Ever wonder why most grocery stores are arranged pretty much the same way? By trial and error, they've learned how every detail of their business can maximize their sales as people visit. And anyone trying to make some money online can learn some important lessons from how they do it. In this post, I'll discuss some of their secrets and how they may help you.
What's a Conversion Rate?
Conversion rate is the number of people who, upon visiting your website, actually do something, whether that's buy a book, sign up for your mailing list, or even click on some link (or ad) on your page.
trying to sell something online, which I obviously am (please glance to
the right to see the array of products I offer), should put thought into how
to boost their conversion rate.
approach to earning money from your website is just to accept your
current conversion rate and try to dramatically boost the traffic to the
site. To keep the numbers simple, let's imagine you make on average a
penny per visit (I wish!). If that were the case, and you increase your
traffic by a hundred a day, then you've just earned an extra dollar for
another approach to maximizing your success focuses on boosting, not
traffic, but conversion rate. In this case, if you can boost your
earnings to 5 cents per visitor, then you only need to gain twenty more
visitors to achieve the same amount.
Lessons from the Grocery Store
there is nothing inherently evil or dishonest about honing your site so
as to maximize your success. In this post, I'm going to look at the
ways grocery stores typically arrange themselves for success and suggest
lessons anyone interesting in online sales might want to employ as a
result. Some of these "tricks" of their trade are things that I, in good
conscience, would never employ. Others include things I instinctively
have done and which I believe have increased my conversion rate. Let me
know if you achieve any success of your own by including any of these grocery store practices.
The Floor Plan
is no coincidence that virtually every grocery store you enter has
pretty much the same floor plan. The first major department you are
funneled into is fruits and vegetables.
the fact that people are more or less directed through the store should
have profound implications for anyone wanting to sell online. This is
essentially what is known as the "sales funnel." You should construct
your site in such a way that a visitor who arrives for your content is
then somehow enticed to explore something you offer, and by clicking
along, they arrive at the checkout with something in their cart.
why are you sent into fruits and vegetables first? Personally, I am
enough of a food hygiene freak that I don't like keeping anything that's
supposed to be refrigerated out of the cold too long.
is a psychological purpose to sending you into produce first. You buy
some fruits and vegetables. You know these things are good for you. And
you're now congratulating yourself for how well you're going to eat this
week. You're doing so good for yourself that you certainly deserve that
treat that you're going to encounter as you continue in the store.
and vegetables also (with the exception of organics) typically have a
very low profit margin. The store is perfectly willing to sell you
apples for a profit of pennies, knowing that you will later buy
something they actually make money on.
feature of the typical floor plan of a grocery store is that the
absolute staples, things like bread and milk and eggs, are situated at
the complete far end of the store from where you enter.
arrangement is also not accidental. You may be there in that store for
many things. But you are eventually going to go where they have the
bread and milk. And that means you will be forced to snake your way
through the entire store to get there, and possibly pick up a number of
items along the way that you spot and decide you might want.
Implications for Conversion Rate
The Produce Section:
Hopefully the products you're selling online are either the fruits and
vegetables people know they need, or they're at least the guilty
pleasure people treat themselves to. But either way, the main take-away
here is that your overall content needs to be something that the
consumer will feel good about. If they don't have a positive attitude to
your content and your site in general, they will be less likely to
seriously explore a product you are offering on the page. So if your
page makes the customer feel good, they will be more inclined to either
reward you with a sale out of appreciation, or treat themselves to your
product as well.
The Far-Away Staples:
Theoretically, you could mimic this "trick" on your website by putting
your "content" (the article they came to read) below a pile of ads and
offers which the visitor would then be forced to scroll past before
getting to that "gallon of milk" they actually came for. You see
websites doing exactly this all the time, when they have a huge ad at
the top of the article that nowadays even swells in size for a minute
before finally letting you go.
I just would never attempt this "trick" on my visitors exactly that
way. I do place product ads after some of my more popular posts, and
just hope for the goodwill of people that have finished reading the
post. Maybe placing ads first would get me a bigger return. I don't
care, it just feels wrong.
typical grocery store knows that the average person is something less
than five feet tall and is generally looking straight ahead. For that
reason, they employ "Eye-Level Shelving." There are frequently better
deals placed above and below what they're trying to push at the time.
And we don't see them because we generally don't change our gaze past
the level of our eyes.
similar strategy is known as "Kid-Level Shelving." Stores put the items
they know children will beg their parents for just a bit below the
Implications for Conversion Rate
need to put our products on our web pages in the places our visitors
are most likely to see them. That's sounds like a no-brainer, but where
exactly is the web page equivalent of "Eye-Level Shelving"?
are two places that seem to work best. One, is at the bottom of a post
that you can reasonably hope a person will read in its entirety. As you
probably know, most people spend about half a second on most webpages.
They click on, and are immediately off in search of cat memes or
something. But if they really do read your entire content offering, a
product placement there at the bottom is very effective, because you
have therefore placed your product right in the gaze of someone who is
arguably well-disposed to you.
the more transitory visitors, it seems that the best place to position
an ad or a product is on the right-hand side of the page (which is exactly where you can see my books advertised).
And this is simply because we read left to right. (Reverse this if your
page is in Hebrew or Arabic.) Every time your visitor reads a line,
their eye is moving steadily toward your product. And you can therefore
hope they will possibly notice it there.
stores, in particular the bulk providers like Costco, have learned that
people respond positively to straightforward and large price signs. If I
can see the product and know exactly how much it will cost me, I can
then make an informed decision on whether to part with my money at that
advertised price. The sheer honesty of the transaction breeds a positive
feeling toward the product.
Implications for Conversion Rate
response to this, I added to my websites pricing on all my books. I
used to content myself with knowing that, were they to click through,
they would be informed by Amazon as to what my novels cost in paperback
or Kindle. But I decided to mimic this "Costco" strategy as a way to be
fully transparent with my audience about the fact that I am selling
books and they have specific prices. And I'm open to the world on those
The Illusion of Opulence
notice how stores display dozens of items of the same product right on
top of each other? I mean, theoretically they could keep just about as
many of the item on the shelf as they sell in a week and then restock as
necessary. Instead, they show you probably more than they sell in a
month. You'd think that the fact this product looks like it will never
run out would tell you subconsciously that there's no rush in purchasing
it now. But the opposite ends up being true. The sheer abundance your
eye beholds makes you feel as if you are in the presence of riches. And
that makes you feel good and makes you want to participate in it through
Implications for Conversion Rate
be honest, since I want to sell my products, I experimented for a while
with imitating this on my own websites. It's easy to cut and paste
multiple copies of the same link-embedded product image. And I found
absolutely no response to this experiment. So I decided instead to just
use a straightforward presentation of all my books as the best way to
replicate the "Illusion of Opulence" on my pages. In other words, there
are so many books and novels here that maybe you'll want to buy one to
share in the opulence. (Hey, nothing wrong with trying!)
"Deals" That Aren't Really Deals
stores frequently present products as somehow being on sale that really
aren't at all a deal for you the consumer. They advertise products as
being at a discount when you buy two of them when, in fact, you can get
the same savings when you buy just one.
there are things in good conscience which I would never do just to sell
more of my books. I suppose one could place false claims of deals on
their products, perhaps claim that the book used to cost 12 bucks but
now it costs just 10. Amazon Kindle does allow writers to put their
books temporarily on sale. If the sale it truly legitimate, there's
nothing wrong with publicizing it. But this is yet another case where I
personally will not imitate every trick in the grocery store's inventory
just to move more product.
Related Item Grouping
few summers ago, I was in Romania at a supermarket. I needed coffee
filters. Now, where would you go if you needed them? The coffee aisle,
right?! Nope, they were just not there. I asked someone stocking shelves
and was directed to a different aisle altogether. And when I arrived I
thought, no, they seriously didn't do this. No. But, sadly, yes. The
coffee filters were in the same aisle as notebooks and printer paper.
You see, they're all made of ... paper.
hope this sadly true anecdote entertained you, but the take-away is
that, in a well-run grocery store, of course the coffee filters are with
the coffee. And the peanut butter is with the jelly. And, even if you
do keep most of the salsa in the Mexican food aisle, you also keep an
assortment of it next to the chips.
Implications for Conversion Rate
so, if you are selling products, you should certainly arrange them in
places that align with both other products you offer and also sub-pages
of potential interest.
if you are selling anything on Amazon, they are actually already doing
this for you. Take a look at what Amazon suggests, were you to click to
buy one of my books:
inform you of what other people bought at the same time, which might
mean that you also would be interested in that additional item. And
theoretically, my books show up as the "also bought" item on searches
for other authors.
another way I try to employ this best practice is by recommending items
on my own pages based on people's potential interest. So, for instance,
in my novel In Saecula Saeculorum
a group of teenagers go back in time to ancient Rome. The novel even
includes a smattering of Latin in the dialogue. This is the novel is
listed first on my pages containing Latin resources. Similarly, on my page offering free resources for learning Romanian language, I highlight a novel I wrote which is set in Romania.
grocery stores and the products they sell know that bright colors catch
your eye and, potentially, your interest. I experimented once with
making all the links to products on my pages green, based on the
assumption that, subconsciously, people know that "green means go" and
therefore they would be inclined to click.
Nope. Nada. Zilch. Yet another failed experiment!
Instead, there are two color-based strategies you may want to try.
off, the massive success of Amazon has possibly predisposed people to
click on yellowish buttons, which is their signature style. So, maybe
see if moving to yellowish buttons improves your conversion rate.
thing to experiment with is a replication of Marissa Mayer's now famous
experiment with shades of blue while she was still at Google. After
studying tendency for click-throughs when presented with different
colors, she concluded that people were much more likely to click on an
ad when the color of the link was a bit more purple than if the blue
were a bit more green. And so, willing to try new things, the product
links on my pages do trend toward purple.
any of the things I've suggested here help you achieve greater success,
I am glad. I share these thoughts out of the philosophy that "rising
water raises all the boats." Your success does not diminish my own. Good
luck to you and God bless! If you do experience any increase in your
conversion rates after experimenting with any of these ideas, please let
me know. And I'd sure like to hear of anything you discover that helps
us all achieve greater success!