The Biggest Little Change I Ever Made – A 160% Revenue Increase with 1 Word Change

By , November 30th, 2009 in Conversion | 27 comments
Magicbullet

Uncovering the ever-elusive magic bullet.

I have been optimizing websites from a business/sales perspective for about 8 years, and about a month ago, I finally made that “Magic Bullet” change most people look for when optimizing their sites. Its rare to change a word and double your conversion rate.

I’ve done it on landing pages, emails, and micro-sites, as well as for site “micro conversions” (improving one piece of a larger process, such as a form) but to increase end conversions on a complex eCommerce site with a single word change, without spending a dime or increasing targeted (paid) traffic, this was rare and worth sharing.

The Magic Bullet

“I’m sure you know by now that there are no magic bullets to success online”. This is normally the 1st thing I say when starting a new project, before any client retainer is signed. Yet once in a while, a magic Bullet is there to be found. In this case, it was a word presented on the right column of every page of the site. Any word online can hold power, especially if it taps into the emotion the site visitor is feeling, but a word that is present on every page of the site (i.e. Top Header, Footer etc) can have tons of “sway”.

The word I changed was “Satisfaction” to “Money-Back “. Look at the images below, see the difference?

Original

Guarantee1

Changed To

Guarantee2

The result was a 162% increase in sales. I was blown away, but then, they are selling used auto parts, so the guarantee means a lot more than if they were selling new non-unique products that ooze trust, like wooden toddler bikes from Germany.

Leverage Emotion, Handle Fear

The story behind this change is not trivial, but illustrates a larger technique in optimizing a website, that of delivering emotional answers. In any site visitor, at anytime, there is emotion when looking for a product, service or solution online. If you know what that emotion is likely to be, you can service it.

Commonly used tactics are offering assurances, guarantees, testimonials, case studies, client lists and so on.

The strongest sales emotion online is fear. Handling any customer emotional objection is important, but handling objections based on fear will pay off bigger than any. “Money-Back Guarantee” addresses the customer’s fear head-on and is one of the most established and powerful techniques used to sell online. We all know why. But lets dig a bit deeper into the reality of buying online.

Selling Online

sales-guyI’ve had the good fortune to work for some great sales people. In the corporate world, your objectives are set by your boss, and when your boss’ are sales people, you learn to sell online, quick!

Ask a “sales guy” how he sells and you soon hear the makings of a great website (“Listen to the customer”, “provide solutions”, “be genuine”, “handle objections”, “build a relationship” etc etc). I firmly believe that online is just another sales channel and the mental and emotional process people go through to buy has not changed. What has changed is that people now serve themselves and have competitive product info at their fingertips, so businesses must now serve people the information they look for, every last piece of information they need to make the buying decision.

The good news is that the knowledge of what a customer wants is available from anyone who has contact with them, and giving people what they want (mostly information) is straightforward online. The bad news is you have to set up mechanisms and processes to listen to your customer, because alternatives to you are just a click away (Grrrrrrr, I swore to myself I wouldn’t use the “click away” speech!).

About the Author

Hello, my name is Keith, and I’m a big fan of this Blog.

I can honestly say it is the only Blog I’ve read every post sent to my RSS reader since I’ve subscribed. So when the opportunity was presented to be a guest blogger, I jumped at it. I hope I can meet all you reader’s expectations, as the folks at Unbounce have set the bar high.

In future posts, I’ll cover how to continuously optimize a website. I think of getting traffic to a site as Marketing, and getting people through a site, as Sales. I also believe that Sales is greatly ignored online in favour of producing more traffic. I want to share how to increase conversions, revenue, ROI, leads, profit and any of your other online objectives (yes, branding too, if that is not too 2004). I hope you will enjoy my efforts to explain where and how to find existing value in your existing sites.

I think you’ll find that a little optimization goes a long way.

You can read more from Keith Hagen on his website eMarketing Matador.

Keith Hagen

About The Author

Photo of Keith Hagen

Keith is the Principal Internet Strategist with Brotaich , who solves problems and creates success for businesses online through a mix of Marketing, System Building, Online Technology, Analytics and Usability. You can find out more about Keith on his site eMarketingMatador.com
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Comments

  1. Oli Gardner says:

    Excellent post Keith.

    It’s great having you as a guest poster on the Unbounce blog.

    It’s incredible what the slightest change can make to the conversion rate. And a good lesson to continually keep your eye out for the subtle things you can do to influence the emotional response of your visitors.

  2. rick says:

    Excellent post Keith. Welcome to Unbounce.

  3. Moneymonk says:

    Thanks for sharing that little secret

  4. It is great you are sharing your results…
    However, I can virtually guarantee (yes, money back even) this is not a valid test. After evaluating the placement and prominence of the assurance – in my opinion there is zero possibility of a 160% increase with statistical validity.

    Was this done using proper split testing techniques?

    What was the goal defined as – a purchase?

    What was the level of confidence in the test?

    To the UnBounce crew – you have to vet guest posters claims as it does reflect on the business you are building. Do you guys vouch for this?

  5. Oli Gardner says:

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for joining the discussion.

    I would like to pass your thoughts on to Keith to extend this conversion further. But first I’d like to ask what made you question that it couldn’t be a valid test?

    When you say there’s no chance of a 160% increase in conversion are you implying that that’s not an achievable number (I have seen lots of evidence to the contrary from various respected practitioners – some in Vancouver) – or that you have questions regarding this particular case?

    Respected agencies involved in the conversion optimization business advertise success in the 10%-290% range (WideFunnel.com) and I would unequivocally vouch for their reputation and successes. (There are others I could quote if needed).

    As far a vouching for this particular instance, I respect the opinion of the guest poster – but given that I wasn’t in the delivery room when the baby was born it’s impossible for me to say exactly how things went down. So as I mentioned above – I’ll pass on your questions so that Keith can engage further as desired.

    Our business is more in the enablement and facilitation role where we allow businesses to experiment and try to achieve improvements in their conversion. But I fully understand your concerns about numbers.

    I’d be happy to continue the discussion either in this venue or phone/email.

    Thanks for jumping in.

  6. The 160% is a red flag on validity to me. Yes, some ecommerce optimization exercises have large returns, but it is typically due to sequential optimization with incremental yields on each test – almost never on a single element. I’ve never seen a single word have impact of that magnitude – not even close (plus the element in question isn’t even above the fold). And, on a multi-product shopping site like this one, the shopper buying mode is rarely sporadic (i.e. As Seen on TV items).

    I know most of the Vancouver optimization guys/gals too (pretty sure you all know who I am as well) – I’d love for Chris or Raquel from WidderFunnel to chime in.

    If ya’ll want to chat about this live – I’m presenting at the January 13th session of the IIMA in Vancouver on ecommerce. It would be fun!

    • Keith Hagen says:

      Hello Jason,
      I understand your response, as it has taken me some time to understand the positive results of this small change, and I have done so only because I have gained vast business insight (I’m sure you’d agree that site optimization becomes most fruitful after the analyst has really learned about the business, and that often takes months or even years).

      This change was made after the 2nd revision of the website (the 1st revision was a total redesign). The site had been under-performing in my mind and I could not figure it out. I ordered another 5 user tests (since I had been so immersed in the site, I needed to see more external perspective). I also went on extreme Live Chat “lurking” sessions and started listening into Customer Service calls, even going on a trip with a delivery truck to see where the parts were going, and who was ordering them.

      After all was said and done, all “signs” pointed to Shipping and Return Policies, Product Warranties and post purchase support. This is understandable when you are selling “junk yard parts online of course, but confused me because the site handled all those objections both overall and at the moments at points the user might be looking for that information.

      While reading the product warranty, I had the epiphany that the company really did have a “money-back” warranty, and that the wording might really help. I have been making site optimizations for about 10 years now and never would have thought there would be such a big effect from such a small change. But then, I did not have a deep understanding of the customer at that time.

      Here is what I understand now, after a few more months on the account, about the type of customer that site attracts and why the change was so significant (gained through the methods above, as well as site surveys, feedback, customer interviews, and live chats):

      The customer is fixing their own car, a lot of the time cause they can’t afford it any other way. The one who can afford a mechanic and a new car, just love cars. In either case, they need/want a part that is going to be in their engine, take a lot of their time to install and if it is not absolutely perfect, they will have wasted all there time, and perhaps has damaged their vehicle. Auto part fitment is very complex, and auto DIY customer know it (i.e. The alternator in a car may vary by the sub model), and they want assurances.

      The client is large company, but not one with brand recognition for the target retail audience (they are B2B mostly). They literally appeared out of nowhere for a lot of the traffic that was being pushed to the site. Given the savvy nature of the audience, the niche appeal of the product, and the mere fact the site sells USED auto parts from collision vehicles (think junk yard), providing a more prominent and meaningful assurance element (from the user’s perspective) was the final piece needed to achieve the “purchase synergy” the site now has.

      Also remember, this change was made in the right column of every page. It was not really one change, but 35,000 or so.

      While not Split tested, the change was made in complete isolation. The site and its traffic had not changed for over a month and the site was being “bench-marked” for improvement from the previous revision. I felt comfortable making a small change that I could monitor and attribute to results (I was looking at the site every day, and had been for months and was so familiar with it I didn’t feel the need to take the time to do Split testing (I was using Google Website Optimizer and would have had to wait up to 2 weeks for the developer resources to implement it).

      I am confident in the cause and effect here.

      To back-up the change though, there is also a lead-gen micro-site for the California market that the same change was made on. Once I saw the effect the change had, I made the same one on the micro-site and saw significant conversion increase, not 159% as on the eCommerce site, but then it was B2B lead gen on a small site, so many different factors.

      I hope this helps put it all together. Like I said above, you need to really understand a business and what its customers REALLY want before you can produce REAL results. This extreme result was not from a one word change as much as it was from this deeper understanding mixed with knowledge of how to present the information.

      I personally think it was a moment of brilliance, one I have bored my wife and friends with several times since. It has taught me to dig deeper, really understand the customer and not overlook small changes.

      I do have the benefit of being able to really dig into a site (I have 3 clients like this one, where I act as their web manager, conversion specialist, director of eCommerce, project manager etc) which I realize is different than having a site on continuous improvement program (which I do as well).

      You are completely right, the REAL way to get results is through continuous, incremental improvements. I hate to think I gave the impression otherwise. If so, I apologize.

      I hope this addresses your reservations about the change described. From the sounds of it, you think the change is as phenomenal as I do, and phenomena are rarely believed till they are seen.

      Keith

      • Chris Goward says:

        Keith, if you haven’t split tested the change, it’s not a controlled test. There are many external factors that can influence a change like this: seasonality (day of week and monthly), SEO rankings, promotions, stock availability, advertising, PR, blog mentions, outlier orders, etc.

        There is no site that has traffic and purchases reliable enough to use the before & after method.

        Statistical significance is a high standard to measure, but it’s worth the extra effort to have reliable results.

  7. Chris Goward says:

    Thanks for the invitation to join this discussion, Oli.

    I would also be very surprised if this was a statistically valid test result.

    I can’t speak to Keith’s testing methods, but there are several blogs promoting test results that aren’t “real” controlled tests. Be careful to ask questions about the testing method before jumping to conclusions.

    The only way to have confidence in the result is to use a testing tool that performs random sampling, maintains test cell integrity and reports with statistical significance. And a test like this should be run twice to confirm, since the result seems spurious.

    The bottom line: each reader should test it for yourselves before running with this result.

    Chris

  8. Keith says:

    Hello Chris,
    I agree with everything you said. I’m tempted to run a test on this and share, but at the end of the day, the client’s business would suffer, and ethically I would not feel right about it.

    I will in the future keep my posts quantitatively sound. I was excited to share, and while still confident in the change, do not wish to be lumped in with the “all hype” crowd out there. Its a good lesson for a new blogger.

    To be honest, I do play it a bit “fast & loose” to achieve results faster. That is my style I guess (I do test, but not as much as I could, especially when I feel confident in the change being positive – 2 parts “sales guy”, 1 part analyst). I’m sure I could learn a lot from someone like yourself who is more focused on testing.

  9. Oli Gardner says:

    Thanks for all the great dialogue guys.

    And thank you Keith for the in depth discussion regarding your process – people can learn a lot about behaviour by understanding how to observe their client’s issues.

    I think it’s also important to remember that as an editorial piece, the intent here was to share a story and an observed result. While potentially not 100% scientific, it’s still a compelling story that can hopefully help people to understand the importance of trying something different.

    Doing this by way of digging deep into an understanding of your client and customers is an important methodology for instigating change.

    I also don’t think this piece is trying to say – “it’s this easy and everyone can get results like this by doing the same” – because clearly this wasn’t an easy process and every situation is different.

    At the end of the day – the message is that we should all be trying ways to improve our conversion performance and ideally it should be done using sound testing practices whenever possible – and that sometimes “if it works, it works”.

    Thanks again.

  10. As expected. Don’t get me wrong, I too forgo testing to implement improvements. BUT, when reporting on the results I am VERY careful to communicate they were not causal.

    I’m curious what your frame of reference for time period was for your before/after observation, particularly because of the stated redesign?

    I’m only poking further for the benefit of the readers and would be happy to take this offline if you were more comfortable.

    I too share your enthusiasm for results like this – we all do!

  11. Keith Hagen says:

    No worries Jason, I think that is a good question.

    The result improvement was seen month over month and week over week were a bit less, but in the ball park of awesome. The site does receive enough traffic to arrive at decisions pretty fast. As far as I know, there were no significant seasonal factors, except the start of Hockey Season :)

  12. caseyhibbard says:

    Hi Keith,

    Excellent post about the power of a single word. It's a great reminder to think carefully about the words we choose, and being as specific as possible. I'll be using this tip for a new program.

    Thanks!
    Casey

  13. Kris says:

    Well, guaranteeing satisfaction or money back are 2 significantly different things. It is not up to SEO consultant to decide what the client will sell or guarantee :-)

  14. Mariana says:

    I literally devoured your post. It’s really soo interesting! It’s really incredible the impact that changin a single word can have. I especially agree with you on the change you’ve made. A money-back promise is much stronger than satisfaction guaranteed.

  15. Rich Norton says:

    @Kris, that’s true, but if offering money back instead of a satisfaction guarantee will drive traffic, increase sales and thus profit, then surely highlighting this fact to a client can’t be bad thing?

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  18. Usman says:

    Great trick :-) As a marketer one has to think of what people are thinking and design their campaign accordingly. This is the most important success factor of perceiving what customer wants in marketing.

  19. I can see that basic marketing principles can make a big difference in the conversion rate. Only after running 2 or more different options and measuring the difference can you really see what works best. Finding someone who has already learned the lesson and measured the results can be the best marketing money spent- In my opinion.

  20. Fletcher says:

    Great points. Seems that so many ‘SEO gurus’ focus on the off-page optimization and forget that conversion is critical to online marketing success.

  21. If that change did the trick I’ll be surprised. It took me some time to even find that money back guarantee as I often don’t look at that area.

  22. Billy says:

    I also run a small online auto parts company. Naturally we do not have as many junk yards or workers as LKQ but we try our best. I will surely take “money back” holds more value in the eye of buyers than “Satisfaction”. Thanks for the helpful tip and keep up the good work.

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