Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reflections on Bryan Eisenberg's keynote at Search Engine Strategies, London, 2010 (#seslondon)

SES Keynote Day 2 - Bryan Eisenberg,Image by LexnGer via Flickr

Day #2 of SES London kicked off with industry expert Bryan Eisenberg sharing more than 20 tips to help improve website conversion. The 9am session was standing room only. This year SES feels far busier than it did last year.

This was actually Bryan's second presentation at SES this year. On day #1 he gave a talk to introduce the audience to the concept of conversion optimisation. There were some common themes across both presentations.

There's clearly growing frustration at client-side IT departments. Bryan calls them BPUs - Business Prevention Units. He's not the only speaker to express annoyance with how hard it can be to move from recommending best practise to clients to actually getting that practise implemented.

Thankfully his presentation included a number of stats/mini-case studies which we might be able to use to help build a business case. Here's just a few:

  • Amazon had re-jigged their MP3 homepage within 2 hours of Michael Jackson's death. Fast execution is important. (I couldn't agree more)
  • Amazon may be running up to 200 conversion tests on their site at any one time. They've got the traffic to do this.
  • A lead looses its effectiveness by up to a factor of 6 within the first hour.
  • Figleaves improved their conversion rate by more than 35% by adding reviews to their website
  • Eisenberg suggests that $25m in sales can be attributed to a change in graphic at Overstock.com
  • Overstock doubles conversions when they drop their shipping fee (which is never more than $2)
  • VitaCost manages to maintain a >15% conversion rate

Eisenberg has a set of powerful case studies he tends to use in most of his presentations. There's how carefully Amazon test their buy now button; something he's been tracking for years. Right now they're making the "Buy" button for used books more prominent and that's no surprise as they make more money from selling used books.

Another common favourite is a banner for US insurance provider Geico. It starts well. The banner has a good call to action, an easy point of entry and cute little lizard critter - Eisenberg is keen to remind the audience that the marketing department designed this. Things go from good to bad when the user hits the mess of the data entry form. This was designed by the BPU. Not only have Geico lost the cute lizard but the previously consistent message - or the scent as Eisenberg calls it -has vanished.

A similar example is Victoria's Secret. Eisenberg is highly complentary of their marketing department; they do well. One ad in particular appeals well to a user segement - Eisenberg recommends to the audience that conversion optimisation is done with visitor segmentation in mind - and he ad mentions a $20 deal. Things go wrong later on, perhaps when we're back under BPU control, when the website itself now talks about the $29 deal.

Many of the tips Eisenberg shares with the audience are practical ones. It's easier to double your conversion rate than your traffic, right? He argues that advertisers need to find a budget for improving the user experience - even if this comes from some of the traffic generating budget.

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