multivariate test is more appropriate.

How Multivariate (A/B/C…/n) Tests Work

Multivariate Testing
Multivariate Testing

Multivariate tests allow us to overcome the main limitation of the straightforward A/B test – that we can only test two variants at a time (and one of those is the control). Multivariate testing lets us identify every possible combination of variations and put each to the test.This will allow us to determine the combination of variations that impact the conversion rate most and implement it.

Like the A/B test, website traffic is also proportionally allocated to every variation, preferably in equal proportions.

Multivariate Limitations

The main limitation of the multivariate test is that a properly conducted test requires significant amounts of traffic. In fact, the amount of traffic required to reach the statistical significance increases exponentially for every additional variation we include. This poses a serious challenge for websites that have relatively low traffic, as the sample size for each test quickly becomes too low to give a decisive conclusion.

The limitation of the multivariate tests can be overcome by testing over extended periods of time, but that introduces new variables into the experiment that we may not be able to account for, thus polluting our results. For example, if you began your testing in Spring, and extended it into the holidays, you’d likely get vastly different results that had nothing to do with what was on your website (and everything to do with the season).

Which brings us to another possible solution, the Bandit algorithm test.

Bandit Algorithm Tests

A/B Testing vs Bandit Testing to Optimize Conversions
A/B Testing vs Bandit Testing to Optimize Conversions

Bandit Algorithm Tests (or multi-armed bandit tests – an even more intriguing name) let you set up a multivariate test experiment and observe it over limited amount of time. This test works by progressively excluding obvious underperformers until it’s possible to determine the optimal variation with statistical significance.

Bandit tests aren’t perfect. While a bandit algorithm test helps to overcome the basic limitation of the multivariate test, it introduces the risk of terminating some variations prematurely.

Multi-arm bandit tests must be used judiciously and with the number of variations limited to the traffic numbers you know you can count on. The more traffic the website has, the more variations you can safely introduce.

Split Path Testing

Split Path Testing comes into play when we need to see which way works best to complete a task. For example, a typical conversion funnel on an e-commerce website looks like this:

Product page → Cart → Shipping info → Billing info → Confirmation page → Thank you

Using split path testing, you could test whether single-page checkout would work better.

Split Path Testing
Split Path Testing

Essentially, you’ll create two different paths to the conversion page (the product page, in this case) and split visitors between them equally. The top-performer wins.

The Catch

Split path tests tend to be resource intensive. You may need to develop an entirely different design and code to support the different experience you want to offer to your visitors, and the result may not offer a return that outweighs the effort invested.

However, if the website has hit the local maxima, the plateau at which there are no obvious variations that will result in significant lift, this may be the one remaining thing left to test.

Testing Done? Great! You’re Not Finished Yet

I know, I know. You’ve hypothesized, you’ve tested, you’ve spent time, money and resources optimizing your site, and by golly, you’re ready for a beer.

But optimization is a journey. A long, rewarding journey, with total optimization as the ever-retreating goal. There will always be ‘one more thing’ to test. Even when you’ve gone through your entire site and optimized to the local maxima, it’s probably just time to consider a site redesign.

Don’t let this discourage you – this is exciting! It means there’s practically no limit to how much you can improve, grow, and profit.

With that in mind, remember a few key things when you’re testing:

  1. Never end the experiment when it reaches statistical significance. Be sure the experiment has been running for at least a week (or the length of your purchase -> delivery cycle) so that the results will cover all possible sample variations due to days of the week. Pay attention to the holidays or other periods of low (or increased) activity and take them into account when calling the experiment winners.
  2. When you create a test plan, always be aware of opportunity costs. Make an effort to identify all possible variations and judge the effort needed to implement them in order to avoid making suboptimal choices.
  3. Avoid testing for small-scale changes that have limited potential impact. These will most likely result in inconclusive tests and waste your time.
  4. Failed tests (tests in which the original variation wins) are still valuable learning moments. That said, you should aim to keep proportion of winning tests as high as possible.
  5. In observing test results and calling a winner, you should always check to make sure website performance has not been negatively affected in the testing process. For example, you might increase the performance of the desktop version of the site, but your mobile visitors suffer (and the mobile version of the site becomes unusable).

Unintended consequences and unforeseen results are why we test. And, they’re why we have to keep such tight control over our tests, so we can see the cause/effect relationship and continue on our optimization journeys a little smarter and a little wiser than when we began.

How to Run a Test to Optimize Conversions

Every online store can and should test to improve their conversion rate optimization. But not every store does. Some are woefully behind the times, giving stores who are actively optimizing the advantage. But don’t expect that advantage to last for long. CRO is the future. We’ve written this post to help you get there a little faster, so you can get the edge on your competition.

30 Psychological CRO Tests to Run on Your e-Commerce Site

30 Psychological Conversion Tactics You Can Test

Conversion rate optimization is all about psychology. But where psychologists are trying to figure out why people do what they do, the Conversion Rate Optimizer’s challenge is to know what stimuli will get people to take the action you want them to take. In this post we list 30 psychological CRO tests to run on your e-commerce site.

It’s not about being manipulative. That’s the dark side.

Dark Side - Psychological CRO Tests
Dark Side – Psychological CRO Tests

Noooo! I won’t! Even though that cookie is a really good incentive that preys upon my desire for immediate gratification (we’ll get to that later).

On the side of good: This is about showing people what they want and giving them every reason and every chance to get it. You might say it’s about helping people to achieve their goals – as much as it is about achieving yours.

The CRO also has tools and tests to know, beyond a Rorschach ink blot of a doubt, whether the psychological trigger s/he’s employed works… or doesn’t.

This is where we bring psychology and testing together, so you can try these already-proven, scientifically based psychological action triggers and see how they work on your very own e-commerce website.

For each trigger, we’ll include ideas for how to use it on your website – in your product pages, landing pages, or CTA buttons. From there, it’s up to you to A/B test these suggestions against what you currently have.

Not sure how to run an A/B test? Check this out.

Types of Psychological Triggers – and How to Test Them

Button Psychology

Get Noticed with Contrasting Colors (CTA buttons)

Signal Detection Theory + Visual Salience and Attention + Processing Fluency basically say that we’ve evolved to detect contrasting colors in our environment (signal detection theory) and picking out which items are important (salience). This comes in handy for identifying tigers in the grass and brightly colored fruits and vegetables – also for finding CTA buttons on product pages.

The idea behind Processing Fluency is that the easier the button is to find and identify its function, the more inclined the visitor will be to click it. We like things that are easy and simple to figure out.

Test it on your CTAs: Unless your CTA buttons already are in bright, contrasting colors (red and orange are popular choices, but not the only good ones), A/B test your current button color against a color that is in direct contrast with the majority of your website. Skipped art class the day they brought out the color wheel? Here you go; aim for opposites.

Test it another way: Contrasting colors aren’t the only way to make CTA buttons stand out (to capitalize on processing fluency). Increasing the amount of white space around the CTA, and placing it prominently, also ease the load on the overworked mind. A/B test increased white space to see if it boosts your conversion rates.

Use the Representativeness Heuristic: Don’t get too fancy with your buttons – they still need to look like buttons. Basically, we’re wired to recognize similarities in actual, tangible things, and things that are made to represent them. It’s the psychological foundation of why emoticons work (or why written language works, for that matter). It’s also why we recognize CTAs as buttons when they look like buttons.

Test it on your CTA: Try adding a 3-dimensional component to your CTAs, like a bevel or shadow, so they look more like actual buttons you can press with a finger.

Color Palette - Psychological CRO Tests
Color Palette – Psychological CRO Tests

Test it another way: The representativeness heuristic is also why we take → to mean forward movement. Try putting an arrow, or >> on your CTA button to let your visitor know they’ll be moving to another page.

Leverage Gaze Following: If you see someone stop and look to the right, you look to the right too – because you naturally assume there’s something worth looking at. This is called “gaze following” and it’s something we primates do as a shortcut to finding food, alerting to danger, and spotting celebrities on the street. You can use it too.

Test it on your home page: Have an image of person (any creature with eyes, really – it can even be a stick figure) staring directly at the form, CTA, or other action you want people to take. And remember: You can easily flip images. You could even A/B test one image looking at your CTA, and one looking away from it – just for fun (but believe me, the one looking towards your CTA will perform better!).

Looking at CTA Usually Converts Better
Looking at CTA Usually Converts Better

Conceptual Fluency: The psychological underpinning of “if she can see it, she can be it.” Human beings are more likely to do what they can envision themselves doing. One incredibly easy way to use this is to switch your copy from second person (you, your) to first person (I, me, my).

Test it on your CTA button: Try changing “Start your free trial” to “Start my free trial” and see what happens. When Michael Aagard tested these two variants, he increased conversions by 90% by switching to first person.

Test it in your product pictures: Instead of just showing the product, show the product in use – held in someone’s hand, worn on a real person’s body, etc. Zappos uses videos of people walking in their footwear. All of this helps the consumer envision what it’s like to use your product themselves, which has been shown to increase conversions.

Use Processing Fluency: When we consider doing something, we predict how easy or hard it will be to do. If we believe it will be hard, we’re less likely to try. Here’s the interesting part for CRO: Lengthy or difficult instructions will hinder conversions, but so will hard-to-read fonts.

Test it on your CTA buttons or on a form: As you’re A/B variant, make your font size slightly larger and choose an easy to read font like Verdana or Georgia (both of which were designed for Microsoft by type designer Matthew Carter, specifically to be easy to read on screens).

Test it on your home page copy: Simple, clear, and brief should be the goal of copy across your website, but many websites verge on verbosity. Invoke your inner Hemingway and cut your verbiage for this A/B trial.

Make’m Nervous with Choice Rejection – When you force people to actively reject an option (like, say, to subscribe to your newsletter), they start to consider the benefits they’re giving up, which triggers Loss Aversion (we’ll get to that later), and are more likely to accept the offer. In practice, this is how it works.
You design a pop-up ad asking if the viewer would like to sign up for your newsletter. Variant A would be a simple “Yes” or “No.”

Variant B would go like this:

“Yes, I’d love to get weekly coupons, news, and a roundup of deals.”

“No, I like paying full price for everything.”

Test it in your pop-up copy: Be explicit about the benefits of saying “yes” to your offer, and the downside of saying “no.” Joanna Wiebe used this technique and increased her conversion rate by 400-500%.

Emotional Color Theory

The idea here is that color is tied to emotion – and emotion leads to action. Therefore, color can affect conversion. This isn’t just for CTA buttons (though red tends to spur faster reaction times and just might push impulse buyers over the edge); it’s for your entire website. Conversioner’s Talia Wolf introduced a pink hue across this prom dress website, contributing to the emotional experience of mothers and daughters shopping together. That pinkification raised revenues by 86%.

Note: If your products follow trends, then the colors on your site should too. This tells your customers that you are on-trend and will keep them on-trend too. What colors are in? Pantone’s color of the year for 2017 is Greenery (it’s always a good place to start).

Pantone's Color for 2017
Pantone’s Color for 2017

Test it across your website: Use this color cheat sheet to create a variant of your website that capitalizes on these color-emotion connections. Choose the color family you believe will work best with your product and audience.

  • Red – For impulse purchases, sale signs, promotions and CTA buttons.
  • Orange – May increase a sense of urgency, happiness and optimism. Try it as the dominant color of your website, or your CTA buttons.
  • Yellow – If you’re selling food products, yellow stimulates appetite (and green denotes freshness).
  • Green – Use to create a fresh, natural, relaxed ambience on your site – great for eco-friendly products.
  • Blue – Authority, most often used for banking, medicine, and other serious products where trust is of paramount importance.
  • Pink – The color of calm, joy, femininity and romance. It’s a natural choice for businesses catering to women.
  • Purple – Creativity, spirituality, and luxury for women of a certain age. Most often used in brands that target older women.
  • Black – Power and luxury, can be used to increase perceived value.
  • White – Clean, modern, simple, sophisticated.
  • Gray – Practical, neutral, contemporary, classy. But can be boring, depending on how you use it.
  • Gold – The color of money, exclusivity and luxury (works well with black or white to increase perceived value of the product).
Gold = Success ?
Gold = Success ?

Pain Spurs Action

Whether it’s emotional pain or physical pain (there actually isn’t much difference, neurologically speaking), focusing attention on pain actually makes that pain feel worse, and we’re more driven to alleviate it as a result.

Test it on your product page or landing page: Take the pain point that aggravates your target audience the most, and use a sentence or two (or five) to dwell on it. Add an image showing someone suffering from it. Then, show how your product fixes the problem – and most importantly, tell or show the “after” to your gruesome before.

The Power of Placement

Anchoring Heuristic: The tendency to place more importance on the first piece of information you see is called the “anchoring heuristic.” It’s the impulse that makes us walk out of a store with the first thing we saw, and the instinct that tells us Zappos is the best online shoe store because it’s the first shoe ad we saw on Facebook.

Test it on your home page: Take a best-selling product and feature it prominently on your home page, so it’s the first thing people see when they come to you. Then see if your conversions for that product increase.

Test it on your product page: When listing your product price, display the high “regular” price first, then show the discounted price under it. This will increase the viewer’s perceived value of the product and make them feel like they’re getting a great deal. Compare this variation against its opposite: Placing the lower price more prominently, and the higher price less.

Eye-Catching Placement: A 2014 eye-tracking study showed that the eye is drawn to the upper left corner and the center of any given page. Eyes are also attracted to larger things before smaller things, and raised graphics before sunken ones. See what happens if you:

  1. Place your CTA button in the middle of the page
  2. Create a pop-up opt-in CTA that appears in the middle of the page
  3. Make your CTA button larger than your logo (but not so big that it stops looking like a button)
  4. Visually raise your CTA above the rest of the page (see example below from DailyMile)
Eye-Catching Placement
Eye-Catching Placement

Cialdini’s Six Conversion Hacks

1. Reciprocity

Humans are hardwired to pay back favors. Give away something of value, and people will be naturally moved to give back.

Test it: Try doing a “free sample” promotion. Maybe where you throw something in for free with an order – like when you get makeup samples free with purchase. It’s something very few e-commerce stores are doing, so it can also be a way to set yours apart. For best results, make the freebie something your ideal client would actually buy. Remember to track conversions from before and after you implement your promo.

2. Consistency

Nobody wants to be a hypocrite; we have a deep desire to match our actions with what we say we’ll do. And, we also like to keep doing what we’ve been doing – as long as we’re rewarded for it. Which brings us to conversion. Studies have shown that the more we say “yes,” the more we will continue to say “yes.” And you want your customers saying “yes.”

Test it on your home page: Try a “commitment checkbox” popup on your home page that says “Yes! I am ready for [your biggest benefit] today!” You’ll have to figure out (and test) what benefit your target audience wants most to use in this copy – it might take a few tries. But, when ConversionVoodoo did this, that checkbox resulted in 11% more conversions.

3. Social Proof

When we see that other people have liked something or have done something, we feel like it’s a safer bet. Social Proof reduces purchase anxiety – the fear that a product won’t live up to expectations, or that the purchaser is going to be cheated in some way.

Test it on your product pages: Put user reviews on your best-selling product pages (for starters), like Modcloth and Zappos do, for six months as a test run. See if your conversions increase or decrease, and by how much.

4. Authority

People follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts. You can be one, or you can buy one (er, hire).

Test it on social media & your home page: Find an expert in your industry or public figure that resonates with your audience, and ask them to endorse/mention/publicly use your product. Many Youtube video-makers and bloggers are happy to do this, when appropriately compensated. Consider this a line item in your marketing budget. You can set up tracking from those links to your site so you know exactly what revenue to attribute to this experiment.

Test it on your unsubscribe page: Huckleberry’s “unsubscribe from emails” page leverages the authority of no other than Bruce Lee. It’s charming and funny, and they get far fewer unsubscribers as a result.

Huckleberry’s “unsubscribe from emails” Page
Huckleberry’s “unsubscribe from emails” Page

5. Liking

We buy from people we like – which makes your challenge to become more likeable. People tend to like people who are like them, and they base those judgements primarily on visual cues from your website and social media and personality cues in your copy.

Test it: Achieving likeability is heavily involved with brand strategy and buyer personas – and if you haven’t done the groundwork there, you aren’t ready to test anything. What is your target audience pinning on Pinterest right now? Look at the topics, colors, and style for inspiration on what changes to make and test on your website.

6. Scarcity… deserves its own section.

Scarcity / Loss Aversion / Urgency – AKA FOMO

Cialdini’s Principle of Scarcity is that people perceive limited quantities as more precious and valuable. And, embedded in this principle of persuasion are the related psychological triggers of Loss Aversion and Urgency.

Loss Aversion: The idea that losing something hurts more than gaining something, so we will go farther out of our way to avoid losing something than we would to get something. In practice, this means if the deal is for a limited time, we’ll jump on it so we don’t lose the opportunity (which would hurt).

Urgency: Same thing as loss aversion – we don’t want to miss out.

Then there’s the related commodity theory: The idea that scarcity increases perceived value because possessing hard-to-get items makes people feel unique and special.

And there are so many ways to use these.

Test it on your product pages: Items in limited supply are very appealing – so on your product pages, let visitors know when there are “9 items left!” with low stock notices. Show your limited supply and track your conversion rates – they’ll very likely increase, because people believe supply is limited because demand for these items is higher.

Test it on your product pages another way: Another urgency instigator is the limited-time offer. One retailer tested a limited next-day shipping offer on their product page and boosted sales by 226%.

Test it with your products themselves: Consider introducing a limited edition line or ‘small batch’ specialty products to leverage the desire for exclusivity.

Test it on product & sales pages: Try installing a sale price countdown on product and/or sales pages to remind viewers how much time is left before the discount goes away. (See how Huckleberry does this below) You can also try this with free shipping or next-day shipping offers.

Huckleberry Sales Price Countdown
Huckleberry Sales Price Countdown

Test it seasonally – Starbucks only offers Pumpkin Spice lattes in the fall; McDonald’s McRib is so hard to find, they made an app to locate it when it appears. Consider testing what happens when you only make seasonally-tied popular items available for short, specific periods of time.

Test it with a VIP area: Scarcity + commodity theory = exclusivity, another way of raising perceived value. Consider testing a VIP area of your site for your best buyers, where they can see (and buy) new items first, and get some customer appreciation perks. Nurture your best buyers – they’re the ones most likely to buy more and bring their friends.

Each of these ideas is a hypothesis in the making…

Every A/B test you conduct will be based on a hypothesis – a statement of what change you plan to make, and what you *think* will be the result. That change is your variant, which you’ll compare against what you already have (the A to your B).

Each of these ideas for how to test psychological conversion triggers is the raw material out of which you can create hypotheses for your e-commerce website. For more on hypothesis creation, see this article.

Why test when each of these ideas is founded in multiple scientific psychology studies?

Because all of these ideas are part of a larger context of what your target audience wants, thinks and feels. You’ll have to test to know, for sure, what works best with your specific customers.

So, decide what to change, form a theory of how that will affect conversions, and set up an A/B test to see how you do.

30 Psychological Conversion Tactics You Can Test

Conversion rate optimization is all about psychology. But where psychologists are trying to figure out why people do what they do, the Conversion Rate Optimizer’s challenge is to know what stimuli will get people to take the action you want them to take.

Testing Hypotheses: Why Guessing is Good Business

Hypotheses: Why Guessing is Good Business

In high school, we learned that a hypothesis is “an educated guess.” In 2011, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries hit the startup world like a hurricane, upending old ideas and clearing space for learning by using hypotheses to test ideas, and validate (or invalidate) explanations for customer behaviors.

Lean methodology has since spread to just about everything any business can do – including marketing and website optimization. After all, we’re diving into an era in which everything can be tracked, often in real-time. We can test our ideas before investing in them. We can get to know our target audience, and what they respond to, better and faster than ever before.

Which means, an e-commerce business doesn’t have to commit to a huge risk when optimizing its website. You can try out ideas and adjust intelligently with a hypothesis.

Creating a Valuable Hypothesis

Creating a valuable hypothesis is one of the most challenging parts of any optimization program. The hypothesis is the result of a long process of gathering data, analyzing and compiling the information, identifying flaws, problems and inefficiencies. And its purpose is to teach you something, though not always the lesson you think you’ll learn.

To create a hypotheses, we must take into account the data gleaned from the first round of research, in addition to the characteristics of the target audience, and identify desirable outcomes – along with how to achieve them. You also need to identify key performance indicators (KPIs), so you can tell whether your hypothesis is proving true, or false.

What is a Hypothesis, exactly?

The scientific definition of a hypothesis is: a proposed explanation for an observed phenomena or event. In order for the proposed explanation to qualify as a hypothesis, it must be verifiable and offer a way of predicting the phenomenon. And, it has to stand up to every attempt to disprove it.

In CRO, we use a hypothesis to define an idea for improving a website. Then, we test the improvement against the existing website. If the hypothetical improvement achieves the targeted KPI, then it becomes a permanent change (at least until the next improvement).

But there are so many other ways this can go.

  • If the expected KPI is achieved, you’ve proven your hypothesis is sound. Move forward.
  • If the expected KPI isn’t achieved (but comes close), you’re still improving, but you’ve got some more thinking to do. Maybe that KPI wasn’t realistic. Maybe you missed a step. Don’t just pat yourself on the back for smallish wins and move on.
  • If the expected KPI does a somersault and lands on its head (ie. you got it very, very wrong), it’s time to start again from scratch.

So where do you start in creating your hypothesis (and the KPIs to go with it)?

You start with a whole lot of research

You’ll need:

  • A comprehensive analysis of the current site so you can pinpoint the main issues that may be inhibiting conversion.
  • This analysis must take into account all aspects of the site – and the entire on-site sales funnel. Usually the first area we test is the technical part of the site, followed by user experience (UX) and, finally, the content.

If your problem is technical, then fixing the broken bit is usually sufficient to get your conversion rates up to where they should be. For example, if a technical analysis of the site reveals a broken or misdirected link to another part of the site, just correct the problem. No further testing required.

However, the UX analysis poses more complex challenges to the analyst/optimizer. Some of the choices made here are purely aesthetic and cannot be accurately quantified or judged based on taste or intuition alone. For example, would a red banner or orange banner yield more clicks? We can’t know until we test.

How do you know what to test? In the analysis process, you’ll find parts of the website that are underperforming for non-technical issues (they work, but they’re not generating the desired action). You’ll need to form a hypothesis to explain the underperformance and how to fix it.

Time to brainstorm!

Testing Hypotheses
Testing Hypotheses

See how the analytical data filters down to inform the ideas? Those ideas become hypotheses to test until the website is measurably improved.

Ideas on paper

Once the research phase of the optimization program is completed, the CRO team should have a number of clear ideas for what might be wrong with the site. Those ideas might range from simple, like changing the location of the CTA, to complex, like changing the way checkout works on the e-commerce site.

But this process doesn’t only work for fixing faults in a website. We use the exact same process when we look at a website that performs well now, but could perform even better with some changes.

Once we’ve identified a few ideas, we can begin testing them, one at a time, with an A/B test.

An A/B test is very simple – it compares the unchanged version of the web page (called control) with the altered page (called variation). For a website landing page, for example, you could compare that page as-is with a version featuring a bright orange CTA button. But, you wouldn’t re-do everything on the second version – you would only change one thing at a time: The color of the button. Or the shape of the button. Or the placement of the button. But not all of them at once.

A/B Test - Hypotheses Testing
A/B Test – Hypotheses Testing

The hypothesis might read: “We think the current blue CTA button is getting lost on the page – people can’t see it easily – which decreases conversion rates. By changing the CTA button to orange, we expect our conversion rates to increase by 20% within two months of implementation.”

The hypothesis takes our assumptions – that conversions are dropping because of the CTA button color, and that by changing the color, the conversion rates will increase – and determines our KPIs for success within a specific time frame.

That last part is important, because these tests are meant to be fast and efficient, and you can’t be fast and efficient without a deadline.

If these instructions are starting to sound familiar, it’s because they’re based on an acronym we’ve all heard: SMART.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-based

When you have a properly framed hypothesis, like the above, you’ll gain valuable insights whether or not your hypothesis succeeds. The results may open a way to more comprehensive redesign or point to some other solution to be tested. If it’s successful, the change will result in increasing the bottom line of the company.

Doesn’t sound too hard, does it?

Yet, there are pitfalls even experienced optimizers and analysts fall into. Here’s what not to do.

Pitfalls awaiting the optimizer/analyst

Trying your favorite idea first.

You have a short list of ideas to test, but there’s one you really like. While many ideas sound awesome at first and people tend to get excited about them, it is well worth your time to sort the ideas according to the criteria of technical requirements, time constraints and the scope of proposed change and its impact. Prioritizing your ideas around these pragmatic factors will save you time and effort in testing.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t test your hypotheses in order – you should. Hypotheses are usually weighted according to how much impact you expect your proposed change to have, not just on your website, but on your business.

Confusing the “idea” with your hypothesis.

They’re related, but they’re not the same. An idea is only the first step towards a hypothesis. To turn an idea into hypothesis, we need to make sure the hypothesis statement includes these features:

  • The element that will be changed
  • Proposed variation
  • Target audience or scope of the change
  • KPIs with which to measure the performance
  • Desired objective to be achieved
  • Logic of the change: I.e. If I change (element) into (variation), then the (target audience) will react, increasing my KPI, which will result in achieving the (objective)

Example time! Testing Hypotheses

Here’s how our hypothesis creation process typically works (as outlined by our very own CROs).

  • In analyzing the web site, we have noticed that many people give up when presented with the request for payment information.
  • After viewing the relevant screen, we realized that the only option presented to the visitors is to give their credit card information and billing address.
  • The dropout rate at this step in the conversion funnel is around 78%.
  • Average revenue per user of the website is US$85 and 750 users have put the product into the cart and proceeded to the paying, with only 165 reaching the thank you page.
Hypothesis Creation Process
Hypothesis Creation Process

From this research, we can conclude that there is a trust issue with the payment method and that customers are reluctant to leave their payment information. We can formulate the following hypotheses:

1. If we add a new payment method that users trust (such as Paypal), then our conversions will increase by up to 200% (for example), reaching 330 customers. This would result in increasing the revenue by approximately US$30,000.

Change involved: Adding a trustworthy payment method
Scope of change: All users
KPI: Rate of conversions in the funnel
Desired objective: Increase in revenue

2. If we add more security indicators, such as Norton or McAffee guaranteed, and https or Google Trusted store, more of the customers will proceed to payment and our conversions could increase by 200%, thereby increasing the revenue by approximately US$30,000.

Change involved: Adding a trust and security indicator
Scope of change: All users
KPI: Rate of conversions in the funnel
Desired objective: Increase in revenue

Keep in mind that the values are assumed to be high to better illustrate the example. Real life hypothesis would probably assume lower lifts.

From here, we set up the test that will compare the present variant of the site (the control) to the improved variant with PayPal added. We will also take into account that adding PayPal involves some more footwork to get set up.

The two hypotheses can be tested simultaneously in a multivariate test or sequentially in a classic A/B test. If you would like to learn more about the testing and testing methods, check our post on A/B testing. If the test results show us that one of or both of the alternative variations brings in more conversions, than we have validated our hypotheses. If not, we go back to the drawing board, having proven that it is not only trust issues that inhibit conversions on our site.

What happens if the hypothesis fails

The important thing to keep in mind is that having a hypothesis fail a test is not the end of the world (or your testing program). Each time this happens, you learn something from it. A series of failed hypotheses, however, may point to two possible things – you have either hit the local maxima, the plateau that has no way up without radical changes, or your hypotheses are weak. Either case calls for radical reconsideration of your methods.

Hey, it happens.

Hypotheses: Why Guessing is Good Business

Creating a valuable hypothesis is one of the most challenging parts of any optimization program. The hypothesis is the result of a long process of gathering data, analyzing and compiling the information, identifying flaws, problems and inefficiencies. And its purpose is to teach you something, though not always the lesson you think you’ll learn.

Google Analytics Funnels and How To Structure Them for e-Commerce

Google Analytics Funnels for e-Commerce
This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Google Analytics offers funnel reporting and visualization, so you can see exactly what’s happening in your funnel, and if it’s breaking down anywhere (and losing more visitors than it should). But first you have to set it up.
Google Analytics Funnels for e-Commerce
This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Google Analytics offers funnel reporting and visualization, so you can see exactly what’s happening in your funnel, and if it’s breaking down anywhere (and losing more visitors than it should). But first you have to set it up.

Colors & Conversions in e-Commerce Design

Colors and Conversions in e-Commerce Design

The psychology of color is a subject of strong disagreement in marketing. We know we need it, and we’d like there to be a list of rules to follow that remain the same in all instances – but there isn’t. Color preference, associations, and color cause and effect, vary widely between individuals and cultures.

So, what we’re left with is what we’ve always been left with…

We have to design based on close research of our target audience – and that goes for colors too.

That’s not to say that there aren’t valuable guidelines for color selection that are grounded in science – there are (and they’re outlined below).

Here is what we know, what we think, and what has been proven to work when it comes to color and conversion in e-commerce design.

Psychological Underpinnings: Why are colors so important to conversion?

Studies show that humans understand visuals faster because they affect us both cognitively and emotionally.

According to visual communication consultant, Mike Parkinson:

“Cognitively, graphics expedite and increase our level of communication. They increase comprehension, recollection, and retention. Visual clues help us decode text and attract attention to information or direct attention increasing the likelihood that the audience will remember.”

“Emotionally, pictures enhance or affect emotions and attitudes. Graphics engage our imagination and heighten our creative thinking by stimulating other areas of our brain (which in turn leads to a more profound and accurate understanding of the presented material).”

When your purpose is to persuade, your best bet is to leverage emotion. And nothing, not words or entire images, appeals faster, or more powerfully, to people’s emotions than color.

According to Kissmetrics, 85% of shoppers place color as the primary reason for why they buy a product and color increases brand recognition by 80%. People are also said to make subconscious decisions in under 90 seconds, and color is a great way to trigger action. – Conversioner

Colors and Conversions in e-Commerce Design
Colors and Conversions in e-Commerce Design

If you’re in doubt that color has any real bearing on human emotion and ensuing behavior, consider this:

When the University of Iowa painted the opponent’s locker room at their football stadium Pepto Bismal pink (also known as “drunk tank pink”, or Pantone Baker-Miller Pink), they did so because research had shown that particular hue caused muscles to weaken and moods to calm in people who were exposed to it for a long time.

And, in the 1970s, Alexander Schauss noted that starting at Pepto Bismal pink made his heart rate slow, which prompted him to suggest that Naval correctional prison cells be painted pink from floor to ceiling. It sounds like the result of losing a bet, but the Navy did it, with these results:

“Since the initiation of this procedure on 1 March 1979, there have been no incidents of erratic or hostile behavior during the initial phase of confinement.”

Pink isn’t the only effective color for influencing emotion and behavior. Traditionally, certain colors are associated with certain emotions.

Emotional Color Chart
Emotional Color Chart

Research into human emotion has come a long way since the 1970s. In fact, a 2014 study from Glasgow University suggested that human beings really only have four emotions:

  1. Happy
  2. Sad
  3. Fear/Surprise
  4. Anger/disgust

Those four basic emotions can be blended to create the variations we all feel, like bittersweet or “happy tears.”

Furthermore, emotions are hard-wired to generate actions.

Happiness, for example, makes us want to share. Just look at the “mirroring” behavior that happens when you smile at someone – they’ll most likely smile back. Even newborn babies do this. It’s called “social smiling.” In social media, positive articles are more likely to be shared than sad ones (but articles that provoke anger and anxiety are also shared at a higher rate).

Fractl published a list of “The Emotions of Highly Viral Content,” and all of them – ALL of them – are related to happiness.

  1. Amusement
  2. Interest
  3. Surprise
  4. Happiness
  5. Delight
  6. Pleasure
  7. Joy
  8. Hope
  9. Affection
  10. Excitement

Interestingly, the image they chose to display each emotion in their study was a color chart based on Robert Plutchik’s “wheel of emotions.

Wheel of Emotions
Wheel of Emotions

Don’t be fooled into using this chart as your guide to marketing magic, however. Green does not inspire terror and purple does not disgust the populace.

Colors by Target Customer

Colors affect emotion and emotion spurs us to action. But the question remains: How can we find the right color for our target audience that will produce a conversion?

We’re not limiting the discussion here to CTA button colors (though we’ll get to those). But rather the overall color story of an e-commerce website.

And which colors you use depends on your target customer.

What Women Want

According to research from Sherwin-Williams, colors that appeal most to women are blue, purple and green; while orange, brown, and gray are least appealing. But, once again, don’t be fooled by this generalization, because choosing paint colors for your home is a lot different than selecting a car, your wardrobe, or your next laptop.

If the Sherwin-Williams research was the absolute last word, why would women’s clothing designer Dorothee Schumacher have her website professionally designed in black and neutrals (with just a pop of green)?

Dorothee Schumacher Website Color Scheme
Dorothee Schumacher Website Color Scheme

The Dorothee Schumacher website color scheme is a user-focused design decision that deliberately attracts customers who prefer high-end fashion to cheaper fast-fashion. The color story here is one of high cost, high quality, luxury and sophistication – all attributes associated with black.

If you look at the websites of high-end cars, this theory bears out.

Website Colors High-end Cars
Website Colors High-end Cars

In another user-focused design decision, Conversioner made a prom dress site pink “to project calm, hopeful and positive feelings.” Pink was very much part of the emotional story they wanted to tell.

The color pink was introduced to more than just the banner or background; the images on the page were given a pink hue and were all directing to a certain type of experience – our goal was to help women (mothers and daughters) experience the delight of shopping online in a world of calm and positive emotions. These changes and others increased revenues by 86%.

Black, pink, blue, green? Women want them all. But not all the women at the same time, for the same products. And this is true for any demographic. You can’t say “men like earth tones, so my website will be brown” and expect that to work. The effect color has on emotion and action is more contextual than that.

The “right” color is the one that brings your target customer closer to their desired outcome, whether that’s to feel connected to their prom-going daughters, or be delighted by the heady luxury of high-end clothing or the purchase of James Bond’s favorite car.

Color by Desire

Ever wonder why so many BUY buttons are red? Because impulse shoppers, the quickest wins in e-commerce, gravitate towards orangey-red. Their desire for immediate gratification seems to get a boost from action-oriented red. In fact, research from the University of Rochester in 2011 showed that people who were exposed to the color red had faster reaction times in general.

Just look at fast food logos if you’re in any doubt of red’s ability to tip people over the edge into impulse-purchasing (yellow, incidentally, also makes people feel hungrier). Can red create desire? Probably not. But it can enhance a desire that’s already there, and possibly provide the tipping point from desire to action.

Fast Food Logos Colors
Fast Food Logos Colors

Environmentally-conscious buyers, who want to feel like their purchase decisions make a positive impact on the natural world, go for earth tones (greens and blues especially), and health-conscious purchasers will always go for a fresh-looking green.

Environmentally-conscious Buyers Prefer Green
Environmentally-conscious Buyers Prefer Green

A lot of this is common sense.

Some of it isn’t though.

Color associations vary depending on culture. In Chinese culture, white is the color of mourning; in Brazil, purple is the color of death; and Hindus hold the color yellow as sacred, while yellow makes Greeks feel sad and means jealousy in France.

So, when I tell you that the color you choose should be tailored to your audience – I’m very serious. Every audience is different, even if they share the same cultural background.

Color Association 101 for U.S. Audiences

Color Associations
Color Associations

RED – Stop. Danger. Hot. Urgency. Physical dominance. Errors (like your teacher’s red pen). Use for sales, promotions, and, of course, CTA buttons. Dmix wrote about one of their projects in which they tested green and red button colors. In their testing with 600 subjects they found that conversions increased by 34% when they used red button.

ORANGE – Urgency. Happiness. Energy. Optimism. Use for logos and CTA buttons. Unbounce says the color of the future for call-to-action buttons is orange.

YELLOW – Sun. Happiness. Optimism. Money. Encourages appetite (it’s a food color) and is often used by brick-and-mortar stores to grab attention from window shoppers.

GREEN – Go. Nature. Freshness. Progress. Relaxation. Use to set the overall tone of your eco-friendly or health-conscious website and landing pages (you can also use nature imagery – you’re not limited to flat colors!).

BLUE – Relaxation. Trust. Authority. Cleanliness. Cold. Fact: Blue is the #1 favorite color of all people and it’s the most commonly used color for corporate brands.

PINK – Calm. Joy. Femininity. Love. Romance. Use to foster feelings of sisterhood and connection.

PURPLE – Creativity. Spirituality. Calm. Classic. Often used in brands that cater to older women.

BLACK – Power. Luxury. Quality. Used most often to market luxury products.

WHITE – Clean. Modern. Simplicity. Order. Think Apple.

GRAY – Practicality. Neutrality. Contemporary. Always classy.

GOLD – The color of money. Use it as an accent to luxurious black.

Lamborghini Colors
Lamborghini Colors

5 Tips for Using Colors that Convert

  1. Keep it simple – don’t use more than 4 colors. Ever notice the color schemes of logos? They’re really simple. One, two, maybe three colors. Try to pile too many colors into a color scheme, and it will look amateur rather than elegant. And don’t forget about white. White always looks clean and modern, and it makes other colors pop.
  2. Match your colors to your target customer’s psychological needs. Do they need to trust you? Do they need to feel safe, secure and happy? Do they need warm fuzzy nurturing feelings about your product, or are they buying your product because they want to feel on the cutting edge of modernity (just look at Sony Vaio’s U.S. website for that color scheme: Black and white with a metallic accent).
Sony Vaio Website - Exemplify Success
Sony Vaio Website – Exemplify Success
  1. If your products follow trends, your colors should too – think in terms of Pantone’s color of the year and seasonal colors. In fact, just read Pantone’s color descriptions in their color report articles. They’re all about emotions.

    PANTONE 19-4045 Lapis Blue

    Conveying even more energy is Lapis Blue. Strong and confident, this intense blue shade is imbued with an inner radiance.

  1. Class up anything with gray. Grayscale photos, gray text (instead of black) – gray can be charmingly nostalgic or bracingly modern, but it’s always classy.
  2. Don’t just pick a color because it’s your favorite. Do you know how many amateur websites I’ve seen done in red, black and white? Because the owner liked the look? When it didn’t fit the brand, the product, or the customer – at all? Too many. Don’t do that. And, don’t choose a color scheme because it’s on a website you like. If the website is from a different industry, chances are their customers are entirely different from yours (so what works for them likely won’t work for you). And if the website is in the same industry, it’ll look like you’re copying.

Essentially, base your color choice only on what your target customers are looking to feel. Anything else won’t produce the conversions you want.

In the words of Peep Laja:

Serious gains in conversions don’t come from psychological trickery, but from analyzing what your customers really need, the language that resonates with them and how they want to buy it. It’s about relevancy and perceived value of the total offer.

And that goes for color choice too.

Colors and Conversions in e-Commerce Design

The psychology of color is a subject of strong disagreement in marketing. We know we need it, and we’d like there to be a list of rules to follow that remain the same in all instances – but there isn’t. Color preference, associations, and color cause and effect, vary widely between individuals and cultures.

Google Analytics Segmentation

Google Analytics Segmentation
This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Segmentation allows us to understand the different types of people who come to an e-commerce site by key characteristics, like their location, age, and even interests. Those insights let you deliver targeted messaging that speaks specifically to the needs and wants of each segment, create personalized user experiences, design marketing and ads to be more effective and efficient, and so much more.
Google Analytics Segmentation
This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Segmentation allows us to understand the different types of people who come to an e-commerce site by key characteristics, like their location, age, and even interests. Those insights let you deliver targeted messaging that speaks specifically to the needs and wants of each segment, create personalized user experiences, design marketing and ads to be more effective and efficient, and so much more.

Building a Sustainable Testing Culture

Building a Sustainable Testing Culture
This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series The Foundation of A/B Testing

More e-commerce companies should make a commitment to creating a culture of testing. We’re talking about a comprehensive, end-to-end approach to qualitative and quantitative information, functional design and effective split testing, a commitment that stretches from your C-suite to your interns. When everyone in your company approaches problems with a testing mindset, you’ll have a solid foundation for growth.

Building a Sustainable Testing Culture
This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series The Foundation of A/B Testing

More e-commerce companies should make a commitment to creating a culture of testing. We’re talking about a comprehensive, end-to-end approach to qualitative and quantitative information, functional design and effective split testing, a commitment that stretches from your C-suite to your interns. When everyone in your company approaches problems with a testing mindset, you’ll have a solid foundation for growth.

Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Google Analytics e-Commerce
This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Out of any other type of website, e-commerce websites stand to benefit most from implementing digital analytics to understand conversion and measure their potential to increase revenue. Google Analytics makes this, and so much more, possible. Without any customization whatsoever, Google Analytics comes configured to track website visits by sessions, pages and visitors.

Google Analytics e-Commerce
This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Out of any other type of website, e-commerce websites stand to benefit most from implementing digital analytics to understand conversion and measure their potential to increase revenue. Google Analytics makes this, and so much more, possible. Without any customization whatsoever, Google Analytics comes configured to track website visits by sessions, pages and visitors.