The Lukens Company Turning Clicks into Conversions: How to Evaluate & Optimize Online Marketing Channels

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1 The Lukens Company Turning Clicks into Conversions: How to Evaluate & Optimize Online Marketing Channels

2 Turning Clicks into Conversions: How to Evaluate & Optimize Online Marketing Channels We ve all done it. You take out your laptop or smart phone with the intention of just quickly checking and before you know if you ve suddenly lost twenty minutes by just checking something on Facebook or making a quick online purchase. Distractions happen easily online, which is exactly why it s important to keep your constituents focused on the desired action on your website. While ease of use and clarity should be your guiding philosophy with all channels direct mail, , and collateral materials it is especially important with your website, landing pages and online advertising campaigns. The importance of a strong online fundraising channel is undeniable, but the problem is how to determine the effectiveness of your online channels and how to implement changes, as necessary. In order to do this, we need to first make clear our goal: converting users of your online channels. Converting them to what, you ask? The definition of a conversion process will depend on your organization s mission and your role, but for the purposes of this whitepaper, let s assume that a conversion is getting someone to make a donation. Regardless of the end goal, the question then becomes, Do your online channels hinder more than help? In online marketing, a conversion is the term describing when a visitor converts from a casual visitor to one engaging in the precise action desired by the content manger. For example, on a retail website, a conversion is achieved when a visitor converts from just browsing to making a purchase. Without a strategy and means of tracking online visitor actions, your organization could very likely losing money, potential donors and transactions without being aware. The good news is it s surprisingly easy to reverse these trends if you take a step back and evaluate your conversion process with fresh eyes just as a potential new donor might. What Your Online Channels SHOULD Do Below are some tried and true online tactics that TLC employs with our clients online communication channels:

3 1. Easy navigation from homepage Implement a one-click policy that gets visitors from the homepage to the conversion page with (you guessed it) just one click. Don t let your visitors get lost or frustrated trying to find your donation page. This can easily be accomplished with a button prominently placed on your homepage taking visitors directly to the page to give. 2. Use landing pages Even better than simple navigation from the homepage: drive your visitors to a specific landing page that immediately prompts him or her to begin the conversion process. Our clients have seen great results by linking online advertisements to a two-step conversion process. Step one is a short form, which captures only the user s name and , and step two is a longer form that captures payment information and other details, like address. There are a couple of reasons why this process works so well first, it s direct. There are no pit stops from the advertisement to the conversion page and therefore visitors aren t getting distracted from the call to action. Second, even if the visitor abandons the conversion process before completing the long form, so long as you captured their name and in the initial short form, you have the ability to follow up and subsequently cultivate and convert them. See tip #6 for exactly how to handle this follow up. 3. Cross reference on all conversion pages Organizations with both membership and fundraising programs know that the terminology around these programs can be confusing to new constituents who don t understand the difference between the two. For example, let s say a visitor wants to join your organization, but they see the icon to give on your homepage and click there first he or she will easily become frustrated when not greeted with details on membership levels and benefits. Avoid unnecessary confusion by cross referencing the membership page on the giving page and vice versa. Or, better yet, implement tip #2 to really make the conversion process more direct! 4. Use PURL s within your conversion pages Another tip is to use PURL s (Personalized Uniform Resource Locators) to populate basic fields like name and address in your conversion process. Implementing PURL s involves creating a unique landing page for each recipient of your or direct mail campaign. Most often used in the renewal or appeal series when the organization has a more complete file on record, the direct mail Personalized Uniform Resource Locators or PURLS are personalized webpages or microsites tailored to an individual using variables gathered from a database containing information about each potential visitor. campaign would take the user to a personalized page where fields on the conversion page are

4 already complete using information from the organization s database. Anything you can do to simplify the conversion process will increase the likelihood that constituents won t abandon the process before reaching the final step. Along the same lines, be sure that your form repopulates upon error so that visitors don t have to start from scratch if they incorrectly enter just one field. 5. Add microcopy, as needed While generally less text is better when it comes to conversion forms, sometimes a magical type of text called microcopy can be extremely useful in improving the usability of your conversion process. Consider this informal experiment from one interface designer who noticed that visitors to one online retailer kept getting an error when they entered a billing address that didn t match the address on the credit card. After adding the simple micro text, Be sure to enter the billing address associated with this credit card, the error messages disappeared (Porter, 2009)! Try tracking the error messages your website s visitors receive and see if your findings lead you to a simple tweak to your process that might make a big impact on users. 6. Employ remarketing tactics in your online advertising strategy To gently remind those folks who visit your giving page and leave before completing the conversion process, try remarketing your online advertisements by planting a cookie on their computer so that the appropriate ad later pops up while they re on the Google Ad network. Or, for anyone you have an address for, try sending a reminder . What Your Online Channels Should NOT Do Hopefully we ve got your wheels turning now on the infinite number of tiny details that can help improve your online conversion channels. Now let s move on to some of the pitfalls to avoid in online communication. 1. DON T require registration prior to conversion Think about how many times you have gone to purchase something with an online retailer only to hit a page that requires you to first complete

5 a registration form. Maybe you re in a hurry or perhaps you are worried about subjecting yourself to yet another list, so you decide to come back to that purchase another time or even abandon it altogether. According to a study done by Forrester Research, an average of 23% checkout abandonment happens due to required registration (Burns, 2008). That s a big risk that your organization should avoid, if at all possible. 2. DON T ask for unnecessary information on conversion page One of the most common conversion roadblocks we come across is asking visitors to fill out an unnecessarily long form. For example, consider the whopping fifteen step process we recently came across to join one museum! The problem was a combination of both requiring unnecessary information in the process and also by breaking the process up into too many small steps (see tip #3 below). Carefully consider all fields in your form and think about doing away with any that are not absolutely necessary. Remember, demographic information and member preferences and interests can always be obtained in a future member survey. 3. DON T have too many pages in your conversion process As touched on above, breaking your form out so that visitors have to click through to multiple pages can make the process seem longer than it really is, so try to capture all the information you need in two to three pages. 4. DON T clutter your conversion page Sidebar graphics and links to your organization s social media pages or interesting articles may seem like a good idea, but in reality they can sidetrack visitors from your ultimate goal. Be conscious of potential distractions on conversion forms. TLC Recommendations The bottom line is that there are countless minute details that could either help or hinder your conversion process. As we explained previously, the problem is that, beyond the most common strategies we listed above, finding these issues isn t always obvious. Here are the steps TLC recommends: 1. Do your research. First, pinpoint exactly where you re losing potential donors. A new tool from Google Analytics called Google Flow Visualization makes this easy. This tool illustrates where visitors leave your website during the conversion process. For example, take a look at image below, shared on the Google Analytics blog:

6 On the left, you ll see a list of sources this shows how visitors come to the website. From there, Google Flow illustrates the path most visitors take while on the website. On this particular site, most visitors (about 78.6K) first view products and then some (13.4K) go to view their shopping cart. So far this sounds like we re headed toward a pretty good conversion rate, right? Well the interesting part comes up in between the next two steps when visitors are asked to first log-in before completing their order nearly 50% of visitors who went to their shopping cart then drop off when asked to log-in and complete the purchase. Remember we identified this earlier as a common mistake? If this step in the conversion process wasn t already suspect, doing your research by studying your website s analytics and perhaps even utilizing Google Flow will help steer you toward potential roadblocks in the conversion/purchase path. 2. Implement changes, as needed. Once you have an understanding of your drop-off rate, naturally you will want to implement changes that address any trends you notice. As explained in the Do s and Don ts above, that might mean shortening your process, simplifying your conversion page by asking for less information, or decluttering your purchase pages. In the above example, one might try restructuring the checkout process so that logging in to complete the purchase is optional. 3. Test variations to your conversion page. It is important to test variations before ultimately deciding what process works best for your constituents. As touched on previously, in some situations we have found that it is most important to

7 get the visitor s address early on in the transaction because you may lose him or her in the process and, if you have their , you can always follow up later. But this practice doesn t always work best. Depending on your constituency and the ultimate goal of your conversion process, you might want to get payment info up front and then address. Testing will help you decide what makes the most sense for your organization. 4. Repeat. We made it to the final step! And that s right, the fourth step in optimizing your online conversion process is to start right back at step one. After testing and implementing any necessary tweaks, it s important to remember that evaluating the effectiveness of your online channels is still never truly complete; this process is ongoing because as other elements to your multi-channel strategy evolve, your constituents experience will change. Even offline components, like your direct mail campaigns, can alter the flow of traffic to your conversion page. Continually revisit your online channels with fresh eyes and repeat steps one through four to ensure that your process is most effective. Final Thoughts Do you know your website s drop off rate? And precisely where visitors are exiting the conversion process? It s an important answer that every nonprofit should know as it could negatively impact your fundraising program. Remember to utilize the four steps outlined in this whitepaper and, for a full assessment of your organization s effectiveness online, contact The Lukens Company. Questions? For any questions or comments regarding this whitepaper, please contact: John Perell, Account Director x235

8 Works Cited Burns, M. (2008). Required Registration Lowers Online Conversion Rates. Cambridge: Forrester Research. Porter, J. (2009, June 9). Writing Microcopy. Retrieved December 1, 2011, from Bokardo:

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