Most websites are leaking money

Most of the websites I visit are leaking money and yours might be one of them. Out of every 100 people who visit an average website, only five are becoming customers*. Worse still, three out of every 10 online shopping carts are being abandoned*. Something is broken, and it’s up to marketers to fix it.

The fundamentals have been screwed up

The task of your website is to get someone to do something. Ultimately it’s about that visitor buying something which means your task as a marketer is to create a process of behavioural change. ‘Process’ is important here because the secret lies in small, behavioural steps rather than expecting your visitor to take giant leaps.

I’ve boiled the secrets of increasing your website sales and sign-ups down to five essentials. Here are the first two. (I’ll cover the rest next time.)

Establishing confidence

When someone lands on your website you have to establish two types of confidence in order for them to proceed: confidence in them that they’ve landed where they intended, and confidence in you that you’re a site that can be trusted.

And the scary news is that you have around seven seconds to do this.

There are three principles of behavioural economics you can leverage here.

  • Social proof: gaining confidence from the fact that others have done business with you,
  • loss aversion: overcoming any anxiety through guarantees and credentials, and
  • fast thinking: designing content that can be processed easily rather than copy-heavy text and confusing images.

To establish the visitor’s self-confidence look at clearly naming your business in the header and matching the language on the site with search terms that they may have used.

To establish confidence in you consider how you display your credentials (years established, industry accreditations) and proof points (guarantees of service and testimonials).

Who’s doing it well? Check out, The Book Depository, and to see how they establish confidence.

Communicating value

“Can you solve my problem?”  

The question that your visitor has in their mind is pretty obvious, isn’t it? And yet most websites fail to articulate the problem they solve and the value they offer.  Instead they bang on about their history and bombard the visitor with product ranges and special offers. It’s simple too much, too soon.

Remember that your website should be like a date not a lecture.

We’ve all had bad dates where the person talked about themselves at length without pausing for breath. What happened? You got bored and left as quickly as possible.

That’s what a lot of websites do – “At XYZ company we…”, “I’m passionate about…”, “Our business prides itself on…” – Who cares! At this point your visitor simply wants to know ‘Can you solve my problem?’

As marketing professionals value propositions are our bread and butter. Look at your website now and check whether your value proposition does the following:

  1. Articulates the problem your visitor has,
  2. explains how you solve this problem,
  3. describes the payoff, and
  4. explains why only you can do this.

If it doesn’t, then you are missing one of the most essential elements of getting your visitors to buy from you.

In addition to answering the four points above, to communicate value there are three principles of behavioural economics you should aim to use in your value proposition:

  • Loss aversion: We hate to lose more than we love to gain so communicate what the visitor has to lose if they don’t address the problem,
  • Scarcity: When it’s rare it’s valuable. When Facebook and Pinterest started they used exclusivity to build desire, so what is rare about your solution? What is your key differentiator? and
  • Social proof: We follow what others have done so use statistics on your customer base and/or testimonials to showcase your value.


Who’s doing it well? It’s tough to find great examples of value propositions – it’s like the forgotten magical ingredient for effective websites. is one of my favourites and you can check out my website to see how I’ve approached it.

The first two essentials for effective websites, establishing confidence and communicating value are make or break. If you have as little as seven seconds to get your visitor to engage, the heavy lifting has to be done above the fold.

In my next post we’ll cover three more essentials: creating a pathway, asking for action and the effort-reward equation, which together will mean your website stops leaking money and you will see your conversions skyrocket. In the meantime I’d love hear your thoughts on who you think is doing it best.


* ‘Online Retailing Australia 2011’ by Forrester Research


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Bri Williams
BY Bri Williams ON 1 March 2013
Bri Williams, a specialist in buying behaviour, helps businesses increase sales and marketing conversion through behavioural science. Follow Bri @peoplepatterns or visit