Does Skeuomorphism Improve Adoption of Technology?

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Skeuomorphism is the design concept which uses ornamental design elements to create three dimensional effects to make items resemble their real-world counter-parts. Digital skeuomorphism is frequently used to provide a visual cue in the design of user interfaces and web design. This can help improve your conversion rate because it makes a design more intuitive.

For example a call-to-action button may appear raised before it is clicked and lower after it has been clicked. Shadows and reflections are used extensively for UI buttons and elements to mimic real-life objects. It instantly communicates how to interact with elements of a design. However, this has become less common with the popularity of flat design.

When did digital skeuomorphism first appear?

Digital skeuomorphism started in the 1980s when Apple created the concept of a ‘desktop’ and icons which looked like folders and pieces of paper. Apple also employed skeuomorphism when it launched the original iPhone. It uses leather, paper and metal textures to make on-screen objects appear like they do in the real-world. Skeuomorphic icons such as the telephone, clock, mail, calendar and notepad all mimicked their real-world counterparts.

There are also non-visual skeuomorphic design elements including the sound of a camera shutter when taking a digital picture and the page-turning movement when viewing an e-book.

Why should you use digital skeuomorphism?

Digital skeuomorphism can be used to assist conversion rate optimisation. It provides visual cues that instantly communicate how a user interface works. When Apple launched the iPhone in 2007 few people had used a smartphone even though IBM had launched one (called the Simon Personal Communicator) some fifteen years previously. Most phones did not have touch screens or have many additional applications other than email and SMS text.

However, Apple’s uses of skeuomorphism with icons made these new features instantly recognisable and appear simple to use. This may have helped persuade users to switch to the new electronic version because they looked just like the familiar paper calendars and notepads that they had grown up using.

What Does It Do?

Skeuomorphism leverages our preference for things that are familiar. It encourages interaction and speeds up adoption by making the UI look less intimidating and more appealing. Familiarity improves a user’s confidence which encourages visitors to explore the UI. Skeuomorphism also has the advantage that it provides a shared visual vocabulary between visitor and designer.

It improves affordance by using design cues which indicate how a UI works. Website visitors automatically respond to visual cues as our brains can process images much faster than written instructions. Users are also lazy and impatient so they prefer intuitive designs that use visual cues to instantly communicate how to interact with an experience.

The button is probably the most effective form of skeuomorphism because they correspond so well to existing mental models for interacting with inanimate objects. If you have ever used a TV remote control, an electrical appliance or a lift you will instantly understand the function of a call-to-action button.

Image of examples of call to actions

Why Is It A Good Idea For Creating Something New?

There is no need for visitors to learn how to use a button. This allows designers to build a framework for a new experience around it. However, affordance has nothing to do with minimalism or clutter. It is a powerful technique as it improves user understanding of how to interact with a user interface. It can also can work with any style of design.

Skeuomorphism is about making life easier for the user and no getting hung up about your preferred design style. Due to the popularity of flat-design skeuomorphism is not as common as it once was. This may be a problem for conversion rate optimisation because the design style should not come first. Indeed, Sitetuners point out that visual design style should come last when creating a new conversion-focused design.

Why do many designers hate skeuomorphism?

When Apple launched iOS7 with a revamped icon system without many of the skeuomorphic design elements of previous versions of iOS many designers let out an audible sigh of relief. This was the end of green felt in the Game Center and the pine bookshelf in iBooks.

Some designers have criticised skeuomorphic design because physical metaphors can create cognitive dissonance if the element doesn’t respond like the real-world counterpart. The use of skeuomorphism though may not be the problem, but rather how it has been implemented. Digital desk calendars, notepads and contacts don’t have to be designed to look exactly like their real-life counterparts because they behave differently. Desk calendars for example don’t have scrolling regions within a page or modes and so this could be confusing for users of the digital version.

Apple also used old-fashioned design styles to create their digital skeuomorphism. In addition, many younger users may have never seen or used the physical versions of the apps they use skeuomorphic design for such as desk calendars or address books. This means a skeuomorphic design won’t necessarily help such users as they don’t have any past experience of the real-world counterpart to learn from. Many designers argue that Apple went too far with their application of skeuomorphism and so made it more difficult to use the apps concerned.

Conclusion:

Digital skeuomorphism remains an important technique for any tech start-up which plans to launch a new user interface to the mass market. Like any technique there are always going to be examples of bad implementation. However, this does not mean that the technique is somehow flawed. Skeuomorphism can improve affordance and help users understand how a new user interface works.

Good use of skeuomorphic design can help improve conversion rates by making the UI intuitive. This facilitates rapid and easy adoption of new designs and technology among all segments of users. By making the design appear familiar it increases confidence and so encourages users to explore the UI. For this reason it helps develop confidence among even less tech savvy users and so is valuable for mass market adoption of new technology.

For this reason we should always consider using digital skeuomorphism when appropriate. The lesson we should take from Apple’s use of skeuomorphism is to ensure we use a reasonably up-to-date real-world design to model the digital version on and not to force an app to necessarily behave like the real-world counterpart if it is not needed for user understanding.

Skyrocket Conversions By Fixing Your User Experience

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A broken user experience can completely kill conversions, and yet many companies make changes without evidence and launch features no one wants. Why do companies put so little effort into fixing their user experience? Could it be that no one ever gets promoted for fixing a broken user experience, but shiny new features are much more likely to be noticed by senior management?

As conversion rate optimisation expert Craig Sullivan pointed out at the Conversion Elite conference. Fixing broken stuff and improving the usability of an experience is much more likely to improve conversions, and revenues than using persuasive techniques or increasing the motivation of users. So, how should we approach online optimisation?

How Do You Fix Your User Experience?

Before even considering running A/B tests, we should be answering these questions about our digital user experience. If we examine these issues first we are likely to identify a majority of the problems that probably cause customers to give up and go elsewhere.

I checked out these mobile sites/apps, and in less than a couple of minutes I found elements on each site that were broken or were sub-optimal.

  • Iceland’s site had persistent error messages that did not clear after the correct data had been entered.
  • Aldi site’s product images would not load.
  • Call-to-action buttons on Moneypenny’s site were hiding copy.
  • The SimplyBiz “ABOUT US” header has unreadable copy in the background. Which someone has forgotten to remove.
  • The Meetup app displayed an error message when I tried to confirm attendance for a meeting.

Mobile website user experience problems

What Do We Already Know?

At this point there is a strong temptation to ask your conversion rate optimisation team to start browsing your digital experience to look for broken stuff. This is time consuming and wasteful as you probably already have access to data that indicates where problems may lie. Interrogate your web analytics (including error rates), form analytics, user research (e.g. session replays), surveys and feedback (e.g. complaints) to observe real journeys. Identify touch-points that indicate where there may be problems with your user experience.

Hotjar is a very cost effective user experience solution which includes session replays, click heat maps, form analytics and user feedback. Make sure you schedule time to view session replays as this is an often underused feature that allows you to observe real user journeys. There are a number of cost effective user experience tools to choose from.

It is also important to analyse your data by device class (mobile, tablet and desktop), but also operating system and screen resolution. For responsive site you should also look at breakpoints to see how this impacts upon conversion. But also don’t forget to try to track people rather than devices. Google Analytics and other analytics solutions allows for a user view to monitor logged in customers across device. You can measure the entire user journey and calculate a true conversion rate.

What are the use cases?

Context is everything as it will often determine the current user need. For example, if you are using a train ticket app your need will be very different a week before you travel. Compared to when you are at the station barrier or on the train with a ticket inspector asking to see your ticket. The user may also have to rely on 4G rather than WI-FI when on a train. Turn off your WI-FI to observe the real experience when testing an app.

How do you test your own digital experience?

Now you have data on real user journeys it’s time to immerse yourself in your digital experience. Using the data you collect you can focus on the devices, browsers and journeys that customers follow. You won’t have the time or devices to check ever user experience. Use a cross-browser testing solution to get screen shots of all the main devices and browsers you need.

However, you should still get your core user devices so that you can get a better understanding of the real user experience. For touch devices don’t be lazy and use a desktop simulator. That won’t allow you to observe a touch experience or test usability.

Here is an example of a error-ridden form from Iceland Foods (groceries.iceland.co.uk) which displays persistent errors for date of birth and the alternative phone number field. These kinds of errors often occur because of lazy programming. Don’t force users to enter data according to your perception of the “right” way to submit data. Instead get programmers to use rules to convert data to a consistent format. Furthermore, why does any company need two telephone numbers, especially when increasing numbers of people only have a mobile number? See more web form design best practices here.

Image of Iceland Foods sign-up form with With errors on DOB and alternative telephone

Does it load and work quickly?

You can measure actual page speed using Google Analytics or other web analytics solutions. Given that many sites will continue to call on the server for content long after the page has initially loaded use the Average Document Interactive Time in GA. This is the time that it takes for the content to load sufficiently for a user to be able to interact with the page. See more on load speed tools in this blog here.

Can people use it?

If your site or app is prone to bugs and errors this can be very frustrating for users and can destroy your credibility. Here is an error that occurs in the popular Meetup.com app that prevents the user completing a RSVP. This kind of bug is very annoying for users as it prevents them completing an important task. You should monitor error rates in your analytics as they are a clear sign that something is broken.

Image of error causes by bug in meetup.com app

User research is also an important tool to find where visitors are experiencing problems. Usability research involves recruiting people who roughly fit your target audience and giving them a simple task based upon a relevant use case (e.g. open a new account or find a certain product on a website). Where possible these should be ‘real users’ rather than employees of your organisation. So, what are the options for conducting UX research?

Face-to-face research:

The advantage of getting someone to navigate a user journey whilst you sit next to them is that you can observe their body language and their level of concentration to better understand how they react to the new design. This can improve the richness of the feedback you obtain from each respondent. It may allow you to ask more relevant questions as you observe their behaviour in its entirety.

On the downside people can behave differently when they are aware they are being observed and so you should allow time for the respondent to settle into the process. You can also reduce this effect by including the target experience in a series of tasks that hides which site you are testing. You might for example tell the participant you are testing a competitor site and then ask them to go to the target site for a comparison.

Face-to-face user research doesn’t have to be expensive. If you don’t have a budget why not go to your local coffee shop or bar and offer potential participants a free drink if they agree to take part. This will take you out of the corporate bubble and you should get a variety of users to observe and learn from.

However, always use appropriate software to record your research sessions as you can’t concentrate on everything going on and ask relevant questions. Check out UX recording software, like CamStudio and other solutions from my Digital Marketing Toolbox.

Remote User Research:

Conducting user research remotely can be relatively cheap depending upon whether you are doing it yourself (e.g. using Skype to share screens) or using a UX agency. It also allows you to recruit people from any location in the world if you need to. You can allow for cultural differences in behaviour and ensure you get a diverse set of participants.

Check out this comprehensive guide on remote user research from @anatinge.

The advantage of remote moderated research is that you have more control over the process. If necessary you can guide participants to the next step in the user journey. Bear in mind that any intervention will bias the response. Provided you understand this it can be useful to ensure users test each step in a journey even if you know they need help to get through it. You can also use research to help guide the development of an automated user research study.

Remote Automated User Research:

These tools generally allow you recruit your own users or they will find people for you from large panels of people that regularly participate in user research. If you are using their panel you can specify recruitment criteria to ensure they roughly meet the demographics of your target audience. However, don’t get fixated with recruiting a representative sample of users. This is not appropriate for user research where you are testing the interface, not the product’s appeal.

Once you have the task and if necessary, provide any screenshots (e.g. for a new design that is not yet live) these tools can provide recordings of the task or scenario based test results. Check out my post on automated usability testing here.

Quick Feedback:

There are a number of tools that offer quick feedback on concepts, such as the Five Second Test from Usertesting.com and Usabilla.com. I’ve summarised the top remote usability solutions in the blog How to do usability testing to improve conversions. This will guide you to get the most out of these tools.

Information Hierarchy:

For an evaluation of how easy it is for people to find information or merchandise on your site check out tree testing tools here. For an assessment of your navigation categories see this post on card sorting tools. The information hierarchy is an important element of the user experience that is often ignored. It could be a reason for a sub-optimal conversion rate.

Voice of Customer:

Don’t expect users to be proactive and tell you what is broken on your site – you are not their priority. But voice of customer tools, including surveys and exit polls can encourage users to provide valuable feedback on the user experience. Check out how to use VoC tools to improve conversion and a summary of over 20 popular tools in this blog post.

Can People Read It?

Accessibility, which includes the readability of content, is often over looked issues. However, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women suffer from colour blindness. One in seven people in the UK have some kind of disability and 6.1m users in the UK have impairments that affect the way they use the internet.

Usability testing should pick up some of the accessibility issues with your design. You can also try to conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). To test if you site has accessibility issues you can use the free Chrome plugins:

Conclusion:

A lot of time and money is put into marketing to persuade and motivate people to complete conversion actions. However, as we have seen much of this money is often wasted because simple faults are not resolved. There is little point in pumping money into sending more traffic to your site. If it doesn’t work on the user’s device, it takes too long to load, usability issues have not been fixed or if people struggle to read the content.

This often happens because organisations are obsessed with launching the latest new shiny feature rather than getting the basics right. However, as Craig Sullivan pointed out at the Conversion Elite conference, the benefits of fixing just a few of these problems can often be greater than the entire annual IT budget. So, even if it is boring, it is definitely worth the effort.

How To use Google Search Console To Boost Conversions

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Google Search Console is Free!

When I advise start-ups on conversion rate optimisation the first thing I do is set them up with Google Search Console tool (previously Google Webmaster Tools). Unlike many free solutions Google Search Console provides webmasters with a comprehensive set of tools. It informs and improves a site’s performance from an SEO, user experience and conversion rate perspective.

What is the Search Console?

Google Search Console is a fantastic free site performance tool that seeks to give webmasters the information they need to effectively manage and improve their digital experience. Without this tool set up you will be largely in the dark about many aspects of your site’s performance. Many companies end up paying a lot of money to SEO agencies for tasks that they could manage themselves.

Once you have Google Search Console set up you will be in a much stronger position to set SEO targets to improve your SERP’s ranking. It will also help you identify many of the issues that might be holding your site back in Google search. It can also help you identify and fix your user experience problems.

How do I set up Google Search Console?

All you need to do is login into an appropriate Google account and go to webmasterstools/home and “Add a property” within the Search Console. Then follow the simple instructions to confirm your ownership of the site.

The easiest way of doing this is often inserting some code into the header of your site before the closing </head> tag. Alternatively, if you have Google Analytics on your site you can also use that to validate your ownership of the site. If you get into difficulties just contact your website builder or designer for assistance.

Initially you won’t have any search data to look at but you can check the console for any signs of errors or usability issues identified by Googlebots. These are the programs or spiders that Google uses to crawl your site to understand the type of content you have and index pages for Google search.

The Google Search Console Dashboard:

The dashboard of Google Search Console provides a useful overview of the health of your site. This includes site and DNS errors, server connectivity issues, URL errors, page not found (404s), and a graph of the total clicks over the latest 28 days. This is great, but you can get much more detail about your site by digging into the left-hand navigation menu.

Image of Google Search Console Dashboard
Source: Google Search Console

Search Appearance:

This includes structured data which helps Google understand the mark-up of your pages. It can add rich snippets (or Schema.org) and other information to your search result. Rich snippets describes the structured data mark-up that webmasters add to HTML. This enables search engines to better understand what type of information is present on a web page. Rich snippets are the visible result of structured data that appears in SERPs.

Image of Data Highlights page from Search Console
Source: Google Search Console

You can add structured data to your site using a plugin for WordPress.org such as JSON-LD. You can also add structured data to your page using the Data Highlighter tool (see above). Which you can access in the Search appearance section of the navigation.

Rich cards provide data to Google about events, products, or opportunities on your site. Google has five types of rich cards; recipes, events, products, reviews and courses. Google Search Console provides sample mark-up for each type of card and a Structured Data Testing Tool to validate your mark-up.

The HTML Improvements tab informs you about any issues related to your page tags. Whether it is missing title tags, duplicate title tags and whether title tags are too long or short.

Accelerated Mobile Pages provides you with data on errors relating to your AMPs. It informs you how many AMPs have been indexed by Google. It also allows you to test AMPs and submit them to Google for indexing.

Image of Accelerated Mobile Page test in Search Console
Source: Google Search Console

Search Traffic:

Under this section you can view Search Analytics which provides data on search results, including keywords, clicks, impressions, CTR and average position. This information is essential for understanding how successful you are with SEO and identifying key words where you have good authority. Use the data on your average ranking for keyword phrases to inform new content development. Build on areas where you have good authority and understand which words have the most potential from a volume perspective.

Image of Search Analytics in Search Console
Source: Google Search Console

This section also shows how many external links there are to your site and who is linking to what content. This information is crucial in understanding how effective your link building strategy is and also what content other sites are most interested in. External links (called back links) are important to your SEO strategy because they are one of the few ways that Google can tell how well regarded your content is to other web users. It also helps direct more traffic to your site and explains why so much effort is put into link building.

About Google

Be careful about placing links to your site on random blogs. Google is looking for links from sites with a good authority and may potentially penalise you if it becomes aware of such activity. However, where you are getting lots of external links to your content from good authority sites. You should explore creating more content on this topic to capitalise on the interest shown. Some black hat SEO’s find this process so time consuming and difficult that they create private blog networks to control the whole process themselves.

Search Analytics also provides additional information on internal links, security issues, international targeting (useful for segmenting content by language) and mobile usability issues identified by Google. Mobile usability is especially important to monitor as Google continues to give more and more priority to mobile users.

Google Index:

Index status confirms the number of pages on your site that Google has indexed and so can be found via the search engine. Blocked resources tells you about pages where the Googlebot can’t access important elements on your page. Google may not be able to accurately index the page. Remove URL allows you to hide URLs from search engines as the page may contain out-of-date information or may just be obsolete for whatever reason.

Crawl:

The Crawl section of Google Search Console provides you with data on errors detected by Googlebots when crawling your site. Although page not founds (404 errors) may not harm your SEO ranking it can damage the customer experience. It is important to monitor crawl errors on a regular basis.

Generally I would advise initially deleting all the page not founds for both desktop and mobile. You can then check back in a few days to see which ones have been replicated since you removed them from the console. Many 404 errors don’t recur as they are not even correct URLs and so this way you can concentrate on those that matter.

This section also shows how many pages on average are crawled by the Googlebot. But don’t wait for the Googlebot to crawl your site if you have new or revised content to index. Use the Fetch as Google function below to test how Google crawls and renders a page on your site. This identifies whether Googlebot can access a page on your site and you can then submit the URL for indexing. This is especially useful for a rapidly changing site as you don’t want Google displaying old or out-of-date content.

Image of Fetch as Google from Search Console
Source: Google Search Console

Robot.txt Tester

The Robot.txt tester allows you to edit your robot.txt file and check for errors. Robot.txt files tell Google which parts of your site you don’t want to be crawled and indexed by a search engine. The Sitemap tab allows you to submit a new sitemap to Google which helps it to understand how your site is structured and assists in the indexing of individual pages by Google. It also tracks how many pages you have submitted for indexing and how many pages Google actually indexes.

The Security Issue tab shows if Google has detected any potential security problems with your site. If your site is hacked then Google provides a number of resources to help resolve the problem.

Finally, the Additional Resources tab includes 9 links to free resources such as Email Markup Tester, PageSpeed Insights, Google My Business and Custom Search. Check these out as a number of them can help improve your search engine marketing and grow your organic search traffic.

Conclusion:

When seeking to improve your SEO performance Google Search Console should be your first port of call. There is little point in spending money on an SEO agency until you have fully digested what the Search Console is telling you. Even if you decide you don’t have the time or expertise to resolve all the issues identified by this tool. Use Google Search Console to inform and prioritise objectives for your agency to follow. Furthermore, use Google Search Console to monitor your SEO performance over time. A successful strategy should be capable of improving key metrics over time.

11 Awesome Free Personas Templates

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Personas templates are often in user-centred design because they create better understanding of and empathy for prospects and customers alike. Buyer persona templates are used for a variety of purposes, including as a customer journey mapping tool, improving customer onboarding, designing sales strategies and increasing customer retention.

1. What is it?

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of an important customer segment based on insights from market research and other relevant sources of data, including complaints, customer services and data analytics. The persona template should include information on relevant characteristics of the customer or prospect such as demographics, lifestyle, geography, habits, motivations and goals. These characteristic should be determined by your research and relevance to your sector/product.

2. How are they used?

A user persona template is a great tool for improving understanding of your customer segments and communicating this knowledge to the wider business. A persona template helps bring your customers to life and helps you to get away from using descriptive statistics that rely on averages which can be highly misleading. They also help you to stop treating all users the same as this will only lead to an average conversion rate.

Personas should not be based on descriptive statistics because there is no such thing as an average user. A good persona should be based on in-depth research and segmentation of your customer or prospect base. This can allow you to personalise your user experience for individual user segments.

Persona templates are used to improve the user experience by making designers and other stakeholders consider how the user will react in different situations and to different experiences. A well designed user persona makes us think about the user’s needs and emotional response to our product or design. It should also provide a common goal and direction for all decision makers to refer to when considering changes to an experience. This can make it easier to come to a consensus for making important decisions about a design because everyone should be thinking about the same user.

3. How to use persona templates to improve conversion:

I have previously outlined a process for using personas to improve your conversion rate. This is based upon the Buyer Legends process developed by top US customer experience pioneers Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg. It is essential that your user persona is use for making decision as otherwise it will be a wasted opportunity to become more user-centric.

The Buyer Legends process forces stakeholders to evaluate a user journey from the customer or prospects perspective. It also encourages decision makers to challenge misconceptions about users and how they might behave or feel in different situations.

If you need a persona template for Word or an online tool for building buyer personas there are some excellent free persona creators. Below are the 12 best free persona template tools for you to create and share your buyer personas. I have summarised the features of each persona template to provide an indication of what they offer.

4. Recommended Template:

My personal recommendation for a persona template creator is Xtensio as this provides an excellent and flexible framework that is easy to complete and customise. You can add charts, images, graphs and videos using a drag and drop editor. By adding colleagues (or clients) you can collaborate in real-time on the cloud.

5. Free:

1. Buyer Persona Institute:

A free download persona template which allows you to document your buyer’s role, responsibilities and the resources they trust.

2. Content Harmony:

A free B2B customer persona template Word doc which can be downloaded. Their website includes advice on persona profiles and customer journey maps.

3. Fluid:

A simple but effective persona based upon competitor research.

4. Inflow:

A persona topic matrix which is too much like a spreadsheet for our liking, but may be useful as a starter.

5. Kayak:

This persona template uses a question and answer approach, though the number of questions and topics is not very comprehensive. This does make it a quick tool to use, but not all the questions will be relevant to all personas and there does not appear to be a way of changing the questions.

There is also no save functionality on the site as your persona is emailed to you within half an hour of completing the process. The lack graphical formatting or a one page summary does limit the use of the tool, but it can help start the persona building process.

6. Kula Partners:

This is more of a Pdf for collecting rather than displaying a user persona. It takes you through the information you need to create a user persona but lacks a front-end to communicate it in an engaging manner.

7. Makemypersona:

from Hubspot: This is a free step-by-step wizard persona template which takes you through the process of creating your own buyer persona. In addition Hubspot offers a free downloadable template in exchange for your name and email address. The online tool is very intuitive and easy to use. The tool allows you to select a stock photo to represent you persona and emails you the completed persona as a word document after about 15 minutes.

8. Up Close & Persona: 

A free persona template app that asks you questions to help you understand what motivates your audience. The interface is simple to use, though some of the questions have too few pre-set answers (e.g. there are only 3 age ranges). The app does have a fairly extensive range of questions and displays the full persona when you submit at the end. The persona is also emailed to you, but it would benefit from a 1 page summary of the persona rather than having to scroll down through multiple pages.

9. Userforge:

One of the most flexible tools for collaborative user persona template development. By using URLs rather than static documents it allows everyone to easily access the latest iteration of your user personas. The wizard only asks a few simple questions, but you can then add as many sections as you need using your own headings for a comprehensive user persona.

10. UXPRESSIA: 

Sign up for free to use this persona tool for collaborating with team-mates to create powerful buyer personas. Over 20 tailored sections to incorporate your target audience knowledge. You can stretch, drag and drop sections to customise the layout to meet your specific needs.

11. Xtensio:

A free forever buyer persona template creator tool to build as many personas as you like. Also has a “How to guide” to help you with the process. This is one of the better online tools as it asks you to complete an online template to create each persona. It has an extensive range of questions, but each field can be amended to suit your needs. A highly recommended persona creator.

Bonus resource:

Learningspacetoolkit: This is a great free resource website which includes PDF guides on creating personas and running workshops to create user personas.

Conclusion:

There are some excellent free persona templates here to help you create your buyer personas. To get the most from personas learn how to create a buyer persona to improve conversions. This will help you conduct a customer journey analysis to significantly improve your sales and revenues. Although it’s not an easy process and it will take some time to complete, it will definitely be worth the effort. You should also see substantial benefits for your organisation.

How To Use Live Chat To Improve Conversions

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What Are The Benefits of Live Chat?

Live chat can help improve visitor engagement, reduce bounce rates and cut operational costs by offering real-time interaction with customers whilst they are on your website. Why wait until visitors have left your site to try and contact them? This is a key tool for conversion rate optimisation and helps to improve your conversion rate in real-time.

Live Chat is the ideal solution for dealing with a number of issues with your website. There are six main benefits of integrating live chat on your site:

Benefits of Live Chat:

Pain points

  • When a customer has a frustration or an unmet need, live chat can help resolve these ‘pain points’ by giving them instant access to a company representative. Web forms are common pain point for many visitors. By adding live chat to forms you can often significantly improve your conversion rate.

Increased sales

  • Live chat is a proven tool for increasing sales because if a customer becomes confused or unsure about something they can be walked through the process. This helps reduce visitors dropping out of key revenue generating customer journeys and puts the company representative in a good position to recommend additional products.
image of live chat box on intuit.com homepage
Source: intuit.com

It gives you a competitive advantage

  • Many websites don’t offer live chat on their websites or only for a limited number of customers (e.g. registered customers). Given the benefits to your customers and your organisation you will be able to leverage it as a competitive advantage. Ensure it is available for new customers, whether on your sign-up form or on your homepage. They often need more assistance than existing customers.

It’s convenient and reassures customers

  • A live chat system provides immediate access to help for customers who may be struggling to find what they are looking for on your website. The presence of live chat also provides reassurance to visitors that they will be able to contact someone easily and conveniently if they do get into difficulties on your website.
image of live chat box on Microsoft.com
Source: Microsoft.com

 It reduces expenses

  • Live chat can save on staff time and phone expenses by lowering average interaction costs and improve contact centre efficiency by enabling employees to handle multiple chats. As staff spend less time on the phone because customers can use live chat to contact Customer Services this means that contact centre operators can multi-task during chat conversations and reduce the waiting queue significantly compared to a traditional call centre.

Live chat allows you to gather feedback about your website

  • Having the ability to communicate directly with visitors whilst they are browsing your website gives you the opportunity to gather feedback on your website and generate ideas for improving the user experience and revenues.

These services can lead to a significant uplift in revenues to provide a substantial return on investment. Here is a link to a great infographic that summarises many of the benefits of live chat.

All the providers listed below offer free trial periods and so you can test them out without making any financial commitment.

Live Chat Providers:

1. Boldchat:

An enterprise chat software that offers innovative features including an automated, tiered chat routing that manages chats between agents and has extensive monitoring and reporting capabilities.

The open API allows surveys, chat windows and promotional pop-ups to be extensively customised. It allows agents to assist visitors to fill out forms, complete purchases in the shopping cart and access technical support. The dashboard also allows agents to see the customer’s referring webpage, keywords they used, their geographical location and their chat history. Free demo.

Image of Boldchat.com home page
Source: Boldchat.com

2. Click4Assistance:

A fully customisable live-chat facility that offers a comprehensive range of features including extensive real-time monitoring, 1 or 2 way video chat, offer demonstrations, ask for feedback or gather leads, and design multiple fully configurable forms. Dashboard allows agents to view how visitor’s arrived at website, their location and much more. Offers full integration with CRM systems, social media platforms and Google Analytics. 21 day Free trial.

Source: click4assistance.co.uk
Source: click4assistance.co.uk

3. Crowdstream.io:

A relatively new live chat solution that also offers light CRM functionality to proactively target customer segments according to their online behaviour. The chat button is customisable, with email alerts to keep you up-to-date with activity and you can even respond to messages when offline as Crowdstream will email you any messages whilst you are away.

The solution allows you to create smart segments with triggers based upon customer behaviour and you can also broadcast messages in a non-intrusive way to all visitors or just to specific customer segments.

The Starter plan (up to 2,000 profiles) is available for just £35 per month, whilst the Growth plan (up to 5,000 profiles) costs £75 per month. A Business plan (up to 25,000 profiles) is also available for £195 per month. All plans include a 14 day Free trial.

Image of Crowdstream.io home page
Source: Crowdstream.io

4. Liveperson:

Offers an enterprise fully customisable live-chat facility including real-time monitoring, allowing chat windows and promotional pop-ups to be extensively tailored. Comprehensive dashboards at campaign-level for understanding how engagement is affecting your KPIs and operational level for how your agents are performing. 30 day Free trial.

Image of Liveperson.com homepage
Source: Liveperson.com

5. Moneypenny:

The UK’s leading small business telephone answering service provider also offers a live chat solution. It offers a 24 hour service and will email key chats directly to you so that you don’t miss out on any urgent business opportunities.

Image of Moneypenny.com Live Chat page
Source: Moneypenny.com

6. Velaro:

Enterprise and small business live chat software which is fully customisable allowing chat windows to be tailored to your business needs. Extensive dashboard enables behaviour of visitors to be tracked and monitored to improve engagement. The missed chat report allows you to view a list of all the times a chat request was made and how an agent responded to the request. Monitor agent login activity using an agent login report which tracks when agents are working, on a break or actively chatting. Has a Free trial offer.

Image of Velero.com homepage
Source: Velero.com

7. Whoson:

Provides a suite of plans from 1 user to enterprise. Provides intelligent targeting for a personalized experience. Dynamically invite visitors with a personalized message based on their predicted requirements. Allows you to create rules and triggers – based on visitor behaviour – with specific actions allowing you to segment visitors into categories such as geographic location and repeat visitors. A 30 day free trial .

Source: whoson.com
Source: whoson.com

8. Zopim + Zendesk:

Offers a unique chat design along with a wide range of contact options to help build customer engagement. Zopim’s services also give you analytical tools for understanding your customers’ needs and making better business decisions. The chat window customisation options are limited to changing your window to match company brand colours.

Source: zopim.com
Source: zopim.com

Conclusion:

Live chat solutions offer a win-win situation. Free trails give you the opportunity to work out which one works best for you and customers get a simple and instant means of contacting you when they need your help. That is not to say you don’t have to put the policies and procedures in place to manage live chat. However, live chat does give you an opportunity to engage with customers when it most matters and encourages a two-way conversation so that both parties benefit.

Conversion Optimisation Strategy & Poker

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Conversion Optimisation Strategy:

Poker is a game of strategy and just like conversion optimisation unless you have a clear strategy you are sure to lose.

When I was optimising a major poker website and app I decided I needed to get under the skin of the average player. One of the ways I did this was by learning to play poker and joining competitor sites to compare the user experience. As I became more experienced at the game, I realised that there are many lessons that can be applied to conversion optimisation strategy.

Understand the basic rules:

If you don’t know the hand rankings for poker you are going to make a lot of bad decisions and lose money quickly.

Similarly for conversion optimisation strategy you need to understand basic web conventions and have a clear process for optimisation and testing. This will help ensure that you can spot obvious problems with your site and you have a systematic approach to improving the performance of your sites. This will avoid random testing and improve your chances of making the best decisions to increase conversion. If you want to read up on this subject check out my post on the optimisation process and some awesome books to read.

Image of PokerStars.com new player tutorial

Source: PokerStars

Don’t be overly aggressive with your approach:

Many good poker players can be very aggressive at times. This can unsettle their opponents. However, it can also put off novice players and make them abandon the game.

With conversion optimisation strategy you need to assume that most new visitors are unaware of your brand. If you are overly aggressive you may win over some brave souls, but you will probably scare off the majority of your new customers. People don’t like feeling they are being pushed into making a snap decision. Pop-ups are almost universally employed on poker websites in an attempt to get visitors to take action. But these can often just annoy visitors. Conversion should be a pleasurable experience for the visitor and we should avoid over reliance on any single approach.

ClubWPT Cruise imageSource: ClubWPT

Players are emotional creatures:

To make the best decisions, it is essential to be calm, logical and to consider the probabilities of hand strength and the likelihood of other cards being revealed at each stage of the game. However, in reality many players struggle with the maths and let their emotions drive their decision making.

The behaviour of website visitors is no different to poker players. Visitors are heavily influenced by their emotional state, environment and what they think other people are doing. This all influences how they interpret content and functionality on your site. Conversion optimisation strategy should allow for the fact that most users are more concerned about potential losses than gains. Use money-back guarantees or free trials to reduce the perceived risk of customers making a poor decision.

We are generally poor at doing mental maths, so spell out bonuses or offers in simple terms so that users don’t have to work anything out. Use psychological hooks in your content to engage visitors at a non-rational level. This is often more important and influential than the purely logical reasons why we buy. This quote I recently came across sums up what we are dealing with:

“Few people are logical. Most of us are prejudiced and biased. Most of us are blighted with preconceived notions, with jealousy, suspicion, fear, envy and pride.” Dale Carnegie

Predictable reduces cognitive strain :

A good poker player changes their tactics on a regular basis to avoid being too predictable. This works because people dislike having to deal with constant and random behaviour. It creates uncertainty which humans try to avoid at all costs. It also makes people impatient and prone to making irrational decisions.

For conversion optimisation strategy it is also important to get a balance. Ensure you don’t have too many surprises on your website that may distract or disrupt the user flow. Follow standard web-conventions when appropriate and don’t distract visitors with too much content. Clutter and offering too many choices can cause cognitive strain.

Have a clear strategy and be disciplined:

To be a successful poker player you must have a game plan as otherwise you will constantly be changing your approach in response to other players. Only play when your starting hand meets certain criteria and don’t bet unless your hand is strong enough to justify it. Review the probability of getting a winning hand at each stage of the game and know when to fold.

Conversion also requires a clear strategy to formulate hypothesis and prioritise budgets according to the chances and value of success. There must to be a potential for a significant ROI for any A/B test.

Ensure you don’t waste effort on trying to improve conversion on poorly performing pages that don’t have the traffic or potential to justify the resource. Know when to cut your loses and move onto a more promising opportunity. Sometimes it is more profitable to to focus on your better performing pages that don’t require a large up-lift to give a handsome ROI. Prioritisation is key to your success as you will never have enough time or resources to test everything.

Competitor analysis can give you an advantage:

Respect your opponents as in a majority of cases at least one competitor will have a better hand than you. Take time to observe your competitors to see what you can learn. Copy and adapt loosely, but don’t replicate what your competitors do as otherwise your site will look exactly like theirs.

It is naïve to suggest you should never copy your competitors because it won’t work on your site. Sure, not everything will work, but if you are selective and use ideas in the right context they may enhance your user experience and improve conversion. But don’t assume they have done their homework and tested new designs. A/B test them before you roll out things you copy. Also look outside of your competitors for inspiration. Most new features are likely to be adopted in other sectors first before they get to your small area of the web. You should then apply A/B testing when appropriate to validate whether an idea will benefit your site.

Don’t treat all visitors the same:

There are many different kinds of poker players and to get the best result you need to understand their tactics and behaviour. Good players will adjust their behaviour accordingly.

To improve conversion you also need to segment your customers to tailor and personalise the user experience. If you treat everyone the same you can expect average conversion. Employ customer research, web analytics, and analyse your data warehouse to better understand and segment your visitors. Develop a more relevant and personalised user journey.

Use game mechanics to engage visitors:

Poker is one of the most difficult games to master. It requires a good deal of skill, an understanding of human behaviour and a large amount of luck. However, we love games and mastery is one of our strongest motivations.

As part of your conversion optimisation strategy have you considered using gamification on to improve the user experience and conversion? Why not use gamification of steps in your user journey to engage visitors and to create interest towards your conversion goals. This can be as simple as providing regular and positive feedback or prizes (e.g. badges or loyalty points) to recognise task completion and reward behaviour that leads towards your conversion goals. Make your website fun and interesting when appropriate and visitors may want to return more often.

Skypoker.com promotion image

Source: Skypoker.com

Remember the importance of the user experience:

Poker sites bombard visitors with welcome bonus offers and tournaments with big prizes for the winners. However, for the vast majority of players who won’t be making a fortune out of poker the user experience is what matters.

This means a good conversion optimisation strategy needs to be built around a strong value proposition. Use a heuristic evaluation to check how well the user journey is relevant and provides clear directional cues on interacting with the game mechanics. This should also identify if the application has minimised friction by avoiding distractions and anxiety. Urgency is also often forgotten about to nudge players to act quickly when required.

The whole user experience needs to be pleasurable and aligned with customer expectations if you want to encourage visitors to return to your site or app. This is the same for any online business and is often forgotten in the rush to get short-term sales. The danger is that too much attention is given to fancy new product features and website changes when the basic game experience may also need some attention. Fix your user experience first before trying to be persuasive or personalise your site.

Ensure challenges are realistically achievable:

Poker sites have in the past been notorious for offering bonuses that require levels of game play that are totally unrealistic for the average user to attain. Pokerstars, and 888 now offer instant release bonuses.

Other companies, such as Betfair, continue to promote offers that are highly complex and difficult to release. Making a task too difficult to achieve for your average customer creates disappointment and resentment. Ensure your conversion optimisation strategy considers what is best for customers and not just your organisation.

Winning involves luck:

Poker involves a fair amount of luck as even the strongest starting hand can turn to nothing when new cards are revealed that link to what another player has in his or her hand. Conversion also requires a reasonable amount of luck.

In terms of conversion optimisation strategy we are also poor at predicting which new designs will perform better than an existing page design or user journey. For this reason companies like Google and Netflix, who are in the mature phase of testing, often have test failure rates of 80% to 90%. Scale matters when you can’t rely on low-hanging fruit and so it is important to ramp up the number of tests you run to generate a few big wins. The more tests you run the greater the likelihood you will get lucky.

For a customer to buy at any moment in time requires that they are ready to act. If your proposition is not perceived to have the highest chance of helping them meet a current goal they are likely to go elsewhere. If a visitor gets distracted by a more urgent and pressing goal you will also probably lose them. Competitors are also constantly trying to move the goal posts in their favour so don’t be surprised if your conversion rate is in a constant state of flux.

Credit:

https://www.flaticon.com/search?word=gambling

How Culture influences Website Design

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This post explores the science of how culture influences website design and conversion rate optimisation. Marketing is about persuading visitors to take action. But what if your visitors come from a range of different countries and cultures? Will one strategy work for all visitors even though they come from different cultures? Design and culture are highly interrelated and yet little allowance is often made for cross-cultural differences.

Culture: 

Culture has a deep and pervasive influence on how people perceive and react to web content. For global brands it is important to consider how culture influences website design because they attract visitors from many different countries and cultures. They need to understand how people from different cultures interpret, and respond to such variants as colour, language, images and technology to be able to serve optimal content.

Design does not evolve in a cultural vacuum. For example, McDonald’s has a separate website and uses different colours for every country they operate in. They do not attempt to have a consistent brand design and website for consistency’s sake. They appreciate that culture influences website design because culture affects how people respond to different design and communications.

Singapore/Russia

Image of McDonalds homepage for Singapore and Russia showing how design and culture are interrelated

Germany/Brazil

Image of McDonalds hompeage for Germany and Brazil showing how design and culure are interrelated

The most influential research studies on cultural differences in communication were conducted by the anthropologists Geert Hofstede while at IBM and Edward T Hall when he taught inter- cultural communications skills at the US State Department. Their research studies are a must for anyone wanting to understand how culture influences website design. Their work provides many important insights into how design and culture are highly interrelated.

A Framework for Understanding Culture:

Professor Geert Hofstede conducted probably the most comprehensive study of how cultural values vary by country between 1967 and 1973. Whilst working for IBM he analysed data from over 70 countries. He has since used studies, such as the World Values Survey, to validate and refine his cultural dimensions theory. This identifies 6 cultural dimensions that can be used to explain observed differences between cultures. This can be used to help align design and culture to avoid mistakes when creating an experience for a specific culture.

Hofstede’s 6 Cultural Dimensions: 

1. The Power Distance Index

How is power distributed in a culture? The Power Distance Index is the degree to which people accept and expect inequality in a society. Cultures that score low on this dimension will seek to reduce the level of inequality and expect justification for where it does exist.

2. Individualism versus collectivism

Is a person’s self-image defined by “I” or “we”? In Western cultures, we tend to focus on the needs and wants of the individual. Conversely, Eastern cultures place the needs of the collective ahead of individual.

3. Masculinity

Does a culture have a preference for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards? If so, to what degree? In this context, femininity translates to collaboration, modesty, caring and quality of life.

4. Uncertainty Avoidance

How comfortable does a society feel with uncertainty and ambiguity? A high score indicates a society that has formal rules and policies and are often intolerant of unorthodox behaviour and ideas. They also like to plan for every eventuality and are more concerned about product specifications than societies that score lower on this dimension.

5. Long Term Orientation

This describes a culture’s time orientation – long-term vs short term. Scoring low means a culture favours long-standing norms and is suspicious of societal change. Cultures that score high are pragmatic and take a long-term view of business.

6. Indulgence versus Restraint

Does a culture restrain or indulge in fun and instant gratification? A high score means a culture
encourages instant gratification and enjoying life and having fun. Low scores reflect strict social norms which suppress indulgent behaviour.

Free Resource on Cultural Differences:

By measuring how different cultures compare on these six dimensions we can better understand the common ways culture influences website design. Data from over 100 countries has been made available by the Hofstede Centre. This is very useful if you’re trying to boost conversions by aligning design and culture to improve the customer experience in a cross-cultural context.

For instance, this chart shows us that Japan scores much lower on individualism than the United States. This suggests that web content in Japan needs to focus more on the community and relationships, rather than showing pictures of individuals in isolation. Japanese people don’t like to stand out from the crowd and are more likely to put the needs of society before personal preferences.

Their high score for masculinity reflects their competitive drive for excellence and perfection, together with a strong work ethic. These values should be reflected in web content through both high quality imagery and messaging about how the product quality cannot be beaten.

At 92, Japan is one of the most uncertainty avoiding countries in the World as they like to plan for every eventuality. This means Japanese people usually won’t make a decision until they have reviewed all the facts and figures. Risk assessment and planning tools, as well as detailed and fact based information, could help boost conversions in this cultural context. Design and culture must be aligned here as otherwise visitors will seek the information they are looking for elsewhere.

6 Dimensions of Culture – Country Comparison

Image of table showing Hofstede’s 6 cultural dimension values by country that can be used to align design and culture

Cultural Preferences and Facebook

Art preferences are affected by cultural norms and tends. For example, a study of over 400 Western and East Asian portraits found that the subject’s face on average made up around 15% of the total area of the picture in Western art compared to just 4% on average in East Asian portraits.

However, one study that analysed Facebook profile photos found that 12% of Americans’ photos lacked any background – compared to only 1% of photos from the Far East. Both our art and Facebook profiles reflect our cultural ideals and preoccupations that influence our behaviour in all kinds of ways. This is just another way that design and culture are interrelated and this occurs in all aspects of society.

Western culture emphasizes individualistic and independent traits. People focus on their own face and pay less attention to the background. Eastern culture emphasizes communal and interdependent traits. There is more of a tendency to include context (e.g. the background) and other people in their pictures.

Image of how culture influences how people frame photos - design and culture

Low Context vs High Context Cultures:

The anthropologist Edward T Hall identified differences between high and low-context cultures in how they communicate routine messages:

  • High-context cultures (e.g. China and Japan) have many ‘unwritten rules’.
  • Low-context cultures (e.g. the United States) leave little left to interpretation. “It is what it is.”

Low context and high context cultures relate to a number of cultural traits, including commitment, trust, overtness – and even time. Design and culture can be easily aligned here by identifying whether the society has many unwritten rules or people leave little to interpretation.

Monochronic vs Polychronic Cultures:

People in low context cultures often have a monochromic perception. This means they see time as tangible and sequential. They follow strict time schedules, focus on one task at a time and set deadlines that they aim to meet at all costs.

High context cultures tend to have a polychronic perception of time where it is more fluid. Punctuality and structure is less important and deadlines are seen as more flexible and people work on multiple tasks at once.

Monochronic Societies Prefer Simplicity:

So how can we apply these insight to ensure culture influences website design when we launch in a new country?

Since monochronic societies dislike clutter and fluidity, a simple design with a clear action should work well. Things like:

  • A clear hero image.
  • Short bullet point messaging.
  • Clear focus on the product.
  • In polychronic cultures, rich context can be displayed using:
  • Multiple graphics, icons, boxes, and animation
  • Animated navigation.
  • Greater complexity.

Check out Chinese e-commerce website Taobao on the left and compare it with the UK’s John Lewis site. Both are very successful e-commerce sites, but vastly different website design approaches due to the cultural values of the countries they operate in. It is wise to consider monochronic and polychronic cultures when designing a user experience for cross-cultural websites. This will ensure culture influences website design in an appropriate and sympathetic way.

Taobao – China/John Lewis – UK

image of Chinese and UK ecommerce homepages from Taobao and John Lewis - design and culture

Colours of our culture:

Colours have different meaning according to where you are in the world (nope, there’s not a colour that converts best). Yet many organisations insist on consistent brand colours across different markets. It could be that you’re losing conversions by not accounting for cultural variations in the associations of colours in different countries .

Brands that align design and culture are normally more successful because their websites and apps are designed according to local cultural preferences rather than trying to impose the cultural norms and traditions of the brand’s home country.

In his book, Drunk Tank Pink, the American psychologist Adam Alter suggests that colours have meaning partly because they are associated with practically every pleasant and unpleasant object on Earth.

As a result our interpretation and preference for colours is strongly influenced by factors such as language, climate, gender, age and context. For example, the way languages categorise colours are not universal (e.g. Russian has two words for blue). Some colours are also used to express moods and feelings in some languages which inevitably affects how we perceive them.

If you’re curious, you can see which colours mean what here: Colours Across Cultures, Translating colours in interactive marketing communications by Global Propaganda.

Colours Mean Different Things to Different Cultures: 

In 1999 American researchers investigated how people from 8 countries perceive different colours. The analysis allowed researchers to generate a colour spectrum of meaning with red at one end and the blue-green-white cluster at the other end. Red is associated with hot/vibrant and the spectrum gradually moves towards calm/gentle/peaceful that the blue-green-white cluster is associated with.

Testing by international search and conversion agency Oban International suggests that cultural preferences for particular colours may also be driven by strong national associations and brand identities taken from individual sectors of the economy. Joe Doveton tested this hypothesis in Germany where brands such as Siemens, Mercedes and Audi are renowned for promoting engineering excellence as an integral part of their USP.

In tests for global air charter company Chapman Freeborn, they discovered a strong preference among German visitors for a silver button and a big dislike for a red button. Silver in Germany is synonymous with the Mercedes brand. Red may be associated with the old Soviet Union which at one time controlled East Germany. Again, this is why it is important to align design and culture.

Germany – Silver CTA/UK – Red CTA

image of Chapman-Freeborn.com homepage for Germany and UK with different CTA colours according to cultural preferences - design and culture

Use Localised Copy For Personalisation & Conversions:

Your value proposition is the most important element of your communication. The danger of using direct translation, especially for keywords, is that you will end up with copy that uses words out of context. The term “mobile” for example is fine in the UK, but people in the United States refer to mobile phones as “cellphones”. In Germany people use a different word again, “handy” and in France “portable”. The same term can also have multiple meanings in a language.

Understanding your customers is the best way to craft a great value proposition. However, your customers preferences’ will likely vary according to their culture. This is where you can use qualitative research to learn new insights and validate or challenge your existing ideas on how to improve conversions by aligning design and culture. You can then use A/B testing to evaluate different copy and images to identify the best performing messages.

Pro tip: use loanwords in your copy – they’re often left out of copy that is directly translated.

Fonts and Font Sizes:

Fonts often have visceral connotations behind them, and they often vary culture-to-culture. For example in the United States people relate Helvetica with the US Government and the IRS because it is commonly used on tax forms. This again demonstrates how design and culture can heavily influence how visitors view something as simple as a font.

Another example is how logographic language cultures use smaller, tightly packed text, confusing American readers. That’s because the language itself (e.g. Japanese) communicates a lot of information in just a few characters. Further, as Japanese doesn’t have italics or capital letters it is more difficult to create a clear visual hierarchy to organise information. So web designers often use decoration or graphic text to create emphasis where required.

For more on font psychology read this post by Alex Bulat.

Further complicating the issue of conversion across cultures, we have the distinction between bi-culturalism and multi-culturalism.

Bi-Culturalism and Multi-Culturalism: 

In the 2010 US Census over 6 percent of the population (over 2 million citizens) associated themselves with two or more ethnic or racial groups. Psychologists have discovered that bi-cultural people engage in frame switching, which means they can perceive the world through a different cultural lens depending upon the context of the situation and whether it reminds them of one culture or another.

So we can’t assume people coming from a different culture (e.g. Vietnamese Americans), will retain all the same preferences as individuals still living in their native culture. Web analytics may help you identify potential bi-cultural visitors.

Even across monocultural people there are strong contrasts in values and behaviour. The concept of honour tends to be more strongly associated with East Asia than the West. However, even in the United States honour is known to influence behaviour more in southern and western states than in the northern states. All this goes back to understanding your customer’s journey and aligning design and culture.

Other Considerations: 

Technology:

We can’t assume people will all be using the same technology in different geographical markets.

  • In Africa, for example, mobile commerce is much more established in certain sectors, (e.g. banking), because of a lack of fixed-line internet infrastructure.
  • For various reasons, iPhones have failed to establish a large market share in Spain, so Android and other operating systems more relevant to the Spanish mobile user.
Browsers:

Browser usage is also fragmented at an international level.

For more detailed information check out data from StatCounter.

Search Engines:

The major search engines use different algorithms for different countries and languages.

  • Although Google has increased its penetration in Russia, the local search engine, Yandex, is still an important search engine in the country.
  • In China, Google is not used at all, with Baidu being the top search engine with a market share of over 50%.

For more details of search engine market share see an article from extraDigital.

Payment Methods:

There are different payment methods. This means having a single cashier or ecommerce check-out design is unlikely to be optimal for a global audience.

  • In Europe, credit card penetration is much lower in Germany, Netherlands and Poland. For cultural reasons many Germans dislike credit and as a result the single most popular payment method (38%) is (ELV).
  • In the Netherlands a similar payment option, iDeal, is the referred method of payment for 55% of online shoppers.
  • Security-conscious Russians still like to use cash as a quarter of them use Qiwi to make online payments. This allows people to deposit cash into ATM style machines and then make payments online without having to transmit sensitive bank or credit card numbers over the internet.
  • Even in Turkey where credit and debit cards are very popular (87% market share) you won’t see Visa or MasterCard on most cards.
  • In Islamic countries Sharia law prohibits the acceptance of interest or fees for loans and so potentially limits the use of credit cards and other Western style financial products. The expansion of Islamic banking is making e-commerce more accessible to Muslims, but again adds to the complexity of online payment processes and demonstrates the importance of aligning design and culture.

6. Culture Implications for Optimisation:

Websites that use identical content and colours across all countries and cultures are at a major disadvantage because of the impact diversity of values, norms and other differences have on how we interpret the world. Here are the key takeaways for optimising a global website by aligning design and culture:

1. Research competitors:

To obtain a feel for whether your website is out of sync with the local culture conduct a competitor review of sites in the country concerned. This will give you the opportunity to look for similarities across your competitors’ websites that may indicate areas for A/B testing. (Just don’t copy your competitors; they don’t know what they’re doing either).

2. Focus on colours and words:

There is sometimes a tendency to focus on purely transactional matters (e.g. payment methods) when adapting websites for an international audience. This is a mistake and I would recommend paying attention to your website colours and the language you use to ensure the site conforms to local preferences.

3. Use qualitative research to get a local perspective:

In addition, use local contacts, such as colleagues and suppliers to obtain feedback on your site in different countries. I’m surprised how often I come across websites and apps where it is obvious that a key page or journey has not had input from someone in the targeted country. Don’t fall into this trap as it is dangerous to rely solely on website experts who are not embedded in local culture.

4. Consider cultural dimensions and context:

Utilise the country comparison tool to understand the cultural dimensions of your audience and how contextualised your website needs to be. The more your website can reflect local cultural preferences the more likely your visitors will happily engage and interact with your content. However, use testing to ensure you validate your hypothesis as there needs to be a return on investment as otherwise you may be better spending your money elsewhere.

4. Serve targeted content:

A/B testing is also ideal for evaluating the use of dynamic content to target images and messages that are responsive to how different cultures see the world. This allows you to increase conversions by using geo-targeting (i.e. based upon country IP address) or other cultural indicators and let the data guide your website design.

Singapore/Chile

Image of Hertz homepage for Singapore and Chile - design and culture
Source: Hertz.com

Both of these Hertz websites are on the same domain and root directory (Hertz.com), but have different languages, visuals and appropriate text.

5. Analyse customer behaviour:

Cultural targeting has perhaps the greatest potential for your existing customers where you can track and analyse their behaviour over time. Use your customer database to analyse behaviour by cultural indicators to see if you can identify key cultural drivers to their behaviour. Alternatively try A/B testing personalisation based upon cultural differences to see what impact this has on your KPIs.

6. Multiculturalism:

Due to the increasing influence and spread of cultural preferences across the globe there are likely to be opportunities to segment by cultural indicators even in your home country. There are strong cultural and racial indicators, such as customer names, that you can utilise to segment your customers by and test the performance of targeted content.

Given the complexity of the human psyche and the pervasive power of cultural influences on our behaviour it is dangerous to assume anything when trying to improve website performance. Make A/B and multivariate testing your friend and guide in the multicultural jungle.

For more of our blogs visit conversion-uplift.co.uk/post/.

Featured image from Amazon – China

12 Must Read Digital Marketing Books

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Here are twelve brilliant digital marketing books that will give you insights into conversion rate optimisation, marketing, design, usability and the psychology of visitor behaviour. These are excellent books for helping you define your strategy and identify insights to develop hypothesis for website/app and landing page design and optimisation.

The first three books are specifically on conversion optimisation. Each book brings a different perspective to the subject.

1. Website Optimization – By Rich Page

When I received this book in the post I thought it looked a bit dry and basic. It sat on my shelf for a few months. The more I read whole chapters I realised that this is a gold mine. It’s one of the most detailed digital marketing books you will ever read.

It is crammed full of ideas on what you should be testing and is especially good for outlining a systematic process for optimisation. Without a consistent and data driven approach to optimisation you will struggle to maintain focus. You will certainly not achieve an optimal return on investment (RIO) from your A/B tests and Multivariate Testing (MVT) tools.

Rich explains everything from investigating your analytics, and choosing tools, to putting together a testing plan for a page or journey. As well as being great for understanding the process of optimization there is a lot of detail on what to test. You can tell that Rich has a massive amount of experience. He holds nothing back to help you identify areas and approaches to testing. I found this book particularly good for developing check lists of how and what to test.

Website Optimization: An Hour a Day

2. You Should Test That! – By Chris Goward

Chris Goward founded website optimisation specialists Widerfunnel and he shares their approach. Despite it being a fairly thick book I found I struggled to stop reading it. Chris brings insights from a wide range of sources and has a holistic approach to the process.

This is the most strategic of digital marketing books I’ve come across. It has a brilliant chapter on persuasion and models of human behaviour. The Lift Model that Widerfunnel employ has been widely adopted as best practice for heuristic evaluation of a page.

Chris’ book is also brilliant for dealing with objections to testing and how to engage people in the process of optimisation. There is also a huge number of examples of tests and many vivid images to illustrate the nature of these experiments. I found Chris is particularly good at advising how to develop strong hypothesis before you go ahead with an experiment. A weak hypothesis is often the cause of many unsuccessful tests. Although we learn from our failures you do need a regular stream of successful tests to convince your stakeholders to maintain their support.

You Should Test That: Conversion Optimization for More Leads, Sales and Profit or The Art and Science of Optimized Marketing

3. Landing Page Optimization – By Tim Ash, Rich Page and Maura Ginty

A classic digital marketing book, as landing pages are the bread and butter of our trade. This book is a comprehensive guide on how to optimise the beginning of your funnel. Visitors can land on a multitude of pages, so it is important to seek to optimise them all.

Many people think that landing pages are simple to design and optimize. When you read the book you will get a better appreciation of how complex this process is. Tim and his co-authors take you thorough and systematic process of optimization.

This book is much more than landing page optimisation. Sure, it covers the seven deadly sins of landing page design. But it also outlines Tim’s conversion Ninja toolbox that helps you diagnose problems, identify psychological mismatches and fixing site problems. Other chapters include the strategy of what to test and the mechanics of testing. The book also has many practical examples and ideas for your testing roadmap.

Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions

4. Brainfluence – By Roger Dooley

95% of our thoughts, emotions and learning occur in our subconscious mind. Research suggests that our subconscious mind has often made a decision well before we become consciously aware.

Roger helps us understand how our brain works and how to translate this into improving our marketing and products. He has carefully extracted and summarised the insights from hundreds of interesting pieces of research on how to influence people using key behavioural drivers.

This is one of the easiest digital marketing books to read. It’s a great book for marketers who want a short-cut to understanding what can influence our brain and how this can be translated into marketing strategies.

5. How to Get People to Do Stuff – By Susan

Roger recommended this book to me over Twitter. The book is structured around seven drivers of behaviour:

  1. The need to belong
  2. Habits
  3. The power of stories
  4. Carrots and sticks
  5. Instincts
  6. The desire for mastery
  7. Tricks of the mind

It’s one of those books that you find difficult to put down as it’s packed full of interesting and useful insights. It’s also easy to dip into to find a particular topic. After each insight has been explained there is short summary of the related strategy, which assists you in digesting the important learning from each sub-section. It makes it easy for you to pinpoint relevant content if you want to return at a later date.

How to Get People to Do Stuff: Master the Art and Science of Persuasion and Motivation

6. Don’t Make Me Think – By Steve Krug

One of the most well known digital marketing books you will come across. It is a relatively short book to make it easily digestible for people who are involved in building websites and apps. Steve’s mantra is about keeping it simple and focuses on a few key things that everyone should know.

The book begins by setting out a few guiding principles of web usability, “it should be self-evident. Obvious. Self-explanatory”. This might appear basic advice, but it is amazing how often simple principles are forgotten. The advice given is an excellent understanding of how people browse the web and how they interact with content and navigation elements.

An important aim of the book is to make the reader understand that usability testing does not need to be complicated. Steve is a great believer in doing-it-yourself. One usability test is 100% better than none. He also makes a critical point that “Focus groups are not usability tests”. Focus groups are a potentially misleading method of research. They are inappropriate for evaluating the usability of a web page or user journey.

Don't Make Me Think

7. Designing with the Mind in Mind – By Jeff Johnson

This is an excellent book for you to grasp they key principles of how and why people interact with user interfaces. The book has useful statistics and insights that support the design rules outlined.

The first chapter “We Perceive What We Expect” begins with how perception is biased by experience, current context and goals. Jeff explains how our brain filters our perceptions accordingly and the importance of considering mental processing when designing a user interface.

Other topics covered in the book include how our vision is optimised to see structure, limits on attention shape our thoughts and actions and much more.

8. Drunk Tank Pink – By Adam Alter

If you are interested in understanding the psychology of how human decision making is subconsciously influenced by our names, labels, colours, etc… this is a brilliant book to read. You will be shocked by how our behaviour and perceptions are affected in obscure and surprising ways.

Adam provides some fascinating and useful insights that can be used to challenge design thinking and develop hypothesis for A/B testing new customer experiences. All too often we assume that most people view the world in the same way that we do, but this book explodes that myth. Perhaps not the most obvious of digital marketing books but sometimes I think you need to look outside your topic of interest to find new and useful insights.

9. Influence – By Robert Cialdini

This is another classic text and should be on any list of digital marketing books because it deals with psychological persuasion. The 6 principles of persuasion are now widely adopted by many digital marketers. There is a constant flow of articles based upon these psychological weapons.

  1. Reciprocation,
  2. Commitment and consistency,
  3. Social proof,
  4. Liking,
  5. Authority,
  6. Scarcity

However, the book is still worth reading as Cialdini uses detailed research to explain some ordinary and extraordinary cases of persuasion. Each individual principle is a complex construct that Cialdini carefully unwraps.

You will be shocked by the nature of some of the behaviour Cialdini uncovers. Many famous and infamous events are dissected and explained using Cialdini’s deep understanding of human psychology. The book is useful for generating ideas on how to make content more persuasive, but also how to avoid falling foul of people who are trying to manipulate you for their own personal gain.

10. How to Win Friends and Influence People – By Dale Carnegie

I’ve noticed this book on almost every reading list I have come across on social media. Given this was written over 70 years ago you might wonder why it is on a list of digital marketing books. Well, when I read it I was amazed at how informative and useful it is. These principles are applicable to online as well as offline marketing.

This book is a brilliant and practical guide to human behaviour and how to get the most out of people, whether you are trying to persuade or just motivate them. It is highly applicable to website optimization. Why should you treat people any different when they come to your site than you would if they turned up at the door to your office? I highly recommend this book to to improve all aspects of your life. I’m sure it will also help generate some powerful ideas for improving your website and how you communicate with your customers online.

11. Decoded – By Phil Barden

Phil Barden is a knowledgeable marketer who brings together the latest psychological and neuroscience research and combines it with his marketing expertise. This is a fascinating and highly practical review of what we now know about what drives people to buy products and brands. Although this not an obvious choice for digital marketing books it is an insightful read on the science of buyer behaviour.

Image of implicit goals

Source: Decode Marketing

From a marketing perspective his research into the 6 key implicit (psychological) goals that drive brand purchase is invaluable. The psychological goals outlined in the book offer an essential framework for positioning a brand and evaluating the relevance of proposed marketing communications. It challenges a lot of the myths created by listening to what consumers say are important to them. This gives you a reality check so that you can avoid some of the traps many marketers have fall into.

Decoded12. Herd – By Mark Earls

An excellent book for understanding our ‘herd instincts‘ and how far reaching and ingrained the influence of others is in driving our behaviour. This book explodes many myths about economics, word of mouth marketing, market research and human nature. A must read for all marketers and anyone interested in human behaviour. Mark is an experienced advertising executive and puts his research into context by offering practical advice on how to apply herd theory in a competitive business environment.

Herd - How to change mass behaviour by harnessing our true nature