How Amazon, Expedia and the QVC Convert Every Last Visitor (And How You Can Too)

rfp-robotRFP ROBOT: Website Request for Proposal Generator

The time has come for a new website (or website redesign), which means you need to write a website request for proposal or web RFP. A Google search produces a few examples, but they vary wildly and don’t seem to speak really to your goals for developing or redesigning a new website. You need to write a website RFP that will clearly articulate your needs and generate responses from the best website designers and developers out there. But how?

Have no fear, RFP Robot is here. He will walk you through a step-by-step process to help you work through the details of your project and create a PDF formatted website design RFP that will provide the information vendors need to write an accurate bid. RFP Robot will tell you what info you should include, point out pitfalls, and give examples.

Don’t listen to what people say. Watch what they do.
Ramit talks a lot. But his actions, and his emails, are where the value lies.
Similarly, you shouldn’t just read the ConversionXL’s when you’re trying to come up with ways to get your landing pages to convert better.
Instead, you should just go visit the top performing websites, like Amazon, Expedia, or (surprisingly) the QVC.

Start browsing, shopping, and going through their checkout funnels.
It’ll quickly become apparent why they’re good, and how you might be able to adapt the same approaches to your own site and pages.
Here’s how to convert like Amazon, Expedia and the QVC.

Four Conversion-Boosting Site Elements: Friction, Scarcity, Personalization and Motivation
You can immediately spot the difference between a website that was designed by people with a print vs. digital background.
The print was is beautiful, no doubt. Pixel-perfect probably.
Where it quickly falls apart, is when you start interacting with it. You start shopping, start clicking, and start getting frustrated at the amount of dead ends or un-intuitive experiences you have.
That’s where digital is a whole nother ballgame. Because a site can’t just look good, but needs to function well too.
You see these differences mostly starkly on eCommerce sites (and their close relatives) because tiny things become magnified at scale; where tiny conversion movements (in either direction) can mean huge variance swings in revenue.
The stakes are high when you’ve only got fractions of a second – literally 50 milliseconds – before someone decides to leave. And it should surprise no one that design is the key ingredient, deciding a whopping 94% of first impressions.
The best design then, besides looking great, needs to convert too.
That’s why the best examples of sales-psychology happen on eCommerce. You’re attempting to somehow replace the in-person (or over the phone) salesperson who can inform and persuade, with 1’s and 0’s.
But regardless of the platform, you should be able to take the same lessons – the same psychology-backed features, conversion funnels, visual cues, and more – applying them to websites of all shapes and sizes.
For example…
1. Friction: Friction can help, or hurt, conversions. Generally speaking, reducing friction (or the amount of work required for someone to do something, whether that’s buying a product or simply filling out a form) can increase results.
But… sometimes more friction isn’t always a bad thing. For example, sometimes it can help companies with more sophisticated products or services, like Moz found out, make sure they end up happier and paying you more (or paying you longer).
2. Scarcity: One of Cialdini’s key persuading factors, the best forms of scarcity showcase exactly how limited something is (and therefore, how much more attractive it looks).
Look no further than limited-time-only deals, where that great discount is set to expire soon. Limited availability (in terms of the number of clients you’re taking on, or products left to purchase) can help increase urgency and get people to S… er, Act or get off the pot.
3. Personalization: There’s no shortage of generic, overwhelming noise out there. It’s overwhelming and deafening.
Contrast that with a personalized experience where everything is tailored to you (and which 75% of customers unanimously agree they prefer).
The use of personalization, or the lack of it, links directly to sales made (or lost). 74% of shoppers dislike when a site doesn’t match their interest. While incorporating more personalization on a website can lift sales 19% seemingly overnight.
4. Motivation: Scarcity does a good job focusing on what people aren’t going to get. But how about what they are getting (as a result of making that decision on your site)?
At this year’s Call to Action conference, Andre Morys presented data that clearly shows while reducing friction is a good start, raising motivation can be more influential to increase online conversions.

(image source)
These four elements are just a sample of the key ingredients used by some of the best performing websites.
Let’s take a look at those to see how (and where) each element is incorporated to learn how you can apply the same to any online shop, SaaS or even B2B site.
Example #1. Amazon
Amazon Prime is a virtual juggernaut of online conversions.
And it ain’t even close.
They were one of the first to customize (and popularize) the Recommended Products section, and today almost your entire homepage experience when you login is comprised of recommended items based on what you just viewed, your browsing history as well as purchased.

One-third of marketers agree that personalization is going to be the most impactful trend going forward.
Another study pegs that real-time personalization importance number way higher at 77%.
And yet… 60% of marketers still struggle to personalize real-time content.
Thankfully, ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions like Optimizely’s Personalization product are popping up to take care of the technical hurdles. For example, visit Optimizely’s homepage in the morning and you’ll see even basic examples of this in action.

Amazon’s personalized recommendations are a good start. But the real magic happens when you start searching for products.
For example, search for any product and you’re going to be met with a screen that looks something like:

Despite presenting an overwhelming amount of options to users, Amazon expertly uses a few visual cues to help make deciding easier on customers.
1. Best Seller Label: First and foremost, your eye gets drawn to the product sitting in the ‘first position’. As if there were any doubts, the orange Best Seller label helps you quickly realize that this is the first product to look at (which probably matches your query the best).
2. Prime, Green Date: Price is important when buying something online. However an almost more important consideration is when you’re gonna get it. Instead of providing a shipping date, or approximate range, they provide the end result (when you’re going to ‘get it’) in green so it jumps out at you. That Prime logo stamp also helps you quickly scan through the available choices.
3. Customer Ratings: Amazon has always placed a heavy emphasis on their customer star ratings. It’s become so influential during the purchasing process that when those are good, and there’s a lot of them, there’s almost no better predictor of your own personal happiness with a product.
4. Sticky Cart: The sticky cart page on the right-hand portion of your screen is a more recent development. Here, you can see a running tally (and total) of all your products and are now only a single click away from the checkout process.
Beyond the fantastic personalized web experience and beyond the excellent visual cues Amazon uses, it’s critical to realize that much of their online success comes down to business strategy.
Back in the day, ‘marketing’ used to mean a helluva lot more than ‘advertising’. It used to include important components like Place or Distribution too.
That means the best marketing strategies typically extend to ways to get a product in someone’s hand faster and better.
Convenience is Amazon’s Holy Grail.

Prime members spend double that of non-prime spenders (up to  $1,340 each year now).
They’ve got a patented one-click purchase option to speed up the sales cycle.
They’ve got ‘Subscribe and Save’, so you can put recurring consumables on autopilot (you know, stuff like deodorant, toilet paper, and more).
Amazon has same freaking day delivery for many products. So… why would you ever ‘run to the store’?
Amazon Fresh is the latest in a long line of amazing developments that will deliver all of your groceries, or that specialty item you can’t find at the local big box grocery store tomorrow.
And if all of that wasn’t enough, they’re coming out with their own planes and drone delivery too.

So sure, their website is awesome. But there’s a bigger reason why nobody can touch them in online conversions.

(image source)
Example #2. Expedia
People shop for a hotel today as they would any other commoditized product.
They pull up Expedia, check a few dates, and even go down the checkout funnel to see what all the Taxes, Parking, Resort fees do to that surprisingly low rack rate.
And an astonishing 81% of the time someone might leave throughout this process.
Expedia has become masters through at keeping people around, and getting them where they want, by employing Amazon-like personalization and visual cues along the way.
For example, pull up any city near you and look for deals next weekend. You’ll see something like…

You’ll notice that the experience (and appearance) is very similar to Amazon’s product search page. Specifically, Expedia uses bold colors to perfection. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Daily Deal: Similar to how Amazon used a bold orange label at the top to grab your attention, Expedia uses a large green ‘Daily Deal’ bar and border. This spot also features a big countdown timer, which drives home…
2. Scarcity: Beyond the countdown timer, each individual hotel shows the amount of other people that have just booked that hotel in a bold red. On the Hard Rock example, you’ll also notice red depicting a ‘final price’ that’s about to go away if you don’t act quickly.
3. Risk Reversals: Around the red scarcity elements are little touches of green, like ‘Free Cancellation’ or letting you know when something was last booked.
4. Notifications: It’s tough to miss the yellow notification bar in the lower right hand corner. The pop-up overlays the other elements to get your attention, again further driving home the amount of other people looking these same options (so you better act fast).
5. Reviews: In a more neutral tone, you’ll see star ratings, the quantity of them, and a helpful Excellent! Or Very Good! to reaffirm your decision.
If that’s not enough, you’ll also start receiving event-based automated messages from them when logged in (similar to how the top eCommerce companies will use cart abandonment sequences).
Here’s one example:

In the upper left, you’ll see the subject line corresponds to the search you were just doing. It’s also clickbait-esque (in a good way), with a question mark and
The email itself is kinda standard. Kinda templated. Big bold headline emphasizes the primary value prop (book together to save), while the Best Price Guarantee presents a classic risk reversal. The CTA is both prominent (visually) and specific (the words match your message)  – two key features of a great CTA.
Overall the email itself is OK.
However, the key with these emails is getting them opened in the first place, and the subject line in combination with the timing and the fact that the recipient was just searching for this location makes it much more likely to get their attention.
Example #3. QVC
You might be surprised to find QVC on the list of top converting websites. I know I was when they were listed as a top converting website.
But one visit quickly confirmed why.
Let’s start with their homepage.

Three excellent examples and we haven’t even gone below the fold yet.
1. Shipping Promotion: First up, is the full-width banner that features a shipping promotion. It’s blue background (along with the leaves that actually fall – which unfortunately can’t do it justice in an image) successfully set it apart from the other page elements.
2. Daily Special Value: The big red callout in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage image is probably the first thing that jumps out at you when this page loads. It features a countdown timer like we’ve seen before to emphasize just how limited this deal is. If you look closely, you’ll also see there’s another option repeated in the primary navigation, where the Today’s Special Value link is given a different shade of red to stand out from the other options.
3. Call to Action: The image overlay features a small, red Shop Now button. But the interesting aspect are the lines to the left of it. ‘3 Easy Pays’ refers QVC’s infamous payment installment model, and ‘Free Shipping’ further sweetens the deal (as 82% of consumers crave this feature).
So far so good. But let’s do a product search for ‘luggage’ now to see how QVC uses similar methods as the previous examples.

You see the red call outs featuring Best Sellers, special pricing, and when videos are available to view in more detail.
You see the price anchoring in action, with a helpful strike through the ‘regular’ price and instead pointing you to the limited-time Featured or Clearance price.
You see the green used selectively to highlight a primary benefit (like 3 Easy Payments).
You see the yellowed star ratings, along with the quantity (so you subconsciously know which to believe and which to ignore).
And you see the Speed Buy button, similar to Amazon’s one-click purchase.
All textbook examples, but let’s dig even deeper into one of these individual products.

Oh man. Where to start?
The auto-play video, which 4 out of 5 shoppers prefer? The customer ratings and ‘favorites’?
The price anchoring in full effect? The easy payment installments?
Again, we haven’t even gone below the fold yet to see all of the recommended options, customer reviews, and more.
QVC lays it all on thick, doing a good job keeping it consistent with the experience you just had before this when searching for the original products.
One thing Amazon does extremely well (that many other eCommerce shops don’t) is to provide a specific estimate for when you can expect something. This is so important (yet so neglected), because the outcome or end result is what someone’s after. And the date they get something (when they want it now) plays a huge role in whether they make that purchase on your site or instead get in the car and drive to the store.
QVC has their own version with a Delivery Date Estimate, where you can punch in your zip code and get a specific estimate – directly from the product’s page, and WAY before going through the entire checkout process like you normally have to do in order to see what shipping’s going to cost or when you’re going to get it.

The best conversion-boosting tactics aren’t hidden away somewhere in a book or blog post.
They’re lying in plain site on some of the biggest websites you frequent.
Amazon, Expedia and the QVC are virtual conversion powerhouses and perfect case studies.
They use elements like friction, scarcity, personalization and motivation to their advantage to move bigger numbers of people through their checkout flows.
The good news, is that you don’t need to compete with them (hopefully, for your sake) or do everything they’re doing.
You just need to reverse-engineer some of the high points, and barely scratch the surface on your own website or landing pages to see significant boosts in performance.

Posted on September 30, 2016 in Austin Drupal Development

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