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How to turn website visitors into online customers

How to turn website visitors into online customers

By Andy Budd, managing director, web user-experience consultancy Clearleft.

1. Truly understand your audience

The key to creating a successful website lies in providing an engaging experience for the end-user. Websites offering a poorly-defined and badly executed customer experience often frustrate users and drive them away.

Take the time to understand the psychological processes that encourage visitors to become purchasers. Conducting interviews with end-users is an effective way to engage with your target audience. Use this to create a 'persona' - a sort of archetypal user description - which will give you a clear focus of each particular group's wants and needs.

Once you have established how your individual customers think and feel, you can then go about creating targeted content and design to ensure you are satisfying their needs.

2. Reduce complexity

Some 95 per cent of people who walk into a supermarket will walk out again with a purchase in their hands. In the e-commerce world, if five per cent of customers leave a website with a purchase, this is generally considered successful. Surely something is going wrong here?

When setting up a new e-commerce site, think carefully about the elements that might break up the shopping process. Avoid including distractions that deter shoppers from completing a purchase. Forcing users to jump through numerous check-out steps or irrelevant questions is a sure way to push them out of the conversion funnel.

Ensure that your website is clean, simple and easy-to-navigate, with pages labeled in user-friendly language. An over-complicated design that makes it difficult to find the right information will encourage users to lose patience and go elsewhere.

Offline stores invest a lot of money in designing the layout and positioning of their goods. They also spend time following shoppers to understand their behaviour and emotional reactions. Few companies do this to any great extent online.

However, a small amount of usability testing can fix a lot of the low-hanging fruit and improve conversion rates by up to 100 per cent.

It can help highlight the key areas where people are having problems with the web process. Observing real user behaviour can provide a better understanding of how to improve your website experience and convert this into sales results.

3. Understand the psychological process of purchasing

Buying a product online isn't simply a transactional process.
Potential purchasers often have doubts and fears about their decisions as to whether a product is right for them.

It's difficult to reassure people through the online shopping process as there is no shop assistant on hand to provide the information they need.

Online shops can take advantage of psychological concepts such as social proof to help restore the purchaser's confidence in their own decision.

For example, sites such as Amazon present shoppers with details of 'what others like you' are buying. Creating the impression of acquiring the latest 'must-have' item can be very persuasive for the online user.

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