Landing pages are a highly-critical tool in the digital marketer’s arsenal. Trying to find a uniform email format or having enough detail in the body of an SMS is challenging. Landing pages are the most successful, yet most under-utilised and poorly-executed aspects of digital marketing.
Many brands simply use a QR code, SMS or email call to action to redirect the user to a website, which is so uninspiring and often not even device aware. A website, regardless of its ‘mobile-ready’ status or lack of, is not a landing page. Landing pages are campaign specific, exist for a moment in time and are intended to achieve the conversion, be it a registration of interest, entry to competition, request for sample goods, poll/survey or special offer to purchase.
Landing pages are extremely targeted to integrate within an entire campaign ‘look and feel’ and may or may not link to or leverage existing web assets. In the past I have argued that using email or SMS to ‘deep link’ into a mobilised site to show the specific item is a great strategy. Unfortunately, however, as is supported by the recent Strangeloop research, mobile websites (and websites in general) are becoming extremely slow, bloated with upwards of 100 connections for a single page and generally do not embrace the viewer in some brand experience.
So it’s back to basics for a reflective reset of the objectives of campaigns – they are to generate a reaction or action to ultimately buy products. Pushing someone to a website to drive up access stats and navigation logs doesn’t put cash in the register drawer. Every engagement should be a well-crafted and scripted journey of brand discovery and product acquisition.
When someone reacts to a promotional poster and sends an SMS, or receives a message with a link and clicks akin to email, then the next interaction is critical. The person has reacted and is asking to be sold. They are willing to experience the next step in the journey. Make sure you get it right with a highly effective landing page.
I wandered into my local supermarket recently and I must admit I was surprised as I searched for QR codes. Research from the US indicates that over 30% of grocery packaging now contains some sort of code to encourage scanning. I was very sceptical of that number, but during this scan-and-discover adventure I was pleased to see so many codes on packaging, from jams to cereals to imported oils and even eggs!
And here is the major letdown to finding all these codes. Major brands doing nothing more than linking to a nonmobilised website or linking to a video about the product. More than a couple of codes displayed a ‘404 Page Not Found’ error and some even took me to competition pages for a competition that had already ended. More than half the codes attempted to load pages too large and too slow and timed out – testing back at the desk showed that three of the sites were over one megabyte in size (mobilised) and another was nearly two megabytes. So, my eagerness to scan my favourite jam turned into frustration and annoyance, with the first attempt a timeout, then a second simply loading the main website, but at least it was deep linked to the specific jam.
How would I do this differently? In all cases, I would use purpose-built and targeted landing pages. Certainly, link to other materials in the footer, but don’t lose focus for the person interested in a very specific item or product – capitalise on it. For any of the grocery items, I’d be linking to an immediate ‘bulk order’ page. Find a way to get the product in the hands of people.
Partner with retailers to leverage the sale and delivery. Maybe a page to register for a free sample. You’ve then got an address for brochures, offers and targeted pamphlet drops.
The unreliability of email in being able to present a uniform interface is always a challenge. Remember, most personal emails are read on mobiles – make them readable and encourage a click-through to a landing page.
Why use landing pages? Apart from being far easier to control the interface and deliver a great experience, they also provide a wealth of more analytics. So ensure every click-through link passes ID data, so you can track and measure success by recipient. This also enables you to vary eDM based on user profiles and location or even their purchasing history.
The most important two aspects I believe are speed and commerce. If you’ve enticed a user to link to a page, you may as well offer a transaction of great value and incredible savings and transact on the spot.
Here are 10 tips for producing highly successful landing pages:
1. Remain objective focused
A landing page should have a single goal in mind – generate revenues by supporting the promotional piece that generated the interest from the user to click-through. Every brand likes to think that people want to know all about every product and its social consciousness, but the clickthrough was generated by some creative inspirational tag or advert, so leverage that and stay on topic.
Make sure that the next step is very clear. Don’t confuse or go in new directions with wordy pages and complex messages. And there lies an important and very often forgotten message: ‘what’s in it for me?’ If you’re asking them to complete a form or register, tell them why and what they get in return.
2. Simplify forms
Forms on mobile must be carefully considered. Depending on your analyst of choice, most believe that between three and four fields is the maximum you should be asking on mobile. Even if it’s to enter a competition, lengthy forms will see significant drop-offs.
Remember that you can always re-engage. Ask for a name. Ask for a mobile number and email and then the final item needs to be carefully considered. If it is for a competition or delivery of samples, then after the first form link to another asking for address details.
A golden rule: if you’re linking multiple pages of a form then you must indicate ‘progress’ by saying ‘page two of four’ or similar. Don’t leave the user wondering how much more to ‘just to enter this competition’.
Each engagement can extract just one more bit of data and, soon enough, the person has received three or four offers and coupons, but you have collected a wealth of behavioural data.
It may seem obvious, but localisation is key in many aspects of landing page success. Tell them how close their nearest outlet is or where they can view the products or services. Localisation is not only about what’s immediately around them, but also about the bigger world. Don’t deliver them an ad with vernacular that isn’t used in Australia. Don’t deliver AFL taglines to a Sydney NRL audience. Don’t talk sunscreen in winter to a Victorian!
You may think this to be marketing 101; however, I just received an SMS from a subscription I’ve been on for years and the landing page this particular message sent me to was for ‘swimming vests for protection from the harsh Perth sun’. It would not have taken much effort to have geo-searched and inserted at least my home town.
4. Longevity of codes
There is nothing more frustrating than scanning a code or seeing a promotion in an old magazine at the dentist and finding it links to dead or outdated content. Every interaction with a user must be a chance to engage and sell something.
Use code redirects or abstract URLs that you can keep updated. Try a simple message ‘promotion has ended, but we would like to offer you a special 10% off – just click here to register’. A QR code, SMS call to action or any other redirection to a landing page should have relevancy and longevity.
5. Finger friendly
With the proliferation of touchscreen phones, iPods and tablets, don’t get greedy with real estate on the screen and try to embed tiny links. The distraction and loss of focus is an issue for a start, but remember that not all of us have slender, well-manicured fingers that can accurately click the right link in around five pixels of tolerance. Use big buttons and obvious finger navigations.
6. Easily read
Here is where the wordsmith, the artist, the marketer and the technologist all clash. I have seen some of the busiest landing pages ever in recent times designed to try and thrust upon the reader about five different messages all at once. The font is so small and the layout so complicated that it’s confusing and most people won’t even continue.
Keep the message simple. Someone is on the landing page because a piece of creative enticed him or her to take the first step. Make the second step just as compelling, obvious and easy to read.
7. Because speed matters
At number seven, but I would regard it as the most important. So many mobilised sites are bloated with unnecessary ‘stuff’.
So many sites aren’t hosted in the right environment and of the 20 or so I’ve explored recently not a single site was properly compressed nor had the images device transcoded.
Performance is the most important thing. Surveys show that users will wait no more than four seconds for content from a click-through campaign. Some say seven seconds, but in my experience it’s far less. Users want instant satisfaction. Think very carefully about how you deploy landing pages. The creation and the set-up can be done in thousands of different ways with hundreds of vendors and with just as many product options. But the deployment is challenging. There are few vendors that pay attention to speed across the whole ecosystem and not just the content delivery networks (effectively just image caching across distributed servers).
8. Don’t distract
This is always the toughest one for creative people to understand.
Landing pages are often plastered with distractions that overall serve no purpose to the core objective. Avoid things like rotating banners and images that do little to support the message.
They distract the viewer who spends valuable seconds watching a rotating series of images instead of filling out a form or buying a product. You’ve already created the interest, so capitalise on it. There are high-resolution images of pretty girls smiling and maybe even images of the brand head office or a smiling face of the chairman. But these are all just distractions on a small screen where you have around four seconds to engage in the page. Eyes should go nowhere but to the key message or next action request.
9. Avoid social
You have someone interested in your offering and they’ve linked through to your next opportunity to engage. Why complicate with a ‘like’ button or a list of fans and followers? Why have tweets or other off-message objects on the page? Stick to the focus and make the engagement a structured journey through to the objectives of the campaign.
Give the user some instant gratification. In such a time-poor world, deliver some immediate benefit. It bewilders me why QR codes on product packaging are not used as immediate purchase opportunities or to deliver some offer for immediate success.
If I’m scanning the code on the back of a jam jar, then don’t tell me that I’ve just scanned strawberry jam and here are the contents. I can read the jar for that data. Give me some real gratification and link through to a landing page where I can immediately order a box of jams at a super price from my selected retailer. Let me immediately register for a test drive of the car I just saw in the advert and scanned or text in to find out more.
Make sure that the landing page delivers value. In line with all mobile campaigns, it’s a very personal oneon-one medium that lets you connect directly to the user or future buyer of your products – leverage the interest immediately and deliver a benefit. I got very annoyed when I sent an SMS from the packaging of my favourite ice-cream and all it gave me was a video of the TV advertisement. What a wasted connection and a waste of one megabyte of my data allowance.
A final message for landing page creation and implementation is to think about the ‘one, two and 10 principles. Create a consistent interface across all devices in the expanding web from those one foot away (mobile) to those two feet away (laptops, tablets and PCs) and finally 10 feet away (TVs). The best example of this is Apple with its icon style interface now implemented as a common interface across one, two and 10-feet-away devices – iPhone to Apple TV.