The art of conversion

Everyone’s talking about User Experience. But way too often it is still neglected. sum.cumo tries to prevent just that - successfully.

In our series of articles we want to introduce you to UX-Design at sum.cumo and explain why it can’t be missed in the company as a discipline. Some examples will demonstrate our way of thinking and working and how we strive to increase UX Design’s relevance for our users our customers and our coworkers relentlessly.

In our first article we presented the three phases a landing page’s visitor experiences and how UX Experts should be prepared for just these phases. In this article we want to shift focus to the fact that every single one of our offers is unique and that only few providers are able to be the generalists they need to be convert the majority of page visitors.

We are sitting in our small shop in the middle of the city centre. A sunny Saturday afternoon, about 20 degrees and people are pouring to the shopping alleys in masses. thousands of people walk by our shopping window hourly. Some walk in for a quit look around but most of them walk straight past and don’t even pay us any attention.

Rarely someone stops. A couple lingers: she picks him by the sleeve and pulls him in front of the shopping window. He appears to be rather skeptical inspecting the products. He seems to scan the prices and inspects the interior. Our eyes meet briefly then he mumbles to his girlfriend and they disappear. She would have liked to stay a bit longer and have a closer look. At least that’s what her face says. But ultimately she follows him and saves her blouse from the icecream dripping slowly in her hand.

Shortly after an elderly gentleman approaches the window. He looks confident. It only takes him a few seconds to decide. He opens the door enters the store. It’s showtime.

This is the all day routine for Shopkeepers and sellers. A thousand people with stuffed purses walk by their lovingly designed stores and don’t even consider walking in let alone buying something. And that’s okay. An average shop’s conversion rate is abysmal depending on the method of measurement. For online shops, these rates would be disastrous and would mean ruin, as a large amount of traffic, i.e. website visitors, would be expensive to buy. Shop owners don’t calculate exactly like that but rental prices are nothing more than contact opportunities. They factor in the location and thus the potential contact rate significantly.

Nevertheless, there they are, the shops. And everywhere: online, offline and somewhere in between with Omni-Channel solutions and concept stores. And if one store closes, the next one will soon open in the same place (store space or URL). Because it's perfectly okay if people just keep walking and not every second or third person comes into the store and buys from us. It is important that we convert the right people. In our case, we are a specialist shop for model railways and therefore an absolute special case. One of many.

picture website
The narrow gauge railway - not the typical bestseller of Ruud Onos on Pinterest

If everyone’s special nobody is

Admittedly, model trains are a very unusual business segment. But what is ordinary? Ayurveda cures, Birkenstock slippers or rain capes for dogs? If we look at the offers of the thousands and thousands of shops online and offline, we quickly notice that there is an incredible number of offers. How many of the 120,000 online shops in Germany alone (as of 2018) have you visited?

Amazon is reported to have had a legendary conversion rate of over 70% five years ago. Most websites claim to achieve a mid-single digit conversion rate - and that's with Targeted Marketing, i.e. the targeted addressing of users who are potentially looking for what the merchant offers.

So not only the selection seems to be very special, but also the users' demands on our offer. Price, quality, delivery time, manufacturer, service and payment method are just a few of the many features that influence the purchase decision. For us as user experience specialists, it is important to stage these as skilfully as possible and to provide the visitor with sufficient incentives to make the purchase in the end. For this purpose we create e.g. landing pages. Often this is simply the start page of our web offer, but more and more often it is also a specialized page type, which is created specifically for different means of acquisition. This is also quite logical: If I advertise in a forum of model railway friends with my shop for narrow gauge railways, I can expect a much greater technical understanding and put other points in the foreground than for a Google advertisement for "beginners model railway".

For the vast majority of people model trains are not relevant. If you see the advertisement of our little shop, forget it after a few seconds. And that is perfectly okay - as long as we reach the few people who are looking for model railroads, lure them to our website and make them a paying customer.

Who's my customer?

Let's stick to model trains for a while. Granted: we're not experts in this field. But in this case our ignorance is a blessing; we look at websites and try to understand within a short time what the offer is about and if it could be interesting for us.

If we were really interested in a model railway, it would not be unreasonable to search Google for "model railway beginners". Among the results, we already find two pages in the top 3 that attract our attention:
Märklin and Modelleisenbahn für Einsteiger.

That last one seems to be the ideal place for us, at least according to the URL. Why this is obviously not the case, we will find out later. We look at the first mentioned page and notice Märklin meets many of the requirements we have as inexperienced users and potential buyers! The prospective buyer is picked up with his intention "model railroad for beginners" and briefly instructed: "More than toys, … connect people, … own ideas." There is a lot in it that appeals to people on the rational and emotional level.

Foto von Website
Detail of the landing page for model railway beginners from märklin

The structure of the four large content blocks (size, space, control, epochs) is also good and proper because they introduce the user to the most important criteria when choosing the first model railway. Then, unfortunately, there is a hitch - but more about that later.

The most important thing at this point is that Märklin has recognized what kind of users they are dealing with: Beginners interested in model railroading who would like to be convinced that their new hobby is wonderful and just right for them. Exactly this clientele serves the landingpage, the digital shop window. Any other user who comes across the site by chance will leave it after a very short time - and quite rightly so. Märklin only wants to address a very top target group on this site and would most likely fail to convince uninterested people to buy. The site does not fulfil this task, it cannot do it.

Giving interested people what they are looking for - that’s what the site must be able to do. In the first phase Märklin has 3 seconds to do this and does so by showing visitors terms such as "beginners" and pictures of model railways. This works and ensures that interested parties continue to scroll. The start of the sales conversation can begin.

By the way, Märklin also uses an element on the home page that is primarily aimed at two identified target groups: beginners and professionals. And while the professionals are lured with products, details and novelties, there is gentle, digestible content for beginners to enter the world of model railways. The provider understands his customers and reacts to them by providing individually tailored elements and pages for you.

Foto von Website
Convinces also on the homepage with entries for two important target groups

This schema is applicable to all landing pages. We want to understand our users and provide the content specifically for them. Therefore, every UX designer must ask himself the question: Who is the primary target audience for this site? If the answer for a provider of server logfile optimization software is "technically trained professionals", the page structure must work completely different than on a website for "interested hobby web administrators

Or a website like gencove.com whose content is scientific gibberish for <95% of the population. Very few people are familiar with the material on this site and even fewer are likely to buy it. But these few people - that's what gencove is all about. And that's probably why the landing page works very well for their clientele but not for the average person. And that's why only the very few would stop in front of the window of such a shop. But if 50% of them go into the store and buy, the goal is more than achieved.

Conversion is an art

Back to our little model train business. We imagine that Märklin and his landing page would be our shop window. What does the page have to do to guide me as a potential buyer into the shop and tempt me to buy? Very simple: inform, inspire, sell.


Humans are curious beings by nature. We want to discover and explore. But most of all we want to understand and be safe. That's why we inform ourselves before we get involved in anything: Who is the provider? Can I trust the dealer / brand / seller in front of me at the counter? What characteristics does the product fulfil, where was it manufactured, is there a safeguard in the form of certificates, test seals or perhaps even experience reports from other customers? Many of these questions are not asked explicitly by users, but implicitly. We surf on pages and often do not even notice that we only peripherally perceive the TÜV seal in the corner - nevertheless it plays a role in our decision.

It becomes especially interesting when we come into contact with a visitor for the first time and have to convince him or her. Why am I the right provider for you? Why should you trust my expertise, how do you know that I really sell high-quality branded goods and not expensive scrap?

While Märklin's visitors can build up a relatively good understanding of the products they don't learn anything about the supplier himself. Who or what is this "Märklin"? Why should I buy there in particular, what distinguishes the supplier? It is recommendable to make it clear relatively quickly on a page for first-time visitors which quality features distinguish me as a vendor, so that this topic is off the table as quickly as possible: More than 150 years of experience, more than 1000 employees, internationally recognized expert for model railroads and one of the largest and best-assorted model railroad ranges this side of the galaxy. Märklin has many strong arguments at hand but does not use them sufficiently.


Enthusiasm is a powerful drug we are all addicted to the lust and the passion for a subject. This feeling is particularly strong when we fall in love with a theme in a completely new way. When the enthusiasm captivates me and I then set off to dive deep into the world, I look for confirmation.

I want to see content that picks me up on an emotion, content that puts the sparkle in my eyes and triggers pure fascination. The other day I came across my colleague's model railway in his hobby cellar, he showed me the incredibly detailed world of small buildings, the lake in the park and the tunnel through the mountain and I was completely fascinated by the subject. I want something like that too, I really want to be part of this world and make it part of my world. And then… I come to this page.

Foto von Website
Not necessarily the user experience one hopes for (https://www.modelleisenbahn-einsteiger.de/)

The mood killer

To inspire means above all to offer good and diverse content and to paint a picture with it: What place can your new hobby take you to? What can you achieve, what will your model railway world look like? Or to put it another way: Why do clothes sell better when they can be seen on the mannequin with the fancy handbag, the expensive shoes and the noble coat - and not in a box with a DIN A5 photo on top? We can and should exploit the psychological factors that we can achieve with our products. That's how you sell snacks made of beans: Happy, active, energetic people are what inspires me as a tired couch potato. That's what I want and finally that's where I want to go.

That's why websites like Märklin should work even harder with good images and videos and decorate their texts. For example: The epochs of railway history offer enough scope for this:

Foto von Website
The current status: A little sparse - and not really inspiring (https://www.maerklin.de/de/produkte/fuer-einsteiger/)
Foto von Website
A quick interpretation: Not the best text, but it is clear where it can go!


If the user is convinced that he is in the right place right here in our shop, we naturally do not want to let him go empty-handed. Märklin is making a serious mistake here. The user wants to make his interest concrete and convert it into a purchase - but none of the products or topics are directly linked, the well-known "call-to-action" is missing.

Foto von Website
The contents are there, but the sale takes place elsewhere - what a pity! (https://www.maerklin.de/de/produkte/fuer-einsteiger/)

The visitor virtually comes into the shop and realizes that he cannot buy anything on the exhibition area. At the very back there is a sign "In 500 m to the right to the sales area". This is how the link to the shop feels in the header. You have to generate a lot of enthusiasm to let users go down this path. And then, a few clicks later, finally arrived the question: "Which size was recommended to me, from which era was this chic model from?

The rule of thumb is: If I create a site with the goal to turn users into buyers, then the chance to buy must be in this very place. Or at least the direct link to the product detail page in the shop, which ideally receives me with similar information as presented to me on the landing page.

Foto von Website
For example: integrate the button to the shop and display a tempting price

Inform, inspire, sell. Often it's not a big step that sellers have to take to get to the bottom of the art of conversion. But rather many small ones, which then lead to a big milestone. In the third part of our series on the topic of landing pages, we will deal in detail with the elements and content we need to achieve this goal.

The elderly gentleman who entered our shop is just paying. He can barely carry his three bags when he goes out and nods to us friendly as he leaves the shop. He actually only wanted to buy a small wagon for his collection, but then he immediately took a transfer and the expensive new cleaning spray from the specialist. Enough turnover for one day - with only one customer. Once the model railway fan is in the shop, we start our sales talk and the routine consultation, suddenly converting is not so difficult anymore.

A few minutes later a little boy is standing with his grandfather in front of our shop window. With big eyes he beams at his grandfather and he just shrugs his shoulders as the grandson pushes him towards the door and then into the shop. Showtime.

The parts of our UX series released so far: