February 28, 2002, 12:00 AM

How enticing customers to stroll down a virtual aisle can increase conversion rates

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Using these concepts, the online experience can be orchestrated through a number of event-driven activities by visitors themselves. Let’s consider how this would apply to traffic that comes from search engines. Search engines enable people to specify, in their own words, what they are seeking. This information can be leveraged to provide the best user experience as a result.

Here is an example of how this can work: Suppose you sell electronics online and potential customers do the following searches at MSN:

  • User 1 searches for “DVD Comparison”
  • User 2 searches for “Panasonic MD-11”
  • User 3 searches for “Low Cost DVD Player.”

User 1 is shopping for comparative value. Direct this individual to a category results page on your site, or a comparison chart displaying a variety of DVD players, and see which gets them to click deeper. A savvy marketer will also realize that User 1 is also communicating, through the search, that he is not committed to any one DVD player and can possibly be persuaded to purchase a DVD player the retailer might like to sell from an inventory management perspective.

Highlight the specials

User 2 knows exactly which DVD player he is interested in. Deliver this searcher to the specific product page and test different copy or pricing to see which results in sales. Again, a savvy marketer realizes this individual is also communicating he is probably an audiophile and that increased content might help persuade this visitor to buy.

User 3 is shopping for value. He may be an unsophisticated buyer; not seeking detailed content, but rather a good value. Deliver this person to a “specials page” promoting the bargain DVD player of your choice, with minimal information to make the sale happen, but providing trust-building language such as your 800 number, shipping and return policy information.

Greater granularity

Critical to this testing of different product placement is the ability to analyze the results. Only through being able to connect which doorway is accessed, what the incoming visitor sees (i.e. the web aisle) and the resulting actions can online marketers begin to leverage the power of the web.

The concept of web aisles can also be applied across many different initiatives, including banner ads, e-mail, and offline URLs. Advertisers can now increase the granularity of the types of advertising vehicles they use to better understand customer behavior and response. When you test three or four different banner ads, you are testing for click-throughs. With web aisles, you can test many more permutations to better match the advertising vehicle with your message content.

Achieving success online is really a matter of transferring offline practices to this new, still emerging channel. Without sacrificing any of the technological achievements of the Internet, we can now begin to create personalized user experiences for our anonymous visitors. Through a process of testing, analyzing and adjusting, online marketers can begin to see patterns emerge which can help produce the ROI we are all in search of today.


Michael Sack is senior vice president and chief product officer of Inceptor Inc., provider of conversion marketing software. He is responsible for Inceptor’s Excedia and eLuminator solutions. He can be reached at mike.sack@inceptor.com.

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