Three Subtle Online Methods to Get to “Yes”

Instead of creating a smooth chain of micro-commitments, many marketers generate friction by going for the macro too. Tame the urge and see conversions rise

Aaron Orendorff
June 18 2018

Three letters. One syllable …

“Yes” is easily the most powerful word in the English language. Unfortunately, moving people to yes is no easy matter. Thankfully, there’s a secret.

According to Robert B. Cialdini, “commitment and consistency” is one of the six scientifically backed weapons of persuasion. The principle works like this: once an individual has committed to a small yes, they become far more likely to fulfill that commitment when presented with a bigger yes. Dating coaches and salespeople call it building a “yes ladder.” Conversion rate experts call it leveraging micro-conversions.

Unfortunately, instead of creating a chain of micro-commitments, most marketing creates friction by going for the macro too soon. Below are three keys to make sure you convert your micros into macros and give your prospective customer exactly what they want:

  1. Create “Scent”
  2. Prioritize Findability
  3. Customize Opt-In Offers

#1 Create “Scent”

Nothing kills conversions like confusion. In online marketing, when a visitor arrives at your website, they’ve already committed a micro-conversion. More often than not, that initial yes was driven by search.

The problem is far too many funnels throw their leads into confusion, immediately after the first click.

Take a high-intent search term like “customer retention software.” Naturally, most AdWords campaigns include the exact keyword phrase in their copy. It’s the second step — the landing page — where things fall apart. For example, Demandforce’s ad is a one-for-one keyword match to the query:

Unfortunately, its landing page is anything but. Notice that the original search term appears nowhere on the landing page and then, immediately below the fold, is a hard-sell, macro-conversion offer with five required fields:


Compare that conversion-stopping experience to another AdWords campaign. Again, the ad itself is a one-for-one keyword match:

Optimove’s landing page – PostFunnel’s sponsor – includes variants of that original query throughout:

  • Headline: “Maximize Your Customer Retention”
  • Subhead: “The #1 Customer Retention Solution”
  • Body: “Create insight-based brand interactions that increase customer retention, spend and long-term loyalty”

What’s more, rather than hit visitors with a five-field form below the fold, this second page has a “Request Demo” button that acts as another micro-conversion giving visitors the option to scroll through the page to learn more, watch a video, or jump immediately to requesting a demo:

The second landing page is what “scent” is all about. It creates a consistent micro-conversion-driven experience, from (1) the search to (2) the ad to (3) the landing page to (4) the button to (5) the final form.

Copyhacker’s Joanna Wiebe — the queen of conversion copywriting — extends this principle throughout the entire funnel in what she calls the “assembly line approach to CRO copy”:

But how do you leverage micro-conversions when visitors may be looking for more than just one thing?

#2 Prioritize Findability

Online, easy is sovereign. And nothing exemplifies easy like Steve Jobs’ “Rule of Three.”

Jobs’ biographer, Walter Isaacson, put it like this:

“Jobs’ belief in the power of simplicity as a design precept reached its pinnacle with the three consumer device triumphs he produced beginning in 2001: the iPod, iPhone and iPad. He immersed himself daily in the design of the original iPod and its interface.

“His main demand was ‘Simplify!’ He would go over each screen and apply a rigid test: If he wanted a song or a function, he should be able to get there in three clicks. And the click should be intuitive.

“If he couldn’t figure out how to navigate to something, or if it took more than three clicks, he would be brutal.”

It’s no surprise that all three of the “consumer device triumphs” Jobs led were revolutions in mobile simplicity. What is surprising is how few mobile experiences have kept pace.

What does all that have to do with micro-conversions?

To be effective in our instant-gratification online world, micro-conversions have to stack on top of each other in quick succession. This is especially true on mobile where screen space is limited, and attention spans are short. Prioritizing findability means doing at least four things (and we’ll use ecommerce’s Fashion Nova as a test case for each one).

(1) Homepage navigational elements — separate from your navigation bar — directing visitors to your popular categories:

(2) Auto-hiding hamburger menus that deliver results in three clicks or less:

(3) Robust filters within categories to narrow down results:

(4) An ever-present mobile-search bar that auto-completes as visitors type:

Each of those findability practices represents a micro-conversion in which simplicity — ease of use — propels visitors forward. But you can’t stop there …

#3 Customize Opt-In Offers

Once a visitor finds what they’re looking for, what then? Recognizing the power of email marketing, most sites include some sort of pop-up or overlay offer. Again, this is a great use of micro-conversion. Rather than ask new visitors to purchase from the jump, enticing them with a freebie or discount is a halfway house to get to yes.

The downside of using pop-ups is most businesses try a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Truly powerful micro-conversions customize their opt-in offers as much as possible.

Shopify Plus, where I serve as the Editor in Chief, does this in two ways. First, we have a standard “catch all” overlay that appears on our blog posts at the 70% scroll-depth mark (so as to not be intrusive to new visitors):

But on blog posts where we’ve created gated assets that connect or go-deeper with the subject matter at hand — e.g., multi-channel ecommerce — the “catch all” overlay is replaced with a customized opt-in offer:

Greats, an ecommerce store, adopts a similar approach. First, if you enter through their homepage, you’ll receive a general pop-up offer for 10% off your first purchase. Cleverly, they present this standard offer in two steps — an approach that not only leverages micro-conversion for the first click but also allows them to segment their list based on gender:

Even more clever, Greats then customizes that same 10% off coupon on product pages by serving up overlays with the exact product and exact final price (behold the power of math):

Instead of relying on universal overlays, custom offers take advantage of smart and targeted campaigns based on a visitor’s actual onsite behavior. After all, they’ve already said yes to a specific content topic or a specific product … the very next yes you offer them should follow suit.

Final Thoughts on Micro-Conversions

Yes is powerful. And the wonderful thing about getting to yes in online marketing … is that the smaller you go, the bigger it becomes. Micro-conversions — like creating “scent,” prioritizing findability, and customizing opt-in offers — are the gateway to macro-conversions. Start leveraging them today.

Aaron Orendorff

Previous the Editor in Chief of Shopify Plus, Aaron Orendorff is now the founder of iconiContent, where he’s busy “saving the world from bad content.” He’s also a regular contributor at Mashable, Entrepreneur, Lifehacker, Fast Company, Business Insider, Content Marketing Institute, and more. Connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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