Data suggest that landing your online audiences on peer review and social media content rather than the e-commerce (e.g. ticket sales) portion of your website is now one of the most effective ways to maximize online conversions.
Because how the market uses websites has changed with the widespread use of social media and other word-of-mouth inspired outlets, the way to optimally utilize websites to inspire desired behaviors has changed as well. Namely, the frequent and oft-cited “rule” that the best online ads lead only to direct conversion sites (or your own website for that matter) is now… well, irrelevant.
In the not-too-distant past, the prevailing wisdom was to “land” your online customer on the web page where they could transact business with you with the least number of clicks (i.e. land them on the “buy tickets” page). Today, the data suggest that a more informed customer – one who has availed him/herself of the information and reviews of third-parties such as those found on many social and peer review platforms – are more likely to complete a transaction than a customer whose primary online experience with your organization was an ad.
Consider the chart below – chosen as it is generally representative of customer behaviors for many visitor-serving organizations (e.g. museums, aquariums, zoos, performing arts centers, etc.) with online ticketing capabilities – quantifying the “abandon rate” (i.e. the percentage of persons who initiated but did not complete an online behavior) segmented by the representative organization’s landing page (i.e. the web page where the customer was routed after clicking on an ad):
Immediately, you notice that the abandon rate for customers who land on a “buy tickets now” type landing page is 19.6% higher than the abandon rate for customers who are first routed to a web page featuring third-party reviews. Similarly, the abandon rate is 15.8% higher for a customer landing on a “buy now” page when compared to customers first routed to a social media channel. In fact, the data indicate that in terms of actually translating a click to a conversion, that the absolute worst thing that an organization can do is route its online advertising to a “buy now” type of landing environment.
In today’s world of heightened connectivity and increased empowerment of potential customers to make informed decisions based upon perceptions of reputation and brand transparency, your customers expect access to product information, reviews from trusted resources, and reliable customer support. (Is it any wonder that the most admired and successful visitor-serving organizations – and, for that matter, the most rapidly growing brands from most any sector – invariably have the most robust reviews and social care/social CRM functionalities?)
For those who do not have many dealings in abandon rates and may be shocked that abandon rates may be high at all, here’s some background: Abandon rates for all types of e-commerce hover around 74% – in other words, on average, three out of four persons who click on an item to buy online don’t actually end up completing the transaction. Consider more broadly: It’s often only after proceeding to the “checkout” page that a customer can learn the shipping costs, the delivery timeframes, or even if their preferred method of payment is accepted In the case of many visitor-serving organizations, compound these factors with cumbersome website navigation and outdated e-commerce functions, and it’s no wonder that abandon rates for some organizations approach 90%. The point is: Overcoming abandonment issues is a very real part of an organization’s online strategy, and any finding that moves the needle even slightly on this front has potentially huge implications in terms of visitor engagement and earned revenues.
At IMPACTS, we leverage “big data” and sophisticated technologies to deliver highly-customized, micro-targeting online advertising…and we have a LOT of intelligence on what works and what doesn’t. (For my regular readers thinking, “But Colleen, I thought you worked in active, digital engagement?” I do. I specialize in the Coefficient of Imitation realm of brand perception (reviews from trusted sources) while IMPACTS, more broadly, takes on the Coefficient of Innovation (paid media)). These two functions (paid advertising and earned media) serve as a relay team handing the baton (i.e. the customer) from one runner to the next – the advertising function can be a “conversation starter” that attracts the attention and interest of a wide audience; the social media and other digital communication tools are the functions that manage the relationship with the customer across the finish line (i.e. the conversion). This may be a helpful way for organizations to think about the often necessary interactions between word-of-mouth and paid media-related methods of cultivating desired affinities and behaviors.