Recently, a designer colleague told me a story. He was consulting with a leading utility that had launched a major new offer on-line. The on-line conversion figures were not great. Okay, they were bad. A lot of money had been spent to get to this point. Heads might roll. 

So the company did what a lot of companies do, they fiddled with the top of the funnel by adding even more to their digital ad spend . More click-through means more revenue, right?

Unfortunately for them, they were fiddling while Rome burned, and when I say 'Rome' I mean their ad budget.

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My colleague took some time to dig a little deeper. Were so many people really clicking through ads and entering the buying journey with no real intention to buy?

He found the Drop Off patterns interesting. A large % of drop-off was at the bottom of the funnel, literally at the 'Buy Now' point . 

The buying journey was designed to "convert visitors to buyers ". Fair enough.

Here is our product =>  It's great ! =>  Pick an option =>  Click to buy

So that's okay right ? No need to over-complicate things. But what was actually happening?

My colleague did a little UX research, asking some sample users to go through the on-line journey.  What were they feeling and thinking?

The product was a broadband-TV-phone offering. 

Price is important, because we are all aware its going to be another monthly out-going and probably for 12 months minimum. Quality is important, because broadband/TV/phone are the oxygen of our modern lives. These points seemed to be covered well on the on-line journey.

But there was one other thing to be addressed. Telecom services have a lot of parts - gigabytes, network coverage, 'fair usage' etc. We don't always understand it all and it's not easy to compare offers. They're offering 20 Gigs - is that enough? Is it better than others offer?

Consumers have a specific fear - I will commit to this contract today and next week I'll meet my friend who will tell me she got a better product for a better price and I have messed up and missed out. It's a fear of getting done over. It's a fear of being embarrassed. It's a strong fear.

This fear was not being adequately addressed in the journey from home-page to checkout. 

In the tests, consumers were being asked to 'Buy Now' when, in their own minds they were still 'Comparing'.

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They knew it was a good offer, but they didn't know if it was the best offer. So what did they do? They dropped out.

The solution? 

It was pretty simple. Some extra comparison information added to the on-line journey to assure users that this is '..the Best Offer on the market " before hitting them with the Buy call-to-action. It took a couple of days to design, sign-off and update the site.

The Result?

A 30% increase in conversions - worth millions to the utility company in lifetime value.

What's the learning?

Yes, some on-line users will want to get to the checkout in as few clicks as possible. However, many more are at the point of researching, comparing and deciding on the value proposition.  A smart conversion journey will address these fears at each point, even if it takes a little longer to get to checkout.  You can always present short-cuts for those that are ready to buy, but if the whole journey is a short-cut, you can lose a lot of business. 

And in the bigger picture....

These days, we have all the data, but do we have all the information? We know how many people click. But when they don't click - do we know why? In the rush to turn conversion into a science, are we making science of rushing to conversion ?

One symptom of being driven by data is that we will often jump to add more volume at the top of the funnel, because the results are simple and measurable. One opportunity for User Experience design is that when we make things better at the bottom of the funnel it creates a better journey for the most valuable visitors to our site. We spent a lot of money to get them there and by getting to the end of our funnel, they have qualified themselves in as likely customers. Improving that part of the journey is surely worth a little more time and a little more thought.

Yes, we need the data, but let's not forget the human experience, when we work both sides of that equation, it's a pretty powerful sum.

Of course a little more thought would lead you to the idea that the bottom of the buying funnel is the top of the retention funnel and that's where the real gold is. Ultimately, you might stop thinking about funnels and start thinking about a continuous relationship with clients. We call it the Client Continuum.

This series of blogs will look at the gaps that often make the eCommerce journey a leaky pipe.  We will also explore how eCommerce can be an integrated part of a true omni-channel offering. 

Take a look around and contact us if you want to talk about growing your business. 

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