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Landing Pages: The Art of Conversion

User Experience (UX) is on everyone's lips. But often it still happens that it somehow works without. At sum.cumo we try to prevent exactly that - with success.

In our series of articles we would like to give you an understanding of UX design at sum.cumo and show you why this discipline is indispensable in our company. We use examples of our way of thinking and working to show you how we are working on constantly increasing the relevance of UX design for users, customers and colleagues.

When I was a kid, I always hated to go shopping: hanging onto my mother's hand, strolling through the city center, and "just looking around" – only to go into all kinds of stores and buy all kinds of stuff we didn't actually need. For hours. The thing I understood least was why my mother marched unhesitatingly into certain stores while just as decidedly avoiding others. What were her decisions on which stores were interesting and which weren't based on?

Selling things is an art that people have been perfecting for as long as trade has existed. From the very first simple bartering to today's complex trade in securities, stocks and bonds, the fundamental mechanisms have barely changed: The market behaves according to the rules of supply and demand. But what do some few sellers do better than others? Why do we feel immediately attracted to certain vendors while others have a hard time selling their products?

Arouse interest

These questions occupy people who sell products and services online, too. What do I have to do in order to get potential customers to stand in front of my door for long enough to finally decide to come in and even buy something?
The answer is actually quite simple: I have to attract their interest. This is where display windows come in. The display window is the landing page of brick-and-mortar commerce, just as the sales floor corresponds to the category page and the checkout is – well, the checkout. While in many places, more and more display windows are turning up empty, their counterparts online are multiplying. And the next generation of creative professionals and businesspeople are asking themselves, "How can I best sell this?"
Landing pages are the answer to this question. They serve to make sure that interested visitors feel well met, taken seriously, and moved to continue toward the purchase.
When we digitize insurance policies here at sum.cumo, we take a very close look at this mechanism. After all, insurance is something like the pinnacle of the art of online business, with complex products like disability insurance, automotive insurance, and life insurance being anything but your typical "impulse buys". They require a high degree of transparency and educational advertising as well as clear communication with the customer about the product's benefits.
In order to convince people arriving at a landing page to commence the purchasing process, when designing the page, we take a few important points to heart regarding its structure and content.

The three phases: 3, 30, 300

In this article, we'll take a look at the three phases that users pass through while browsing through pages, products and services. This pattern is almost universally applicable, which is the reason that the majority of landing pages are similar in the way they look and work. The page www.land-book.com, which collects outstanding landing pages from all manner of different sectors, provides a good collection of examples.

So let's begin: Say we want to sell a product.

3 seconds

Our goal is to convince the customer within the first three seconds that this product will solve their problem. By "problem", we don't necessarily mean something that bothers them, that obstructs their plans or presents them with a challenge – rather, we mean a need that is not or insufficiently fulfilled. This need may be as simple as hunger or the desire for comfort, luxury or health, but it may be something more indirect. For example, the need for the kind of security provided by insurance is somewhat more abstract for most people. This increases the challenge.
That same three-second rule is exactly what display windows bank on. When a customer is strolling through the shopping arcade, each display window has only moments to show the relevance of the products on offer. That's why the first impression is critical: The users of our landing pages need to be able to understand as quickly as possible what is on offer and which of their problems it solves. This is exactly our goal. (How to deal with customers who obviously have no interest in what we have to offer is something we'll go into later.) What we need in order to reach that goal is clear communication supported by an easily and quickly digestible visual language. In concrete terms, this means a big stage, the right text, and matching visuals.

picture website
ChartMogul, for example, passes the three-second test and shows how it's done. It takes very little time for users to understand what it's about. The visuals further support the core message about the product.

30 seconds

Once the user has understood the product's usefulness, the 30-second phase begins in which the user scans the information and scrolls through the page. This is the part where my mother would pull me toward a display window in order to examine the details of the products on offer: She would look at the price tag ("Can I afford this?"), the brand ("Do I know the brand and does it look trustworthy?"), and the product's characteristics ("Is it high-quality? Does it fulfill my expectations?"). This phase is crucial. Many vendors know the powerless feeling of watching interested prospective customers step up to examine the display but then continue on without entering the store. Once the customer has entered the store, making the sale (or "converting") is usually relatively easy – but in order to get to that point, the products on offer have to be displayed convincingly. For our purposes, that means that the first impression is very important, but just the stage is not enough. In order to lead things toward a conversion, the second impression has to fit too.

300 seconds

The third phase is when the customer enters the virtual store in order to take an unhurried look around, get a consultation, and think in earnest about making the purchase. This 300-second phase concludes the process of "digitally getting to know each other" and thus corresponds to the first segment of the user journey with its concrete touchpoints. At this point, the landing page doesn't need to provide all of the information that a customer might be interested in, but it does need to show where the information can be found. The focus here is on the conversion. The page has to put the user in a position where they can make the decision to buy. The best way to do this is by clearly communicating the product's selling points and supplementing the information with concrete use cases and the right trust marks.

picture website2
Competence, for example, uses two different types of trust marks: operating figures to make it clear that the product enjoys recognition and approval on the market ("trust through numbers") along with quotations to detail how people derived significant added value for their undertakings from the product ("trust through people")
picture website3
Root wireframe kit uses a gif image to show how their idea of "customizing" is integrated into the product. After all, "a picture is worth a thousand words."

To sum up:

Landing pages are for more than just making a good first impression. They also introduce the user to the brand identity and company philosophy and thus lay the groundwork for the conversion.
In upcoming installments of this series, we'll take a closer look at the means available to us to control the third phase efficiently and at how this phase differs for various products and services. In the process, we'll always come back to the best practices and show unfavorable negative examples.

Here are the topics of our next two articles:

Every customer is a user, but not every user is a customer.
This second article will examine how to address the correct users and convert them into customers. Above all, we'll focus on explaining why not every user is equally easy to convert – and why it isn't in our interest to do so.

What content and features make for the ideal landing page?
In the third installment, we'll show the content, functions and elements to use in order to build the perfect landing page. We'll talk about everything from strategy, information architecture, design and suitable content to the right tools and features to use for the technical implementation – and come up with a holistic answer to the question of how to turn an idea for a landing page into the finished product.

The previously released parts of our UX series: