Research indicates that most people tend to scan website copy rather than read it. This is due to our short attention spans, limited time, digital information overload and small screens on mobile devices.
It’s almost like a scent trail as people look for things that tell them they’re in the right place and to keep going, or they’re not and they should leave. People quickly skim through content to identify key points, headings, subheads and any visually emphasised elements (like bullet points, bold text and images) to determine whether the content is relevant to their needs before investing more time reading it.
When a visitor’s eyes fixate on something, this has a huge impact on whether the visitor stays on your site and buys from you or leaves without making a purchase. This is why the words you use on your site are so critical. Visitors may not read every word on your website, but the words they do read are very, very important.
Therefore, you should choose every word that appears on your website carefully because they can have a big impact — either positive or negative — on users’ behaviour while on your site.
Here are a few examples of the effects that words have had on our some of our e-commerce clients’ conversion rates and sales.
An American lingerie company sells small cup bras for petite ladies. They identified their unique selling proposition (USP) as designing “Perfectly fitted bras for ladies with small cup sizes.” They believed this benefit would appeal to their target audience who often struggled to find the right size bra.
When performing customer research, we asked them the question: How did this product make you feel? One respondent said that it “made me feel like a woman again.” This was emotive, powerful and cut straight to the value these bras deliver to customers. We concluded that this powerful emotional statement is the company’s real USP so we designed a test with two different headlines: the control headline that stressed “perfectly fitted bras” and an alternate headline that stressed “feel like a woman again.”
The new headline significantly outperformed the control headline, increasing conversion rates by about nine percent. The company was so pleased with this that they used this new strap line across all their marketing materials and shop fronts. This is a great example of the power that words can have on consumer behaviour.
A global anti-virus software provider sells software to both businesses and consumers. The product detail pages targeting consumers mainly featured technical jargon about the software’s features. Our research, however, discovered that consumers had a hard time understanding this jargon and were leaving the pages without purchasing software.
This is known as the curse of knowledge. It’s a cognitive bias that occurs when we assume that others we’re communicating with have a similar depth of knowledge about a topic that we do.
Based on this insight, we distilled what we believed customers were looking for when making anti-virus software buying decisions. It came down to two things: Authoritative endorsements and social proof. So we designed a test with new copy on the product detail page that said: “Award winning protection. Trusted by millions around the world” as an authoritative endorsement and listed the award logos. We also included testimonials from satisfied customers as social proof.
The new copy pages significantly outperformed the control pages across seven different countries in Europe along with Australia and New Zealand. The company eventually rolled out the new copy globally across more than 40 different websites.
A large furniture retailer was promoting its ethical policies and environmental and fair trade practices prominently on its website, especially on its high bounce rate product description page. They believed this would resonate well with their target audience and give them a strong USP.
However, our research discovered that these policies and practices are expected by their customers — it is no longer a USP. What their customers cared most about wasn’t saving the planet, but when their products would be delivered.
Most of the company’s competitors delivered in two to three weeks, but our client was able to offer next-day delivery. So we performed a test on the product detail page, adding the trigger message “Next-Day Delivery” underneath the Add to Basket button. This was a strong USP because their competitors couldn’t offer it.
The variation significantly outperformed the control page, delivering an approximately five percent higher conversion rate. The company’s ethical policies and environmental and fair trade practices are still featured on the website, but not as prominently as before.
A health and beauty retailer wanted to get more customers to buy directly from the product listing pages. Most customers typically know enough about these kinds of products to not have to click through to the product detail pages, eliminating an additional click.
The product listing pages included an image of the product, its name, a short description, the price and the star ratings, along with an option to Add to Basket directly from the product listing page or go to the product detail page to learn more.
Our research revealed that most customers were not buying directly from the product listing pages but instead clicking through to the product detail pages because the descriptions on the product listing pages were too vague. So we ran multiple tests on the product listing pages in which we added more product description, varied the length of the paragraphs, added bullet points, etc.
At first the additional descriptions lifted conversions for new customers only, so we tweaked and tightened the copy. We eventually got the copy to the point where conversions were increased for both new and returning customers who bought directly from the product listing pages without clicking through to the product detail pages.
In summary, we were able to give customers just enough information on the product listing pages that allowed them to act and buy without needing to click through to the product detail pages for more information — an additional click that can lead to lost sales.
As an e-commerce retailer, it’s critical to figure out what is most important to your customers and then use words in your content that resonate with them and solve their problems. Because not all words matter — but the words that do matter really matter!