The high cost of conversion-before-education thinking

6 min. read | Last updated: December 7th, 2017

Are you pushing your visitors toward an action before they’re ready?

WF education illustration
Do your visitors have all the information necessary to buy with confidence?

Or, are you setting them up to become satisfied customers?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post called The problem with your high conversion rate. In it, I focused on the dangers of optimizing for the click rather than for your customer, and the internal steps you can take to avoid doing just that.

But there’s another side to ensuring that your optimization efforts are capturing and retaining the right visitors. And it’s all about education.

In this post, I’ll talk about the cost of converting an uneducated visitor and how you can find the balance between education and conversion.

Imagine this scenario…

Joe is a Marketing Manager. He keeps hearing about conversion rate optimization (CRO) – it’s the hottest buzzword in digital marketing since SEO. He’s heard rumblings in his industry and he suspects that his competitors are already optimizing their sites, whatever that means.

He’s thinking to himself, “I need to get on this train.” He starts googling “conversion rate optimization” and he stumbles on an ad for a conversion optimization agency. He clicks on a link and, all of a sudden, he’s dropped onto a landing page promising ambiguous “lift” for his business and demanding that he “Contact us.”

He’s foggy on the details, but he’s looking for information so he clicks. Next thing Joe knows, he’s being pitched hard on CRO services, but he’s still not even sure what conversion rate optimization is.

He’s quickly overwhelmed and frustrated, so he tables the whole project. Gah!

Nobody wants to have this experience: it’s a lose-lose. Joe misses out on retaining a service that could have had real positive impact on his business and the agency misses out on a new client.

So, what went wrong?

Namely, the agency was rushing to convert Joe, making no effort to educate him before asking him to take an action.

The blind purchase vs. the educated decision

Optimizers often want to make it as easy as possible for visitors to convert. But, a change that increases your conversion rate while sacrificing an informed customer might be bad news for your business.

The general rule: by the time your visitor arrives at ‘Purchase’ or ‘Contact Us’, they should already know what they’re getting themselves into.

For B2B businesses especially, education is vital. If you’re selling complex software or an automation tool or a testing tool or an in-depth service, chances are your visitors require a certain amount of education before they can use whatever you’re selling properly.

Warning: If you push a prospect to convert too early on, you could cost yourself a long-term customer.

Let’s think about this in real terms. Take a look at Mobify’s homepage, it’s a mobile customer engagement platform. You’ll notice right away that, of the 4 main calls-to-action on this page, 3 of them read “Learn More”.

Education on Mobify's HP
Mobify pushes visitors to “Learn More”.

That first “Learn More” leads to an entire web of educational content pages; these pages encourage the visitor to explore Mobify’s offerings in incredible depth. Clearly, the goal is to educate visitors as much as possible. The “Contact Us” call-to-action in the upper right hand corner lingers on each page, allowing the visitor to reach out when they’re confident that, yes, Mobify is the solution for them.

Now, I’m not saying that your site should emphasize education in this way. For Mobify, the informational portion of the funnel is key, so they spend a lot of time informing (more on stages of the funnel in a minute).

What I am saying is that educational ‘barriers’ to conversion (like page after page of educational content) can actually bolster lead quality and customer retention. How much you educate depends on your unique funnel.

How to present the right information at the right time

Conversion Funnel
Be aware of each stage of the funnel.

“My unique funnel doesn’t require that much education,” you might be thinking.

Fair enough, but your visitors need some information before they can make an informed purchase. The question is: what information do you highlight and where?

When you broaden your gaze and look past the conversion itself, you can start to ask yourself the questions that will help you hit that sweet spot of Relevance and Clarity for your visitors, enabling you to present the right information to them at the right time.

What does your ideal customer need to know? Do they know it? Why do your customers cancel? What are their misconceptions? What are the questions your new customers have?

Once you’ve identified what your visitors need to know in order to become happy, satisfied customers, make that information available. Strategically, of course.

Aswin Kumar

It’s a balancing act. The customer needs to know a certain amount of information before they buy, but you need to be strategic about when and how you present that information.

Aswin Kumar, Optimization Coordinator, WiderFunnel

One of the challenges of educating before converting is timing. Understand the stages within the funnel and present information accordingly:

  1. Persuasional (the top of the funnel): Your prospects need to know that they are on the right website, that you have the products or services they’re looking for and that they should spend time exploring to find out more
  2. Informational (the middle of the funnel): Answer your prospects’ questions, soothe their objections and move them to take action
  3. Transactional (the bottom of the funnel): Where conversions happen – the shopping cart, lead gen forms, whitepaper download forms, webinar signup forms, payment processors, etc.

We recently ran a test for a WiderFunnel client that has a four-page funnel – this client provides an online consumer information service. Visitors enter on a landing page featuring an urgent value proposition and a compelling call-to-action meant to pull them into the funnel.

Our strategists did extensive user research during the Explore phase for this client and found that certain elements of the value proposition were being under-utilized. They also found that the call-to-action, while compelling, was setting incorrect user expectations and causing friction further down the funnel.

We created several variations to test against the original landing page. In Variation A, we replaced the original value proposition with new copy that was more relevant to what the user was searching for. This value proposition was less urgent than the original, but more accurate.

With this variation, we saw a decrease in the number of visitors that actually entered the funnel. But! We saw an incredible uptick in conversions (13%) at the end of the funnel. In setting user expectations from the outset, we were able to weed out visitors who were never going to become customers. We also saw an 11% decrease in refunds and chargebacks!

The results confirmed that presenting the right information at the right time can both filter out unqualified visitors and increase final conversions, while simultaneously leading to happier, more satisfied customers.

As you continue to optimize your site and get to know what your visitors are more sensitive to and how they behave at each stage in their journey, it will become easier to present the right information at the right time.

In the end, an ill-educated, misguided or unqualified prospect is a waste of your time, regardless of positive conversion rate percentages. Don’t simply guess at what information to present to your users and when – test it, instead.

How does education fit into your optimization strategy? Have you tested providing your visitors with more or less information? What was the outcome? Let us know in the comments!


Natasha Wahid

Marketing Manager


Aswin Kumar

Optimization Coordinator

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