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Improving Sales Performance on the Web

Posted by Mohsin On 5/27/2012 10:42:00 PM 1 comment


Case Study

The aim of this article is to show you the most effective method by which to improve the ROI from your marketing spend. The solution will cost you almost nothing, and will not involve changing your online marketing activities at all. The secret is to tune your site to reduce your Cost Per Acquisition. This is done by examining your Conversion Funnel.

Cost Per Acquisition

When people arrive in your site you want them to do something; this is your Target Action. Some companies use their site to create leads for their sales team, in which case the Target Action is getting the visitor to fill in a contact form. For ecommerce sites the Target Action is an online purchase. How much it costs you to get someone to engage in your Target Action is your Cost Per Acquisition, or CPA.
Here's an example using the Web's average numbers: You're running Google AdWords and paying 50 cents per visitor, which is the average bid. The percentage of those visitors who engage in your Target Action is 2%, the Web's average Conversion Rate. This means it takes 50 visitors (at 50 cents each) to get one Target Action, so your Cost Per Acquisition is $25.00.

The Conversion Funnel

People arrive at a Landing Page, then go through a series of pages before deciding to engage in your Target Action. The path they follow from Landing Page to Target Action is their Conversion Path. At each step in the Conversion Path some visitors will leave the site. This creates a funnel of decreasing numbers at each step in the path. This is called the Conversion Funnel.

Case Study: Motoreasy

One of our clients in the UK is Motoreasy, a company that sells extended auto warranties. They sell policies online and they also have a telephone sales team. Thus they have two possible Target Actions in their site; get people to purchase online or get people to fill in a contact form for the tele-sales team.
We run a search marketing program for Motoreasy, consisting of search optimization for native listings, and PPC advertising. There is also a good affiliate program that we created for them, and they have developed special relationships with large online properties (such as major newspapers) that include dedicated content on their sites. Motoreasy also runs TV and print advertising, direct mail, PR and all the other elements you'd expect from a well-rounded marketing program.

As you can see, there is no marketing activity Motoreasy hasn't thought of. Our task is to improve the ROI on all this activity without actually changing it or spending any more money.
The way to improve ROI on any marketing budget without changing the program is to decrease Cost Per Acquisition. This is done by increasing the percentage of traffic to your site which engages in your Target Action. This means you have to improve the performance of your Conversion Funnel. You do this by making sure the marketing message you used to get people into the site is consistently and clearly communicated down the entire length of the funnel.

Motoreasy's web site is designed to give you a quote for an extended auto warranty on your car. This involves completing three short forms that will then deliver a price. If you decide you want to sign up, there are then another three forms you must complete before you get to credit card processing. This all may sound a little lengthy, but bear in mind that we're selling a heavily regulated financial product and that there are strict legal guidelines in the UK regarding this sort of thing.
To start with, I split the Conversion Funnel into two parts: from landing page to quote, and from quote to sign up. I then decided to focus on improving the rate of quotes first, because two out of three people who started the quote process failed to complete it.

Analysis of a Conversion Funnel is fairly simple: Look at what percentage of people who see the first page go through to the second one and what percentage of those go through to the next, and so on. It's more important to know the Conversion Rate for each page than for the path as a whole. What I could see was a fairly constant bleeding of visitors throughout the path. The fact that as many dropped out at the beginning as dropped out at the end told me the customers weren't simply getting fatigued, so it had to be something to do with the content of the forms themselves.

The design of the forms you had to fill in was fairly formal, as you'd expect from a financial company. There was lots of good stuff before you got into them about the benefits of the product, and a very high percentage of visitors entered the quote process. However, once you got into the quote pages these messages were absent.
I worked with their design team on a new design that kept communicating the message. The first place people look at on a web page is the top-right quadrant, so we put the primary message there. We moved terms and conditions to the bottom and put content around the form that kept pushing the benefits (which had motivated people to start the quote process in the first place).

In other words, I was selling the visitor on the benefits of completing this form.
This is core marketing: tell people what you want them to do (fill in the form), and then tell them the benefits of doing so (you'll get a quote which could save you money).

In addition, we didn't want to completely lose the people who were going to give up. So we put the telephone number prominently at the top, making it easy for them to call if they found filling out the online form too tedious. We gave them access to a very short contact form that retained any information they had already provided.  

These changes reduced the drop out rate from 65% to 29% overnight. This may still sound high if you've never seen these sorts of figures before, but the average across the Web is actually 40%, so Motoreasy now was achieving above-average performance. In addition, over half the people who didn't complete the quotation process used the telephone number or contact form. By doing this, we more than halved Motoreasy's Cost Per Acquisition on delivering quotes.

Having proven that the absence of the marketing message from the forms was the problem, I applied the same logic to the sign-up forms. I wanted to motivate the customer to complete the sign-up process. I already knew that the message appealed to them: They'd gotten a quote and then decided to sign up. Therefore, all I needed to do was keep reinforcing that message. This increased the completion rate from 29% to 69 percent. Motoreasy also found that this doubled the percentage of people who completed the credit card processing form, even though this page hadn't been changed. 

In other words, continually motivating the customer by reinforcing the core messages gave them the impetus to go through the commitment stage and submit their credit card details.

By the end of this process of Web analysis and redesign Motoreasy increased its business four-fold, without increasing marketing spend at all.


There are a number of lessons to be learned from this. Your site doesn't have a single conversion rate. It's not a monolithic block. People interact with a series of pages, each of which can win or lose the visitor. The messages you use to get people into your site need to be reinforced within the site. You need to analyze the paths from the landing pages to the target action page, looking at the drop-out rate for each step. Where those paths are under-performing you need to examine them to see if they keep reinforcing your core messages. 

Marketing doesn't stop just because someone has come to your site: You must keep communicating with them. You must monitor and improve this performance by analyzing your Conversion Funnel. This is how you get more business without increasing your marketing spend.


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