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Cranking up the conversion rates with personas and 'Persuasion Architecture'

From personas to preferences, Bryan Eisenberg teaches us that by knowing your customers intimately, you can convert pageviews into sales.

As we gear up for another frantic holiday season, many online retailers are asking themselves two questions: 1) "How can I increase my traffic?", and 2) "How do I increase my conversion rates?" For the former, refer to my recent Practical Ecommerce article "SEO: Is Your Site Holiday-Ready?." For the latter, enter Future Now's Chief Persuasion Officer, Bryan Eisenberg, an inventor of "Persuasion Architecture," a process that helps persuade customers to make a decision on your Web site when traditional marketing methods fail.

I had the opportunity to interview Bryan in a podcast to get his answers to some pointed questions about personas and well-structured content geared toward delivering what your customers are looking for. Listen to the 40 minute interview (13 MB) or read the synopsis.

One of Bryan's most memorable quotes from this podcast was his comment that "the customer truly is in control. The more control you give them, the more comfortable they're going to be having a relationship with you." This powerful statement flows through to the heart of what Persuasion Architecture (PA) is really all about. PA is founded on three basic questions: Who is it that we're speaking to? What action do we want them to take? Why do we want them to take that action?

Here are some of the key concepts from my podcast interview with Bryan:

  • Understanding Customer Preferences: "Humans have an operating system" that separate people into four, primary preferences that can be defined as someone who is emotional, logical, disciplined (or deliberately-paced) or fast-paced. By taking these preferences and translating them into a "buyer's perspective," you'll give yourself a basic understanding of what buyers want to purchase.
  • Building and Using Personas: By crafting profiles based on your customer's mode of behavior for buying, you are then ready to create personas that will enable you to deliver tailored content to your customers based on two premises--"What do my customers need?" and "How do my customers need to buy it?"
  • People Abandon Category Pages, Not Product Pages: If you take a close look at your Web analytics, there will be a section for "abandon rates" or where people exited your Web site. Most times, you might think that people abandon your site on a product level. Bryan tells us that "the cause of the abandonment actually happened at the category page level." Why? As he puts it, "For each of the different types of perspectives, profiles or personas on your Web site, what is the job or responsibility of the category page? The responsibilty of the category page is to help you find that right product for you. The challenge is, "What information do they need in order to find that right product?"

What are the implications of all this on search? As personalized search continues to gain momentum, clickthrough and conversion become more and more important. If you aren't effective at engaging the searcher, you won't be deemed as relevant on the next search. Keep failing at engagement and you could drop from their personalized results altogether.

Persuasion Architecture should be as much a driving force behind designing content for your Web site as SEO best practices. Through some savvy reverse engineering and basic psychology, PA helps retailers understand a very personal buying process in order to "deliver to the ultimate visitor."