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Conversion Optimization: How to reduce friction and anxiety in a checkout process you don’t control

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Engaging in conversion optimization requires making a modification of some sort to improve conversion. But, what if there are steps in your customers’ buying journey that you can’t control?

For example, we often hear from marketers that they don’t really have the time or resources to change their shopping cart in significant ways to improve conversion. Or, if you’re in affiliate marketing, channel marketing, or simply have a go-to-market partner, you might control the beginning of the funnel but have no control over the final conversion. Perhaps you sell a product through third-party stores and distributors and have no control over that process.

I was recently in this boat myself. Not only am I a student in the University of Florida/MECLABS Institute Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate program, but I’ve been working on marketing it before the April 1st application deadline as well.

The Optimization Process

The first thing I did with the team was map out the customer journey — starting with not knowing anything about the program all the way to enrolling as a student in the program.

Now, here was the great irony. Session 2 of the MMC5436 Messaging Methodologies and the Practice of Conversion Optimization course in the program walks through the optimization process and the first, second and third steps you should take. The very first step is reducing friction and anxiety.

Reduce friction and anxiety

However, when we looked at the step in the customer buying journey with the most friction and anxiety, there was nothing we could do to reduce those elements because that step was the University of Florida application.

When friction is a good thing

The UF application necessarily has friction and anxiety, of course. After all, this isn’t a simple online training purchase; this is a real university application. It should have friction and anxiety. When you increase friction you increase quality as well. And when you have a complex process, it can induce anxiety. Unlike an online product purchase, where I assume the acceptance rate is 100% (as long as the credit card goes through), the University of Florida rejects more “customers” than it invites in, with an acceptance rate of only 46%.

When a process created for one purpose is used for another

However, our students wouldn’t be undergrads or MBA students trying to attain a complex and long degree. Since our program is a graduate certificate (essentially, an accelerated credential that only requires four master’s-level courses), we wouldn’t be using UF’s application to weed out students. Applicants only need a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and don’t have to take the GRE or GMAT, so no weeding out of students is necessary.

But, they would still be UF students, so we would still have to use the standard application. And, our audience would be working professionals in advertising, marketing and general business — so they are accustomed to a seamless customer experience.

Customer-First Marketing: Empowering customers to interact with your brand in the way that works best for them

In the previous semesters of this program, both UF and MECLABS offered, essentially, a concierge team to add the human touch to the application process to overcome this friction and anxiety.

This works well, but we wanted to add an ecommerce option for anyone who wanted to become a student without feeling like they were becoming a “lead” — these people were marketers after all.

For applicants who wanted the human touch, great. We still offer it.

But we didn’t want to force a complex “sale” for those who weren’t interested in being contacted; we wanted to empower them to apply on their own if they chose to do so.

We changed a few other things about the landing page as well to put the customer first and allow them to interact with us in the way they chose, not the way we forced them to. Originally there was an information packet behind a gate — a common and sensible practice to build a list for nurturing. We improved the packet and made it readily available for download. If you just want the information and don’t want emails from us, we don’t want your email address.

We also changed the opt-in form at the bottom of the page to be about content instead of as a squeeze page for general program information. Because if people do want to regularly receive emails from us with content inspired by the program, we want to give them that option as well.

Back to creating an ecommerce-type experience for visitors who want to apply on their own. Marketers usually think of removing elements of a process (form fields, steps, etc.) to reduce friction, but we couldn’t remove anything — everything on the application was required by the university. And we couldn’t change any wording to reduce anxiety because the application was hosted by the university. We had only one option left.

Adding copy and design to reduce friction and anxiety

We had to figure out a way to get more control over the final step of the funnel — the application —without actually getting control over it or changing anything about it. We couldn’t create our own version asking for the necessary information and sending it to UF through an API due to the university’s security requirements.

We ended up creating an Apply landing page that pulls the UF application into our landing page using an iframe.

UF app

Since the application is in an iframe, the information applicants enter into it goes directly to UF and is hosted on their server. However, by embedding the iframe on our landing page, we’ve been able to add copy and design that hopefully helps to reduce friction and anxiety in the process without the applicants ever needing to contact us.
At the top of the page, we include general copy to let potential students know what they need to apply.

And our application developer Christine Risberg created a Javascript slider that walks the user step-by-step through the UF application. This is directly above the application iframe, and the applicant just needs to click forward on the slider each time he or she progresses in the application.

Unlike most of our case studies and experiments, this is something we’re literally working on right now, so I don’t have specific results yet. But feel free to take a look at the application page and the entire landing page, and let me know what you think.

Could an approach like this work for a sales process you don’t have total control over? If you can’t remove or change elements from a conversion process you don’t control (whether your own shopping cart or through an affiliate process, etc.), are there ways you can add copy and design to help reduce the friction and anxiety in the process? Could you also use an iframe? Or perhaps you have a better approach?

Remember, there’s more to reducing friction than removing things. When that option is off the table, see if there’s anything you can add. When using copy and design to reduce friction, sometimes more is less.

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

You might also like:

Learn more about friction, anxiety and the MECLABS Conversion Sequence heuristic here

The Difference Between Marketing and Advertising (and Why It Matters)

How to Make Yourself More Valuable in Your Profession

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About Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

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5 Key Traits of the Best B2B Influencers

Traits B2B Influencers

Traits B2B Influencers

Marketers are still asking, what is B2B influencer marketing? Here’s a definition I’ve been using over the past 5 years or so:

B2B influencer marketing is activating internal and external subject matter experts with engaged networks to advocate and co-create content of mutual value that drives measurable business goals.

As the groundswell around influencer marketing rises and becomes a normal part of the B2B marketing mix, the volume of information and misinformation on the topic also increases.

One of the most popular questions people also ask about B2B influencer marketing focuses on what makes a good business influencer? By now we all know that popularity alone does not make someone influential. It’s certainly important, it's just not the only thing.

As B2B marketers mature in their understanding of the role influence plays and how the dynamic of brand content co-created with industry experts plays out with customers, they begin to realize that other factors matter. Topical relevance matters of course as well as resonance of the topic amongst an influencer’s community.

B2B Marketing Influencers

The intersection of individual expertise, how well that expertise resonates with followers and the size of network creates a baseline of characteristics when evaluating whether a certain influencer might be a match.

But there’s more than that. Understanding what makes a great influencer is both art and science, soft and hard skills. The success of identifying, qualifying and engaging influencers is also directly tied to how they will be engaged and to what end.

Some people reading this might think that influencer marketing isn’t the magic pill some are playing it up to be. There’s a reason for that, because it’s not magic. It’s more like alchemy.

The reality is, there’s no one formula for the perfect B2B influencer, but there are some common characteristics that B2B brands should look for in varying proportions according to what’s important to a program or activation. I call those characteristics:

The 5 Ps of B2B Influence

Proficiency - In B2B marketing, the vast majority of those considered influential possess deep expertise in the field they work in. This is a significant difference from many B2C influencers who are often self proclaimed as influential with clever media creation skills.

As B2C influencer content and engagement tactics evolve, some are crossing over into B2B with a trickle of opportunists successfully creating influence amongst B2B audiences not solely for their expertise, but for a combination of adept social media content creation skills and some expertise. B2B marketers who do their due diligence will be able to filter accordingly.

Popularity - While network size is not the only thing, nor is it the most important thing, it is definitely a metric to consider. Some marketers swing in the direction of ignoring audience size altogether because of lower engagement rates with popular influencers. This is simply foolish. All things being the same, I’ll take 2% engagement of an influencer with a million followers over 2% from someone that has 1,000 followers.

What matters is how network size factors in with the type of influencer you need. For example, popular influencers aka “brandividuals” are often best for top of funnel content. Niche domain expert influencers are better for middle and end of funnel content. Engaging a brandividual and expecting conversions is just naive.

Personality - If you’ve worked in B2C influencer marketing and been exposed to all the characters there, B2B is going to seem a bit dry. Now there are some colorful characters in the B2B influencer community, no doubt. But personality is often a trait that needs to be uncovered when you’re working with some types of business influencers.

The good news is that savvy influencer marketing practitioners know how to plant the seeds that can grow and blossom within an otherwise introverted influencer. You don’t need them to be a colorful character, ripe with personality per se, but you do want them to connect with the passion they have with their craft and how their expertise can help others be successful.

Publishing - Content is the media that conveys the ideas of influence and while B2B influencers are not expected to produce the same types and quantity of content as in B2C, it is ideal when there’s a platform where the influencer publishes. At a minimum, that would be social networks but to be a B2B influencer, it’s most likely that also includes articles contributed to publications if not research, books and presentations.

Promotion - The value a B2B influencer brings beyond adding expertise and credibility to brand content is the ability to share what they helped create with their network. Trust of brand content is at a low, especially with advertising. Customers yearn for authentic content and the right kind of influencer collaboration can give them that, delivered via the influencer’s own distribution channels. That means social networks for course but also potentially blogs, email newsletters, podcast, LinkedIn Live, contributed articles or columns in industry publications.

I know some people reading this are thinking there could be even more P’s like being Prolific, Persuasive or Passion. Yes, there could be so many more but we have to draw the line somewhere! It's important to be able to manage the data and insights necessary to factor these characteristics into selection, qualification and engagement.

Some of these traits will not fully reveal themselves until you work with an influencer on a few content activations. Others will fluctuate over time and that is normal. It's important to understand that influence is a temporal thing. It is not fixed or permanent. It’s important marketers realize that before they disengage an influencer in the short term due to lower performance. The same goes for high expectations after great performance.

Organic influencer engagement is a little dynamic and what you don’t spend on paid influencers like an ad buy you will (in part) need to invest in relationship management, education and even tips that will help the influencers be more effective.

B2B brands with high influencer churn or low performance often apply “ad buy” perspectives to a what is actually a relationship driven effort. Mismatched expectations are not helpful for anyone, so think about the 5Ps as you evaluate and nurture your influencer community. Consider where of each your ideal influencers need to score on the 5 Ps in order to be a good match for the kind of activation you have in mind.

When there’s 5P alignment, there's happiness: for customers, influencers and your B2B brand.

The post 5 Key Traits of the Best B2B Influencers appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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