Conversion Rate Optimisation: The Art Of Driving Decisions Pt.1

Removing the pressure of choice Pt.1

Success in Conversion Rate Optimisation can be viewed as the art of driving decisions. For every conversion flow towards a website goal, the business is looking to influence a visitor to make a decision; without a decision, there can be no forward progress. But of course, the art is not just in triggering a decision. The real art is in triggering the right decision.

The first part of this two-part post will look at the background to the decision-making process and explain how to assess the way your site is currently pushing for decisions. In the second part, we will then be looking at some ways in which you can remove the pressure of choice from your visitors and therefore drive the right decisions from them.

The Fundamentals of Decision-Making.

To start to think about how to drive the right decisions from your visitors, it is important to understand some fundamentals about the way we make decisions:

The default decision is “No.”

Pretty straightforward; for the vast majority of people (and therefore your visitors), their default answer is “No”. What this means is that in the absence of the right details, any exchange is likely to be turned down.

For example, imagine you run an e-commerce website selling shoes. When a visitor lands on your site, the first thing they see is a pop-up that requires a decision to be made before they can proceed. On that pop-up is a message that states that if they want to enter the site and browse your products, they must first commit to buying at least one pair of shoes. And virtually every visitor would refuse.

Decisions are a trade that must be balanced.

The logical thought-process of decision-making is a bit like a balance of trade. For a transactional decision, the balance is made between the “loss” of money and the “gain” of a product and the perceived benefits of that product. For non-transactional decisions, however, the balance of trade can often be harder to visualise, but generally the trade can be seen as a trade of time on behalf of the visitor.

Let’s take the example of the e-commerce shoe store again. In order to promote the website, you are running a number of PPC campaigns targeting key footwear-related terms. When a prospective visitor searches for one of those terms, the ads that you are running explain this to them what you sell, and therefore you have provided them with the necessary information to get a click on your ad. That click costs them nothing but a small amount of time, and therefore it is a fairly frivolous balance of trade.

Now compare that with an insurance price comparison website that you might use to find a great car insurance deal. Answering all of the questions to get a quote might take 20 minutes, but if your insurance costs you £2000 a year and the company’s advertising suggests you could save 10%, your balance of trade is essentially £10 per minute. And that might be worthwhile. But if your insurance only costs £200, that’s now a balance of only £1 per minute, which is distinctly less appealing.

Fear of being wrong is stronger than the desire to be right.

A well-trodden theory from psychology that suggests the dislike of being wrong is more powerful than the desire being right. This adds extra weight to #1, as the refusal to make any decision would be default be more preferable to making a decision that turned out to be incorrect; if no decision is made, it is impossible to be wrong.

Recognising that a strong visitor influencer is this fear of being wrong can, therefore, help to guide the ways you go about driving decisions from them. The vast majority of websites do a reasonable job of extolling the virtues of their products loud and proud, but often the “decision insurance” factors are less well-advertised. So countering the argument of “What if it’s the wrong colour/style/size…” can be a very powerful decision-making aid.

The bell-curve of choice.

The very nature of choice is that human beings want to feel like they are making their own decisions. As part of that feeling, they don’t want to believe that there are external influences (particularly from a business we are considering transacting with!) that alter our decisions. This is borne out by the high proportion of consumers who claim not to be influenced by advertising, although correlations between advertising campaigns and sales might suggest otherwise! As such, visitors must feel as though they are being provided with multiple options in order to give them a sense of being in control of their decision-making.

On the other side of that equation is the paralysis of choice. This is the concept of having so many different options that they cannot possible all being weighed at the same time. And by having no reliable means of comparison, the outcome is generally a decision to quit. As discussed in #2, decisions are a balance of trade, and having too many options (especially if they are not comparable to one another) upsets that balance. The desire is to make that most favourable balance of trade, but the paralysis of choice represents an inability to make a judgement on which is the most favourable option.

The Bell Curve of Choice

It is worth noting, however, that this graph can be impacted by the overall value of the balance of trade. For a decision where the input is minimal, there is a much-reduced impact from “too little choice”. As an example, if you are looking to buy a pencil for 50p, only having the choice between two pencils is unlikely to deter your decision to buy. On the other side of the coin, however, where the input is extremely large, there is a much-reduced impact from “too much choice”. In high-value purchases such as homes, cars or even holidays, only being able to view a small field of options is highly likely to decrease the propensity to purchase. In either case, it is worth understanding where your business would fit into this model and consider the options you present accordingly.

The Conversion Flow.

So we’ve covered some of the factors of decision-making that should be taken into account when looking to improve your Conversion Rate Optimisation programme. But understanding the theories of decision-making isn’t the same as effectively applying that understanding to your website. When looking at making changes to driving decisions, the Conversion Flow model offers a powerful means of contextualising those theories for your site.

The core principle of the Conversion Flow is to represent the steps that a visitor must take in order to achieve a specific goal. In the case of e-commerce sites, this is generally a sale, but the same model could be applied to lead generation, email newsletter sign-ups or free trial downloads. The important thing is that you understand what the goal is and the steps required to get there. For the majority of goals, the Conversion Flow is linear, and so would look something like this:

Example Conversion Flow

Where this model then becomes particularly useful in driving decisions is when you recognise that each step along the Conversion Flow represents a decision (or series of decisions) made by a visitor. For example, the link to your site from another website or offline marketing collateral needs to drive the decision for a prospect to become a visitor. And the landing page they arrive on must drive the decision for that visitor to proceed to the next stage of the process.

To put this model into action for your website and start driving decisions in your visitors, draw out the Conversion Flow of your site. Then, beneath each of the page, briefly describe the key decision (or decisions) that you need to drive from your visitors. For each decision you note, then make a list beneath that of all the factors that might influence that decision. Now look at your site itself and compare the list of decision-making factors with the content available at each step and you’ll have immediately identified where you might be coming up short. And once you know that, you’ll have a good shortlist of targets for your Conversion Rate Optimisation programme.

Continue with “Part 2” here