(Guest Blog by Joe DeMike of Google)
If your business model depends upon selling products or services online, it’s almost certain that you’re missing out on a lot of customers. Most websites convert a visitor into a customer less than 5% of the time. This means there are an awful lot of people who were interested enough in your brand to visit your website, but not impressed enough to buy from you. We’re not talking about your rank on a search engine results page (SERP), or your performance with pay-per-click (PPC) ads, because these are visitors who are already on your web property. Something was working in order to get them there, but something is not working if they leave without becoming a customer.
Most eCommerce concepts have an easy-to-understand parallel in a setting with which you’re more familiar. Imagine you own a local pizza shop. Everyday you stand in the corner and watch what happens throughout the day. On Monday, only 10 people come into your shop, and only one of those people places a food order, so your employees mostly stand around idle. That evening, you improve your outdoor sign to get more sidewalk traffic, and put an ad in tomorrow’s paper. On Tuesday, you have 100 people come in for lunch, but only four of those people place an order and eat your food.
You spent all that money fixing your sign and paying for an ad, just to get three additional customers? Did you notice that 96 people were leaving your pizzeria without ordering anything? In the real world, you could stand at the door and ask people why they’re leaving. On the Web, you have to rely upon a far broader set of skills.
There are three competencies that must be combined in order to achieve a truly great website experience for a customer: Math, art, and behavioral science. Few people possess all three of those skill sets, so it’s important for you to balance your eCommerce team. Too much of one skill set or another will not help you, you need all three.
Three Skill Sets Necessary To Build Powerful Website Experiences
Art is needed because websites are visual experiences. Human decision makers are susceptible to influence from the appearance of the site. For example, in 2012, Errol Morris from the New York Times presented over 40,000 readers with a passage and then asked them questions. The passage was written in six different fonts for different readers. The fonts alone influenced the readers’ answers with statistical significance.
Math skills, especially statistics, are essential. Only through proper A/B testing can you irrefutably state which versions of your website perform better. The number one rule in marketing is that other people are not like you. It’s meaningless if you or your executives prefer a particular version of the website. Only a visitor’s opinion matters. In my experience, online retailers demonstrate a massive selection bias when they seek feedback for their sites. They only ask for opinions on usability from the people who completed the checkout process or who are return customers.
The third critical skill set is behavioral science. There are dozens of cognitive biases that influence a human decision maker. Designing your website with these biases in mind can earn you big returns. Take a look at travel websites that are now telling you “there are only three seats left at this price!” This is a concept of behavioral economics called Scarcity. You are more likely to purchase something if you believe there are few left, or that you will miss out on the best price. Another technique used on these sites are the notifications that someone in [Your_City] just purchased a room at the hotel you’re browsing. This is another behavioral economics principle called Social Proof. When you see other people performing an action, you’re more likely to do it yourself. It’s even more powerful if you believe the other person is similar to you. This is why the site uses your IP address to determine your city, and then tells you a person in a nearby location is making a purchase.
Remember that when designing or improving your website experience, time is a critical factor. 53% of people will leave a page if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Using art, math, and behavioral science, you’ll have the ability to create a frictionless purchase experience, and achieve true online greatness!
As the Head of Global Business Operations for Accelerator, Joe is a key leader in Google’s efforts to bring the Internet to the next billion people. He and his team launch new business ventures at Google, including access, advertising and commerce products. He has worked as a leader in Product Marketing, Brand Marketing, and Sales, and is an advisor for the CapitalG (Google Capital) portfolio of companies.