Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Clicks do not equal conversions: how the human touch can help

By George Ioannou, Managing Partner at Foolproof, a Zensar company

As online sales have increased, ad spend has become a key weapon in the battle for market share. However, we’ve seen many brands frustrated and concerned by an inability to convert the traffic coming from paid spend. We often hear brands express how they aren’t seeing the return on investment they’d expect. That’s unsurprising given that 53% spend a meagre 5% of their total marketing budgets on optimisation activities, whereas digital ad spend is often far higher.

This is a conundrum many businesses are facing from start-ups to ecommerce giants and everyone in between. There are two factors at play here; continued reliance on organisational silos that separate marketing from channel experience, and a dependency on quantitative data at the cost of better consumer understanding.

Why more clicks do not equal conversions

Let’s set the scene… You increase paid ad spend to attract more customers because of a pressure to hit a sales target. Your clicks shoot up but your conversion decreases by as much as 10%. Why?

There are many different factors to consider here. Your increase in spend has attracted different audiences. They’ve clicked into your page but upon arriving have realised the experience hasn’t been designed with their needs in mind. Moreover, those who are encouraged to continue then struggle to convert because of baseline usability issues or a lack of journey continuity, or perhaps the campaign poorly reflects the reality of your products or services.

You have the tools to understand ‘what’ is happening but not ‘why’. Any fixes you apply based on the what are only approximations of the issue without knowing the exact why. And this ‘why’ comes from understanding your customer via the power of talking to them. This, and only this human touch is the way to inspire design that unpicks this problem.

Clicks: a fallacy

Based on the exploration above, it’s a fallacy to believe that more clicks alone from paid or organic traffic equal higher conversions. They’re a vanity metric which deliver no inherent business value once someone scratches below the surface. Anyone who enters a journey via a click can complete endless actions but it’s all for naught if they never come to convert.

What’s required is a complete picture of the entire purchase journey from discovering an ad, making a click, to browsing and selecting items right through to the final purchase – and even this is a simplified view. Many purchase journeys are non-linear and discontinuous, people are easily distracted. They may come back later or never again.

How to bring clicks and conversions in line: test your advertising

One reason why clicks may not be equalling conversions is that your advertising is failing to engage your audience. This is because the pre-click advertising experience needs just as rigorous an approach to testing and experimentation as your end-to-end conversion journey.

The best advertisements are those created with user insight at their heart, and then tested with real people to assess how they’re perceived. The findings of these experiments then inform the development of variants appealing to different needs or expectations of audience segments, for example, modulating emphasis of particular elements of the content.

This provides the best possible foundation when attempting to bring clicks and conversions in line and starts with considering the much wider purchase journey and spotting any basic usability issues which could jeopardise your campaign and affect brand perception before going live.

An aligned and joined up conversion strategy is crucial

The conversion funnel features countless actors – from advertising, to the basket and beyond. What we firmly believe in is joined up ways of working where people responsible for each step of that journey are connected throughout. This means creating human-centred experimentation squads who break down the conventional organisational silos of marketing, product, design and data to focus on delivering customer-centred approaches to optimisation and experimentation.

Why? Well, consider this example:

A digital campaign is typically conceived, designed and launched without talking to the product marketing team. An enormous amount of traffic lands on what the campaign team consider to be the most appropriate page for those users.

To do a good job and support the campaign the people tasked with designing and building landing pages and enhancing their performance – so more people convert – need to understand what, when and why the traffic is coming to them to plan and adjust accordingly. This needs to happen in advance to avoid traffic from paid campaigns being wasted on pages that don’t align to the objectives of the campaign or holistically improving customer experience.

This is why multiple parties on the same squad and with the same goals is so much better, whilst removing the tension between clicks and conversions.

Using behavioural insight to improve customer experience and increase conversion rate

The best way to get behavioural insight into the design of your experiences from campaigns to basket and beyond is by blending qualitative and quantitative data.

The quantitative data that you get from optimisation tools and analytics platforms tells you ‘what is happening’, whereas the qualitative insight you get from in-depth research sessions, customer feedback and even sources like live chat helps build up a picture of ‘why’ a particular thing is happening. We have to recognise that the ‘whys’ we infer from data are always susceptible to personal bias and subjectivity.

What’s crucial is getting insight about the what and the why across the entire journey and using that to enrich the experience holistically. That means creating and sharing insight across cross-functional, multi-disciplinary teams to effectively design, execute and monitor campaigns that increase conversion rates.

This also means interceding when things aren’t working by using the same approach, if you can understand ‘what’ is going wrong quantitatively to heighten your chance of fixing it in the least possible time you need to look at lean ways to work in the ‘why’ that involve actors from multiple teams – this is particularly important when thinking about larger, multi-channel campaigns.

Summing up

Adding the human touch to your advertising, experimentation and optimisation is crucial to succeeding in an ever-competitive digital sphere. By considering the whole journey from the get-go and structuring your teams in a way that encourages this kind of thinking you increase revenue and improve customer experience whilst focussing your digital ad to promote clicks and conversions at the service of each other.