By Larry Marine
User Experience Architect, Intuitive Design
The underlying principles of UX design are rooted in psychology and leverages what we know about human cognition to incite specific behaviors. Tactical UX focuses on applying predictable patterns of behavioral psychology to compel site visitors to perform desired behaviors.
Following up on my recent description of the 4 Levels of UX Design, this post focuses on a proven tactical approach to achieving phenomenal conversion rates. Understanding the 4 A’s of visitor awareness can produce the same killer conversion rates enjoyed by the top converting sites.
Rarely do visitors come to a website intent on purchasing a specific product. More likely, your site must help convince visitors that your products best serve their needs before they decide to buy from your site.
The process is pretty straightforward, but rarely done well. It involves transitioning the visitors through the 4 A’s of conversion:
Visitors become aware of your product or service through your SEO, SEM, or branding effort. These efforts set expectations in the visitors’ mind about what they’ll find on your site. One of the keys to establishing successful awareness is setting and managing appropriate expectations.
Awareness drives visitors to your site, but doesn’t sell anything. Now that they’ve reached your site, you have just moments to grab and hold their attention. The web is replete with sites that can grab visitor attention, but fail miserably at holding it. Your site must match the expectations set by your awareness efforts.
Getting the visitor to desire your product or service is the key to conversion success. Visitors often come to a site with some amount of fear and the goal of any site is to replace their fear with a sense of greed or desire. Once they desire your product, getting them to take action is easy.
Once you’ve moved the needle from Fear to Greed, you must provide a frictionless method to allow the visitor to become a customer. This is where applying more tactical UX design to create a smooth order and checkout flow really pays off.
The more smoothly you can help your visitors transition from Awareness > Attention > Attraction > Action, the more likely they are to convert on your site.
Determining exactly how you transition the visitor from awareness to the point of taking action is obviously the hard part. Fortunately, there’s a tactic for that, too. You need only apply some key transition triggers that nudge the visitors through the four stages.
The first tactical stage is to transition your visitor from awareness to attention once they land on your page.
Point of Pain
You must resonate with the visitor’s point of pain, from their perspective. Understanding their point of pain is useful not only to help transition the visitors from awareness to attention, but also to help establish awareness in the first place. Knowing their problem identifies the keywords that they will recognize and use to find your site and sets expectations of what they will experience once they land on your site.
Your SEO, SEM, branding, and messaging efforts set expectations in the visitor’s mind about what they will encounter on your landing page. Use Point of Pain to establish and manage visitor expectations throughout their interaction with your site; beginning with what drives them to the landing page (not after they land on it). Visitors are more likely to visit and attend to your site when it’s obvious that you understand their needs and problems.
Avoid describing a solution at this stage.
Once you have your visitor’s attention, you need to create enough desire and attraction that eventually drives them towards action. The objective at this point is to demonstrate how well you can solve their problem. Visitors usually have some notion of what their desired outcome looks like, so your site must meet or exceed that ideal solution.
A common failure of many websites it to rely on visitor knowledge and skill to identify which solutions are right for them. Expecting the visitor to read all of your content, then assimilate it and reorganize it into meaningful knowledge places an undue cognitive strain on the visitor.
In essence, you’re expecting your visitor to become as knowledgeable about your products as you are, based solely on your content. I hope you realize how impossible, futile, and utterly ineffective that is.
Improve your chances of success by organizing your solutions as desired outcomes for the given Points of Pain, rather than as a generic list of solutions.
Demonstrate that you understand the their problems and have the right solutions for their needs by doing some of the work for them. Instead of asking them to read everything, ask them to identify some key issues they need addressing, then provide just the right content or solutions specifically related to those issues.
Kelley Blue Book does this well with their self-identifying questions. The visitor identifies the question they want answered, then Kelley Blue Book presents just the right solution path for each question.
If you’ve seen the actual book, you’ll recall there are several Blue Book prices that they can provide for each car. The reader must determine which price they should go by. The website filters out those confusing, inappropriate prices and displays just the one price that fits the visitor’s needs.
Reason to Believe
By this time, the visitor is already sold on your product or service and merely needs to be reassured that you can accurately and easily solve their problem. Your visitors want to believe, so don’t try to convince them any more, simply avoid scaring them away.
This is where your testimonials, trust marks, etc., help reassure the visitor that your site is believable. The needle is already on Greed, so avoid doing anything that will tip the needle back over to Fear.
In That Exact Order
It’s extremely important that you guide your visitors through these transitions in this exact order. Too often, sites focus on the Reason to Believe by showcasing testimonials, awards, etc. before ever demonstrating you understand their Point of Pain or the Value Proposition.
If the first thing that visitors see on your page are reasons to believe, they implicitly distrust your product, thus increasing the friction of transitioning them from awareness to attention or attraction. Don’t tell them how great your product is until they know what it is and how it can help them.
Most visitors rarely convert on their first visit to a site. They usually go through a series of websites to compare and learn. A key objective is to make your site memorable. This tactical UX approach creates a frictionless UX flow through the stages of awareness and produces positive emotions that improve recall memory. Don’t you think you’ll remember the KBB.com site?
Tracking Your Efforts
A well-formed tactical plan makes it much easier to track the effectiveness of each step of your plan using typical analytics.
For instance, if you see a drop-off at the attraction stage, then you know to focus on your Value Proposition trigger. Of course it may not always be that simple, but you will be more knowledgeable about what to look for in your analytics to determine where to improve your site design.
For instance, if your A/B testing shows that visitors react much more quickly with a new design, this suggests that your new Point of Pain trigger resonates better with them.
Though all 4 Levels of UX Design are important, most websites fail because of a poor tactical plan. You can’t fix a poor tactical plan with better colors, buttons, or navigation. No matter how much peanut butter and jelly you put on a shit sandwich, it will never be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
You need a clear tactical plan designed to achieve a specific objective and then measure and improve that plan over time. The 4 A’s of Conversion is one proven tactical plan. How you implement it is up to you.
This post was originally published on Search Engine Watch
About the Author
Larry Marine is one of the fortunate few to earn a degree in User Experience from the master, Dr. Don Norman. Larry has been a UX expert for over 20 years and has created some of the most successful designs in various domains including e-commerce, medical, enterprise, and consumer products. His impressive client list includes top companies such as FedEx, American Airlines, Novartis, Proflowers, Pyxis, Vanguard Mutual Funds, Roche, and many more. His depth and breadth of experience and knowledge puts him in that rare breed often referred to as a true expert.
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