Visitors: To Convert Them Right Away or to Make Them Comeback, That is the Question?

Two weeks ago, I attended a conference given by my friend Marc Poulin at the W3Quebec. The conference was quite interesting from a practioner’s perspective, and after his presentation, Marc and I had a discussion around the importance of either converting or creating incentives for users to come back to the website. At first glance, we discussed about the difference between low-involvement and high-involvement products.

After some “hardcore” thinking, my thoughts on the topic would help me come to the conclusion that depending on the type of website, both objectives are positive outcomes but depending on the type of website, the preferred outcome should vary. Personally, my objective on an e-commerce website would always be to convert the visitor for any type of product. In this way, for an e-commerce website selling dishwashers, which could be considered as a high-involvement product, I would put the emphasis on comparing the product to competitors to facilitate the sale. However, my objective would be to convert and not to make the visitor comeback again and again. Thus, for this reason I present in the table below a list of type of websites and which of the “comeback” and “convert” options should be considered as the most important outcome.

Convert the visitor or creating incentizes to make him comeback
Convert the visitor or creating incentizes to make him comeback?
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# Type of website Example Primary objective Other objective
1 E-Commerce website www.amazon.com
Convert Comeback
2 Relational website www.nissan.com Convert Comeback
3 Brand promotion websites www.coca-cola.com Comeback Convert
4 Newspaper websites www.nytimes.com Comeback Convert
5 Social Network sites (SNs) www.facebook.com Comeback Convert

1. E-Commerce websites

Like mentioned before, the primary objective of any e-commerce website should be to convert the visitor into a buyer, and generally, in a minimum number of clicks.

2. Relational websites

Relational websites can be quite similar to e-commerce websites even though we can’t buy products on these websites, they should emphasize a call-to-action (conversion) aligned to more traditional objectives (i.e. calling the company, answering a callback facility questionnaire).

3. Brand promotion websites

Brand promotion websites had for objective to be relational, but also they should be made to constantly increase the aura and the positioning of the brand. But this aura is only possible if users visit this website, the more active users are, the better it is for the organization. For this reason, brand promotion websites should focus on creating incentives to increase the willingness of the user to come back to the website.

4. Newspaper websites

Newspaper websites differs from blogs that are mainly like personal relational websites in the sense that the main objective would be to convert a visitor into an e-mail or RSS feed subscriber. Any newspaper website makes most of its money out of advertising (and VIP content) which reinforces the need for integrating features that encourages the visitor to comeback to the website.

5. Social Network sites

Social network sites (SNs) are emerging in the webosphere as websites where forcing a visitor to comeback is the main objective. In this situation, the objective would be more associated to actions like clicking on an ad or to concepts such as stickiness, but at the end of the day what is most important is that the visitor come back to the website to create a larger and more active network.

Conclusion

In conclusion, to borrow William Shakespeare phrasing, or if you prefer Tom Dickson one, to “convert” or to “comeback”, that is the question? And it all depends on the type of website. However, a good first step for any organization having a website is that, at least, one of these objectives is reached. Questions? Comments? Or Suggestions?

Jean-Francois Belisle

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8 thoughts on “Visitors: To Convert Them Right Away or to Make Them Comeback, That is the Question?”

  1. Jean-Francois,
    I like this matrix of web sites vs primary objective. Smart guy!

    I am unclear as to the difference between low-involvement and high-involvement products. My fault. The distinction is make is between simple and complex purchasing decisions. If the decision is simple, you want to convert immediately. If it is complex, you want to keep your product fresh in the memory of the visitor so that it is considered whenever the time comes to buy. That is why you want to put in place features that will make your visitor come back to the web site regularly. Consequently, for the Nissan website, I would not put conversion as a primary objective. Few people will go from the web site directly to the dealership. Not me anyway.

  2. Hey Marc, thanks for your nice comment. Concerning the difference between low-involvement and high-involvement product, we can consider that it is strongly correlated to the difference between simple and complex purchases. In this way, simple purchases are generally for low-involvement products (i.e. e pair of scissors) and high-involvement product are generally associated with complex purchases (i.e. a car).

    As for the Nissan website, I totally agree on the fact that I would like to keep my product fresh to the visitors/consumers memory for increasing chances of a conversion. However, I would emphasize the idea that my primary objective is to convince the visitor to buy the product offline, thus I should design my website to make to simplify its decision process, for instance, by comparing my product to other comparable products to facilitate the visitor’s decision. On the other hand, I should also favor the navigation for the visitor if he wants to comeback, but at the end of the day, my main objective is that the visitor buy the product offline and not that he likes my website and wanted to comeback again and again. Finally, since I make the hypothesis that a visitor that comeback again and again to your website has a higher probability of buying your product, I would consider “comeback” as a second objective to achieve, but I would not choose it as my primary objective. I think our main divergence here is that I propose to force and help the visitor to take a decision, while you take the visitor decision as external (exogeneous) of the website content. Anyway, there are still some interesting food for thoughts and the discussion is still open on my side.

  3. Hey Jean-François
    I was wondering if the line 4 of your table was accurate, considering that when you explain in the 4th paragraph you say that the main objective of a newspaper’s website is to convert through newsletter and RSS feeds. Anyway, personnal experience on a newspaper’s website tought me that the opening rate of a newsletter is very, very low (I guess 20% should be a good long-term estimate), especially long-term.
    In that case, is subscription to a feed or newsletter a good conversion choice for a newspaper ?
    To be fair, what is a good conversion for a non-e-commerce website, really ?
    Regards
    Ivan

  4. Hey Ivan, thanks for your comment. Line 4 is actually reflecting my point of view. For a blog, which I consider as a (personal) relational website, RSS feed and newsletter should be the primary objective. Hhowever, for a newspaper website, since the company behind the newspaper is making money out of ads on the website, then I should force visitors to comeback to the website, to increase revenues and also to force visitors to read not only a journalist that they like, but also new ones.

    Concerning your second and third issue, opening rate of a newsletter and conversion rate for a non-e-commerce website may vary depending on the content quality and the quantity of the newsletters. The most important thing here is to establish a reference point, which is the first time you measure it, and thereafter try to increase it over time.

  5. You mean, whatever the reference point, as long as it increases it doesn’t really matter ? In my case should I still focus on the newsletter as a conversion even if the opening rate is very low?
    cheers

  6. Ivan,
    Maybe you should ask yourself: Is there a better way to invest my time and money? Can I achieve my objectives of more visitors and more conversion by investing in something else?

  7. @Ivan, I would personally follow Marc advices, words that should come to your mind may include : (1) budget, (2) money, (3) time, (4) objectives and (5) Return on Investment (ROI). In other words, act like a marketer and a creative dude in generating your list of possible traffic building sources, and, thereafter act like a finance dude in investing where you could earn the highest ROI.

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