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Converting readers into customers

Which button do you click

Where do you click? Information scent and path to task completion.

Converting readers into customers

Information scent and the path to task completion.

Maybe you’re thinking of writing articles and blogging as a method of attracting customers to your website, converting readers into customers. Great idea. It’s a proven and effective method, the principle goes that you blog on topics relevant to your product or service, then link directly to that product or service from within the blog entry. Note a phrase in that last sentence ‘link directly’, and ignore this at your peril or all your effort may be wasted.

An alternative approach is to create content – be it blog entry, articles or otherwise – for other sites that may have users or website traffic that could be interested in or benefit from your products and services, and again link directly to the product or service that you are referring to.

So, what’s this about ‘link directly’? Well once you have the interest of a reader, and they go so far as to confirm that interest by clicking on the link, it is crucial that you maintain that interest long enough for them to find what they are looking for, otherwise you will quickly lose them. You need to maintain something called information scent. In principle, this is similar to the concept of tracking, you find one sign, then look for the next, moving on until you reach the goal.

Let’s look at an example of this. Let’s say I (the user) am in the process of converting a campervan. I’ve been reading the extensive entry on leisure batteries on the camping and caravanning club website…

Converting readers into Customers - Caravan and Camping Club data sheet on leasure batteries

Caravan and Camping Club data sheet on leasure batteries

… and at the end notice that the article has been provided by a battery company.  Excellent!  I am clearly in the market for a leisure battery, otherwise I would not have managed to read eight pages of detailed information and reached this link (it is only on the last page).

End of article link to

Last page of the data sheet with link to article author

So, I click through expecting to either be able to buy a battery, or certainly to identify what battery I need to buy, and if so where to buy it.

And I find myself here on the landing page of the battery company website…

Battery supplier landing page

Landing page of article Author

Now as a website user, I can see that this site has been professionally made, employs a modern design and is clear to read and apparently easy to navigate.  However, when I actually try to reach my goal – of finding the right battery for me and purchasing it, which surely is the goal of the battery company, to get customers – I find it is not so easy.

Where do I click? Bearing in mind that I am not an industry professional, I am a consumer, and have linked through from a detailed article about leisure batteries for campervans, motorhomes and caravans, I should not be expected to be.  But as I look at this page, it is not even clear that it is about batteries, and the picture of the big truck certainly does not communicate to me that I am ‘in the right place’.  Ah, I hear you say, but this company has lots of different types of customers and lots of them might know.  True, but I am a particular type of customer and the company has gone to a lot of trouble to get me to click through.

The key issue here is that instead of linking to somewhere specific – which does exist in this site – they have instead (lazily in my opinion) linked to the home page.  At this point they are likely to lose me and other users like me, then I spot a link saying battery search.  The ONLY clue on this page that this site is indeed about batteries.  That said I do not really want to search, as searching successfully generally involves knowing what something is called (a whole other topic that we will discuss on another occasion).  So I click on this link, and find myself here…

Lost in the pages of a website.

Trying to spend my money but they do not seem to want it!

…with even less of a clue to what to do next.  I now find I am faced with a choice of ALL, STARTER BATTERIES, and INDUSTRIAL BATTERIES.  I know from reading the article (that I clicked through to this site from) that I need a LEISURE BATTERY.  Which is not offered as a choice.  So again, I have lost the scent.  Now because I am a pretty determined type of person, I scroll down (since touchscreens have become common, a lot more users will scroll, but it is worth noting that until recently less than 10% of users would scroll, especially if it is not obvious that there is more content, again a topic for discussion on another occasion).

Among many different options including: Agricultural Machinery, Trucks, Forklifts, Motorcycles, ATV/Quads, Tractor Mowers, Yachts, Snow Groomers, Jet Skis, Lifting Platforms, Rehabilitation, Tractors, Railways, Solar Power, Small Stackers, Skids, Substations, Energy Parks, Marine, And Telecommunication Systems, I find Mobile Homes and Caravans.  I hesitate because I have neither, I have a campervan (well I will have a campervan when I’ve converted it), and I know – partly from reading the article that got me here in the first place – that my needs differ from either of these.  Lacking what seems to be the ‘right’ link, I try out Mobile Homes and find myself here …

The path to task completion is often confusing.

So much to choose from but not what I am looking for.

… faced with a choice of 24 different batteries, of which there are nice pictures of which I am unable to discern between – and some technical data that means almost nothing to me as a consumer. Since I’ve come this far, I experimentally click on one …

Technical information for the non technical

Is this the one? Technical information for the non technical… Help!

And find a long and detailed page full of technical information that I’m sure is accurate and useful to someone, but not to me!

Let’s revisit what is going on here, this company went to some trouble – and quite possibly paid – to be featured on a website of a club that has over half a million members and has managed to attract my attention.  I am actively trying to buy their product, yet they seem to be doing everything they can to stop me.  They have completely failed to anticipate what types of goals and tasks a potential customer coming from this site would have.  My goals are to find out the best battery for my needs and to buy it!

So, I am faced with all this technical information, the page helpfully tells me that this battery is/has:

… achieve the CO2 limitation targets set by the EU by means of sustained fuel consumption savings and emission reductions, consisting of the absorbent glass mat (AGM) and the enhanced flooded battery (EFB) systems…

• Valve-regulated glass fleece battery (VRLA)
• Range of five types with capacities from 60-105 Ah
• Three times greater cycle resistance than conventional starter batteries: highest E4 classification pursuant to EN 50342-1
• Leak-proof owing to electrolyte bonding into an absorbent glass mat
• Zero maintenance owing to recombination technology
• Highest V3 vibration resistance pursuant to EN 50342-1
• Maximum starting performance due to very low internal resistance

And offers information on its dimensions (very useful, I have to build a cupboard that it will fit inside) and provides links to its MSDS Material Safety Data Sheet and ISO 14001 certificate, but I do not need to know any of these things at this point, then I spot the word STARTER in the midst of all this information. I know from the article that starter batteries differ from leisure batteries and conclude – with some uncertainty – that this is not the one for me. So I click on BACK and look at the next one. At this point I am losing motivation. These could be the best batteries in the world and there might be one perfect for my needs, but if I cannot complete my tasks (find the best one for me) then I can never reach my goal (buy one) and meet the battery company’s goal (gain a customer).

After clicking on a few more (of the 24 available), I realise that I am not going to find out like this, and in any case the information I need – including price information – is simply not here. My last effort on this site is to look for a link to purchase, I can see no links on the individual battery pages, but there in the footer is a link for retailer search …

Linking to retailer websites

Retailer search… hope at last! The end is on site?

… which I click on …

Only one retailer in the UK

At last there is a retailer in the UK… sadly I have lost the will to live.

… to be faced with a map, a pop-up that wants me to allow the website to know my location (which I’m sure is meant to be helpful, but not to me) and a sole red location marker in the UK, which offers me the phone number, email and directions to a company in Birmingham.
And I still do not know what battery I need. I could phone I guess, but that is not the point! I am on the internet and want to find out and to spend my money. At this point I give up.

All the effort put into the article placement has not only been wasted but might have a further effect on me as a potential customer. During all my struggle to get the information I need, I have been exposed to the battery company’s distinctive branding, which I am now likely to subconsciously associate with frustration and failure, so when I encounter their batteries on another website, or in a physical shop my response is likely to be negative, to the extent that I might even avoid them.

Are you doing the same to your readers?

Help is at hand.  A website Conversion Rate Optimisation Audit of your website will help to identify the barriers in your customers path to task completion and identify the problems that your customers experience in your website.

Contact PelaTis Online to arrange a confidential review of your website.  Find out more about Conversion Rate Optimisation Audit for your website.