*This article makes mention of Google Optimize. Google has officially announced the sunset of Google Optimize. Both Google Optimize and Optimize 360 will sunset on September 30, 2023…. Read More
We know it’s very tempting to include so much content on your website to convince your visitors to take action, but the more you add content and information, the harder it gets to navigate the site and overwhelms the users.
So how can you win both on user experience and conversions? That’s what we’re going to tackle in this podcast with AJ Davis, founder of Experiment Zone, and Jared Krause, host of the Buying Online Business podcast.
- 00:00 Introduction
- 02:06 Why you shouldn’t turn a blind eye to User Experience
- 04:07 How does A/B Testing fill the gap in User Experience
- 08:01 How can you help your customers pick the right product/service for them?
- 11:03 Information is the key to success
- 15:03 AJ’s key takeaway on creating a website
- 17:35 Building trust means increasing the Lifetime Value
- 19:25 Giving the right content at the right moment
- 22:52 What are the elements that a winning page has?
- 27:15 Is having reviews still important?
- 27:46 Closing
Jared Krause 0:00
How would you like to double your conversions and double your income? Hi, I’m Jared Krause, host of the Buying Online Businesses podcast, and today I’m speaking with AJ Davis who is a conversion rate optimization specialist. She is the founder of Experiment Zone, which has helped online businesses grow their revenue by improving the user experience of the website using scientific methods. Now, prior to starting Experiment Zone in 2017, AJ led optimization strategy for Fortune 500 companies during her tenure at Clearhead. She was also the lead user experience researcher on the Google Optimize* product.
Jared Krause 0:38
Now in this podcast episode, AJ and I specifically talk about why user experience is underrated, how important it really is for buyers, and how it can increase conversions. We also talked about how to recreate the experience of buying something in-store or in-person and transforming it into your site now people buy online through your business. We also talked about what type of research and development you can do to get accurate data using the science of how users like to go through their buying journey. Using accurate data and then transforming that into A/B testing pages and using the scientific data to make sure that the user experience is improved again and again, with using A/B testing pages.
We talked about what most e-commerce product pages should prioritize in terms of what should be at the top of the page, and what should be below the fold. What are the key things that buyers love to have? Is it images? Is it free shipping? Is it social proof? and in what order? And what else should be on the page to make sure that buyers have a great user experience and they are in the position to be able to make that purchase? Now, this is such a juicy podcast episode, you guys are absolutely going to love it. Let’s dive in.
Jared Krause 2:00
Hello, AJ, welcome to the buying online businesses podcast. [Hey, nice to be here.] I’m looking forward to this chat because I am super into buyer’s experience and going through a buyer’s journey and what’s hugely incorporated into the user experience of the website. I guess you’re normally working with E-commerce businesses but I want to ask you, why is user experience so important? What are some of the main things that we should be thinking about with user experience?
AJ Davis 2:35
There are two parts to every piece of technology, right? There’s what we’ve built and then there’s what people see. So often we forget the human element and user experience is bringing that to the forefront. I came into this world because I was an economics student, we were taught people behave in certain ways, and all our models break down because people don’t behave that way. In the real world, user experience plays the role of figuring out in translating, what people really do, and how that intersects with the technology revolting. What it means is that we’re really taking into account how people act, and how they behave in the real world so that we’re not just designing what we think will work, but what we know will work.
Jared Krause 3:15
This is a huge conundrum for most businesses, because normally they start out with the goal in mind of making money, and forget that we’re actually selling products and services to human beings here. I feel like as entrepreneurs, especially online entrepreneurs (and I can put my hand up I’ve been there) I’ve mostly optimized for money. User experience is part of optimizing for money, but at the same time, you’re making the experience better.
I guess, there are so many psychological things that come into it how people feel when they purchase the product, how they feel when they own the product, for how long they own the product, and the energy and excitement they have around a brand that they want to share with people because of the experience they had purchasing. I’d love to dive into some cool things that you have tweaked and stuff like that. But first, (we’ll talk about that shortly) where do people mostly go wrong with their user experience? Is it they just don’t know, it is a thing, and people that try to know what they think they need to do versus what they actually should be doing for humans?
AJ Davis 4:22
We’ve come a long way. In the beginning, we would just design the thing and we’d say here’s what I’m selling, here’s what it costs and click “Yes” to buy. We’ve matured beyond that to include things that make you feel a certain way or understand the context of the person, but there’s still a big gap between the ideal persona and how we think they’ll behave, and then how they actually act in the real world. That’s where the power of an A/B test comes into play, where we can actually put two different experiences out in the world and really measure how people are responding to them. I think that’s the gap, like the magic black box that a lot of companies have a handle on.
What most companies are missing out on, is how we use A/B testing to really learn what people do, as opposed to what we model, that we think they should do. I’d say over the last 10 to 15 years we’ve done a much better job of asking people questions and figuring out their pain points. But we aren’t doing a great job of translating that into designs that help them feel comfortable, have clear expectations on what’s going to happen, get excited, and feel like they want to share something they’re enthusiastic about. I think there’s still a long way to go, but at least we’re starting to talk about it.
Jared Krause 5:34
Those questions are when it comes to sales and marketing, a lot of them would be helping people remove objections. And this is an assumption, would it be helping people remove, or (at least) understand their objections, so they don’t have any fear in going through and purchasing the product? And the opposite? They’re like “Oh, cool!” I understand the shipping process, understand how long it’s going to take. I understand it’s going to take maybe a little bit longer to manufacture because we put a lot of love into what we do. Is that a big component of it?
AJ Davis 6:09
Yeah, it’s a balancing act of that information. Whenever I’m thinking about optimization on the web, I want to think about a physical store. You have to think of the storefront, that first impression, and what are people feeling when they see and drive by your store stopping in for the first time. Then you also have to think about the experience of comparing the products like having two things physically in front of you.
What’s the information you need to compare which one is better? Do you have too many choices? Do you have 100 Different shampoo bottles to choose from? How will you focus? How can I help direct your attention to the one that’s going to fit you best, rather than having you read every label? There are a lot of analogies around giving that overall feel, as well as being able to really focus on browsing behaviors or things that are going to help really seal that decision point. For things like free shipping, or how long is it going to take to get there, that’s where that analogy starts falling apart. Those are things that are so obvious in the real world and so many stores are not making it obvious in a digital context, they make you work for it.
So if you don’t know how long it’s going to take, or how much it’s going to cost you to get it, you’re going to really get lost along the path versus always having it be obvious that you’re physically in a store. You can just grab the item and take it home right now. Those are often the lowest-hanging fruit. So the things that just set really clear expectations about what’s about to happen, and then the more nuanced things is how do I compare products? How do I move about the store? What’s the checkout experience like?
Jared Krause 7:37
I really like that when people go to our site “buyingonlinebusinesses.com” we have a selector of three buckets of people that you know where they’re at on their journey, and what they need or what they want and what they need help with, or what they think they want and need help with. Then they can select and go through their own sort of journey and ends up to a point where you can get this free tool, or we have this course or we can help you in this sort of way.
I guess that’s one way that you can help people come to your site with very broad different positions that are in their journey in their buying experience if they’re even buying or just checking you out. What are some other ways that you can help people select what direction they should take to get them the best product or service for them? How do we have other ways that that’s done?
AJ Davis 8:31
I think the most commonly done way is to have different landing page experiences. If we already know something different about you, because of what you did before you get to this website, we should absolutely create a curated experience (sometimes call it personalized). It usually doesn’t go as far as being about me, but more about me as a category or the category I am in, things that already know what’s going on with me and what I already know are down.
That’s the basics, getting them to the right place and then guiding them to a specific path. But in that you do get them to the right exits because if they ended up in the wrong spot, you don’t want to hide, here’s the emergency exit, or take a left over here, if you’re looking for a t-shirt, and I think you’re looking for shoes. More generally, how do we guide people who have different purposes or ways they like to move about information? I like to think about people who want to be searchers, they want to type in the words, and they want to look for something really specific. How can we help that person? I think about people who want to just browse and kind of naturally come across things. They’re the ones that think about the physical store and what’s on the endcaps, what’s going to capture their attention, but to do the same thing digitally.
Then there are people who are just looking for someone who’s going to be that personal shopping assistant, and that can show up in a lot of different ways. Some stores are doing things like having a chatbot that’s going to help be able to answer questions or point them in a certain direction. More effective than that are things like quizzes where it’s “here are the three or five guiding questions about who you are as a consumer and what you’re looking for,” what the occasion is, then we’re going to point you to a subset of products.
There are a bunch of other ways to use navigation and other design elements to help people feel secure, guide them to the best-selling products, instead of the all-products list, put the new products first, or put something that looks recommended for them based on what else they browse for. There are a lot of smart ways to do it, but a lot of potential complexity can come from trying to explore all the options they want.
Jared Krause 10:33
Yes, definitely, I could imagine it would be a lot of data, a lot of testing, and a lot of resources. I guess that’s the approach when people come to the site or the store. And then you also would have A/B testing from product page to product page?
Jared Krause 10:51
I don’t know where to go with this. I want to talk about one of the case studies that you’ve had. But I don’t know whether you want to talk about A/B testing between product pages first.
AJ Davis 11:04
I’m gonna actually take it a little different direction than e-commerce because we had a SAAS (software as a service) company that we worked with [love it]. One of the key takeaways any listener could take for their own website, no matter what kind of website they do, if they’re selling something or not, is complexity makes it harder for people to make decisions. What we saw was, simplicity is good, but you have to get to the right kind of things that are simple. Putting the wrong simple things on isn’t any better than having the right information buried.
We worked with a client, who had a landing page that was really curated for the moment, that audience was in their buyer’s journey. They had some contexts they were looking at some competitor information, and they just kept adding more information to it. They had product features, they had differentiators, and they had what to expect in the demo meeting. They had testimonials, they just had they had it all, they had a page that looked like one of those templates you find for what an ideal landing page should look like.
We kept exploring, how do we simplify some parts of this page or how do we make sure the value propositions are just right. It was a lot of things we were adding to the page or modifying on the page, but not reducing on a page. We thought we were expecting a lot of that to really make some difference because we often see if there’s something missing that we get some added benefit when we add it back.
AJ Davis 12:28
What we found was that over and over again, adding things to the page was adding either a negative impact on conversion or wasn’t really changing things at all, people weren’t reacting to it. So we decided to do some qualitative research because sometimes you don’t know why people do what they do and you’ve got to ask. We studied their sales team and said, how do you guys close the deal? For this point? If you were talking to this person in real life? What is the conversation like? Where do you start the conversation? What kind of questions comes up? Where do you end the conversation? [Awesome].
As simple as it sounds now, we just took the answers that they gave us, we took the “here are the three things that we say in the last conversation,” we build a page that highlighted those three things, as well as a confirmation of the answers that they would go through in the sales process, and the conversion rate doubled overnight. So we got rid of everything, and we just focused on three key pieces of information. But getting to that key information was hard, and we know we got it right because it aligned with what existed in the real world.
Jared Krause 13:32
Because people who are gonna do phone sales or close people in real life, still have to jump over the same hurdles to get them to make a purchasing decision, whether they’re in a store, on the phone, or on the website. I guess you kind of took the offline experience and brought it on to have it be a digital experience. Is that right?
AJ Davis 13:58
It is but we still then lead them to that sales conversation. [Yeah] So it wasn’t a disconnected experience where it was just online or just the conversation with the sales representative. It was both, it was leading to that conversation and we see this play out a lot. What we find is, as business owners, or as designers think we need to give the piece of information once because they’re at this point in the journey and this is what they need.
In practice, they need the most important information at every single step of the journey. That’s why you see free shipping messages on every single page of e-commerce because it matters, people forget, they get distracted, they start doubting it and they just need that reassurance of those like key pieces of information.
Jared Krause 14:39
Yeah, the shipping thing is probably the most important piece of data, really. For myself, am I going to have to pay for shipping? How much is it going to cost? Where’s it coming from? Just tell me if it’s free or not. Then you have to work out the next step, how much is it going to cost? Even though that shipping might not be a whole lot of money but it’s still oddly enough something we think about.
So you did basically some R&D with the team to work out what other things or objections people need to understand or overcome to get to the point where they’re ready to have a sales call and then go to the next step. What other work did you do to help with the user experience, to help them get to maybe a sales call, or at least just be interested enough to consume their content for another couple of months before they make a decision?
AJ Davis 15:38
I think there are a couple of things that we explore with them. One is the path of the experience, what pages people need to see that already exist, and how we help guide them through that journey. It’s an often missed step and the content already exists but let’s make sure we’re pointing them in the right direction at the right moment. That was a really critical part of our testing roadmap, then the design within each of those pages with the right message, are we showing enough social proof? Do we have the right CTAs in the right places? so people are drawn to taking action.
Then once they start to take action, and they’re filling out a form, are we balancing how much time it takes or what the experience of filling out the form is like with the ultimate conversion? We get a lot of drop-offs at form fills, and you get a lot of drop-offs at checkout. Simplicity can be key, but it’s not always key, sometimes you do need to ask for more information to get them to convert, to get them to be bought into converting. I’d say those are some of the main things, the journey, the navigation, the design, and the message.
There are probably a hundred other categories. But I think those are the overarching ones that we did with this particular client. One thing we did as we started maturing with them in the testing roadmap was we also started to explore other kinds of KPIs or parts of the journey where we could capture attention. Instead of just asking for the demo meeting or the sales meeting, we also started exploring things that would lead to capturing an email or getting someone to come back to the site as ways to engage and get people to really think about them as a brand.
It’s more complicated to attribute to revenue, but it’s actually super impactful to the business because you can grow the list, you can grow the eyeballs, and grow the awareness. And that was a really nice muttering to see them start to explore webinars and start to explore downloadables and all these different things that really do matter in people’s decision-making process.
Jared Krause 17:35
The way I attribute is that it’s harder for somebody to just meet somebody and then go all in with them, whatever that looks like in any capacity. You meet somebody like “hey! we need to get married right now! People buy it based on trust and trust is built through a relationship and relationships are usually built over time. The longer you’re in a relationship with anybody, the better your relationship is, and the more you trust them.
I’m big about getting people onto your email list and just giving them content, giving them value to a point where they say “these guys are doing so much good stuff, how could we not get on a demo call and see if they can help our business.” It’s a bigger expense because you’re playing the long game, but I believe playing the long game is really good that can add fuel to your revenue in the long run and increase your conversions as well.
AJ Davis 18:29
And in the lifetime value, [Yes] somebody’s coming back, they see you as that source. And at every moment now and in the future, when they need something related to what you do, they’re going to think of you or connect you with someone else who’s looking for that same service or product.
Jared Krause 18:45
Our business here at BOB, we have a membership where people will come in and they’ll learn how to buy a business and they’ll get our help looking over deals and stuff like that. And then they might go through a period of their life or got crazy family period where all these stuff’s going on, they might just leave for like a couple of months and then they’ll come straight back because they’re just getting so much content from us and so much value and that increases the customer lifetime value. Because just that by out of association they’re still seeing you and still getting value, that you’re still in the forefront of their mind. And they also still have that goal of I want to achieve this and this is the big goal.
Jared Krause 19:25
I want to talk about navigation. I’ve found that navigation is so big, not just for e-commerce businesses and SaaS businesses but particularly for content sites like blogs, where the goal is to have people stay on the website longer to make more money through ad revenue and affiliate revenue. Is that the same with SaaS and eCommerce businesses? That you want to put the best pieces of content in front of those people that are the right pieces of content for them as soon as possible? As soon as they come to your homepage, give them the content that they’re looking for right away, is that what you’re saying?
AJ Davis 19:58
I would say we generally don’t want to take people from the homepage on e-commerce to a blog. [Yes.] We want to keep them going the other way, so the premise is the same. The goal is, if people are getting to your site, they’re getting to content that’s relevant to them, we find that there’s a lot of opportunity to make it easier to go between parts of the site. You’re often working on taking a blog post or design and helping to get to the product or promote the product in the right way where it’s transparent what you’re doing. But you’re not making them work to figure out an article that talks about “solving the problem I have.” “But where do I go next?” “How do I actually buy this thing that we are talking about?
If I think about that same question of “relevant content”, one of the things that we see work over and over again in e-commerce, is actually taking products like specific products that the business has picked out, or an algorithm has picked out, that “these are recommended for you”, “Here are the top 10 best selling products on the site right now.” And instead of pointing people to this idea of we sell pants, you show “Here are the top five pairs of pants that are selling right now.” And people click on those more, they’re more likely to get in there and start browsing for it and are ultimately more likely to order it.
We’re always talking about “bring the product up,” “bring it up the page,” and “bring it to the forefront,” like giving people something that they can really hang a hat on as this is a specific product rather than a category. And so is the same as I would imagine with blog posts or other kinds of content where you don’t necessarily want them to be like clicking through and narrowing down too many times. But instead, here’s a really juicy piece of content that’s relevant to me right now, let me click on it and get reading.
Jared Krause 21:36
It’s kind of like the minimal amount of clicks to get people. This is what Google’s goal is and what our goal is - just give me the thing that I need as soon as possible right now.
AJ Davis 21:36
Don’t make me scroll for it. [Put it right up above the fold. Don’t make me work too hard.]
Jared Krause 21:50
When we’re doing due diligence on a business, particularly an e-commerce business, I like to ask people, what are the business’s top five best-selling products? And what are they doing with those products, one of those things is putting them up on the top, in the very visible position on the site to make sure people know these are the ones people are buying because they’re the best. Maybe check them out first, if they’re not for you, then fine, we’ve got a big bunch of other hands.
AJ Davis 22:17
Coming to the navigation though, one of the lowest hanging fruit, if anyone listening to this has a website that sells products, go to your site and put a bestsellers category. In the navigation, a lot of times stores are thinking about the navigation being category driven. Here are the pants here, the shoes, here are the accessories. But if we can first start with bestsellers, people are always looking for that, it’s persuasive, it helps focus their attention on specific things and a narrower set of choices. And we always see that increase in conversion, so go do that if you’re not doing it yet.
Jared Krause 22:51
I’m curious about the R&D that you did with the SaaS business and speaking to their team. I’m wondering how that would look when doing R&D and A/B testing for product pages or listing pages. Do you often do that? For example, would you speak to the team and say, “What’s important to note about this product?” “What have you found?” Is this going to be a general thing between SaaS and e-commerce businesses that you have worked with? What are some of the general things that you’ve found that the winning page of an A/B test has? That’s usually one of those things, obviously, free shipping. But, what are some of those other things?
AJ Davis 23:32
We always do qualitative research to pair with the A/B testing we’re doing, we often are left with questions after an A/B test, especially if it doesn’t go the way we expect. We want to know why it didn’t go that way, so we’ll do things like survey and intercept survey on that page. Just ask people why they’re leaving or to understand if they have the information they need. We also use a methodology called usability study, where we’ll observe people going through the site experience with specific goals in mind and just articulating out loud what they’re expecting to happen, what does happen, and what they’re confused about.
This always uncovers a wealth of things that nobody in their team has thought about, that nobody on our team has thought about. Because each customer segment is so unique, bringing real customers into the fold is going to just level up your understanding and your focus on what the real problem is and what the real opportunity is.
AJ Davis 24:27
Coming to the part of your question about specifics for product pages, images matter a lot in e-commerce, but the images you choose for thumbnails and where the thumbnails go also matter a lot. We’ve done some really interesting testing around what the thumbnail should look like and what the order should be, should there be text in it? Should it be lifestyle images first and all that is very brand dependent because it matters the context of how you use the product or if the context matters. Descriptions are often too high up on the page and often too lengthy, so that’s often a place of simplicity, how do we boil down the core part of the information they need? Oftentimes teams aren’t creating clear architecture and data within the page of the product page.
What I mean by that is there are clear instructions, there are reviews, there’s “here’s our blurb about the inspiration behind this product” or “here are the designer notes.” And the more we can break those out into specific things, the easier for our customers or potential customers to weed through it and find what matters to them.
So finding out how to break that down and what the order should be, can all come from that qualitative research because you’re talking to customers and saying “why did you decide to use this product?” “how would you describe it to someone who’s thinking about using this product?” “What matters about this?” “What did you like about it, dislike about it?” So that often is how we arrive at the order of the content and the structure of the content, those qualitative interviews.
Jared Krause 25:53
That’s cool. I’m very interested in the order of the content, and I know it’s going to be dependent on the brand and the business. But is there a typical average that works for most e-commerce businesses? For example, are images really the most important, and then the bullet point lists with free shipping? And then reviews? And then the last thing is the long description that some people do care about, but not everybody, is there a list?
AJ Davis 26:20
If I were designing a page today and had no other context on it, I would definitely put a big image on the left with clear thumbnails, I would put them exposed underneath because that works more than not. Title price, “Add to Cart” button, and then right below the Add to Cart button, those core value props like “free shipping made in the US gets to you in three days”, whatever those things are, that sets the expectation that you would have if you were physically in the store.
The thing we’re often moving out of the way when we’re looking at existing content, are those blurred descriptions that are how the product makes you feel, this is gonna help make you feel great. It’s almost as if we took a video ad and put it in words and then decided that’s what people have to read first. Most of the time, people don’t really care about that, they want to know the facts, and they want to get right to them. So we find ourselves moving that further down the page.
Jared Krause 27:15
And what about reviews? Is this further down the page? Because personally, for me, just out of marketing experience, I would like social proof, quite high up there. And also, as a buyer, I’m like, “Yeah, social proof, bring it on,” are people buying this? Where would you see that on the page?
AJ Davis 27:38
If you have good reviews put them right there. You often see what Amazon does, where you’ll have the star rating, you can hover over it, and click on it to get to the reviews. There are cases though, where you may not want the reviews to be that prominent. If it’s a newer product, you may not want to call out we don’t have any reviews on this yet, or that we have five reviews on this now. That’s where we want to use other types of social proof.
We’ve had clients where we’ll introduce a visual design treatment of a quote, which is the same as the testimonial or review but we showcase the product next to it so it presents more of a story, than “here are hundred People validating it.” A choice you have to make as a business is “do you have enough reviews If you do show them the quantity?” And if you have really high-quality reviews, you should show the quality and if you have both, you’ve got to find the right balance to do both. But social proof absolutely matters.
Jared Krause 28:33
Love it. AJ, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it. You’ve got a wealth of knowledge in this. Where can people find out more about what you’re doing?
AJ Davis 28:41
Jared Krause 28:45
Awesome. Thanks so much for coming on. Thank you for listening. For those who are listening, and know somebody with an online business that is wanting to have a better experience for their customers, which is a win-win because it’s for the customers, clients, and for businesses. Make sure you share this podcast episode with them. We really do appreciate it. Thanks, guys. Bye.
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