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Innovative Testing: How to continue growing revenue – even after you tested everything?

Innovative Testing

This isn’t your first rodeo. You started the conversion optimization process a while ago. You’ve analyzed your website, identified issues, and came up with a bunch of things to fix and hypotheses to test.

And you tested them.

Again and again.

And many of those tests you ran resulted in gains – maybe large, maybe small, but improvements nonetheless.

Finally, after you ran tests on every aspect of the website, you reached a point where the law of diminishing returns kicked in. You began noticing it in inconclusive results, and then perhaps even in tested variations producing negative results. You create a few more hypotheses to test, but to no avail.

No matter what you tried, it just seemed that there was no way to nudge your numbers up.

Have you peaked? Should you rest on your laurels, put up your feet and pat yourself on the back?

Heck no.

There is always potential to improve.

While the process of iterative (A/B and multivariate) testing is the best method to follow for long term, repeatable results in conversion optimization, it has one limitation. After testing every part of the website, you will inevitably reach the point where there is no way to further optimize your site.

Which means it’s time to step out of iterative testing and try innovative testing.

Innovative Testing Example

CrazyEgg had a pretty good website. User testing didn’t reveal any outstanding issues, the web page was relatively optimized, and there weren’t any real problems to fix. No obvious wins to be had either.

And yet, after doing research, the consultants decided that major changes were required. And no, they weren’t just trying to get more money! It was the only way to create a major lift in conversions.

The team decided, based on heat maps of the homepage, that a major redesign was necessary to remove a few distractions that they detected, and improve the copy in general. They implemented these changes and tested them – resulting in a 26% increase in conversions.

That was innovative testing.

How does this apply to you?

When you test and optimize everything you possibly can, the phenomenon you may encounter is called a local maxima.

From this point on, unless you change your initial assumptions and testing scenarios, you cannot expect a measurable increase in conversions. Graphically it is represented like this:

Innovative Testing - Local Maxima
Innovative Testing – Local Maxima

So what does this mean? It means that you are limited by a number of factors, which we call a paradigm limitation. Your current design, target audience, services and products have, essentially, hemmed you in. You’ve done as much as you can do with the paradigm as it stands you’ve reached your limits.

And you’re stuck – stuck in a box.

Of course, the solution to finding yourself in a box is to break out of it – which requires thinking outside of it. When you are so close to the project, or the business, this can be incredibly hard to do.

How to get out of the box

Paradigm limitations happen as a result of making choices. Each decision narrows the playing field. Which is good – that’s how we create valuable niches and develop followings who know what to expect from us. It’s how businesses are built. But, those early decisions also anchor you to your spot.

I’m not creating a fancy metaphor here – anchoring is a cognitive bias, one which influences people to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the anchor) when making decisions. Once an anchor is set, other decisions are made based on treating that anchor as unalterable fact.

Now we can get metaphorical – because we need to break the chains tying you to your anchor.

And that is going to require a substantial, possibly radical change.

“But won’t this ruin my business?”

Maybe. But here’s the deal: You can have what you have now, or you can risk it for something more.

Or, as Henry Ford put it:

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

(Clearly, taking a few risks worked well for him!).

In practical terms, this means that you might need to redesign your site, or at least a substantial part of it.

On a more strategic level, you may need to adjust your value proposition to appeal to a wider audience, or different target audience. Or you may need to expand your products or services, like when Starbucks began offering food. Whatever the eventual choice is, it will likely mean making a transition from one concept to another.

The choice of target audience, product range or target market is outside of the scope of the conversion optimization. These kinds of decisions can only be a business decision of the owner. But a radical redesign of the website? That is something that conversion optimization methods can help with.

How conversion optimization can help

Conversion optimization generally can solve the local maxima problem using two main methods:

  1. Innovative testing
  2. Radical redesign

Both methods mean taking bold steps forward and abandoning iterative testing.

Up to this point, conversion optimization took the safe route of incremental improvements that, over time, lead to significant growth in a gradual step-by-step approach. From here on, we’ll have to rely upon quantum leaps forward, which are risky, but, if successful, highly profitable.

Quantum leaps can deliver increases in conversions that are comparable to, if not better than, the early phases of low hanging fruit solutions (those quick and easy wins that I’m sure you miss!).

Innovative testing with conviction

Innovative testing means testing for larger changes on the website. That can mean changing multiple and/or major elements of design of a single page (a landing page, for example) or even changing entire portions of the web site.

These tests should be approached with caution.

Before you embark on them, you should ensure that ample research data is available. Most importantly, this is where the qualitative research will be the most useful.

Whereas iterative testing can produce many ideas for tests and improvements from insights yielded by quantitative data and a limited amount of user feedback, innovative testing relies heavily on user feedback.

The difference here is primarily due to the effort that must be invested to make substantial design changes. User input will enable you to design the website or parts of it to match with what your users expect and want.

User testing, interviews, live chat transcripts, surveys and polls can all provide insights into exactly what your visitors want, why they want it and how they want to achieve it. If you follow the voice of customers/visitors data, you will be able to serve them get them to really engage with you.

But don’t expect your users to deliver a new website design to you – they’re not designers. They may not even know what they want, or what’s possible to want. Not to quote Ford every time, but he did say “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

The man said a lot of smart things.

To overcome the “faster horses” conundrum, your job will be to not only gather their answers in surveys and interviews, but to verify those answers based on what they actually do and how they actually use your site.

And, you’ll have to use a little intuition.

As UI expert Anders Toxboe says:

You innovate through intuition. When we use our intuition, we make best guesses and rely on our previous experience. We study what others are doing and use best practices. An integral part of innovation is thinking experience, aesthetics, and flow as a whole. When innovating, we rely on designers, best guesses and discussion as instruments for deciding upon what is the best design. The goal of innovation is to maximize the potential improvement through optimization. Optimization vs innovation, blog post.

So the answer in successful innovation and breaking out of the local maxima lies in maintaining a delicate balance of intuition and a data driven approach. Keep in mind that the stakes are high – innovation is the only way to grow, and often, the only way to remain competitive and survive in the long term.

Alex Birkett of ConversionXL put it best:

Whatever the case, when the time comes to make bigger changes – when you decide to jump from your local maximum to another possibility – make the decision with conviction.

Radical redesign

Radical redesign is innovative testing writ large.

Radical redesign requires that you depart from the 100%-data-driven approach and allow the designers to freely create the features and layout that they feel comfortable with.

It’s the riskiest approach of all.

The potential for a costly mistake is very real, as is evident from the debacle of Marks & Spencer’s website redesign in 2014. The trick is to submit the new design to some form of user testing. Select real users to see if the redesign works better and solves the problems that could not be addressed with the old design.

The best way to test a redesign is to release the improved version for limited user testing before going live to prove the concept.

One way to do this is to use a beta version of the site and offer a limited sample of users to opt in and analyze the performance of the variation. This can be a great way to engage your customers and make them feel part of the process.

Or, you can offer the redesigned version only to new users to see how they react.

If you have a large site with sizeable traffic, radical redesign can be evolutionary and phased in over an extended period of time, which allows you to test specific aspects of the new design separately.

Any way you choose to do it, make sure you are not alienating existing visitors.

But is it really absolutely necessary to redesign the entire site?

Nielsen Norman Group provides this list of reasons for radical redesigns:

  • The gains from making incremental changes are miniscule or nonexistent
  • The technology is severely outdated, making critical changes impossible
  • Architecturally the site is a tangled mess
  • Severely low conversion rates site-wide
  • Benchmarking research reveals your site is far inferior to the competition

Source: Radical Redesign or Incremental Change?

Before taking the leap, carefully weigh out the potential benefits of implementation of the new design and the benefits you expect to gain.

Innovative testing conclusion: Don’t try this unless you’ve tried everything else!

Innovative testing and radical redesign are the methods of last resort. They should be used only once you determine that the current website has reached its absolute limits and cannot be significantly improved.

Before you commit to the redesign, do a full spectrum of qualitative analysis to ascertain that redesign will not actually worsen the performance of your website. Every aspect should also be tested to ensure that the visitors will react favorably to changes. Your long-term customers may have negative reactions to change, especially if it is sudden and radical. The best way to deal with that is to retain some level of familiarity wherever possible. In order to be sure do customer research and testing. You know the importance of customer research?

But perhaps the biggest challenge you’ll face is inertia and that anchoring bias. The key here is to have a strong foundation in iterative testing already in place, so that the testing mindset is established. That way, the organization will have confidence in the outcome of the conversion optimization methodology and the expertise necessary to apply it in the process of redesign.

The innovative testing and redesign require not only boldness but also a certain amount of caution. Finding the right balance between these two traits will make the difference between the successful redesign and a costly debacle.

However, if your organization has adopted testing and conversion optimization and had success using it, you probably have what it takes to successfully conduct the redesign. Just keep in mind all the lessons of conversion optimization and always keep testing. The end result will transform the local maxima from the box at the beginning to an entirely new landscape.

Innovative Testing - Radical Redesign
Innovative Testing – Radical Redesign
Innovative Testing

While the process of iterative (A/B and multivariate) testing is the best method to follow for long term, repeatable results in conversion optimization, it has one limitation. After testing every part of the website, you will inevitably reach the point where there is no way to further optimize your site. Which means it’s time to step out of iterative testing and try innovative testing.

How to Write High-Converting (And *Gasp* FUN) Copy For Your Ecommerce Checkout Flow

Ecommerce Checkout Flow Copywriting

Yesterday, I walked into my improv troupe rehearsal and asked,

“When was the last time you bought something online, went through the checkout, and said, ‘Hey, this is easy and fun’?”

Every single person looked at me like I had just suggested kitten shish kebabs for dinner.

One guy said,

“Easy and fun? While I’m spending money?”

My fave thing to do on Friday nights TBH
My fave thing to do on Friday nights TBH

Soooo, while this might be a wildly unpopular opinion, I’m here to show you how to go through your ecommerce checkout flow copy step by step so it has a better chance of converting your customers and making them feel like they’re having a great time.

Because, at a very basic level, feeling good can increase conversions.

Don’t you want that? Yes. You want that. Keep reading.

Effective checkout flows are intuitive, quick, & low-friction

Obviously, Obviously, ecommerce checkout should be as easy and intuitive as possible. Here’s what to look out for (Amazon’s one-click checkout is the gold standard here.)

Assuming your ecommerce store isn’t a taped-together, virus-riddled piece of garbage, improving your checkout flow copy can be one of the simplest ways to assuage fears, overcome buyer barriers, and boost your conversions.

AND…

That high-converting copy can also be fun.

Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting Google fun
Just in case you need a refresher.

Now, I’m not telling you to obscure your checkout and tank your conversions with clever, jokey copy all over the place.

You’ll know if you’re doing that from your test results.

I AM telling you to take a closer look at the words you’re using to persuade strangers to throw dollars at you.

Nota bene: Obviously the design of your website and funnel matter a whole heckuva lot to your conversion rate, too. But this isn’t an article about design, so I’m going to assume you’ve ironed out all the conversion kinks that poor design can cause.

First, map out your checkout flow & identify missed copy opportunities

The first step of improving your checkout flow copy is to map that shiz out. (Got a bunch of entry points tagged in Google Analytics? Here’s what to look out for.)

List out all the steps your buyers take to purchase once you’ve succeeded in imbuing them with intent to buy.

Your checkout flow probably looks something like this:

  1. Starts with “add to cart” or “purchase” button
  2. Then into cart to review items
  3. Then to “check out” button
  4. Register for account OR log in
  5. Then to billing and address info
  6. Then to payment info + promo code
  7. Submit/Make purchase Button
  8. Then to Thanks/confirmation page
  9. Then an emailed receipt

Every single one of these spots contains copy. I’m willing to bet you’ve thought about some of it… but have you taken a close look at ALL of it?

Some of the copy here might be “microcopy,” ex. an error message, a single word or line below a button, a form field’s explanation text, you know the drill.

Some checkout copy might be longer or more elaborate, like your purchase confirmation page or emailed receipt.

IT’S ALL IMPORTANT.

Now, depending on whether you’re using an out-of-the-box merchant checkout that allows limited customization, or you’ve built your own crazy-customized checkout flow, you may or may not be able to change or add copy in certain places.

Here are a few spots in the checkout process where you should consider examining, adding, or improving your copy, if you can:

Click triggers and objection-reducers

Below I’ve screenshotted one step of modern office furniture retailer Poppin’s checkout flow. Notice the tiny “?” round buttons.

When you click them, they offer objection-reducing copy. For example, lots of folks might say,

“Hey, why do you need my phone number if I’m buying from you over the Internet? Roar! Me annoyed!”

Poppin assuages that objection, should it arise, by cooing,

“Your digits are safe with us: we’ll only use your phone number for delivery purposes.”

Honestly, you could probably say anything here. I’d love to see the test results of using a totally illogical or fake reason, like subjects in that famous “May I go first? I have to make a copy for [TOTALLY NONSENSICAL REASON] study” did.

Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting Poppin
“Your digits are safe with us, because we are building an alien spaceship and filling it with Beluga caviar.” Sounds good to me, Poppin!

Another example: T-shirt retailer Threadless points to its “Threadless Happiness Guarantee” as a way to encourage purchasers to add items to the cart.

Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting
Does “complimentary neckline” mean the shirt tells me how nice my neck looks every time I put it on?

Point out how you’re making checkout quicker

If your product needs extra customer-provided info, you might decide to cut down on the friction added by all that additional time and effort by allowing customers to customize after they buy.

Here’s Indochino, a high-end shirt company, shepherding their customers through a quicker checkout.

Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting Indochino
Keep going! We don’t want you to think about how much you’re spending!

If your store allows customers to easily add products directly to their cart without leaving the product category page, try making that process not just easy, but… FUN!

Like Tattly:

Ecommerce Checkout flow copywriting Tattly
Tattly screenshot

Clicking that red button puts these tats in my cart without taking me off the page.

Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting Tattly added to cart
Tattly added to cart screen

And then this sprightly confirmation message appears! YAY!

Show customers they’re ALMOST done

Lots and lots of ecommerce stores include checkout progress bars.

Why? People hate leaving things unfinished. And in fact, we tend to remember the things we *didn’t* finish more vividly than the ones we did (it’s called the Zeigarnik Effect, and it’s why you still pine for your college boyfriend who moved away after graduation).

Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting skinnyties.com
From skinnyties.com, where I have no business shopping

Use copy to upsell other items

Here’s furniture and home good companies Loaf doing not one, but TWO awesome things in their checkout flow:

  1. Reaffirming that I have excellent taste in sheepskin rugs
  2. Upselling me on a complementary product
Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting upselling
Dang, don’t mind if I do… Actually, wait, what is that thing?

Lots of ecommerce retailers upsell with the suggestion of “Related items,” “Accessories,” “Other people also bought,” and “Get free shipping by adding $X more to your cart”.

But I love Loaf’s elegant one-two punch of flattery and pre-selected item upsell.

This is by no means a complete list of copy opportunities that various retailers do and don’t take advantage of. Why? Because we’re trying to get to the nuts and bolts of actually writing the copy. Calm down.

If you want more ideas, just pay attention to the copy in the next awesome checkout you go through, and ask yourself, “Why is this working well?”

Next, match your copy to what your customer is thinking or feeling

Once you’ve identified all the places your checkout flow includes copy, it’s time to match the steps of that flow to what your customer is probably feeling or thinking.

Don’t *know* what they’re thinking or feeling, and don’t want to guess? Good. Don’t.

Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting customer research
^^ Actual GIF of many ecommerce retailers when it comes to customer research.

Instead of guessing, mine your customer live chat logs or Hotjar poll results:

Quantitative data analysis suggests that sentiments or moods conveyed in online conversation are the most predictive factor of perceived satisfaction (Park et al., 2015)

Check out your customer research. You’ll learn what’s on prospects’ and customers’ minds.

Then, plug that data into this handy table I made you!

I’ve even pre-filled it with some common sentiments and objections that are good bets to address at each stage:

Step of Checkout Flow Customer’s Thought/Feeling What Do They Need to Hear Right Now?
Add to Cart Yes! I need this! EXCITEMENT/URGENCY: “Your items will be in your hot little hands in just a few short days!”
Review Purchase/Cart Does this look safe and secure? REASSURANCE: “What a good-looking cart you’ve got.”

TRUST: “Checkout secured with SSL. Your payment info is safe with us.”

URGENCY, if it’s true: “Looks like you’ve grabbed some of our most popular pieces. Snag these items now before they sell out!”

“Check Out” button Should I…? HOW EASY IT IS TO BUY AND/OR RETURN:

“Simple, secure 3-step checkout” and/or “Free returns/exchanges, so you always have the size or color you love!”

Shipping Info I wonder how long it will take to get here… CAREFULLY WEIGH WHETHER YOU NEED EXTRA COPY HERE. Don’t add distraction!
Payment Info Is this worth it? Will I regret this? Same as above
Submit/Complete Purchase Button Here we go… Same as above

 

Does your copy meet your customer where they are, in every stage of the process?

Are you taking advantage of every opportunity to address fears and objections and trigger excitement and urgency?

And… DO YOU NEED COPY in those final, crucial stages (shipping info, payment info, and complete purchase)?

Definitely *test* copy in these last few stages. For example, you could acknowledge in the shipping info section that no one likes waiting for their stuff, which is why you ship within two days, or something similar.

But carefully weigh — nay, test — the benefits of your late-stage checkout copy against its potential to distract customers from your ultimate goal of sweet, sweet revenue.

Other things to consider when you’re testing checkout copy

Branding

Ah, yes, branding. That nebulous thing that everyone loves to talk about, and very few are actually doing right.

The simple fact? You can examine and improve your checkout copy using these practices no matter your brand’s “tone” or “voice”.

But, if you want to add a little more fun (you know, the thing I live for) to your checkout copy, you should take care to match your tone to your brand.

Threadless does a great job matching its entire checkout flow, from design and copy, to its playful, irreverent brand:

Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting Threadless funny
Your CARTY BELLY? I think I love you, Threadless.

But I can’t really imagine, like, Saks Fifth Avenue being playful in its checkout copy. So, grain of salt here.

It goes the other way, too. I’m always disappointed when I browse a store with dynamite product copy, decide to buy, and then all of a sudden, the checkout copy is Boring Default Sad Robot.

Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting boring robot
Seriously, I think about this stuff and it bums me out.

Company size

EQUALLY sadly, most giant stores (think Target, Best Buy, Walmart, and other soul-sucking corporations WOOHOO CAPITALISM) generally play it safe and standard in their checkout copy.

Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting Wallmart
If you happened to notice, I was buying Milk Bones. I don’t have a dog.

This might be for a bunch of different reasons, but I like to think it’s because big-box brands are bent on destroying us (and also because every good idea has to have the life sucked out of it by a series of marketing committees).

On the flip side, possibly because they have fewer committees, less to lose by testing, and more to gain from a building standout brand, smaller stores have more leeway to play around in their copy.

If you’re reading this, and you run a multiple-million-dollar MRR ecommerce store, and you’re thinking to yourself,

“Hey, maybe we should run a copy test to see if personable, warm copy could increase conversions,” PLEASE CALL ME. *

* Actually, email me. I hate phone calls.

Product variety

If you only sell one product, you might just decide to mash your checkout flow into the rest of your site. This makes it even easier to play around with your checkout copy.

OK Cookie is a great example. (In case you haven’t heard of OK Cookie, it’s Cards Against Humanity’s fortune cookie company. The fortunes are, naturally, horrific.)

Let’s look at a few pieces of OK Cookie’s checkout flow:

Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting OK Cookies ad to cart
You can click “Add to Cart” right from the homepage, which is also the entire website.
Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting OK Cookies checkout
After I added one box of fortune cookies to my cart.

They gather shipping info in stages, one per screen:

Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting shipping
OK Cookie Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting shipping
Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting shipping continued
OK Cookie Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting shipping continued

Notice how casual this checkout is, especially in the copy’s use of “we”.

The “we” word is generally something copywriters avoid at all costs, but it works here because this is a transaction where I want to feel like I’m buying from other real people.

Let’s fast-forward to payment info:

Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting payment
OK Cookie Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting payment screen

Charming. Utterly charming. At least, if you have a thick skin.

OK Cookie continues to balance clarity with familiarity throughout the end of checkout, including a button that says “Close This Thing” once you’ve completed your order.

They also send a confirmation email that 100% fails on the “cohesive branding front,” * but is otherwise written in the same casually confrontational style:

Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting email blackbox
Trolololo. BUT ALSO, if I didn’t know that Blackbox was the dropshipping company that Cards Against Humanity created, I would be very confused by this email about my cookies.

* Please enjoy this free branding advice, OK Cookie!

Product price

Consider the average dollar value of what you’re selling. Based on my purely anecdotal research, higher-end stores rarely have funny/personable checkout copy.

Now, this could be because pricey brands are aiming for sophistication, which means they don’t want to joke about what you’re buying.

Or it could be because they don’t want ANY potential distractions for people who are about to drop $300 on an orange chair.

Ecommerce checkout flow copywriting product price
I did not buy this. My chair is fine.

Whatever you do with your checkout copy, be intentional

Even if you read this whole thing and you decide not to change your product copy, PLEASE JUST SPEND 30 SECONDS THINKING ABOUT IT.

If you don’t think about your copy, you’re almost certainly missing an opportunity to test and improve. Even a tiny lift during checkout can have massive ROI implications.

And losing that opportunity to boost your ecommerce conversions — by simply failing to consider your copy — would be so un-fun.

Ecommerce Checkout Flow Copywriting

Effective checkout flows are intuitive, quick, & low-friction. Assuming your ecommerce store isn’t a taped-together, virus-riddled piece of garbage, improving your checkout flow copy can be one of the simplest ways to assuage fears, overcome buyer barriers, and boost your conversions. That high-converting copy can also be fun.

E-Commerce Conversion Psychology How-to Guide

How to Increase Conversion with Psychology

The mind is a terrible thing to waste – as a conversion rate expert. E-Commerce conversion psychology & buyer psychology guides everything that we do. You might even say that CROs and shrinks share the same goal: Both seek to understand the human mind to help them find solutions to their problems.

But, of course, we want more than that. We want them to pay for those solutions. And that presents a few psychological hurdles. The act of selling something requires the customer to give up something they value – whether that’s time, personal information, or actual money (which also means the time it takes to acquire it). That’s asking a lot.

You’ll encounter resistance.

And any little thing that makes it harder to purchase will lose you a sale, because they’re already resisting. This means that your job as CRO is both to remove friction, and appeal to your audience’s strongest motivators:

  • Pain
  • Anchoring (+ Placement Psychology)
  • Emotional & Cognitive Needs
  • Reciprocity
  • Commitment/Consistency
  • Social Proof
  • Authority
  • Liking
  • Scarcity (+ Loss Aversion)

If those last six look familiar, it’s because they’re Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Influence, and we’ll be discussing them as they relate to CRO in depth, with actionable takeaways.

All Pain is Emotional

Marketers understand pain points as they affect buyer behavior; but let’s look at pain from the perspective of neuroscience for a moment.

Pain isn’t actually a physical sensation. Yes, if you grab a hot cookie sheet straight from the oven, you will feel pain (and it will feel very physical), but that sensation of “HOT!” is processed in the limbic system – not your hand. The limbic system is also where we process emotions. If you were to remove the limbic system, you wouldn’t perceive feeling hurt, though you would register an injury.

What implications does this have for conversion rate optimization?

If the pain point isn’t emotional – and strongly so – people don’t have enough reason to act.

Fun fact: Focusing attention on pain actually makes that pain feel worse. Watching this Dove ad actually made me get up for a glass of water:

Takeaways: It’s the emotional component of pain that is the most compelling – that’s what gets people to act. Increasing the pain (or at least the perception of it) by bringing attention to it in your content will also encourage users to act.

Anchoring

Have you noticed that if you walk into a shop and see several things you like, the first item you saw is often the one you walk out with? I do this all the time, and you probably do too. In 1974, cognitive psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky gave this phenomenon a name: the “anchoring heuristic.” Human beings tend to place more importance on the first piece of information we receive than subsequent data when making a decision. It’s a cognitive bias, a mental shortcut, we use to make decisions faster and easier.

For CRO, this means that if your product (or ad) is the first your user encounters, that becomes the context for the rest of their decision. If you’re looking to buy a mattress, and the first recommendation you hear is for Tuft & Needle, that is the brand against which you will compare every other mattress (increasing the odds that you’ll ultimately decide on Tuft & Needle in the end).

You can even use this in your pricing on sales pages to make users feel they’re getting a better deal. Make the first price people see high – then discount it.

When Steve Jobs announced the price for the iPad, he used this technique in his presentation.

e-Commerce Conversion Psychology - Anchoring Heuristic
e-Commerce Conversion Psychology – Anchoring Heuristic

On a web page – home page, product page, or landing page – we can also use this idea to our advantage when we decide where to place our CTA buttons. A 2014 eye-tracking study using heat maps revealed that the eye is drawn to two places on a page: The upper left corner and the center of the page. You’ll see pop-up ads in the center of the page for that very reason; they’re impossible to miss. But also notice the placement of the CTA buttons.

e-Commerce Conversion Psychology CTA Buttons
e-Commerce Conversion Psychology CTA Buttons

If there is more than one option, the most important CTA (to the business) is placed on top and is the first option users will see. Many users won’t even glance at the second option if the first one will do the job, and even if they do, their idea of which CTA to choose is already anchored. Instagram, for example, gets more value from gaining access to users’ Facebook information than their email address, so that option is the first one they want users to see.

Takeaway: The first thing people see, whether it’s a product or price, is an anchor point for their decision-making process. You may not be able to control whether you’re the first solution that reaches your target audience, but once they’re on your page, you can control what they see – and in what order – from there. Use it!

Emotional & Cognitive Needs

Psychology, as applied to CRO, depends on one foundational action: Accurately identifying your target audience, and their primary, action-driving needs.

Conversion expert Talia Wolf increased one of her client’s revenues by 86%, just by correctly identifying the target audience and finding out what they wanted most – then designing the experience accordingly. Talia, incidentally, also teaches an online Masterclass titled “Emotion Sells.

“Using psychological principles and the emotional targeting methodology has helped me better understand who my client’s customers are, what motivates them, and what drives their decision making processes, so I can, in turn, create better customer experiences that generate 20X more engagements, sales and revenues.

While working on the fashion E-commerce site below, our research revealed we had two main target audiences, each with different emotional needs.

e-Commerce Conversion Psychology Emotional Targeting
e-Commerce Conversion Psychology Emotional Targeting

The first target audience was teenage girls shopping for their prom dresses, hoping to feel admired and more confident. The other audience was the mothers who were paying for these dresses. Our research showed they primarily wanted to feel safe shopping on the site and confident about the site being appropriate for their daughters.

Thanks to those insights we were able to create a completely new variation using images, color and content that reflected those emotions. Using color psychology, along with other changes based on our understanding of what the target audience was looking for, we increased their revenues by 86%.

The resulting website was a lot more…pink. A design choice made on purpose. Talia says “We introduced the color pink to project calm, hopeful and positive feelings towards shopping prom dresses online. The color pink was introduced to more than just the banner or background; the images on the page were given a pink hue” – to produce more positive emotions in mothers and daughters. Read more about color psychology.

e-Commerce Conversion Psychology - Colors
e-Commerce Conversion Psychology – Colors

As for cognitive needs, Shannelle Mullin, Content & Growth at ConversionXL, says “cognitive load” is a vitally important psychological factor to keep in mind (no pun intended).

“Cognitive load is, essentially, the amount of mental effort being used in the working memory. When that effort is excessive, you end up with cognitive overload.

Overload means our brains are unable to retain new information or draw connections from previous memories. As a result, ability to learn deteriorates and ability to understand plummets.

As an optimizer, it’s your responsibility to ensure UX serves to reduce or, at least, not add to cognitive load.

Even studies from 20 years ago showed that the amount of information the human brain is asked to process each day is high. Undoubtedly, that has increased significantly with the rise of smartphones, Internet connectivity, push notifications, etc.

Here’s how you can spare your visitors from an even higher cognitive load…

  1. Make your UX truly intuitive so that instructions aren’t necessary. If they are, at least reduce them as much as possible.

  2. Stick to deep-rooted design and UX prototypes.

  3. Provide what’s necessary and nothing more.

  4. Look for stylistic inconsistencies that could be confusing (e.g. visitors think something is clickable when it’s not).

  5. Avoid subtlety and ambiguity. Clarity is always better, especially when it comes to navigation, visual cues, etc.

  6. Audit your site to identify what’s adding to cognitive load.

When optimizing a site for conversion, it’s easy to try and do all the things – incorporate every strategy, implement every idea. But Shanelle Mullin reminds us to keep it simple, because simplicity is a very real psychological need too.

Takeaways: Knowing who your target audience is, isn’t enough. You have to understand what they need to get from the transaction, emotionally. But don’t clutter. Keep your site simple and clean, or risk overloading your viewer.

Cialdini’s Principle of Reciprocity

Do you make a beeline for the back of the store at Costco? I do. That’s where those delicious samples are. Free samples are delightful things, but stores don’t offer them out of sheer good will. When you get something for free, you feel obligated to reciprocate in some way. Often, that’s by buying the product.
Reciprocity is Robert Cialdini’s first principle of persuasion – human beings are hardwired to pay their debts.

In e-Commerce, a free sample can mean anything from free (valuable) content, like blogs or guides, or even how-to videos, to actual free samples. The principle is the same: Give something of value (and it must be of genuine value – you can’t waste peoples’ time or make them feel cheated), and you’ll get something of value: conversions.

Takeaway: Find something you can give away for free, whether that be valuable information (on your blog) or sample products. Try sending samples to brand promoters (your best customers, people who love you and say so on social media and review sites – often bloggers, or highly active reviewers). If you don’t want to give ‘freebies,’ then offer discounts. You’ll reap the rewards – good karma pays back.

Cialdini’s Principle of Commitment/Consistency

Did you know that you have a much higher chance of actually sticking with a New Year’s resolution if you share it publicly? People have a deep desire to appear to be consistent. If they say they’re going to do something, by golly, they’ll do it.

But this need to be consistent runs even deeper. People want their actions to be consistent with their beliefs and values, which means if they have a choice to buy from a store that espouses similar values versus a store that doesn’t (even if that store is cheaper), they’ll be drawn to the first one.

And, here’s the crazy thing about consistency. It can also be purely subconscious. If you can get a site visitor to say “yes” to doing something small, like downloading a free guide or signing up for your newsletter, they’ll be more inclined to keep saying “yes” to each additional thing you ask of them. The more “yesses” they accrue, the more likely they’ll continue to opt in – and to buy.

ConversionVoodoo put this to the test by including a “commitment checkbox” on the front page of a client’s website. All it said was “Yes! I am ready for a better rate today!” That checkbox alone resulted in an 11% increase in completed applications.

Takeaway: That first easy opt-in is the foundation of customer loyalty. Get them saying “yes” early and often with low-threshold, low friction requests that benefit them. You’re essentially training users that saying “yes” to you is a positive experience (which is why it’s important to always reward the “yes” response with high-quality, genuinely useful content).

Cialdini’s Principle of Social Proof

Why do Yelp! reviews have such impact? Why do e-commerce stores sell more when they post user reviews on the sales page? Why does a recommendation from a friend mean more than all of the above? Social Proof. When we see other people talking about a product – even if they’re not expressly praising it – we, as buyers, are put at ease. It’s a primal urge to follow the trail that has already been blazed.

That’s right – user reviews don’t even have to be positive to have a positive impact on your conversion rates. Though, of course, they shouldn’t be overwhelmingly negative.

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.

What you don’t want when leveraging social proof, is proof that people aren’t doing what you want them to do. If your copy reads something like, “98% of writers surveyed said they forgot a great idea before they could write it down – don’t miss your next great idea, buy our pocket-sized notebook!”

You’ve just said the vast majority of your target audience doesn’t have a notebook, as you’re trying to sell them a notebook. You assumed that by showing the missed opportunity, you’d leverage loss aversion. But it just doesn’t work that way with Social Proof. What the majority does, other people will follow.

In Yes! By psychologists Noah J. Goldstein and Steve J. Martin, they tested three signs asking people not to remove petrified wood from the Arizona Petrified Forest. One of the signs showed negative social proof:

“Many past visitors have removed the petrified wood from the park, destroying the natural state of the Petrified Forest.”

The result: It tripled theft.

Takeaway: Use social proof – user reviews, testimonials, user social media mentions and photographs, on product pages to reduce purchase anxiety. And don’t censor the negative ones (you’ll build more trust in your brand by leaving them there).

Cialdini’s Principle of Authority

Just like people follow other people (social proof), they also follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts. It’s why so many business owners aren’t just running their businesses, but working to become “thought leaders” in their fields.

Business owners can become authority figures, but they can also “outsource” it by leveraging people who are already authority figures. Not that you have to pay Kim Kardashian $700,000 to take selfies in front of your logo. But you can find authorities who, for the price of a sample product or a moderate sum, will share your product with their established audiences.

L’Oreal regularly endorses bloggers and vloggers to publicly use and talk about their products, like this Youtube video with Pin-up model and YouTube star Cherry Dollface.

Don’t have celebrity connections? No worries! Your current customers might be authorities already. Customer advocacy programs aim to leverage the people who already love a brand by incentivizing them to share it with their friends and colleagues.

Takeaway: Find people who have authority with your target audience and give them reasons to talk about your product. This can be expensive, cheap, or free, depending on who you ask, but it’s always worthwhile. Bonus points if the authority figure publishes a photo of them actually using your product.

Cialdini’s Principle of Liking

This one couldn’t be simpler or more intuitive:

People buy from people they like.

And, people tend to like people who are like them.

The challenge for conversion is to establish likeability in your brand, which you do primarily through design and the voice/tone used in your content, marketing and branding. Even the images you choose, the models on your product pages for example, should remind the target audience of themselves.

One excellent boutique clothing company nearly lost my business because they didn’t have a single picture of their clothing on a model above a size-zero. The brand wasn’t likeable or relatable, and I couldn’t picture myself in their clothing because no one looked like me. I still bought the dress though (purely because of social proof – they had great reviews from people of all sizes).

Takeaway: Build out your buyer persona so you really understand who they are, what they look like, and how they speak and relate to each other. Then, model your visual and written content around them. You’ll feel familiar and become more likeable, increasing conversions.

Cialdini’s Principle of Scarcity – and how this works with Loss Aversion

Cialdini’s Principle of Scarcity can be summed up with: “Now! For a limited time only!”

When something isn’t going to last, we jump at it – we don’t want to lose the opportunity. That instinct is embedded in us as Loss Aversion.

Loss Aversion works like this:

If you find $20 in an old coat pocket, you’re pretty pleased – for a moment. But it doesn’t light up your day, most likely. But lose $20 – and it might wreck your day. This is loss aversion. We react more strongly to loss (it feels worse) than we do to gains (they feel good, but not as good as losing feels bad).

Consequently, people will do more to avoid loss than they will for a gain.

An integral part of Loss is feeling ownership, so simply by making your customers feel like they already own an item, they’ll be less inclined to let it go. It’s one reason why Free Trials are so successful. But, if your product doesn’t work well with the free trial system, there’s another way to foster feelings of ownership – “Buy within the next 15 minutes for a Free Gift with Purchase.” That way, they’ve got the gift (at least in their minds) and will lose it if they don’t complete the purchase quickly.

Here are a few more ways to use scarcity and loss aversion in your e-commerce site:

  • Limited stock: Display stock availability on your product pages (and in your shopping cart) so customers realize there is a limited supply, and they’d better act fast.
  • Limited Time: Ticket purchasing sites are famous for requiring users to complete the purchase process within a very short time-frame (you’d better have that credit card in front of you, or you’ll lose out). It’s a powerful motivator.
  • Free shipping for orders above a certain price: No one wants to miss out on free shipping, and it’s one of the best tools e-commerce sites have to boost sales. Display free shipping information together with the minimum purchase amount required to get it.

Tiffany DaSilva, Growth Hacker and Digital Marketing Consultant, uses urgency along with dynamic product ads for retargeting and abandoned cart emails, for great results:

“There are two things that seem to always improve ecommerce conversion rates for companies I work with and myself personally: Dynamic Product Ads for Retargeting & Abandoned Cart Emails.

Using retargeting ads that show the product I’ve viewed or added to cart on a website on Facebook is the best reminder. It doesn’t feel pushy and it seems to break through the noise quite well. Adding psychological triggers on top of that, like asking me back before a sale ends, or even a “Hurry back” in the ad’s copy, always gives me that feeling of urgency, even if it’s subconscious.

The same urgency triggers can be used with abandoned cart emails. Offering 15% or $10 off to come back within a certain period (24 hours let’s say) and resume their shopping cart experience is a simple way to retain a potential customer. If you think they need a lot of coaxing, adding social proof to those abandoned cart emails in the form of testimonials and celebrity endorsements is a great way to continue to convince the user to convert.

The use of retargeting and abandoned cart emails are essential tactics in any ecommerce digital marketing strategy, but psychological triggers like urgency + social proof are really what makes them successful.”

Takeaways: Creating scarcity is as easy as offering coupons that expire, or offering limited-time deals. Modcloth is a master at this. They run a “12 Days of Deals & Delights” in December in which each day contains one deal, like a 30% discount on all outerwear. But they don’t stop there – they sweeten the deal with a “Free Exclusive Travel Set” (while supplies last). Scarcity + scarcity = big wins.

e-Commerce Conversion Psychology - Scarcity
e-Commerce Conversion Psychology – Scarcity

These psychological principles aren’t new; they’re as old as the human mind. But what is new, and what allows for a great deal of innovation, is how to apply them in fresh, pleasing ways to CRO in e-commerce. The fun begins when you use these psychological principles to inspire creative solutions to age-old problems.

How to Increase Conversion with Psychology

Buyer psychology guides everything that we do. You might even say that CROs and shrinks share the same goal: Both seek to understand the human mind to help them find solutions to their problems. But, of course, we want more than that. We want them to pay for those solutions. And that presents a few psychological hurdles.

13 Google Analytics Tips & Tricks for Better Data

13 Google Analytics Tips & Tricks to Better Data
This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

We thought it might be useful to conclude the Advanced Google Analytics Series by reminding you of some of the most important and useful features of the Google Analytics. These are very easy to forget, but they can provide so much more information quite disproportionate to the amount of effort needed to set them up.

13 Google Analytics Tips & Tricks to Better Data
This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

We thought it might be useful to conclude the Advanced Google Analytics Series by reminding you of some of the most important and useful features of the Google Analytics. These are very easy to forget, but they can provide so much more information quite disproportionate to the amount of effort needed to set them up.

Product Photography: How Photos Impact Your e-Commerce Conversion

Product Photography e-Commerce Conversion

I have something shocking to tell you:

The e-commerce business is just getting started.

“How could it be?”, you must be asking.

It’s no surprise e-commerce is popular: last year 79% of Americans bought something online.

Despite its popularity, e-commerce represents only 8.1% of total retail sales in North America.

That represents a tiny piece of the $5.5 trillion total retail market.

The reason why e-commerce isn’t as popular as the good ol’ offline retailing is simple.

No, it’s not pricing. It’s not a technological barrier either.

Let me show you why.

Why e-Commerce Isn’t As Large as Offline Retailing

Consumers don’t buy online as much as they do offline because they can’t see, touch, or experience the products they want to purchase.

When you want to buy a pair of sneakers, you like grabbing the shoe, touching it, inspecting it, and trying it on. In some cases, you want a sales clerk to help you. Hell, you even want people to look at you as you try different sneakers on.

This experiential limitation explains why 83% of consumers surveyed in a PricewaterhouseCoopers study said they go online to research products, but then end up buying them in-store.

One of the best ways to overcome the online purchasing challenge is by having great product photography.

Product photography matters so much that a study carried out by MDG Advertising found 67% of online shoppers rated high-quality images as being “very important” to their purchase decision over “product specific information,” “long descriptions,” and “reviews.”

The question isn’t whether photography matters or not. It’s obvious it does. The real question is, how much does a photo impacts on your customer’s behavior?

How Product Photography Influences Purchase Behavior

It’s spring, and you feel like your house would need a nice design revamp.
You look around your house, and you see your floors look old and boring. You could take the whole floor out and install a new flooring, but that would be too expensive.

“Why don’t you get a rug?”, your best friend suggests. They aren’t as expensive as getting a new flooring, and they can also hide the bad looks of your floor.

Excited with the new idea, you search on different e-commerce stores for a new rug.

Most of them look fine but aren’t appealing enough. They all have the same plain looks.

You are about to give up and drive to your closest rug store when all of a sudden you find something that catches your eye: a blue Persian rug with precious gold and red touches.

It looks slightly decadent yet elegant, exactly what you were looking for.

You look at the different dozen or so pictures shown on the product page. One shows the little-knitted twists around the different shades of blue. Another one shows the rug laying over a floor of a house similar to yours. The house looks gorgeous. You are starting to get excited.

As you look at these pictures, you feel like if the rug was speaking to you. You can imagine yourself walking around it as your house takes a new life. You see your friends complimenting you for it.

You want it in your house.

It’s not the price nor the free shipping; it’s the emotion you feel as you look at that rug that makes you want to buy it.

After some contemplation, you end up taking the plunge and you decide to buy it.

“Now I will live in the modern house I wanted all along,” you say to yourself.

Let’s stop for a second and ask, what happened there?

You see, according to a study made by BigCommerce, 78% of online shoppers want photographs to bring products to life. Shoppers want to see a product as if it was part of their lives.

That’s why you loved the rug so much. You could see yourself using it in your house.

But there’s something else that explains your purchase decision. Photography influences another important aspect of your mind which isn’t related to your wallet.

If you take another look at the little story shown before you will see I mentioned words like “feel,” “want,” and “imagine.”

That’s no coincidence. It turns out that photographs can affect the emotions of consumers. When you see a photo of a product you want to buy, you don’t process every single bit of information on which you base your purchase decision. According to the “somatic marker hypothesis” developed by Antonio Damasio, professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, emotions are a necessary ingredient to almost all decisions.

That means consumers make all kind of decisions based as much on emotional impulses as in logical facts. If a product feels right, even if the price is high, you are may end up buying it anyway.

The influence of emotions in the purchase decision not only affects products but brands. fMRI neuro-imagery has shown when consumers evaluate brands; they use emotions rather than information (which includes features and facts).

A brand is nothing more than a mental representation of a product in the consumer’s mind. If the brand representation is made up only of logical elements like their product’s attributes and features without any emotions involve, consumers won’t be influenced to prefer a brand’s products and take action.

One great way to add emotions to a brand is by using photos to narrate a story. A brand’s narrative is the story that communicates “who” is this brand, what it means to the consumer, and why the consumer should care. This can be explained with words, but as you already know, photographs speak louder than words.

See the following images:

Product Photography Maserati
Product Photography Maserati

Maserati doesn’t just show a photo of their cars and expects people to buy them (especially not at its price). Maserati tells a story through their photos. This story represents an ideal: luxury, comfort, and status. These photos help you see who you could become if you bought one of their cars.

Take a look at this photo:

Product Photography MADE
Product Photography MADE

MADE tells the story of a chic and comfortable life through modern furniture. Their photos don’t sell you their products per se. They don’t show the different features of their products either. Rather, they represent what people want to be.

These photos by Maserati and MADE create a need which consumers can only fulfill with a purchase.

Narratives aren’t the only element that affects a brand’s perception; a brand’s personality also matters. A study done by the University of Southern California has shown consumers perceive the same personality characteristics they find in brands as they do with their friends. That means, the personality of a brand can make people humanize it as if they were a friend or acquaintance. This, as a consequence, can make people feel as if the brand was a part of their lives, as one of their friends.

Maserati’s personality could be described as elegant, sophisticated, and well-spoken. MADE’s personality, on the other hand, could be described as hip, modern, and forward-thinking. The photographs showed above clearly show these personality traits. Only an elegant individual would buy a Maserati car. If, on the other hand, you wanted to buy an expensive but inelegant car, you would buy a gold Lamborghini (yikes!).

Product Photography Gold Lamborghini
Product Photography Gold Lamborghini

Last but not least, the most important attribute of emotions is that they help to push consumers into taking action. If you have ever been in love, you know how emotions can make you do things you wouldn’t have done otherwise. You would do anything to be with someone you like and love. If a consumer feels he loves a brand’s personality (just like you love your partner’s one), he would do anything to spend time with it, including buying their products over and over. Why do you think there is so many people tattoo Harley-Davison’s logo yet don’t own one of their bikes?

Photographs sit at the core of your brand. Photographies transmit the idea of your brand, what it represents and its personality. Photographies can make consumers feel emotions, which makes them biased into taking action.

If you can create photographies of your brand and your products that make people emotional, you will be able to grow your store more than you would have ever imagined.

If you want to know how to take these ideas into action, keep on reading.

How to Implement Product Photography in Your Own e-Commerce Store

Take Your Own Photos

If you don’t manufacture the products you sell, you are likely to get your product photos taken by the manufacturer or the wholesaler. In most cases, the pictures they give you tend to be low-quality, both in detail and imagination. They rarely represent anything, nor they stir any emotions. If this is your case, you have two options:

  1. Take your own photos
  2. Hire a photographer

The main advantage of taking your own photos is you save a lot of money. The main con is, well, your photos may end up looking good but not as aesthetically pleasing as if they were taken by a professional.

If you only want to show your products in their most basic form (e.g. a front picture and side picture), you could try the DIY way. This guide by Shopify shows you how you can set up your photography studio with little investment.
If you want to convey your brand’s personality by showing your product’s in use, you should get professional help.

Outlier, an American performance clothing brand, not only shows their products in their most standard form, but they also use very creative photos to drive their brand’s narrative and personality.

Product Photography Outlier
Product Photography Outlier

The short on the right doesn’t look that incredible. The material may be unique and good, but it’s not appealing enough. The image on the left, however, shows exactly what Outlier stands for: taking your clothes with you anywhere you want, to do everything you always dreamed of. That image shows who they are and what they stand for. That’s all I need to see to make me want to buy their shorts.

Take the Right Photos

There are countless types of photos you can take of your products. Let’s start with the most basic ones.

The most commonly used photos tend to show a product in its most basic form: in front of a white background and on different angles. That’s product photography on it’s most basic form, and it’s what most companies should do.

Ugmonk shows their clothing products in different angles with great quality. In this case, they start with an overview of its product. Then they move on to show the details of the design and the fabric. Finally, they show the product folded and wrinkled.

Product Photography Ugmonk
Product Photography Ugmonk

Most companies tend to limit their photography to these kind of shots. In many cases, however, it’s usually not enough. Remember: your product photos need to speak for your brand. A front photo of your product won’t do it.

The best way to display your brand’s personality is by showing your product being used and in a relevant context.

Let’s see some examples:

Product Photography SuitSupply
Product Photography SuitSupply

SuitSupply first show their suits used by a model who represents the ideal customer, an elegant, young and modern businessman. They focus on the fabric (an important element of any high-quality suit) and the suit details later, once the image of who they represent has been established.

Product Photography Zara
Product Photography Zara

Look how Zara focuses more on the models than on the product itself. This is no coincidence. The product sold is just a simple women’s t-shirt. Take a look on how defiantly the model looks at the camera. The model shows a strong and independent attitude. If Zara is trying to portrait that kind of personality for their brand and products, they are doing it right.

Product Photography Bang & Olufsen
Product Photography Bang & Olufsen

Bang & Olufsen sells speakers that can be taken anywhere. Instead of just focusing on the product on a white background and trying to explain where it can be used, the photo shows the versatility of the product and how easy it can be used outdoors. That’s what the product is about: taking your speakers for a ride. The photography communicates this value in a smart way.

What Dimensions to Use

One final aspect to discuss is the dimension of your photos. It’s obvious the larger the image, the better the quality, and therefore, the more a visitor can see and feel a product.

There are three main dimensions you can use:

  • Thumbnail (100 x 100 or 200 x 200): These are the pictures that show up on your category pages. Despite the size, this image is important as it’s what causes people to click on it and see the product pages.
  • Product pages (usually 640 x 640 or 800 x 800): These are the regular-size images that show all the different angles of the product.
  • Zoom (over 800 x 800): These are the photos that show your products in detail.

Despite the clear benefits of larger images, it’s not necessary that all your product photos have this dimension. You’d want to add at least one photo with a large dimension so your visitors can closely look at your products, but the rest can be normal if you don’t have access to larger images.

As always, you should test what works best. If you want to know how to do this, keep reading.

Test Your Product Photography

You previously saw some examples of how companies showcase their products through their photography. Some show their products with a white background while others show their products used by a model or even outdoors. Those companies know what photography work best because they have tested rigorously which kind of photo works best. You should do the same.

Testing product photography works just like you test any other part of your store. The first thing you would need to do is develop a hypothesis. For example, let’s say you want to increase your conversion rate, and you think adding a model using one of your products in a studio content could help. A good hypothesis could look like this:

The conversion rate on the product pages is low. By adding a photo with a model, we will persuade more people to buy, therefore increasing the conversion rate.

Then, you would need to take the photo, add it to your store, and implement the change on your A/B testing tool. Once you finish with the test design, you would launch the test and wait until you hit significant results.

As expected, if the results help you increase your conversion rate as hypothesized, then you can implement the changes into your store.

One company that mastered the art of product photography testing is Adore Me.

According to an interview done by FastCompany, Adore Me shoots multiple versions of their products’ images to run on its website. They test different models wearing the same set in the exact same position, or the same model in the same set in a different position, for example. Then, they test the options to find out which one sells better.

“Picture has a huge impact on sale when it comes to fashion. You buy the product not only for what it looks like, but for the emotions that the product conveys to you and that you want to convey through the product”, said Morgan Hermand-Waiche, CEO of Adore Me.

If you use sliders on your store, you could test taking them out. The reason behind this is due to the fact sliders confuse people, which explains why only 1% of the people actually click on one. This results in people ignoring your slider. Finally, they slow down your site and they don’t always work well on mobile devices.

You could also test adding a hero image, or in the case you already have one, taking it out. This article by ConversionXL explains the benefits of hero images and why they work in detail.

Finally, you could test for size, especially on your home and category pages. For example, MALL.CZ, Czech Republic’s second-largest e-commerce retailer, tested adding larger product photos sizes on their category pages and got a 9.46% increase in sales (96% chance to beat original).

Product Photography MALL.CZ Hypothesis
Product Photography MALL.CZ Hypothesis

Conclusion

Throughout this article, you have learned the true power photographies have on the consumer’s mind.

You also learned what different kind of photographies you can try on your store and how to get started with little investment (if you are under budget constraints).

Finally, you learned how to test different product photos to improve your conversion rate and other important KPIs.

Now it’s your turn:

How do you use photographies on your e-commerce store? Please share your experiences with us on Twitter.

Product Photography e-Commerce Conversion

Product photography impacts your e-commerce conversion – one of the best ways to overcome the online purchasing challenge is by having great product photos. Product photography matters so much that a study carried out by MDG Advertising found 67% of online shoppers rated high-quality images as being “very important” to their purchase decision over “product specific information,” “long descriptions,” and “reviews.”

Google Analytics Acquisition and Attribution

Google Analytics Acquisition Attribution
This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Google Analytics Acquisition and Attribution - Acquisition tells us how people get to the site. Conversion tells us how many of those people purchase. Our goal in analytics is to find which channel brings us the most visitors who are the most likely to also purchase.

Google Analytics Acquisition Attribution
This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Google Analytics Acquisition and Attribution - Acquisition tells us how people get to the site. Conversion tells us how many of those people purchase. Our goal in analytics is to find which channel brings us the most visitors who are the most likely to also purchase.

Google Analytics Spam – Don’t Be Fooled: Filter Bogus Traffic in Google Analytics

Google Analytics Spam: Filtering Bogus Traffic
This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Fake traffic is Google Analytics spam traffic that creates sessions on your website that artificially increases traffic, creates traffic spikes and avalanches, that don’t represent what’s really happening with your customers at all. Ridding Google Analytics of Spam traffic is essential to ensuring the data you receive and act upon is real. So let’s look at how Spam affects your GA reports, and how to get rid of it.

Google Analytics Spam: Filtering Bogus Traffic
This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Fake traffic is Google Analytics spam traffic that creates sessions on your website that artificially increases traffic, creates traffic spikes and avalanches, that don’t represent what’s really happening with your customers at all. Ridding Google Analytics of Spam traffic is essential to ensuring the data you receive and act upon is real. So let’s look at how Spam affects your GA reports, and how to get rid of it.

Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnel

Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnel
This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Google Analytics multi-channel funnels help us to accurately attribute conversions to each channel and put values on them. From this, we can determine how long it took from the user’s first visit to their eventual conversion and what steps they took in between. It’s the most valuable information a conversion optimizer can have.

Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnel
This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Google Analytics multi-channel funnels help us to accurately attribute conversions to each channel and put values on them. From this, we can determine how long it took from the user’s first visit to their eventual conversion and what steps they took in between. It’s the most valuable information a conversion optimizer can have.

What The Matrix Can Teach You About Evoking Emotion in Your e-Commerce Copy

e-Commerce copywriting

What if I told you…

The entire world was nothing but a lie that had been pulled over your eyes to blind you?

That you were a slave? And that I had the truth?

Do you want to know?

Well, you’d break into a cold sweat, and you’d keep listening…

And once I mentioned that life as you knew it was actually bondage, prison — and that the Matrix was Wonderland, a deep rabbit hole ripe for exploration…

Well, you’d probably decide to take the red pill and stick around.

e-Commerce copy

But if I told you…

“Hey, I’ve got a brand-new, high-quality, reality-based solution to replace your substandard day-to-day experience!”

You’d have no f***ing idea what I was talking about.

And you’d probably grab your windbreaker and hightail it out of my weirdly dark apartment.

The first phrasing works better than the second because “bondage,” “prison,” “rabbit hole,” “blind,” and “slave,” are all specific, highly evocative phrases.

They imbue what I’m selling you (escape from the Matrix) with emotion (in this case, probably a mix of fear, dread, and a teensy bit of curiosity).

Think Neo would have bought into the Matrix if Morpheus had described it as a “high-quality reality-based solution”?

Nah, son.

When they’re considering buying, your prospective customers are highly emotionally engaged.

And the more money you’re asking them to spend, the more they’ll have that weird feeling where their heart is in their throat and they’re kind of sweaty and they finally click through and make the purchase and they’re excited, but also worried, but also excited…

Neo e-commerce copy
Kinda like this.

You can’t bring customers to that heart-pounding, palm-sweating fever pitch by describing your store or your products in generic terms.

No matter what’s being sold, buying is inherently emotional

Getting people to buy without an emotional connection just doesn’t work very often, much like Keanu Reeves these days.

Buying is emotional. People get invested in their purchases, both literally and figuratively.

When we come face-to-face with a decision — whether it’s something as momentous as buying a house or something as small as whether or not to grab that pack of peanut-butter M&Ms at the drugstore checkout — we automatically draw on our feelings, past experiences, and positive or negative associations.

Talia Wolf puts it simply and starkly:

Emotions affect decisions
Decisions affect conversions
Conversions affect revenues.

Making your customer feel good can encourage them to buy

Since emotions affect purchasing decisions, it stands to reason that you might want to make your buyers feel good (AKA confident, or happy, or validated, or fulfilled, or another positive emotion) so they associate that good feeling with you and your product.

And making potential buyers feel good can make them like you, which can make them buy from you.

Yes, come a little closer. Now click “Add to Cart”...
Yes, come a little closer. Now click “Add to Cart”…

Cialdini’s principle of Liking is based on the anecdotally obvious truth that we like doing business with people we like. We look for common ground between us and the people with whom we’re considering spending our money.

Think about it. It’s just common sense.

Not convinced? Here are some examples from the wild:

  • Roger Dooley unpacks PetRelocation.com’s About page and explains how it uses the principle of Liking in several concrete ways.
  • Recently, Kellogg scored big on likeability in their online video ads—which converted at a high rate. According to Nielsen Catalina Solutions,
    “[A]ds deemed “likable” by panelists for copy testing firm Ace Metrix had the strongest sales lift of all – a 172 index where 100 is the average for people exposed to ads in the study.”

So how can you make your customers like you? Brian Ahearn offers three suggestions from Cialdini’s research:

  1. Focus on similarities – What do you and your customer have in common?
  2. Give compliments – It may sound like a cheap trick, but paying a sincere compliment works
  3. Look for cooperative efforts – Where can you work together with your customer toward a common goal?

Negative emotions have a proven place, too

It makes sense to make your buyers feel good, so they’ll buy from you.

But stereotypically bad emotions like anxiety, fear, and guilt can be effective conversion motivators, too.

There’s nothing like watching the clock tick down on an online SaaS product sale or launch (anxiety), worrying you might miss out (fear), and feeling like you haven’t been investing enough time in your business development (guilt). And this product could help…

Proceed with caution when playing on negative emotions, though: Kunle Campbell suggests that to effectively use negative emotions, the buyer’s ultimate emotional outcome should be positive.

So don’t overdo it on the guilt, k? Reassure your buyers that they’re making a smart purchase.

The worst emotion your customer can feel is apathy

It’s all too easy to emotionally check out when you’re writing your e-commerce copy.

And you end up with copy that zooms past “concise yet still descriptive” and lands right at “vague, confusing, and boring”.

Emotional Scale
Emotional Scale

Ever been to a movie and come out thinking, “Well, I GUESS there was a plot, but it sure didn’t stick with me?” Guessing you didn’t feel that way about “The Matrix”.

As Morpheus says to Neo, “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.”

Preferably through some sweet-ass shades.
Preferably through some sweet-ass shades.

The same goes for your e-commerce customers. You can’t just TELL them what your product is. They have to see it in their mind’s eye and feel emotionally connected to it.

Part of the way you help customers connect with your product (along with presenting a solid value proposition, featuring high-def, zoomable product photography, and including buyer reviews) is by writing emotionally evocative copy.

There are lots of copywriting techniques to make your customers feel something

The most copy-popular way to evoke emotion? Tell a story.

Give yourself a hand if you saw that coming, because telling a story in your e-commerce copy isn’t a new idea. In fact, it’s been covered ad nauseum.

‘Bout a million times, actually.
‘Bout a million times, actually.

The key, however, is making sure the story stars not your company —

not your product —

but your reader.

Giving your reader a starring role can be as simple and subtle as positioning the product at a time in your prospect’s life, like Target does with this car seat:

Car Seat

e-Commerce item

Start your baby off safely with the Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat in Legend. This infant car seat is very easy to install correctly so you have no worries about how to fit it in place. Using a LATCH system, it’s a quick fit; for vehicles without LATCH the base has a built-in belt locking system. The removable newborn insert is designed to gently cradle your precious cargo and give them a comfortable ride with all the support they need. As your child grows, remove the insert and you can continue to use this car seat as it is rated up to 30 pounds and 30”. Meets ASTM Standards, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and is JPMA Certified.

Boom. “Start your baby off safely” → “As your child grows”. Story firmly implanted.

OR, you can get as involved as J. Peterman does with its famous micro-short stories about clothing:

e-Commerce copy clothing

e-commerce copy story

Mind you, telling a story is about more than just using customer-centric language.

This is about building a world where your prospects can immerse themselves: a world where they feel better, happier, prettier, more energetic, smarter, more satisfied, or more productive.

I know. That’s a lot of pressure to lay on a lil’ ol’ online store.

Calm down, Elrond.
Calm down, Elrond.

But the fact is that we can’t help but project ourselves into the stories we watch, read, and hear.

We identify with stories, and when we do, we feel empathy for the people experiencing them.

In fact, research shows that our brains’ mirror neurons may be partly responsible for the reason we cringe when we see someone trip and fall, or why we salivate when we watch Mary Berry delicately spoon tiramisu cake into her mouth. (Just me?)

Want to write Oscar-worthy emotional e-commerce copy?

No matter what you’re selling, you, too, can write e-commerce copy that tugs the heartstrings of your readers, prospects, and prior buyers.

Here’s how to get started in 4 easy steps:

1. Give your reader TIME to feel

You might remember the totally boss scene in “The Matrix” where multiple Agent Smiths are shooting at Neo, and he’s just like, “Hold up, wait a minute, not right now, bullets.”

What a G.
What a G.

Now let’s imagine that you’re Agent Smith, and your customer is Neo. (Sorry for making you Agent Smith, but bear with me.)

You don’t want your customer to feel like you’re shooting him with meaningless words.

You want to give him the ability to slow down time while he’s reading your copy.

You want to get his attention, then let him react — all within a split second.

Step 2 helps you buy time.

2. Use unexpected language

Because our brains are constantly predicting what will happen next, we have a tendency to get stuck on unusual words or pay more attention to them when we’re reading.

Dan Gilbert calls this phenomenon “nexting”. He explains in a passage from his excellent book, Stumbling on Happiness:

“As long as your brain’s guess about the next word turns out to be right, you cruise along happily, left to right, left to right, turning black squiggles into ideas, characters, blissfully unaware that your nexting brain is predicting the future of the sentence at a fantastic rate. It is only when your brain predicts badly that you suddenly feel avocado.

That is, surprised. See?”

When you use an unusual word, your readers will pay more attention. They’ll pause for a second. They might not believe their eyes.

“Lemme get a better look at that,” says your customer.
“Lemme get a better look at that,” says your customer.

And while you don’t want to distract them from your ultimate goal (conversion!), more time spent on the page correlates with a higher conversion rate, according to Moz. So take it slow, Joe.

3. Make sure you’re being specific

Using specific, descriptive phrases is another idea right out of the Copywriting 101 playbook. We’re not breaking any new ground here.

But too often, e-commerce marketers worry that specificity will alienate their target (possibly because they’re thinking of their target customer no more specifically than as “everyone and their mom”). So they err on the side of inoffensively vague copy.

For example, here’s a mouthful of copy mush I came across recently:

Oh, good, I’m so glad they engineered those cutouts.
Oh, good, I’m so glad they engineered those cutouts.

Why doesn’t this copy make me feel anything??

Because phrases like “decidedly forward” and “high-quality” are too vague. Their direct benefits to the reader aren’t immediately apparent or applicable. They’re nothing-words.

More specific phrasing here could actually evoke what it feels like to wear the Wanderer Long Sleeve top. Maybe something like, “Enjoy the breeze on your skin through this soft, snug top’s airy cutouts, even if you’re clearly a Cylon.”

If you look closely, this kind of bland, unevocative language is all over e-commerce:

In case you can’t read the screenshot, these Columbia hiking boots are described like this on Amazon:

Rich, all-over leather gives a premium outdoor feel to this supportive, waterproof hiking boot. The newton ridge™ plus waterproof seals out wet weather while also breathing and features a shank under the arch, delivering stability and support where you need it and flexibility where you don’t. The Omni grip® rubber outsole features rugged, grippy traction specifically designed to evacuate mud ← what happened to the end?

At first glance, it seems all right. The leather is rich, the boot is waterproof…

But if I dig a little deeper, parts of the copy start to erode my trust.

What’s a “premium outdoor feel”? And what exactly is “rugged, grippy traction” when you really think about it? And what horrific fate befell this description writer before he could finish his sentence?

The truth is that you don’t have to worry about alienating people through specificity.

Using specific language, especially when it comes right from your customer research (you’re doing research, right?), sends out a “dog whistle” to the exact right kind of buyer.

As Alex Birkett notes on CXL, “Everyone is not your customer.” And you don’t want everyone. You want the right customer.

Brooklyn boutique Catbird definitely kept its audience in mind when it wrote this lush, nostalgic copy for its Kitten Solid Perfume:

Speaking of perfume, another excellent way to evoke emotion is to…

4. Appeal to the senses

Think about your favorite family dish from childhood. For me, that’s my dad’s chicken cacciatore: smothered in tangy tomato sauce, with thick, tender slices of green bell pepper and onions.

How does thinking about that dish make you feel? Mouth watering a little bit?

Sensory words work on restaurant menus, and they also work in e-commerce copy — whether or not you’re selling food.

The brain processes “tangible” words that evoke sensory or perceptual experiences, like “creamy” or “bumpy,” faster than it processes other words. So using sensory words might just fast-track your message into your prospect’s brain.

And if you ARE selling food, well, sensory language is your best friend.

See’s Candy has it figured out:

I would like to be folded in the sweet, crunchy embrace of this can of Toffee-ettes.
I would like to be folded in the sweet, crunchy embrace of this can of Toffee-ettes.

Don’t forget: emotional copy works everywhere, not just in product descriptions

All right, I have just one last piece of advice for you:

If you’re saving up all your emotional appeal just for your product descriptions, STOP DOING THAT RIGHT NOW.

I SAID STOP, GREG.
I SAID STOP, GREG.

Ultra-specific, sensory language works everywhere. Not just in product copy.

Think website copy, social media posts, emails, PPC ads, and even meta descriptions. Don’t believe me? Here’s Everlane making the most of its meta descriptions:

I can see this comfy dress in my mind. I can feel it in my fingers. And now I want it. (I’m a size medium btw)
I can see this comfy dress in my mind. I can feel it in my fingers. And now I want it. (I’m a size medium btw)

Will you take the red pill, or the blue pill?

Hopefully by now I’ve done my job as Morpheus, and convinced you to take the red pill.

Go forth and stop time. Be specific. Be unexpected. Use tangible, sensory language. Make your reader FEEL something.

If Keanu of all people can evoke emotion, you can too.
If Keanu of all people can evoke emotion, you can too.

PS. If you run a copy test, make sure you’re not changing anything else on the page. You can read more about testing best practices here, or hire Objeqt to run your next test.

e-Commerce copywriting

No matter what’s being sold, buying is inherently emotional. Getting people to buy without an emotional connection just doesn’t work very often, much like Keanu Reeves these days. Buying is emotional. People get invested in their purchases, both literally and figuratively.

Google Analytics Event Tracking

Google Analytics Event Tracking
This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Google Analytics event tracking is a piece of JavaScript that is inserted in interactive content on website pages. JavaScript is a programming language used mostly to create dynamic content on websites - content that moves, reacts, changes and does things. In this case, we’re using the JavaScript code to initiate the report from the web page to Google Analytics when an event has taken place on the website page.

Google Analytics Event Tracking
This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Google Analytics event tracking is a piece of JavaScript that is inserted in interactive content on website pages. JavaScript is a programming language used mostly to create dynamic content on websites - content that moves, reacts, changes and does things. In this case, we’re using the JavaScript code to initiate the report from the web page to Google Analytics when an event has taken place on the website page.