January is a time for quiet contemplation for ecommerce retailers…
As if. It’s a time for frenetic sale activity and a continuation of the crazy build up to Christmas. If Christmas Day is the summit, December and January are the two main ascents. For this month’s blog I’ve been reviewing some of the UK’s leading multi-channel retailers to see if and how they’re using persuasion techniques on their main landing page to entice and convert customers.
Persuasion takes many forms. From the not so subtle heavy marketing e.g. ‘You can’t live without this amazing X’, to the use of reassurance in messaging to remove barriers from purchase e.g. ‘Hassle free delivery and returns’. There are different types of persuasion, including:
- Verbal, in copy on the page such as testimonials
- Visual, for example the use of a trending celebrity to endorse products and brands
- Emotional, for example a picture of a cute puppy appealing to melting hearts.
Persuasion can be obvious, subtle or even unnoticeable.
I’ve been specifically looking at persuasion in the context of sale and the use of copy and imagery, not wider persuasion techniques on the site in general. The key question I had in mind was, “does every retailer focus on persuasion in their January sale homepage?”
Let’s find out…
Argos focuses copy on encouraging engagement through questions and active language e.g. ‘Find huge savings and fantastic limited offers in our clearance’. It also uses urgency, for example ‘Hurry, offer ends 3rd February’. Argos is leading with its new catalogue rather than the sale message, which is a major event in the retail calendar. Instead of persuading people purely with price reductions, it tempts people with the allure of something new, ‘1000s of exciting new products’.
The copy ‘Guess what’s just landed?’ is playful and informal, adopting the tone of conversation you’d expect when chatting to friends. It’s like you’re being invited over for a coffee and chat over the big new shiny catalogue. This informal tone is continued with the headings ‘Get set for new WOW deals’ and ‘What’s hot…’
House of Fraser uses a subtle approach to persuasion, with large, bold imagery and teasing headlines, such as ‘S is for Super Skincare’ and ‘1000s of dream dresses under £50’ (I can almost hear the Cadbury’s Caramel bunny whispering to me…). It also uses urgency e.g. ‘Time for something new, now’:
The copy tone is alluring, almost playfully seductive: ‘dream dresses’, ‘perfectly suited’, ‘superior shut-eye’ and ‘super skincare’. It aligns well with the premium brand positioning that House of Fraser has worked hard to establish in the UK market.
It’s interesting to see that John Lewis uses minimal persuasion techniques on the homepage; perhaps it relies on brand reputation instead. For example, one of the main banners on the carousel reads ‘Home Sweet Home. Refresh your abode with the latest trends’. The copy is subtle and doesn’t have the urgency or energy of the Argos and House of Fraser pages. Although this aligns with the brand, it does come across as rather flat and the Explore More banner continues this theme, ‘Come and explore with us’ – explore what, why, when, where? (and again, perhaps that’s the JL take on persuasion, persuading us to click by creating intrigue or posing unanswered questions).
John Lewis wants us to explore, as if the browsing journey is like an adventure full of unknown treats and surprises. The placement of three ‘explore’ copy fragments so close together feels like overkill and makes the exploring sound like a well-beaten sale drum. I personally find this approach has the opposite effect on me and I’m tired by all the potential exploring.
I decided to check out a site for a completely different audience, Boohoo.com. You’ll notice how visual the homepage is. What stood out to me was the use of a trending celebrity in Eddie Redmayne to let people do the persuasion – aspiration is a common driver that marketers try to appeal to.
I then turned to my trusted persuasion master, AO.com. And lo and behold, unto me an angel of persuasion was delivered. I personally think AO gets persuasion better than most. Just check out the USP bar: ‘We beat or match all other retailers’. Any prices concerns are removed instantly. And then there is the ‘Unbeatable deals. Huge savings across our range’ that grabs attention in the carousel.
When you combine the key messaging, it’s a powerful conversation with the customer:
- You get free delivery (even on weekends) and a timed delivery slot
- You won’t get a better price at other leading retailers
- You can have peace of mind with free returns
- And you can buy on interest free credit if needed
- With £25 cash back for each extra product you buy
Oh and if you want to know we’re good, our customers rate us 5 out of 5 based on more than 31,000 reviews!
I threw in a glance at a favourite site of mine, Folksy. As a marketplace I wasn’t expecting a strong sales focus but was intrigued to contrast its approach to homepage persuasion. Folksy uses two subtle persuasion techniques. Firstly, in the main content zone it emphasises the size of its community, providing reassurance and social proof:
Secondly, it showcases the major press that have featured the brand. This provides another method of endorsement and credibility, as well as suggesting quality:
Unsurprisingly, the mobile versions of the sites focus on streamlining content and CTAs to give people quick routes into product browsing, with minimal use of persuasion.
Argos focuses on promoting the catalogue, with a message promoting the digital version in the carousel. The big catalogue retail sites are passive, not talking to the customer to build confidence, simply using marketing messages and navigation to direct people into relevant user journeys. This isn’t necessarily a negative as during sales cycles the focus is on order volume and conversion. However, it assumes that visitors already understand the brand proposition, which isn’t always the case.
ASOS uses the catchy meme ‘Go on, treat yourself’ on the mobile Men’s homepage and other directional copy like ‘Treat your feet’. There is one content zone on this page that, in my opinion, is quite strong in terms of how it could influence customers; the promotion of Premier, ASOS’ version of Prime with a subscription model to get free next day UK delivery on every order. It’s strange that this is partly buried amongst product placement – initially I didn’t notice the message as the copy legibility is poor – but without data to know how well the page performs, it’s wrong to comment on the efficiency of placement. I think Amazon places its Prime promotion better on the mobile homepage as it stands out more and the design emphasises the ‘Get Started’ CTA.
AO.com has the strongest page for persuasion, repeating two of its core value proposition messages in the carousel: ‘Unbeatable deals’ and ‘Pay on finance’. In its site wide footer it has a nice clean summary of its core service benefits, which ensures there is persuasion messaging across the site:
Which retailer do I think does persuasion best from the above?
AO.com has the strongest persuasion proposition for both desktop and mobile. This could partly be explained by it being a pureplay retailer and not having the offline brand heritage and reputation, so the business has worked harder to tell the story online to persuade people to trust its service and product quality. Whatever the reason, there appears to be a clearer persuasion architecture in play with the story playing out as you scroll down the page. On other sites, content zones like site wide footers aren’t used as effectively.
Comments and questions
What do you think? Which retailers do you think do persuasion brilliantly online during the January sales and have I missed some glaringly obvious persuasion techniques on the sites discussed?
- Paul Rouke’s Econsultancy blog on Ebooking.com
- Econsultancy blog ’20 beautiful examples of persuasive ecommerce design’
- Crazy Egg blog ‘5 Ancient Persuasion Techniques That Can Rock Your Website Today’