Why don’t people buy from your website as much as you expected?

Countless technologies have been used to understand and predict customers’ behaviour and their online purchase decision, but it seems that analytics are of little help when it comes to understand such comportment. How then, is it possible to increase the conversion rate of websites? The solution may simply lie in decoding the human and removing the barriers that prevent them taking action.

Some people are shocked to discover that their brand new website, redesigned with the latest functionalities, which must-have pop up banners and other social media share buttons, is far from delivering on their expectation and actually see the conversion rate of their site has dropped.

What has happened? Well contrary to the popular belief, conversion rate optimisation is not about technology – as detailed during ‘The 5 Forgotten Rules of Conversion Rate Optimisation’ session at last week’s Performance Marketing Insights (PMI): London event.

“The idea that it’s about technology is wrong. It’s about understanding how to convey a message and develop the sentiment that the person actually goes through,” said founding partner at House of Kaizen, and PMI speaker, Ivan Imhoff.

“It is about changing people’s behaviours without them noticing it, getting them to sign-up, click to go to a page, or read a specific bit of information.”

How this behaviour can be successfully influenced? We need to understand how the components on our webpage enhance the user’s experience, what gets in the way of a smooth journey and move them away from the website.

Perceived benefits vs the negatives

Throughout the customer’s journey, the perceived benefits need to be greater than negatives.

Recognising the elements of motivation of the prospect and the incentives that can stimulate a purchasing decision is crucial. But this is not an easy enterprise as people have different motivations expressed through various keywords.

Providing incentives such as buy one get one free, discounts and free delivery,  is rarely an effective strategy and site owners need to be wary of the ‘DFS syndrome’.

People are only ready to take action when they understand the quality of the product, the core value proposition, which needs to be specific; quantitative and qualitative, and is clearly explained in terms of benefits for the customer.

The website navigation is often unconscious and anything that takes a user away from this state and requires a conscious effort is seen as friction and a barrier of taking action.

Anxiety is another factor that prevents a user from taking action. Any doubt on the product or the service and the ability of the supplier to deliver its promise should be removed.      

Visual perception

A good website provides the right visual perception to the visitors and focuses their attention to the most important part of the site, the focus point, where the eye is naturally directed.

The mind takes 78% more energy to process two conflicting stimuli so keep things simple and clear – another key takeaway from Imhoff.

Effective sites such as Amazon have key information in the focus point and make subtle and progressive changes to their pages.   

To position the visitors effectively once they arrive on a website or landing page, the company/brand needs to find clear answers to these three questions: Where am I?  What can I do here? Why should I do it?

These answers will then form the foundation of how to write a very effective page.

The storyline and visual flow

Imhoff also stresses that every website ultimately is a script. But how do you build a script that delivers the end result of the page? You must provide clear answers to the following three questions: What is the goal of the page? What is the key message? How do you substantiate it?

A website is different from reading a book and the attention of the user needs to be controlled through the script to ensure the website is read in the right order.

It is only at this stage that the design comes into play, not before, and guides the visitor through a hierarchy of elements. The bigger and vivid they are, the quicker they will be accessed.


To maximise the conversion rate of websites, the design should never outweigh the content.  Low performing websites fail to emphasise their value proposition and think through what will fuel the visitors to take action.

How many users have landed on a page from a PPC, with a specific expectation, only to be left wondering if they are in the right place as they can’t find any of the keywords that directed them there in the first place?

Or worse, how many people visit a site and are asked to take some kind of action before they understand why they need to do so?

Get rid of all the distractions that do not contribute to achieving the goal of the page. And where is the best location for social media share buttons? “At the end of user journey,” Imhoff said. “When somebody has completed the user journey and are happy they bought something.”

Imhoff said when a user is engaged that is the perfect point to encourage them to share.