The AIDA sales process has been with us for more than 100 years. It’s a simple model for the 4 and sometimes 5 stages that occur in order to make a sale. Without a sales person to guide the process how can we design for AIDA on our websites?
The AIDA Sales Process
If the AIDA process is new to you, here’s a quick review.
- (A)ttention — Attract the attention of the customer
- (I)nterest — Create interest through a demonstration of benefits
- (D)esire — Convice customers that they want and desire your solution
- (A)ction — Lead customers toward taking action
A 5th step in the process is often added
- (S)atisfaction — Satisfy the customer after purchase to generate repeat business and loyalty
I’ve seen satisfaction referred to as (R)etention or (E)ngagement, which I think are better word choices when talking about websites and online businesses. Ultimately they’re all about continuing a relationship with the customer beyond the sale.
Designing the AIDA Sales Process
Not every page of your site is selling something of course. Think of a sale as any action you want someone to take. It could be clicking to another page, subscribing to your feed, or signing up for your newsletter.
With that in mind let’s look at the AIDA process as it applies to web design.
The page above for Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers grabs your attention with the product shot that dominates the page. Note how details like hand drawn lines and color swatches add to an aesthetic that matches well with who the sneakers appeal to.
You have a limited amount of time to capture someone’s attention. The first 5–15 seconds are said to be critical, though it’s likely even less time online.
Grabbing attention is the principle of dominance and focal points. Presumably someone landed on your page because they were looking for something. You want the most dominant element on your page to match what the visitor is looking for.
For an informational page that’s likely the headline. For a product page it could be a product image. In general we need to make something on the page pull the eye and ideally have it match what that person came to the page looking for.
Since we won’t know exactly why a visitor lands on a page all the time it makes sense to have several focal points, each aligning with a possible reason for visiting the page.
While less focused on a specific task your overall aesthetic can go a long way where attention is concerned. Most people make up their mind to stay on a page or leave in a few seconds and are even forming opinions of the page and site within milliseconds.
Much of this happens by taking in your overall aesthetic instantly. A professionally designed site has a greater chance of grabbing attention long enough to generate…
Above is a screenshot from Ann Taylor’s site. Showing the clothing worn by models creates additional interest over telling you about the clothing or presenting images of the clothing unworn.
Attention is fleeting. We need to keep the interest of the visitor and this is mainly done by answering the question what’s in it for me?
Benefits answer the question better than features. Showing works better than telling. Your visitor has a problem and is looking for a solution. If you can empathize with their problem and lead the visitor to think you have a solution they will be interested.
You can do this through a secondary level of information that includes pull quotes, subheads, and imagery. Anything a person can scan can help build interest and pull people deeper into the page.
Instead of telling people why they should be interested, show them. Use screenshots of your product and present videos to demonstrate it in use. Show images of your product in action.
Empathize with your visitor, demonstrate you have a solution, encourage activity and interaction. All can help generate interest leading to…
The main shop page on the Calloway Golf site has a link to this interactive application that helps you choose the right club. It asks questions like what’s your desired shot shape to get you to imagine yourself hitting the perfect shot.
To get people to desire something you need to appeal to their emotion. Craft a story with that emotional appeal. Show more videos demonstrations and point to other happy customers. Social proof and testimonials can help. So can limited time offers.
Get people to imagine themselves using your product. Perhaps a live demo or a free trial.
Here features might come into play. Once someone believes your solution will likely work an additional feature they want may create additional desire.
Appeal to all 5 senses in your copy. You’re trying to create an emotional response in your customer.
Graphically pay attention to the details. Show off your product in its best light. A screenshot is better than a sentence of description.
Choose a color scheme that sets the right mood. Show images of happy people. Anything you can do that conveys emotion will help stimulate desire.
Look to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to see where you can stimulate emotion and desire and then lead your customer to…
The call to action above uses a strong action word and a color that contrasts with most everything on the page.
Once you’ve created desire in your reader it’s time to get him or her to act. Make calls-to-action clear and obvious. They should be focal points. Summarize the problem and lead people to take your solution.
Leave nothing to chance. Use language that asks, or better, tells the visitor what to do next. Offer either/or choices instead of yes/no choices.
If you want someone to add a product to a shopping cart use a command. Have your button read “add to cart” instead of just saying “shopping cart”. Tell people to subscribe instead of only showing them an rss icon.
Also keep in mind the principle of choices. The fewer options you present to someone the more likely one of those options will be chosen. If you’re offering a service with multiple options keep those options minimal and emphasize one of them as the most desirable.
Taken to an extreme you see long form sales pages with no navigation leaving visitors with 2 options, to buy or leave.
After the sale make sure you plan for…
The screenshot above is from a page on the Converse site about Julius Irving. The content on the page is about Dr. J. and is something you might read regardless of whether or not you’re shopping for new sneakers. Below the video and article on the page is a specially made sneaker in honor of Dr. J.
Retention is about creating additional sales beyond the first. Your goal is to leave the customer happy and provide additional reasons to come back to your site.
Naturally to keep customers happy you need to deliver on the promise you’ve been making throughout. Your product or service needs to do deliver the benefits it claimed it would deliver. When problems do occur be quick to provide customer service and do what you have to to keep your customer happy.
Assuming your product or service delivers and your customer service satisfies, what else can you do to get people coming back?
Blogs, forums and, social communities are all ways to keep people coming back in between purchases. An email list is another way to keep in touch.
After purchase you can entice people to click further into the site showing related content or products. Giving away content and free trials also helps people stay connected beyond the initial action.
Don’t just let your customer leave. Thank them for their purchase, direct them to other things that may interest them, and find some way to stay in touch.
Additional Thoughts and Resources
A few things to keep in mind.
- A single design element can contribute to multiple parts of the sales process. An image could grab attention, create interest and desire, and serve as a call-to-action.
- Multiple elements might be needed to affect a single part of the process. A headline, with strong imagery nearby, and a good aesthetic might all be necessary to attract attention.
- A single page might not be enough to generate an action. It could take a dozen visits over time before someone is interested enough to subscribe to your blog
- An action that’s the end of one sales process can be the start of another. A subscription to your blog could be the start of a longer process that results in selling a service.
While there’s a linear progression to the overall process, there is still some room for flexibility within it and that it consistently feeds into itself. One sales process may actually consist of many smaller sales processes.
Below is a series of posts Tim Ash wrote for Search Engine Watch. It looks like there was supposed to be a Part 2 to the post on Action, but I couldn’t find it.
- The Decision-Making Funnel, Stage 1: Awareness
- The Decision-Making Funnel, Stage 2: Interest
- The Decision-Making Funnel, Stage 3: Desire, Part 1
- The Decision-Making Funnel, Stage 3: Desire, Part 2
- The Decision-Making Funnel, Stage 4: Action, Part 1
The AIDA sales process is a simple model and most will tell you there’s more to making a sale than this process. However most sales will go through something like AIDA, which is why we’re still talking about it 100+ years later.
Offline you have sales people guiding customers through the process. Online we generally don’t have that luxury. Think about the process and what each part of it is attempting to do and look for ways to build the process into your design.
Don’t forget that this linear and direct process can happen in an indirect and less linear fashion. Our pages should ideally be designed to connect with our audience regardless of which part of the sales process they’re in when they visit.
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