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Not Just Insight: Gain User Empathy to Power Website Conversions

Spencer March
Nov 15, 2016 10:30:00 AM  |  Spencer March

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We humans root for each other. Regardless of our differences, when Willis is on an asteroid hunt, we're all riding alongside him on the same team. And being on the human team means we like being treated like people, too. Not users, or visitors, or potential customers. People.

In fact, it's well-known that the highest converting websites do an excellent job of keeping the human factor top of mind:

  • Using natural language on forms has been shown to increase conversions by 25-40%.
  • Segmenting users provides more relevant content, thereby increasing conversions
  • Customer testimonials and photos of people contribute to validation

So statistics and best practices reveal that treating people like people is valuable. But how do you get inside the heads of those people — not just to understand them, but to become them?

Mastering User Empathy

We've always been huge fans of information. Is there data to be found? Then we want to find it. Is there data to be created through experimentation? Then gosh darn it, we're experimenting.

But more data doesn't always mean more insight. As Hotjar CEO and Founder David Darmanin said at his INBOUND 2016 session, sometimes too much data means you need some perspective. He suggested gaining empathy. You can do this by both diving in and zooming out.

Darmanin's tips for better conversion rates go beyond "understanding" your user. He wants us to master becoming them.

Here's how it works:

1. Start With Immersion

Yes, when you analyze key pages through tools like Hotjar, you definitely get some insight into how users navigate your site. But just as studying a language in a silo cannot offer the same learning experience you'd gain from living in a nation where it's spoken, watching from afar doesn't cut it here. If you want to really know how to improve conversions, immerse yourself in the experience of your site. Find out what it's like to buy a product. Try to contact a sales rep. Look for a particular piece of content you're interested in.

Spend some time on your site. Live there. Find out where you are when you get sick of it, and figure out why there, why then.

This can feel strange, but you need to record yourself. Your assumptions about what you're doing or have done may not echo reality. Or you can lose track. Darmanin likes Jing for PC and Screenflow for Mac.

2. Recruit a Panel

Now you're ready to get others into the same boat. You of course need to remove some bias associated with your experience, and this is a great way to get nearer to your goal of true empathy.

3. Record Your Users

Watch your users convert. What makes them do it? How long does it take? Where do they get confused? Heatmaps and recordings from Hotjar can tell you exactly where hesitation occurs, where their movements are fluid and where they get totally lost.

To actually use this practice to establish empathy, you need to get a larger sense of the patterns involved in their actions. Don't just record two users. Record 200. How better to establish empathy than to experience patterns among your human visitors?

4. Share With Your Team

You're not the only one who needs a little empathy. Get everyone on board. Share your results. Get them immersed, too.

After Context Comes Website Conversions

So let's say you've "achieved" empathy through this discovery and learning process. Now you have the right context to move forward. Darmanin suggested working toward the vision of your site as a treasure map. There's one goal. Not everybody makes it to the end. A lot of people leave when they see the distance for the first time (registration, for example). To get some idea of how and where that happens, try Flow in Google Analytics. You're on the way to ironing out your conversion points and strategy.

We're not going to deep dive into every step needed for better conversion rate optimization just yet. But know that, while CRO is about more than just empathy, no information is worth much without context. Until you know how it feels to be a site visitor, the data points you seek won't mean much.

Ready to become the people that come to your site? Growth Driven Design might be for you.

 

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Spencer March

This post was written by Spencer March

Spencer is a Senior Web Strategist at New Breed. Drawing from his experience in project management and product marketing for startups and enterprise companies, he leads internal teams to help our clients launch web based projects and implement successful inbound strategies.

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