Web site abandonment: What to do when your coveted leads leave before converting

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It’s one thing to devise the most innovative direct-marketing campaign you can, complete with finely segmented e-mail programs, personalized URLs and compelling offers. It’s quite another to keep the resulting visitors on your Web site long enough to convert.

In fact, Web-site abandonment—long thought of as a plague primarily impacting e-retailers and termed “shopping cart abandonment”—is just as much a concern for b-to-b marketers.

“For us, a high ROI area is monitoring customer behavior in real time,” said Scott Silk, CEO of Web analytics company SeeWhy Inc. He said that typical shopping cart abandonment runs in the 60%-to-70% range, “and the abandonment rate for filling out a form”—the classic b-to-b scenario—“is about 35%.”

These short-circuited sessions might include not getting visitors to access a certain page, download a particular product features list or fill out an e-mail signup form. Though classic b-to-b conversions such as these, including downloading a white paper or signing up for a webinar, don’t suffer the same rate of abandonment as e-commerce shopping carts, the problem is the same: Marketers lose prospects.

Automation can help. Today’s Web analytics solutions can tell marketers at what stage in the process—at what page, what content, which offer, the design of the page itself and even on which subsequent visit—the actual bounce took place.

“One concept we talk about a lot is velocity marketing, that is, optimizing numerous tests involving your lead-capture areas,” said Brig Graff, director-solution architecture, at Omniture Inc. “It’s best to adopt an optimization mentality involving a series of tests about which version of designs give you better lead captures.”

To minimize session abandonment, Graff recommended that 15% of a campaign’s budget be devoted upfront to optimizing the Web site and its content.

“Build three or four vastly different creative concepts based on your theories of which tactics will capture the most leads,” he said. “Spend the first 15% of your budget figuring out which of those Flash microsites or lead-capture forms get the best results, or which of five different banner ads work best, before turning the water on full.”

Abandonment is just one factor. Even with two different types of registration forms that seem to have equally low bounce rates, it’s possible that one produces higher-quality conversions.

“Where analytics really comes into play is in looking at the path people are taking,” said Loren McDonald, VP-industry relations with online marketing company Silverpop. He recommended that a particular type of conversion—registration for a white paper, for example—must match in some way what the visitor is looking for. If it doesn’t, you’ll have unacceptably high Web site abandonment.

“It’s not just about abandonment, but attracting the wrong people to begin with,” McDonald said. “This is where you have to tie everything back to your marketing automation and CRM solutions, all the way through to revenue and profitability.”

A survey of 139 Google Analytics users, conducted by SeeWhy last month during a live webinar, indicated that remarketing—post-session targeting techniques following visitor abandonment—is increasingly of interest to marketers. According to the poll, 63% of marketers plan to initiate follow-up, perhaps in the form of real-time e-mail, after session abandonment.

Silk said that if a marketer can follow up with an e-mail within 30 minutes of a visitor abandoning a session, perhaps employing some service-oriented message or an offer, conversions can rise by 50%.

“The whole idea of quick follow-up feels a little bit like Big Brother,” said Silk. “How close is too close? You don’t want to follow up in 10 seconds. Let the customer breathe a bit. But when you do follow up, make it a service-oriented message.”

Graff suggested that a visitor who abruptly abandons a session might be presented with a short survey or a note saying that the visitor’s information has been saved at the point they stopped, if they wish to return to finish the session.

A third option is remarketing based on data points a marketer can glean from the visitor’s previous behavior. For example, with the appropriate automation that inserts a cookie in the visitor’s browser, a marketer can determine what pages they visited, what products they were interested in, and what other forms of conversion occurred.

“So, the next time that visitor returns to your site, you can present him with a message specifically geared to his profile, and suggest, for example, that he finish filling out that registration form for the white paper,” Graff said.

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