Ecommerce Guidelines: Value Proposition

Guidelines 28-34

Ecommerce Best Practices » Homepage & Sitewide » Clarity » CTA & Value Proposition

From the previous section on copy guidelines related to clarity above we know that the VCC test should help uncover what ‘value’ is related via a homepage’s messaging.

Value – What’s in it for me? Is there a benefit to the user? In order to get people to pay money, they need to understand the value.

Everyone knows that their website doesn’t exist in a vacuum. However, a majority of websites still act like they do. And that’s costing them business. Everyone’s got problems, and people are generally busy and superficial. They’re not reading everything on your website, instead they’re scanning. If it’s not explicit why they should buy from you, the competitor who makes it clear wins.

So we also know that HOW we communicate our message and benefits is just as important as the WHAT. Clarity is king. Below are a few guidelines on how to clearly communicate what the value is and how to present a clear call to action.

See the research on crafting an effective Value Proposition in the CXL Institute: “Value Proposition Study: Effects of Layout on Perception & Message Recall“.

Want to learn more about applying good copy techniques to your site? Take our course on Conversion Copywriting.

7 guidelines for ecommerce CTA & value proposition:

  1. CTA should be read and understood in five seconds or less.
  2. The CTA should answer customers’ principal need.
  3. Stick with just one CTA (unless for segmentation). If you need more than one, add the 2nd one as a secondary CTA.
  4. Don’t ask for too much commitment with CTAs (e.g. Don’t say “buy now”).
  5. Focus on what customers get instead of what they lose (e.g. “Get shoes” instead of “Pay $200”).
  6. Use bullet points to list benefits.
  7. Communicate what makes your offer unique and how you solve potential customers’ problem (or improve their situation).

Guideline #28. The call-to-action (CTA) should be read and understood in five seconds or less.

This is a pretty straightforward guideline.

Get straight to the point. Cut every word that is not necessary.

Ask someone who knows nothing about your site to read your CTA for five seconds. Or you can run a 5 Second Test or some other form of online test. If the person doesn’t understand what the site offers, you need to clarify the CTA.

According to the latest data by Wingify, makers of Visual Website Optimizer, almost 30% of all NB tests customers run are Call To Action button tests.

What is even more interesting, is that only one in seven NB test campaigns produces a statistically significant improvement. But when it does produce a significant improvement; the average increase is 49%.

Also, see Peep Laja’s 5-second test website review on the CXL blog.

How to do it RIGHT

Swanson Vitamins

This CTA tells users exactly what to expect if they click the button.

On a UX benchmark analysis, Swanson Vitamins ranked at the top with a 86% score for the UX dimension “Clarity”.

American Eagle Outfitters

This CTA is short, simple, and straightforward.

On a UX benchmark analysis, American Eagle ranked with a 70% score for the UX dimension “Clarity”.

Guideline #29. The CTA should answer customer’s principal need.

When it comes to your web pages, no one element lives in vacuum. It’s surrounded by other elements of varying sizes, importance and messages – all of them play a role in the success and failure of that one element. It’s no different for call to action buttons. What goes on in the rest of the page plays a huge role.

Identify the top motive for people who come to your website. The homepage CTA should address this motive and help move visitors towards their goal.

How? – It’s the ‘why’ behind the quantitative data, knowing what your customers want, when they want it, and how they’d like it served up to them.

It’s also the core of developing winning test hypotheses. Behind the ‘what’ of quantitative data there is a ‘why’ that informs your copy and gives your visitors an easily navigable path to becoming a customer.

When you understand the motivations driving your prospects and customers, you can reflect their feelings back to them. That way, you’re way more likely to convince them that buying from you is the right call.

See Jen Havice’s article “How to Boost Conversions with Voice of Customer Research [Case Study]” on the CXL blog.

How to do it RIGHT

Vitamin Shoppe

People come to the site to shop, and hopefully save money. This large graphic and CTA help visitors do just that.

On a UX benchmark analysis, Vitamin Shoppe ranked at the top with a 78% score for the UX dimension “Clarity”.

This website was easy to use. Clearly displayed sales and gave me free shipping.

user quote on Vitamin Shoppe

Guideline #30. Stick with one primary CTA.

For every page on your site (in this case your homepage), define the single & most wanted action. The primary goal is to lead users into taking this action by displaying a powerful CTA in the best possible location.

To determine what your CTA should be, ask yourself these two questions:

  1. What action do you want your visitors to take most?
  2. What action do your visitors want to take most?

The second question will ensure you’re being realistic. Using the same example, your visitors might not be ready to navigate to the pricing page yet. Perhaps they don’t know enough about your product or that’s too big of a commitment for their level of intent.

In any case, don’t confuse users with multiple calls to action that compete for attention. It’s better to focus users on one action and optimize based up on that desired goal.

If you need more than one CTA, the secondary CTA should also be secondary in the homepage’s visual hierarchy.

How NOT to do it

TigerDirect

This homepage flashes users with five near-identical CTAs. Will users end up on some product page? Perhaps a list of Dell, Intel, or Mac products? The outcome for these CTAs is unknown.

On a UX benchmark analysis, TigerDirect ranked with a 38% score for the UX dimension “Clarity”.

The main page was slightly busy. It seemed to put more emphasis on, “Hey! Look at all the stuff we have!” rather than helping the user navigate to what type of items they may want to purchase.

user quote on TigerDirect

Bass Pro Shops

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s unclear whether there is a CTA on this homepage, and if so, what it is. Instead, users are required to try and detect the appropriate action on their own.

On a UX benchmark analysis, Bass Pro Shops ranked with a 59% score for the UX dimension “Clarity”.

The landing site is not at all welcoming, or giving any sense of the site’s “personality.” Instead, it’s just a swarm of ads for a site the user is already on. The banners and boxes are all jampacked together, and each one is packed to the gills with colors and pictures and text of all different fonts and sizes, some of it blinking or moving, and most of it YELLING AT THE USER IN ALL CAPS.

user quote on Bass Pro Shops

Guideline #31. Don’t ask for too much commitment with CTAs (e.g. Don’t say “buy now”).

If you have a CTA labeled “buy now,” users may feel pressured or that you’re trying to trick them into buying something when they just got to your site. It’s a label that creates more anxiety than necessary upfront, before a user may be motivated enough to buy. Instead of “buy now,” go for something like “learn more,” or “shop now”.

A good formula to use it to have your CTA finish the sentence “I want to …”.

Interestingly CTA “Click here” tends to work pretty well! It defies all the rules, but we’ve seen it outperform other CTAs many times.

What to avoid: Don’t use a CTA like “Submit.” Though it’s a very commonly used button, very few people want to “submit.”

How to do it RIGHT

Swanson Vitamins

Instead of feeling pressured into buying, this CTA offers users 8 different popular choices.

On a UX benchmark analysis, Swanson Vitamins ranked at the top with a 86% score for the UX dimension “Clarity”.

Guideline #32. Focus on what customers get instead of what they lose (e.g. “Get shoes” instead of “Pay $200”).

People don’t want to think about the money they’re losing when they buy something from your site. They want to think about what they’re gaining. Structure your copy to highlight the benefits of their purchase. Our conversion copywriting course provides a value proposition outline.

Sometimes it’s the little things that tip the decision in your favor. If all major things are pretty much the same between your and your competitors’ offer, you can win by offering small value-adds. We call them boosters. These things work well against competitors who do not offer them.

Boosters can be things like: Free shipping, fast shipping/next day shipping, free bonus with a purchase, free setup/installation, no setup fee, no long-term contract, cancel any time, license for multiple computers (vs. only one), money-back guarantee, a discounted price (for a product), or customizability.

Think of small things you could add that wouldn’t cost you much, but could be attractive to some buyers.

Loved the promotions- makes me want to buy from them since I feel like I am saving money!

They advertised their free year round shipping on the front page with no price restrictions. This seems like a great perk for shopping with the site.”

Obviously this is a well known brand, but nothing that I saw on this website really made it clear to me why I needed to buy from this website over somebody else.

The option to add a donation to the Nature Conservancy tells customers what type of business you are dealing with.

How to do it RIGHT

On a UX benchmark analysis, The Vitamin Shoppe ranked at the top with a 78% score for the UX dimension “Clarity”.

This website was easy to use. Clearly displayed sales and gave me free shipping. It has a variety of products. I would use this site over competitors.

user quote on The Vitamin Shoppe

Vitacost

This homepage value proposition gives users several good reasons to spend their money on the Vitacost website.

On a UX benchmark analysis, Vitacost ranked at the very top with a 92% score for the UX dimension “Clarity”.

Guideline #33. Use bullet points to list benefits.

A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered. It’s the primary reason a prospect should buy from you.

Prospects need to know the benefits of your product/service if they’re going to buy.

Evaluate your current value proposition by checking whether it answers the questions below:

  • What product or service is your company selling?
  • What is the end-benefit of using it?
  • Who is your target customer for this product or service?
  • What makes your offering unique and different?

Use the headline-paragraph-bullets-visual formula to structure the answers.

We recently conducted a research study on value proposition design and found that benefits listed with bullet points is most memorable and most preferable.

If bullet points don’t work with your site or design, aim for benefits that are in a list format and are short, distinct, and easy to read.

I’m not familiar why it is better or worse than its competitors.

I definitely see why I should buy from this site instead of its competitors because it has a nice look and it’s easy to use. They had their “promotions” at the top of the page with coupons and free shipping that make the customers truly feel like they are getting the best possible deal.

How NOT to do it

Fitness First USA

The value proposition benefits on this homepage, “top brands, great rewards, lowest prices, fast, flat rate shipping” aren’t listed in any cohesive way. What’s more, they’re barely noticeable. These benefits would be better off re-organized in a visible and easy to read list.

On a UX benchmark analysis, Fitness First USA ranked at the very bottom with a 8% score for the UX dimension “Clarity”.

Outdoor Action

This value proposition, boasting benefits like expertise, a wide variety of products, and excellent customer service, is formatted as an extensive paragraph halfway down the homepage. This chunk of copy should be minimized and bulleted so that people actually read it.

On a UX benchmark analysis, Outdoor Action ranked at the very bottom with 14% score for the UX dimension “Clarity”.

How to do it RIGHT

REI

Although not bulleted, REI lists their benefits in this organized and approachable banner.

On a UX benchmark analysis, REI ranked with a 68% score for the UX dimension “Clarity”.

Dr Foster and Smith

Three value proposition benefits are prominently listed right below the navigation menu.

On a UX benchmark analysis, Dr Foster and Smith ranked with a 59% score for the UX dimension “Clarity”.

Reviews under the products and the professional set up really sold me on the site. I would definitely purchase from it.

user quote on Dr Foster and Smith

Guideline #34. Communicate what makes your offer unique and how you solve potential customers’ problem (or improve their situation).

If your website has the same offer as the competition, then what’s the advantage to buying with you?

Ecommerce websites need to offer something unique in order to have leverage against the competition. They also have to solve customer’s main problem, too.

Look at your product/service and think about two things:

  1. When people come to your website, what problem are they trying to solve? How are you fixing that for them?
  2. What makes you different than your competition?

Create a value proposition incorporating clear answers to these questions.

What if your product or service simply is not unique? In this situation you’ll advance from selling your product/service, to selling your customer experience. For more information, check out our article addressing the issue of a non-unique offer.

I didn’t see anything right off the bat that differentiates it from sites like Amazon, especially when you already have a prime membership, although I do greatly appreciate their enhanced and specific search criteria features.

When asked if they noticed anything that made the website unique, “It looked like they carried a very wide range of products and they offered money back guarantees and a 30 day return policy.”

I could not tell … why this site is different. Perhaps one element is that the pricing seems to be lower than competitors, but it was not immediately clear what advantage this site gives. I did notice at the top of the homepage that it has a warranty, but not on all products.

How to do it RIGHT

REI

No other recreational companies offer a 10% member dividend. For people who are serious about recreation, this is a significant benefit.

On a UX benchmark analysis, REI ranked with a 68% score for the UX dimension “Clarity”.

I clearly understand that REI is a store that specializes in outdoor products which sets them apart from big box stores such as Walmart that offers products for decent prices but not always the best quality nor the “expertise” that clearly REI has over those types of competitors.

user quote on REI

Gap

By purchasing from Gap, you’re donating to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Other clothing stores aren’t providing this charitable benefit.

On a UX benchmark analysis, Gap ranked with a 57% score for the UX dimension “Clarity”.

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