April 10, 2012
As a website manager, you are bombarded with requests to add elements to your site. More promotions. New and improved functionality. New ways of selling products. More marketing messages. Over time, your website can resemble a patchwork quilt, but without the charm.
And as you bring on technology that makes it easier to manage your content, add functionality (like product badging or new banners), and test the influence of any of these on your site conversion, the temptation is to continue to add even more messaging and functionality to pages.
However, sometimes the greatest successes come from taking elements away from the website. A few of the tests I’ve seen work include:
1. Hiding functionality in the checkout. In an example that recently was featured on Whichtestwon.com, my client Windstream, a telecommunications firm, wanted to determine the impact of hiding the functionality in their checkout that allowed people to change their location or see a cart summary. Here's the original checkout page (we added the blue outline in the right rail for emphasis):
The results of the test showed that hiding the “change location” element was good; hiding both elements was even better. These elements were originally added to the website to help visitors who potentially had very specific use cases. On the whole, however, the additional elements seemed to confuse or distract the overall audience. By trying to address every possible scenario, these options created additional clutter that distracted more than they clarified.
2. Hiding navigation the checkout. In other cases, I’ve worked with ecommerce teams to hide website navigation in the checkout process. In general, hiding elements that distract from the process of checking out tends to result in higher conversion.
This also can be true throughout the rest of your website, as reducing clutter often removes obstacles that unintentionally are blocking your visitors’ paths to making a purchase (or registering, signing up for your email newsletter, etc.).
So, testing the hiding of messages and features on your website is a great way to determine the effectiveness of those elements. Even if you find that hiding your product recommendations has a negative impact, for instance, you’ve still learned something very important about what your customers value when browsing or making purchase decisions.
3. Limiting messages to the target audience. For instance, don’t ask all visitors for their email address when some of them have already shared this information with you. Other examples of messaging and functionality you can target to discrete visitor groups include international shipping details, a promotion specific to one marketing channel, and features designed to support tablet users.
Thinking about your content three-dimensionally (i.e., the experience that a given segment will enjoy) can be a great way to reduce the overall clutter of your site and simplify the shopping trip for visitors.
This segmentation will also help you balance the needs of internal stakeholders—whose products and promotions are best targeted to specific visitor segments—with your website’s customer experience, which should encourage your visitors to shop without confusion.
So, when you think about all the ways in which you can enhance your website, remember that what you DON’T show can be just as powerful.
Jerry Moyer is a Client Success Director at Monetate, where he helps a diverse group of clients discover the wonders of targeting and conversion optimization.