Part 2: Positioning
Why Someone Should Buy From You in an Ocean of Choices
There is more similarity in a precious painting by Degas and a frosted mug of root beer than you ever thought possible.Alfred Taubman, owner of the A&W chain, comparing marketing challenges faced following the purchase of a 241-year-old auction company
Your visitors could buy your product from an online competitor because they provide a broad range that drew interest, from a brick and mortar store because of kinesthetic interaction, eBay to save on cost, or Amazon to get faster delivery—and that is just for the same product. If you sell one brand of bicycle, every store that sells another brand of bicycle is a competitor.
Ecommerce today is competitive and the battle for a consumer’s credit card will only increase as technologies change how we buy and competitors emerge. Position-focused CRO is effective because the principles work for any store.
Your position is determined by how prospects view your store. Perception is malleable. Positioning is your savior to the great ecommerce sin of being another “me too”. It is how you set yourself apart from the competition and solve problems unique to your business. Let’s mold your store into a profit-generating machine.
Law of Category
You cannot compete head on with the monsters of Amazon. There’s likely a competitor in your broader vertical market, like fashion, that sells every major brand. Their size carries with them unbeatable economies of scale which drives down price and provides a wide range of products.
Positioning gets you heard and makes you remembered. When someone thinks about a particular problem, they go to you.
The size of your category matters to the point it aligns with your end business goal. You don’t have to be a giant store to succeed, but you want enough size to meet your profit goal.
Ideas and questions to position yourself into a unique category:
- What type of people buy your product? Survey to find why someone buys, where they use the product, and who they would recommend the product to. If hobbyists get the product for the weekend, position your entire store’s message to focus on these people in that situation.
- Drill down to one benefit. A toothbrush for the general population is taken, but a toothbrush for sensitive teeth makes you stand out.
- Mindmap your niche in the center then branch out with specific product categories. See competitor product categories for ideas. Find a niche within a niche.
- Do keyword research using Google’s famed keyword planner and check against Google Trends.
- Search your products to gather a list of your competitors. What do they all do that you can avoid?
Focus on Your Biggest Buyers
The concept is simple. Identify your biggest buyers then arrange your store and marketing methods to attract more of them.
Every market is made of bad and good customers. Bad customers buy a product once then return it. They ask loads of questions from customer support about a cheap product. A bad customer can cost your business.
Great customers buy multiple products over their lifetime. They require minimal support for the return they give you. Great customers may even have their own audiences and endorse your product to them. When you know your great customers, you understand how to position your store to get them to buy and where to go to acquire them. Your conversion rate and customer lifetime value will skyrocket.
There is qualitative and quantitative data to collect then analyze. Craft surveys to learn qualitative information about your biggest buyers.
Quantitative data is best done through Google Analytics. You need Enhanced Ecommerce setup in Google Analytics to collect useful data that can help you identify your biggest buyers. The data you gather from an out-of-the-box setup is often inaccurate and incomplete so follow my step-by-step guide to get Google Analytics done right for your Shopify store.
Beginners can start in Google Analytics with everything under the “Audience” section to see what gets revenue and who is most likely to buy. Affinity categories under “Interests” may help if you’re a broad-serving store. Throughout this ecommerce conversion rate guide you will learn how to maximize your CRO from your analytics.
If you’re comfortable extracting actionable steps from the standard reports, use custom reports and segmentation to further unlock your biggest buyers. The “Returning Users” versus “New Users” segments are exceptional. Who are your biggest buyers, what do they buy, and how do they buy?
To further help you along, use my Enhanced Ecommerce demographics report to discover profitable age and gender groups based on their average order value and buy-to-detail rate:
Leverage Profitable Traffic Sources
Get more of the traffic that converts well for you. Sources that lead to visitors rather than revenue is a common mistake store owners make in a lousy conversion rate. Your conversions are doomed to starvation before these people see your store.
The standard “Acquisition” report in Google Analytics is limited. Claw beyond the generic grouping of channels to get data you can act on. Use my ecommerce visitor acquisition efficiency custom report then sort by “Revenue per User” and “Buy-to-Detail Rate”:
The sources in the above example that lead to an exorbitant buy-to-detail rate of 200%+ are self-referrals from inaccurate tracking. As you build profitable traffic sources:
- Use the Google UTM code on external links you control that point to your store. It reliably reveals (direct) / (none) traffic.
- Get your setup spot on for cross-domain tracking to eliminate self-referrals.
- Acknowledge the influence of assisted conversions. Review the standard “Assisted Conversions” report under “Multi-Channel Funnels”. The channel that gets the sale could be only useful when another channel like Facebook created initial awareness.
Sell to Your Foxes
Too many companies are afraid to read a scathing comment of an offended visitor or turn away market segments because their products “are for everyone”. You may feel uneasy about this – most business owners do. Quiet mediocrity is the formula to be the little guy with a soft voice.
You will exclude those unlikely to buy from you when you speak passionately to your best buyers. The late copywriter Gary Halbert called this “selling to the foxes”:
There are hundreds of companies in direct response who give up millions of dollars in sales every year just so they won’t offend a small percentage of scumbags who will never buy from them anyway… Stop worrying so much about offending people and start worrying more about selling them… I didn’t worry about offending the ‘dogs’. Instead, I concentrated on selling the ‘foxes’.
Cards Against Humanity excel at selling to the foxes. One holiday they updated their site with the message: “To help you experience the ultimate savings on Cards Against Humanity this Black Friday, we’ve removed the game from our store, making it impossible to purchase.” They then proceeded with a campaign to sell bull s*** that had staff the whole day on Twitter explaining what people could literally buy:
If you buy the poop expecting it to be something else that’s not poop, you’re actually buying a valuable life lesson for $6.Max Temkin (@MaxTemkin) November 28, 2014 (Tweet has since been deleted)
30,000 people in one day brought literally crap. Cards Against Humanity’s foxes are people with a dark humor. Sure the company annoyed a lot of people. I’m sure their owners don’t care. The ignorance stems from knowing your audience rather than stupidity.
Your foxes have problems, ideals, emotions. If they believe Kim Kardashian has done nothing for human life, your store can say that on social media. Does your product have a defect? Maybe your product should not be used in a type of situation? Write about it. When you say something the product does well, it is believed. Tell deep stories, publish video, and single out a situation that match the lives of your passionate fans. You turn away the dogs and appeal to your foxes.
A value proposition is a simple message that promises value to the visitor’s purchase. They can alleviate risk, build trust, save the customer money, or guarantee a solution to your customer’s problem.
Imagine you were interested in buying a bike to ride along the beach. You arrive on one of my client’s website:
Do you feel safe? Do you feel Beachbikes is the right store to buy from? Do you feel confident if you were to buy a bike from here it would be fantastic?
Value propositions pull you apart from the pack. They are well-placed in the header to quickly communicate the visitor should stick on the store. You’ll have unique value propositions like “Take Your Bike for a Test Ride”. Here are ones to get you going:
Do not use vague variations that carry poor influence:
Test the presentation of value propositions because they have been found to distract. FSA Store boosted revenue per visitor 53% when they removed their five core messages from below the navigation for a simpler appearance.
Survey Customers to Attract More
Empathy gets you started at what you think should be done; ignorance keeps your store capped at a conversion rate.
Disregard what your intuition tells you to do and listen to the exact reason (in their words) why someone purchased. I recommend HotJar to survey your visitors and customers. It has been my favorite survey tool for years. Qualaroo is another good tool and they have excellent resources for ecommerce surveys.
Trigger the survey to appear on your thank you page. Useful questions to ask are:
- Where did you first learn about us?
- What got you most excited about buying from us?
- What convinced you to buy from us?
- What almost stopped you from buying from us?
- What are you unsure about with your purchase?
- What other options were you considering before buying from us?
- What could we have done to make your purchase choice easier?
When you understand the people who bought, you nudge along people who previously wouldn’t have bought to become customers. Always integrate what you learn into your store otherwise the data is useless.
Survey to Find Out Why Your Visitors Didn’t Buy
Look at this survey Google gave me in analytics when writing this guide. Your business can always improve with surveys.
Create a targeting rule that fires the overlay based on their geographic location, what site they came from, or how long they spent on the store. It depends on what you want. I recommend rules that match your profitable segments and another setup with rules that match your least profitable groups, to learn about visitors who do not buy. The disparity in answers may surprise you.
Ask one question for the best response rate. Questions you can ask:
- It seems you didn’t complete your purchase, can you share why not?
- What would convince you to buy from us?
- What other information would you find helpful on this page?
- What if anything is stopping you from completing your purchase?
Test Google’s approach of asking what someone is trying to do. When you’re convinced this strategy works, survey visitors based on other behavioral data. You may want to know why one product does not sell, why someone who viewed 10 pages left, or what caused someone to abandon cart. Bathe in the new information gathered then test what you learned about your store.
Refer to WebEngage’s guide for extra ideas to use overlays for CRO. Anything is possible for a cheap cost given the personalization and return potential. If you have a magazine promotion, promote a redirected URL then have an overlay with a discount that only triggers for these people.
Silence makes improvement hard. Live chat is a way to provide instant customer support without the delays of an email or feedback form. Forrester research found, “44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a Web site can offer.”
A live chat widget on your store is not guaranteed to increase conversions, but it is an avenue to explore if you get many support questions, feel really dazed at why people do not buy, or have never done it before. How you implement live chat also matters.
Total Gym Fitness increased sales by 39% with live chat while other stores have seen a decrease. Several things Total Gym Fitness did well was train staff to ask different questions based on how high or low the person was into the research funnel, deliver a chat box sized to mobile, and provide short answers when typing to a mobile user.
Regularly train and liaise with your live support agents. The problems your visitors try to solve will differ to each other so don’t take a one size fits all approach.
Record every question your visitors ask or objections raised about your product or store. These are optimization opportunities and can lead to any change.
Develop and Sell Your Own Products
If you only sell your products through your store, the place of purchase is obvious. Retailers that pursue their own products are lavished with the highest possible margins in ecommerce. Your products are partly inoculated against competition.
It works for conversions because you can regulate product quality, possess agility to respond to market evolution, and just give a damn great product that people want.
Your own products bring with them negatives. The first downside is you have to be excellent at marketing to drive the awareness. The second downside is the upfront cost and risk. You can cut a lot of cost and risk when you craft the product yourself for the trade-off of time and scalability.
Avoid Dilution from Extension
Products will forever tempt you to dilute your message to a broader audience. Speak to everyone and you will speak to no one. The purchase rate of products begin to vaporize when you disobey the law of category.
People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.Steve Jobs
Launch a new brand and store for products that do not serve your core audience—if you must deviate. Shopify have made it easy to get a new store up in minutes.
The Premature Test
Get a person who doesn’t know about your store to visit it on their phone. Give them three seconds to view your store then pull their focus away. Ask, “What person would buy from this store?” Repeat the test with someone on a desktop computer.
The premature test tells you the immediate positioning communicated through the design of your store. If your tests reveal contradictory points or uncertainty, look at the top 200 pixels on the home page. What can you do to speak to the person most likely to buy from you?
One major mistake I see are messages like, “Welcome to So-and-So.” Use the visual real estate in a clearer way and your visitors will be unknowingly thankful.
Brand names like “Sports Authority” and “Guitar Center” provide clarity. Taglines beside a logo are effective at speaking to your buyers. Smith and Noble and Dicks Sporting Goods do a good job with taglines to quickly describe who the store is for.
Simple Customer-Focused Language
Company-focused information gets me mad. You don’t give your visitors bloody “Consumer Information” or “Customer Care“.
What is Sunbeam’s “promotions” page suppose to be? Promotions is a bad translation of “specials” or “sales” in normal people language.
When reading corporate speak, I picture a board of bobble-head directors puking their vile. It is common among large companies that distribute their product to retailers while also selling to individuals.
The right jargon can be used as a simple way for your best buyers to understand your product and connect with your brand. Hobbyists love jargon. When your words mimic the lives of your visitors, you captivate an audience. If you sell to passionate golfers, write about the golf club that puts an end to army golf and makes you a burglar.
Write to one person using “you language” – not “people”, “you guys”, or “customers”. Be guided by “what’s in it for me” instead of “what we do” in everything. Keep your product descriptions, core content, navigation, and stories focused on visitors.
People want to know who they buy from and if they can be trusted. The about page lets you address these concerns and helps you differentiate yourself. It is a commonly overlooked area to increase your conversions.
What makes a good ecommerce about page? Tell your story, give a personal anecdote related to the reason the visitor is interested in your products, share your passion as though you were talking face-to-face to the person reading, use video, reveal your team members, and provide contact information.
Another idea that can work well on your ecommerce about page is connecting your message with a greater cause. A fitness store can show photos of fun fitness classes it ran for a school.
Examples of good about pages:
Brick and Mortar Location
If you have a physical location where customers can buy your product, it’s a good idea to test the message. While it’s nearly guaranteed to boost offline conversions, it can also boost online sales by establishing trust.
Have a page for your offline location. Test how you attract customers to the offline store whether through a link in the header or footer of the online store. Anchor text ideas are: “See our showroom”, “Visit us in store”, and “Our physical locations”.
John Lewis provide a “Our shops” link in the header that takes you to a list of their brick and mortar locations.
Do not reference your online store (mystore.com) as differing from your offline store (My Store). Your company is one body.
For help setting up brick and mortar locations, I recommend Bold’s Store Locator app. Make it clear where users must go when things are accessible in only one place. For example, let customers know certain products or video instructions to get the most out of their purchase, can only be accessed from the online store.
Your customers admire a person or two. Get a person your audience respects to endorse your product and you will have people ready to buy before they go to your store. Every store can use endorsements, though it works best when you develop your own product. Endorsements if promoted elsewhere will also drive a lot of branded traffic.
Endorsement strategies include sending your product to the person, offering equity in the business, or working closely with a charity that appeals to the person of influence. Superficial endorsements you see all over Instagram are the lowest-level execution of this strategy (but they still work.)
Under Armour signed NFL athlete Tom Brady for equity in the apparel company. Brady wears Under Armour clothing and speaks well of the brand given any opportunity. SK Energy partnered with 50 Cent and the World Food Programme to provide one meal for every energy drink sold. The Honest Company works closely with Jessica Alba who reveals a side you rarely see that is authentic and aligned with the target audience of concerned parents.
Capture video, photography, and as many quotes as possible from the person. Show the celebrity using your product for the ultimate proof of support. ROC headphones rapidly built its brand with Cristiano Ronaldo that combined a PR campaign and endorsement.
Your celebrity’s behavior is a double-edged sword. What they do imposes onto your brand. Kellogg’s ran from Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps one week after a picture of him smoking a bong became public. Nike, Honey Stinger, and other major brands departed from Lance Armstrong following his doping scandal. Total Flex home gym equipment caught Jean-Claude Van Damme on a British reality show revealing his disdain to promote the product he disliked.
A superstar is unnecessary; sometimes ineffective. What matters is your audience’s awareness and respect for the person.
In the next lesson of the conversion optimization guide, you will learn how to design a store that gets you sales without being a designer: