What causes conversion dysfunction below the fold?
Primarily a lack of traffic flow to mission critical infrastructure. Stop suffering in silence! Many retailers in your position have bought into the mantra “the web is meant to scroll”. While this might be true for media and content websites, none of the data from a cross section of retailers supports this hypothesis.
Don’t believe me? See for yourself!
These snapshots are taken at the fold from a cross section of retailer in verticals spanning fashion through homeware, but the story is very much the same across our portfolio of merchants. All of these sites have a wealth of content below the fold, everything from social media images to promotional offers. Even if the web is meant to scroll and people are following that, their clicks certainly do not reflect that.
There have been numerous experiments cited in the “death of the fold”, such as this one, from MarketingExperiments which claims a 20% increase in conversion rates by moving their call-to-action below the fold.
Challenger (+20% CR):
Another test by Content Verve saw even more impressive results, a 304% increase in CR by moving their CTA below the fold.
In both instances, the original CTA is above the fold on the far right (featured in a box). How many sites do we know that use that format for their ads? Everything from Facebook, to your local newspaper (ironically even the sites in which these results were taken from) feature their ads on the top right, above the fold. As a consumer of content, we have been conditioned to try and disregard things in this position on-page.
So these results say less about the effectiveness of the fold, and more about our incredible ability to ignore advertising. Granted, it could be the case that by moving the CTA below the fold, only qualified prospects will make it there, thereby increasing conversions. In my opinion this is utter bullshit.
We like to think about eCommerce as a different beast to brick and mortar retailing, however the reality is that conversion optimization is not a new concept. Digital marketers can learn a lot by looking at their traditional brethren. Stores have been optimized through decades of “conversion optimization” (I imagine back then it was just called being a savvy business person). Grocery stores are a prime example of the incredible art and science of retailing. Everything has a purpose, nothing is an accident. A great amount of effort is spent understanding the psychology of a customer, and tailoring the experience to optimize their shopping experience. Planograms and customer flows through the store are meticulously modelled in mock stores around the world.
I equate above the fold CTA to the end-cap in store.
If we assume stores are meant for browsing in the same way the web is meant for scrolling (they definitely are), why does the end-cap still matter? The answer is because people have a tendency to be lazy. Any impedance you put in their way means that you wean out the marginal shoppers whose laziness to search for a CTA exceeds the perceived value they have from your product. The parallel can also be made to fashion retailers, who are more than happy to get you the right size, and hold your merchandise at the cash while you continue to shop, all in the hopes of reducing shopping frictions.
I’m a huge proponent of learning through experimentation, as is our CEO Matt. We wanted to put this hypothesis to the test, so we have structured a simple experiment using our own site. Our hypothesis was simple, “The less barriers we put in the way of our customers, the more they will engage with us.” These barriers are simple design cues that had otherwise gone untested for months, and had been assumed to be completely innocuous. The results couldn’t be more telling.
Our original design on our “Contact Us” page was simple, with minimal styling and a presumably clear call to action:
Simple enough right? Plenty of white-space, pertinent information, and a call-to-action (albeit below the fold), what could be wrong with this? Well based on stage one of our experiment, a lot was wrong with it. Using a split test, we first removed the map graphic at the top of the page under the assumption it wasn’t truly a value add. We ended up with a page that looks like the following:
Unbelievably, this simple tweak resulted in a +40.7% increase in the number of contact forms submitted, with comparable engagement (as measured by clicks) and traffic to both versions.
In the spirit of continuous testing, we decided to put our champion design (sans map) to the test again. This time, we wanted to further extend our logic, simply by flipping the contact form, and the contact information. This test is still ongoing, but based on preliminary findings, we have seen an unbelievable +184.9% improvement in the number of contact forms submitted holding traffic constant.
Test it Yourself
As with anything you read on the web, don’t take our word for it. We encourage you to test the fold principle for yourself, and formulate your own opinion on the merits of designing accordingly. Who knows what you’ve been taking for granted that could be holding your site back from converting. Share your stories, because as the title says, you’re not the only one having problems converting below the fold. There is no shame in admitting it.
A word of caution, given these findings, we may be tempted to bring everything above the fold; newsletter signups, add to cart buttons, social media connections, the list goes on. Frankly, I think there is SOME merit to the idea that the web is meant to scroll (I know I was pretty harsh early on). The ways in which we interact with websites has changed drastically since the proliferation of touch screen devices. If I had to force a rule of thumb, I’d say reserve your single most important call to action to be above the fold on any given page, secondary objectives can be featured in less prime real-estate.