Conversion Conference Day One Digest


This week I had the pleasure of attending the first day of the Conversion Conference at The Business Design Centre in Islington. Experts in the fields of online conversion shared their knowledge and experiences, providing insights into improving website conversion rates.

Professor Wolfgang Henseler (founder and managing creative director of Sensory Minds) kicked off the day with a look into how user experience has changed over the years from the first home computers through to laptops, smartphones and onto the future with Project Glass. There’s no doubt that the way in which we use digital technology is changing but Prof. Henseler encourages us to consider the way in which user expectations have changed and will continue to change.  Customer-focussed services - or smart services - look for simplicity and utility. They bow down to our every need and bring us closer to the world of sci-fi.

It’s one thing taking on conversion optimisation for your site, it’s quite another to test (meaningfully) and analyse or interpret your data in order to establish what to do with it next. Vicky Brock broke down the best way to do this:

Hypothesis: We have to create a meaningful case for testing in the first place including what the predictions for outcome are. Else, why bother

Intervention: This comes in the form of different methods of testing such as A/B, User, Multivariate etc

Validation: Consider the significance of your Statistical Significance and any unanticipated consequences. The golden rule here is to use a control group. If you’ve nothing to measure against, you’ll struggle to validate any of your results.

Extrapolation: Explain how this research can be applied and why this research is valuable.

By segmenting and measuring only the users you are interested in, the ones performing the actions that matter and completing key goals, your results are always relevant and therefore easier to roll out.

Combining science and art, Dr Karl Blanks (Chairman at Conversion Rate Experts and a real-life rocket scientist) introduced us to proven strategies in successful, persuasive copywriting. By imagining your website is a robot salesman (which I guess would look something like this) you understand that it operates as an extension of a “real” salesperson but can never better the value of face to face interaction. Similarly, bearing this in mind, the most persuasive or believable copy should mirror what you’d say if you were selling your product in real life. That is, use as many words as you normally would, but remember to remain concise: “The act of writing turns many a genius into a moron”. By becoming the customer yourself and analysing your own purchase process, you can use evidence to weave proof into everything you write.

“The act of writing turns many a genius into a moron”
- Dr Karl Blanks, Conversion Rate Experts

Mary D’Alatri of Ion Interactive looked at the anatomy of a conversion optimisation programme by deconstructing the essential components needed in creating a programme that converts. She highlighted the importance of the right landing page for your user, whether this be a specific landing page or a highly tailored microsite. But it isn’t always about the conversion win: by testing your landing page, you can use your findings to learn which sources of traffic drive converting visitors; which offers work best, when they work best, and for whom they work best. You can identify what does and doesn’t work and then roll it out to the rest of your site.

Learning from his experiences on The ApprenticeNick Holzherr, (co-founder of Whisk), explained why keeping it simple could’ve been the key to his success on the show.

Nick stressed that it was important to get the balance between simplicity and choice just right: “By increasing simplicity by 20%, the user is 86% more likely to purchase and 115% more likely to recommend”. Because of this, successful landing pages are becoming simpler and are tailoring the information shown to visitors. By using complex tools “behind the scene”, Whisk presents a simple interface for its users.

Opening with some bad karaoke a Johnny Depp quotePaul Rouke introduced us to persuasive design techniques. When combining different techniques, we can influence the behaviour of users. Indicating limited availability (Scarcity) encourages users to assume something is more valuable. Similarly, by putting a limit on response time, users are encouraged to act now in case they miss out. Michel Fortin puts it best: “Never pressure people to push them into purchasing. Instead, use pressure to prevent them from procrastinating”.

Also, we tend to follow the behaviour patterns of others in unfamiliar situations - social proof draws on this idea. Recency & Transparency evoke trust in people and users respond to this online. provides great examples of, well, a lot of these techniques.

Following on from this perfectly, Dr Maurits Kaptein introduced us to the Persuasion Profiling technique. This involves learning how users respond to persuasion techniques and then implementing the best strategy when they arrive at your site. This method has been successfully implemented at Jaludo where they built profiles based on the six principles of persuasion. Dr Kaptein’s research showed that, for example, 30% of users are “turned off” by Social Proof and so these profiles mean visitors to the Julado site are shown only the most suitable techniques to encourage conversion.  New users with no history are shown the technique which is favoured on average, but the learning begins immediately.

Finally, before a delightful reception (where I definitely partook in a sociable glass of red – thank you Conversion Conference, Nathalie Nahai, aka The Web Psychologist presented her book Web Psychology: The Future Of Online Influence. When it comes to the way our online environment interacts with real life, one size does not fit all. Coca Cola is a great example of this as they have developed a different appearance for their site depending on country. Japan focuses on the visual with very little copy. Whereas in South Africa visitors are informed of the company’s efforts to stay Green. Of course, this isn’t just a cultural discussion; studies show that generally women are more sceptical about the information they read online and perceive online shopping as riskier than men. Women like a clean, clear site and men tend to prefer sites designed by other men. Ultimately, these factors all contribute to the “lack of trust” people still battle with when online and any steps we can take to make websites appear authoritative, function well and provide customer service should lead to increased conversion.

I think the key take away from Day One of the Conversion Conference was that CRO / UX is an ongoing and ever-developing aspect of website maintenance. We’ll never know it all, but by testing, analysing and re-testing your site at every opportunity, you stand a good chance of owning a successful, engaging site.


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