21 User Activation Hacks You Need To Know

User activation

Some people think that acquisition is the most important part of the funnel, but the truth is that getting visitors on your website is just the first step – you need to focus on later stages of the funnel just as much as the first one.

Activation is the process of turning your visitors into users that stay on your website and perform an action – not just any action, but precisely the action you want: leaving their email address, buying or simply clicking a button.

Just like every other stage of the funnel, this should be measured at every stage and in every way you can think of. Why? Because the more you measure, the better you will understand your users – why they leave and why they stay – and this is the information you need in order to increase the number who stay.

Below are 21 user activation hacks that will help you understand your visitors and slash that annoying bounce rate.

1. A/B testing

This is probably a term that you’ve heard a million times when you heard of growth hacking. It makes sense, because it is a fantastic concept. At first, it seems easy – you create two variants of your website or application and measure which one works better. However before you start doing it, it’s worth giving it a deeper thought. Be aware that without a strong hypothesis and plan, you won’t get far with AB tests. Instead of guessing what to test, use visitor feedback obtained via survey forms, live chats, emails etc. to find out what needs to be fixed. Once you have these insights, you can plan your test. Then, use tools like Optimizely or Google Experiments to make visible changes and monitor the results. Headlines are one of the easiest things to AB test, you can show your users various benefits and see what produces the most conversions. Once you have identified the best message, try exaggerating it to see what happens. It works the same way with pictures, videos and e-mails.

AB testingwww.basecamp.com

2. A Clear Landing Page

To increase conversions on your landing page, make sure not to give visitors too much choice. Even before you start designing your landing page, you should ask yourself: what is the goal? What do you want your visitors to do on the landing page? When you have the answer to that question, you can start the design process by establishing the essential landing page blocks, each one focused on a clear goal – signing up, downloading something or any other action. This doesn’t mean that your landing page shouldn’t be unique. Keep an open mind and play with each element, but make sure to include all of these:

  • Your Unique Selling Proposition (headlines/statements)
  • The hero shot (hi-res images showing context of use)
  • List of benefits (bullet points describing what your users will get by using your product)
  • Social proof (what other users have to say about the benefits of using your products)
  • Call To Action (a single conversion goal)

Landing page

Credits: Gavin Llewellyn

3. Proper CTA Button

You already know that a Call to Action button is crucial to your business. Your landing page should have one goal represented by CTA button, and it should be visible, appealing and be accompanied by good copy. What does this mean? There are three rules to remember when designing a Call To Action button:

  • Say exactly what the button does – When calling the user to action, avoid vague terms (like “Submit”/”Next”/”Continue”) and use brief but meaningful link text that explains what the link or button does.
  • Add benefits – You should have good copy before the CTA, but since people usually don’t read everything on a website, you should communicate some value next to the button itself.
  • Assure potential clients that you won’t abuse their email addresses (by spamming etc). An additional sentence about it won’t hurt, unless you do actually want to spam them of course.

cta

www.unbounce.com

4. Right Testimonials

Potential customers arrive on your website and see headlines and copy praising your product, lists of benefits and fervent assurances that they can’t live without it – but they know this is all coming from you, the person most interested in selling it. Why should they believe you? This is why testimonials from existing customers are so helpful. A good way to gain trust is to ask influencers in your field to try your product and write a short, but as precise as possible, review. Improvements shown in numbers, percentages and time are what your visitors are looking for and go a long way to persuading people that the testimonials are honest. Don’t forget to add a picture of the person offering the testimonial – it makes it feel more real and also draws visual attention.

testimonials

www.picbackman.com

5. Counter

Client logos and testimonials can work miracles as ‘social proof.’ However, there is another landing page element you can put to work for you in this arena. Let your visitors know how popular your product is. The crowd instinct helps convince people to sign up for something that lots of other people have already signed up for. There are various ways to achieve this. The most popular are social media sharing counters that do it automatically. The problem with these is that there are good for blog posts, but not for landing pages. What you can do instead is include a custom counter that shows whatever numbers you want (e.g. by capturing them from your web app). It could be total sales numbers, client numbers, product uses – you name it.

counter

www.evolero.com

6. Explainer Video

If it takes more than three lines of text to explain your product, consider making a video to embed on your landing page instead. Providing an explanatory video will help visitors understand your product with the minimum effort – and it can significantly increase conversions.

Your video can be an animation, live action or just a screencast. There are various types to choose from. If you don’t have the budget for professional services, make your own screencast – there are many free tools that make it easy.

explainer video

www.udemy.com

7. Live chat

Actually talking to your customers is the oldest known strategy for letting them get to know you, trust you and eventually convert. You can use the same technique online by installing a live chat widget that appears after some time (like SnapEngage or Olark). It allows you to talk to your customers in real time and help them make decisions. Adding your own picture (forget about stock photos!) and setting the chat widget to appear after a set time spent on the website will give your visitors a sense of talking to a real person, which is far more engaging than talking to a bot. If you want to go international, it’s a good idea to create landing pages in different languages with live chats redirected to 24/7 call centres operating in those languages.

live chat

www.snapengage.com

8. Local touch

One of the core principles of sales psychology is that we buy from people most similar to us. Showing visitors you are like them leads to better communication. If you provide customer support on the phone, it’s a good idea to have your phone number change to match that of the visitor’s physical location so they can see their national, or even local, dialling code. This lowers perceived barriers for those who want to reach you. It doesn’t have to be just that – if you’re running an e-commerce site, you could mention shipping to a potential customer’s specific location, like Society6 does here:

local touch

www.society6.com

9. Hello Bar

Try using Hello Bar to reinforce the message of your landing page. It adds a little bar at the top of you page with a single CTA. It’s discreet and neat and won’t clash with the overall design of your page, in most cases. It grabs visitors’ attention, which you can leverage into a specific action, such as growing your email subscriber base.

hello bar

www.quicksprout.com

10. Good copywriting

The right copy works miracles. It allows visitors to grasp what they will gain – a crucial part of the decision-making process. First, you need to know your visitors and figure out what they’re looking for, what needs your products meets and what they’re interested in. What do they like? What language do they use? What do they have in common? Knowing this will make it easier for you to speak to them in a way they will understand and give them the answers to their questions. Forget about yourself and make your visitors feel that the copy is about them, relates to them and is specific about what you can give them. Not asking those questions (and screwing other points as well) will lead you to that:

good copywriting

www.wollop.co.uk

11. Above the fold

People don’t particularly like to scroll – that’s a fact. This is why every guide to creating landing pages will tell you to place everything important above the fold, especially the Call To Action button. This is certainly true, but the solution is NOT to simply move everything up. Before redesigning your website, consider the nature of your product. If it’s complicated, visitors will want to understand before clicking anything. What you should definitely put above the fold is an eye-catching headline and great copy that is clear, easy to read and, most importantly, explains what needs your product addresses. The CTA should be above the fold, sure, but if there’s a lot of explaining to do, make sure it’s also under the copy.

above the fold

www.ryanair.com

12. Short loading time

Your page speed is a major factor for search engine rankings and also for user experience. You’ve probably heard that every second counts, and it’s true. Studies show that just a one second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions, and that 40% of users abandon a website if it takes more than three seconds to load. There are many tips for making your site faster, but the basics are: using a caching method to speed up page display, avoiding nested tables and inline styles, and limiting the number of CSS and JavaScript files. Tools like Woorank or Pingdom will help you identify any problems and suggest how to fix them.

page speed

www.pingdom.com

13. Scarcity

Discount codes and special offers are a great way to persuade your visitors to take the desired action, but you can do better than that – generate actual need by making the signup/purchase option limited somehow. Many examples have demonstrated that even artificial scarcity increases the value of a product to users and peaks their desire. Even if it’s not something your users really need, just telling someone that an offer is going to expire can produce a desire to grab it before it’s too late.

scarcity

www.groupon.com

14. Gamification

Don’t you just love playing games, getting achievements and beating the leader tables? So do other people, and some of them are your customers. If you give them something to play with, they will most likely play with it. Make your UX fun and they will let you lead them through the whole process. The most popular examples of gamification are:

  • Awards – we all love being given something, even if it’s essentially a useless badge.
  • Progress bars – nobody likes unfinished businesses. Showing your users that they’re almost is a great way of making them want to go all the way.
  • Leader-boards – we like competitions and coming second triggers the rivalry gene that drives us to perform better than others.

gamification

www.linkedin.com

15. Mouse-leave pop-up

Some people visiting your landing page will leave without doing anything – they are the ones responsible for your bounce rate. The goal is to keep that number to a minimum. This hack can help – imagine that you have one last chance to convince these people, just before they close the window. You can offer something special, ask for an email or just beg for a click on your CTA – you decide. There is an easy way to capture the attention of visitors at that moment, by displaying a pop-up window. It’s like adding an extra page, targeted at those who didn’t find your landing interesting. BounceExchange offers this kind of product, or you can also email me and ask about a way cheaper option.

 mouse leave popup

www.evolero.com

16. Short and Easy Onboarding

You want your visitors to click that CTA and sign up for your product, but how complicated is the whole onboarding process? How many steps does a user need to go through before he finally gets what he wants? The onboarding process is one of the most crucial elements influencing conversions. It is extremely important to make it as easy as possible, so it should be the subject of constant experimentation and work. Obviously, as few steps as possible is best. If you absolutely must obtain a lot of data from each user, make the process gradual rather than overwhelming and all at once. By asking a user to take a small, positive step up front, you reinforce their commitment to the process. This is called a commitment checkbox.

onboarding

www.path.com

17. Non sign-up test

To lower barriers to entry even further, let people try your product without having to register. Let all your landing page visitors get a taste of your product and why they should use it. You can then ask them to sign up after they’ve played with it for a while and had a chance to experience its value. This works best when you allow them to create something, and then require them to sign up in order to save their work. It can work miracles, especially for SaaS products. A word of caution though – this can simply be annoying for some products.

non signup test

www.logotypemaker.com

18. Free money instead of a free trial

It’s super-obvious that you will have a hard time to convince first time visitors to buy from you straight away (at least in terms of SaaS). Almost all products have free trials – because it works. Actually, a free trial is considered standard these days –but what people react even better to, is free money. Instead of offering the first month for free, why not give away free credit for your products? In this case, your CTA would be “Do steps 1-2-3 and get … $ credit for free!” instead of “Sign up for a free trial.” Money speaks louder than almost any product. Check out that PressPad example:

presspad

www.presspadapp.com

19. Free live demo

When you are just starting out, you may have a small client base but plenty of your own time. This is good – offering your time can be just what you need. A free, live demo with someone from the team (or the CEO himself) is a great way to show how much you value your customers. They will definitely appreciate those few minutes you spend with them and will be more likely sign up in return. Your first paying customers are hugely important because they can become your first evangelists. It’s time well spent.

free live demo

www.hubspot.com

20. New user experience

To make the onboarding process easier, design an experience for new users (NUX). A smooth NUX will help make sure that users are fully activated and know how to use your product (affecting the retention rate too). To ensure you are offering a good NUX, consider creating a tour with popping clouds showing what to do and highlighting your killer features (why not use a mascot?). New users are the most critical users of all and you can quickly turn them into evangelists for your product. Below is an example of Twitter that brilliantly manages new signups and turns them into active users.

 new user experience twitter

www.twitter.com

21. Clickmap tools

Even if you design your website according to the best practices, it’s easy to overlook something your visitors are looking for. To tailor your landing pages to your users’ needs, you should track what they are clicking and what they’re trying to click. Event based analytics are not enough for this, since they can only track actions that have had an effect. You can implement clickmap and heatmap tools like Crazy Egg or Clicktale to see exactly how your users interact with your website and move essential elements to the spots that are most clicked.

clickmap

www.crazyegg.com

Check out previous article about 21 user acquisition hacks. Next post about retention hacks coming soon. Stay tuned!

Cover image credits

  • http://joshualong.co/ Joshua Long

    Definitely a solid list.
    #18 was particularly brilliant in my opinion, so thanks for including it!

    I think the three mechanisms http://padiact.com/ use on their homepage (as of August 2014) are really creative, too.

  • Es_tela

    Thanks for the article, lots of useful tips. Regarding number 18, in my experience it really depends on the product you are selling and the starting price. For example if you are selling a subscription product for 5.99 per month, you would rather offer a time-based trial than money.

  • http://www.pagewiz.com/ Iftekhar Inan

    Starting with the basic points, the list gradually mentions the more tricky ones! Fabulous list, useful for anyone building a landing page. I just want to add that use of visual cues (such as arrow sign beside the CTA) could be included.