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Much has been written about online marketing, whether it is search engine marketing, social media or viral videos. Much of it is also written about on-site factors — design, usability, conversion optimisation and so on. But, maybe more should be written about the journey that a user must make from the marketing they interact with to the final destination: the conversion page on the website.
This journey must be as seamless as possible, lubricated with carefully strategised copy and design. The more seamless the journey, the higher the conversion rates.
Step 1: The Arena
Marketing materials have to exist somewhere. When online, they must exist, for example, on a search engine results page, on Facebook, or in a viral video. Every arena has different qualities, and the people in the arenas are in different frames of mind.
A person using a search engine is actively looking for something specific. Someone viewing a viral video is in recreational mode, expecting to be amused, and happy to flit from site-to-site. Advertising needs to fit well with the arena it is being displayed in. The act of viewing and absorbing a certain marketing message must be seamless for users in any given arena.
Step 2: The Marketing Message
Why does a specific bit of online marketing appeal to someone? In the first place it grabs attention somehow. It might be the use of copy, colour, or animation, but it has to make someone focus on it at the expense of all the other things going on in the web browser.
Once the attention is grabbed, the marketing message is delivered. The message is usually a promise. It might not be explicit, but at least implicitly, marketing of all kinds promises the viewer something – a product, a price, a service – some specific result that will now be expected. . You need to be absolutely clear about what you are promising, because if your message is compelling enough then next up comes…
Step 3: The Click
It really often is one click from marketing message to website (e.g. in the case of Search Engine Marketing), but of course sometimes there is a slightly longer process. With social media and viral strategies the marketing message is usually contained in another website or service, such as Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. Your potential customer might need to browse around a Facebook fan page a little before following a link to your website, or navigate from Tweet to Tweet, honing in on one of your URLs.
This is perhaps the most important step as far as this article is concerned. The point at which the user transitions from having just absorbed your marketing message, to landing at some page on your website. This landing page may be under your control (with paid search for example) or not (an organic search result). It is crucial to ensure that no matter what the landing page, the promise made in the marketing message is delivered upon. If the actual promise cannot be delivered upon in every page, it must be completely obvious to the user that the delivery of that promise is just a click or two away.
We know that recognition is a brain function that can be worked with successfully in online marketing, and it is no different here. If possible, the exact wording of the marketing message should be echoed on the landing page, and the same goes for any graphics, design elements and colour schemes too. This seamlessness signals to the user that she is getting just what she is looking for — there is no need to stop and wonder if she is on the right track.
The Final Destination
So hopefully by now your user is sliding effortlessly into your shopping cart, lead-generation page, or whatever it might be. Even at this stage it is still important to pay attention to the seamlessness of the user’s journey.
From one page to the next, it must be clear that your marketing promise is being fulfilled.
It doesn’t hurt to even remind your users on the confirmation page that you have made good on your marketing promise, using the same language, phrases and graphics.
It is just like the old preachers in the US used to say: “Tell them what you are going to tell them… tell them… then tell them that you’ve told them”.