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To Increase Conversions, Lead the Customer


Lately, the cashiers at Whole Foods have been asking me if I want to donate my bag refund to the Whole Planet Foundation. If I don’t bring my own bag, the cashier asks if I want to round up to the nearest whole dollar and donate the difference. For both of these questions, my response is always the same: “Sure.”

It’s a no-brainer.

But last week, a cashier asked, “Do you want to make a donation to the Whole Foods Foundation?” With no mention of my bag refund or rounding up to the nearest dollar, the question was vague and open-ended.

I paused. Did I want to? I was faced with the decision of figuring out how much to donate, what method to use to make the donation, and how to move the process along as quickly as possible. After all, I didn’t want to hold up the line.

Make It Easy for Them to Say Yes

In the courtroom, it’s poor form to lead the witness. But in marketing, it’s smart—essential, even—to lead the prospect. It’s not enough to make your copy compelling, your call-to-action obvious and your funnel free of distractions. You must make it as easy as possible for them to say “yes.”

New York City cab drivers understand how important this is.

Several years ago, the city began requiring drivers to accept credit cards. As a result, tips increased significantly—from around 10 percent when cabs were cash only to about 22 percent for credit card transactions.

Why the increase? It’s been attributed to the preset tip amounts that passengers can select with a touch of the button. Without putting much thought into it, customers can choose to add 20, 25 or 30 percent to the fare, depending on the cab and length of trip.

Clearly, the new tipping system is a win for cabbies because it’s convenient for customers to pay by credit card. After all, the amount someone can tip for a cash-only ride is controlled by how much cash he or she is carrying at the time.

Beyond that, it’s a win because it takes the guesswork out of tipping. It eliminates the need for people to do the math in a fast-paced situation. The presets are also reinforced by social proof: The very fact that 20, 25 and 30 percent are options implies that they’re common tipping percentages.

More Ways to Lead

There are other ways to make it easy for your prospects to say yes:

1. Establish a Hierarchy
Airbnb.com does an impressive job of this. The site has more than 200,000 listings worldwide, many of them unique. Its Wish Lists page organizes popular special listings by theme. The hierarchy is obvious: Private Islands gets a large, stunning picture; three ancillary (but still stunning) photos are stacked in the right column. It’s as though Airbnb staff is saying, “These islands are popular. Check them out.”

Airbnb featured wishlists

2. Explain Why
Why should your prospects buy a subscription, submit a contact form or sign up for a free demo? Spell it out for them. In an oft-cited study, researchers found that 94 percent of people allowed someone to cut in front of them to make five photocopies if a reason was given (“because I’m in a rush”). If no reason was given, just a request to cut in line, only 60 percent complied.

The researchers, in fact, found that the reason didn’t matter much. When the explanation was “because I have to make some copies,” 93 percent of people let the person cut in line. Of course, the more attractive you can make the “why” to your customer, the more compelling the offer becomes.

3. Preempt Questions
Leading the customer requires getting into his or her head. What makes prospects land on a page and immediately leave? What makes them hesitate to click the “Join Now!” button? When you anticipate questions they have and answer them succinctly and accurately, you have a much better chance of leading your prospect through the sales funnel.

Lush’s product pages do just that. The Lemony Flutter cuticle cream page, for example, aims to answer any question customers might have:

  • How much will it cost to ship? Click “Shipping Options,” and a lightbox with shipping prices appears.
  • What’s in it? (Lush emphasizes organic, handmade products—so customers are likely to be particularly concerned with this.) Scroll down to the ingredient list; dig deeper and learn more about the product’s featured ingredient.
  • How do I use it? Check out the video, under the appropriately titled tab, “How to Use.”

If customers still have questions about the product, they can submit a question under the “Question & Answers” tab.

Lush Lemony Flutter product page

4. Use Defaults Wisely
People are more likely to become organ donors in countries where the check box on the DMV form asks them to opt out of the program instead of opt in. In other words, they must check the box if they don’t want to be an organ donor.

Deciding to become an organ donor is arguably a bigger decision than donating your 10-cent bag refund. Still, people choose the option that implies the standard—and the one that requires less thinking. As Dan Ariely explains, “Complexity makes it difficult to know what to do, and because it’s difficult, we accept the default.”

Instead of using this tactic to do something shady, like automatically enrolling customers in auto-renewal or adding them to your newsletter list, use it to show popular or personalized options for form fields.    

Ultimately, these strategies can be tested to optimize customer experience and increase revenue. If Whole Foods had tested that checkout question, they likely would have found that offering a specific and convenient way to donate was the way to go.

Do you have examples of successfully leading the customer? How would you test these strategies?

Whole Foods image by smcgee