Last year I went to Alton Towers. I’m not the world’s biggest rollercoaster fan, if I’m honest. And it was cold. But friends wanted to go, so I went along for the ride (pun intended).
As I was queuing, stamping my feet and clutching a £5 cup of coffee to keep warm, I realised I was enjoying myself despite the odds. And it struck me that online marketers could learn some important lessons from this state of affairs.
Hence this blog post. So here are 3 lessons theme parks can teach you about good ecommerce sites.
1. Make it easy to get around
Alton Towers has paper maps, a mobile app and signs everywhere. Even my friend with no sense of direction had no problem directing us.
Similarly, your site needs to provide an experience with user-friendly navigation and search facilities. How many clicks does it take people to get where they want to go and find what they’re looking for?
Test the various user journeys. Have clear buttons with next steps. Choose a shopping cart with seamless processes. 25% of shoppers have abandoned a cart because the checkout process was too long and/or complicated. Make it easy for people to buy from you, and they’ll feel happy as they blithely enter their payment details.
2. Manage expectations
The Rita ride goes from 0 to 100 kph in 2.5 seconds. You can end up queuing for an hour for the privilege of experiencing G force of 4.7. In an age where we demand instant gratification for so many things, it’s rare for people to wait for so long so happily.
And it’s because Alton Towers is completely transparent about queue times. You can go online or use their app to check waiting times. When you enter the ride, you see how long it’s projected to take. And you get updates as you wait.
How can you manage expectations on your site? Make sure you’re fulfilling the promises you make at each stage. In your checkout process, do you tell people how far along they are (using a status bar or step 1 to 3, for example)? Do you have page numbers at the bottom of your search results page? Do you tell people how many search results there are?
And think about how your online adverts link to your search results and product pages (read more on that here). If you’re paying for a Google listing for the keyword ‘women’s trousers’ and show a URL with www.mystore.co.uk/womenstrousers – does a page of women’s trousers appear when you click? Or are there men’s ones as well?
If you’re promoting a product through remarketing, do users go straight to the product page when they click on the picture?
People are happy to browse and complete forms (within reason), but the psychology behind it is such that they need to know what they’re getting into first.
3. Focus on the cross- and up-sell
Once you’ve paid £50 for your day pass and walked through gates, Alton Towers is continually trying you get you to buy more. Yes, you can bring a picnic. But you still have to walk by the myriad of refreshments and be enticed by the succulent smell of popcorn. There’s something that convinces you to pay over the odds for food and an all-you-can-drink plastic cup. And that’s before you consider the photos of you screaming on the rollercoaster and the signs urging you to upgrade to the Merlin Premium Annual Pass.
And the fact is – good for them! I’m at the destination and am a captive audience, and Alton Towers is leveraging that fact.
You should, too. Once you have people on your site, what else can you offer? If you tag and categorise your range (product information management systems make this easy), it’s simple to offer related products. Think Amazon and the ‘customers also bought’ section. Or clothing retailers who show you how to complete the look with shoes and accessories that match the shirt on screen.
Once you have visitors’ attention, make the most of it.