Most marketers are, by their nature, promoters. They love to push their products and strategies, and sometimes their personal agendas. But how many marketers, designers or product owners actually listen to their prospects and customers? Or, better yet, seek to discern how they feel about their brand or products? In my experience, relatively few. Ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes said it well: ‘The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is so we might listen more and talk less.’ If you’re serious about lifting your eCommerce conversion rate and revenues, it’s time for you and your team to talk a bit less and listen a lot more.
Why to listen
The main reason we listen is to get insights, to peek inside the brains of our prospects and customers. What do we need to learn? What they like about our offering. What resonates with, or even excites, them. Most importantly, what concerns or annoys them. Only by knowing these things can you purposely increase the positives and lessen the negatives.
Ultimately, it’s about the customer experience. If you’re measuring it and improving it, you’ll thrive. But if you’re not, your competitors will soon eat your lunch. Bottom line: the more insights you get, then mix with your brand vision, user experience design and persuasive psychology principles, the higher will be the conversions of your website and other digital touchpoints.
Where to listen
To listen, you have to be where your prospects are (very profound, I know!). To get the most benefit you need plan and budget time to be ‘in situ’ (physically situated with them). Have a tight timeline and budget? No excuse – you need to at least be there virtually).
In situ means ethnographics – observing your prospects as they hunt for products that meet their needs. Where? If you sell shoes, hang out at shoe stores and department stores that sell similar brands and styles of shoes. Spend a few hours, on a few different days and times of day, just watching and listening. This isn’t just a ‘people watching’ exercise; every minute, every hour, you’ll be gathering valuable conversion-boosting insights. Best of all, you’ll be getting them directly from their behavioral source. I think University of California, Berkeley neuroscientist AK Pradeep said it best: ‘The act of expressing a feeling changes the feeling.’ And you sure don’t want to get changed feelings, wrapped in B.S. rationalizations.
If your target market has established ‘tribes’, go there and see what’s happening. Prioritize in-person listening opportunities first (e.g. meetups, conferences, local social groups). Then back-fill your listening with online, indirect feedback channels like YouTube, Twitter and blogs.
If you run a website, you must have at least one sales rep online, listening and interacting with your prospects. Think about it: except for those who call in (a decreasing minority, especially for the ‘texting only’ generation’), this is the only human contact your site offers.
So, if you have an eCommerce site and don’t already have chat installed, get it up and running ASAP! It will surely give you a nice RPV (Revenue Per Visitor) boost. You’ll also get a great side benefit: a valuable stream of customer data from which you can later glean even more insights.
Here’s another option: Serve up a 1-question feedback poll (No, not one of those 20-question surveys). On your home or landing pages, ask visitors what they are looking for. And on product pages, ask if they have any questions or concerns. Tailor the question to the context and your insights goal and you’ll be on the right track.
Ways to watch
When they’re ready, review the heatmaps to see where your visitors have been clicking and scrolling. View individual visitor (session) recordings to see how people are interacting with my site – and most importantly, where they’re tripping up and dropping off. In just an hour or two you will have a good sense of the big user experience issues – the ‘holes’ in your conversion funnel that are hurting your conversions and revenues.
If you can convince your boss or owner to invest a bit more, engage the services of a ‘neuromarketing’ research agency. Eye tracking and functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) studies used to cost $50K or more to run just a few years ago. But now, thanks to fast advances in this technology, you can run a study from companies like SparkNeuro (www.sparkneuro.com) for less than $15K in most cases. And you will most likely get a super-high return on that investment.
And I’m not just talking eye tracking – the Spark Neuro setup captures brain wave activity, galvanic skin response (‘sweaty palms’), and eye gaze movements all at once! This is super exciting to me, because we now have the power to shortcut the ‘bla bla bla’ rationalizations and go right to the source – peoples’ raw chemical and physiological reactions. Such feedback is ‘insight gold’ for your downstream user experience and marketing creative.
What to listen for
Don’t just listen to and note the words said; focus more on your prospects’ body language, facial expressions, and emotional tone. What you really want to capture is their genuine emotions, or affect, because that’s how people make decisions (yes, even high dollar amount ones).The latest neuroscience research has made this crystal clear.
Probe for the reasons behind the decisions. Ask ‘Why is that?’ And after you hear that response, ask ‘Why is that?’ again. Record everything you see and hear. Comb through the comments later to assess which are real emotional concerns, and which are wordy rationalizations. Better yet, ask participants to point to the emoticon (like those used in smartphone messaging apps) that best capture their emotional state at key moments in their experience. In this case, a picture really is worth a thousand words.
Record everything you see. Take pictures of objects, memes, anything that shows what’s important to your prospects as they move along their shopping and buying journey. The more data you collect, the better; it’s better to have too much than too little, because there’s no ‘going back’ once that moment has gone.
Keep this in mind, in all listening contexts
What you most want to discern are your prospects’ objections to buying – their questions and concerns, and their buying triggers – what motivates them to complete their purchase (or at least give up their email address). Your job as a marketer is to push motivation / objection ratio to the tipping point.
Don’t make it about you. Too many researcher/listeners forget that the ‘experimenter effect’ can be quite powerful. The people you interact with – if they know you’re doing research – will tell you what they think you want to hear. So be subtle, and be informal. Dress like your environment, and don’t walk around carrying a clipboard. Just be present and listen, and leave your ego at the door.
True, your prospects should not drive your brand direction. But they should at least be along for the ride. Sit with them, or at least set up some online communication mechanisms, so you’ll be there when they are ready to open up. The insights you gather will not only boost your conversions and revenues, but the conversations you trigger will show you care, and this might just differentiate your brand from your talk-happy competitors.
Originally published on LinkedIn, 3/30/2017
Contact Mark Hall, eCommerce Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Expert