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Ecommerce | Creative

Eight Easy Tweaks to Your Call-to-Action Buttons That Can Boost Response

image: Your Commerce
You’ll gain new respect for the power of the easy-to-overlook CTA button

You probably haven't given much thought to the call-to-action (CTA) buttons on your website or in your emails. But you should. Something as elemental—and easy—as changing the color of the button background or the wording of the message can increase response to a significant degree.


For instance, by changing the phrase in a button from "Create My Account" to "Create Account & Get Started," Michael Aagaard of consultancy boosted conversion for an education website by 31%.


So what sort of changes should you consider testing?




In the early days of ecommerce, red and orange were favored for button background colors in North America and much of Western Europe because those hues were traditionally associated with a sense of urgency, and they stood out against the standard white backgrounds. Now you're likely to see a rainbow of button colors, because no one hue automatically leads to increased clicks. While blue is often associated with a sense of security and green with serenity, that doesn't mean they'll make consumers feel more comfortable about clicking. What's most important is that the button stands out on the email or the web page.


Do keep in mind the different cultural interpretations of colors. For instance, in China, the color of death and mourning isn't black but white. And according to consultancy ConversionXL, people from northern countries respond better to cool colors, while those living closer to the equator are more responsive to warm colors. So what works well for one market sector and geographic region may not work well for another.




As with color, there's no one shape that's guaranteed to boost (or depress) response. Rectangles are the most common, probably because they accommodate text more easily than circles or squares. But email marketing services provider Emma contends that rounding the corners of a rectangle can make the button more accessible, as "our brains seek to avoid pointy corners."



Graphic elements

Should you include an icon or another small graphic within or alongside your button? It's certainly worth testing. Litmus Software cites an example of a jeweler that increased response simply by adding an arrow inside its button. A graphic can quickly command attention in a way that words can't. Just be sure that the imagery does not overwhelm the button's messaging.




Bigger is better—except when it's not. Obviously you want the button to be noticeable, and it also needs to be easily tappable for mobile (Apple recommends that CTA buttons be at least 44 pixels wide and high). But if viewers perceive the button as disproportionately large to the product copy and images, the page or email can appear almost spammy.



Negative space

Also known as white space or blank space, this is important to help the button stand out from the rest of the page or email. For mobile users, it's also key to making a CTA easy to tap.




You want to create a sense of urgency, impel action, and specify the offer—all with just a few words. Hence good ol' "Shop Now": It's active rather than passive, it's immediate, and it's short. But would "Buy Now" be better? Or "Add to Cart"? Tough to say without testing.


And when you go beyond driving a purchase—when you want the reader to download a white paper, subscribe to an enewsletter, or request additional information—limiting the copy to several words is even more of a challenge. When crafting button copy, keep the following in mind:


—Go for action verbs, especially at the beginning of the phrase. "Download your free report" is better than "For your free report, click here." For one thing, "download" is much stronger than "click." For another, the action is the very first word of the message. (It's called a "call to action" for a reason, you know.)


—Add "now." "Sign up" versus "Sign up now": Which is more compelling?


—Try first person rather than second person. In another test from Michael Aagaard, "Create My Account" was nearly 25% more effective than "Create Your Account."



Text appearance

Just as tone of voice can radically change the meaning of a sentence, the typeface, the font and size, the color, and even the case (all uppercase versus title case versus sentence case) of the button copy can influence effectiveness. While there are no hard-and-fast rules regarding which works best (that seems to be a theme here, no?), you do want to ensure that the type is legible and stands out from the background.




Common sense dictates that the button appear above the fold, or on the initial screen view of a page or an email. If you have buttons for several calls to action, however, you might not want to cram them all up top. Test varying hierarchies and placements—even something like moving the button from the right to the left can move the needle. You could also try repeating the button, having it appear on both the top and the bottom of a page: Someone who ignores the button upon arriving at the page in favor of reading about the offer might not recall that a CTA button was up there at the top.



If you've read this far, you've probably noticed that there were no absolute rights or wrongs, no true best practices for CTA button design, other than to make it noticeable, legible, and tappable.


That's because what one audience considers easy to find, another may consider tacky and off-putting. And even if there were one magic phrase or color that outperformed all the others, its sheer ubiquity would sooner or later erode its effectiveness, as the novelty of a different phrase or color led to a lift in response.


That's why it's critical to conduct A/B tests before implementing any changes. Fortunately testing several button shapes or sizes, for instance, is relatively easy. When it comes to conversion optimisation, fruit doesn't hang much lower than this.

author: Sherry Chiger

Sherry Chiger

The editorial director of Your Commerce, Sherry Chiger is an award-winning writer and editor. She was formerly editorial director of Multichannel Merchant and Catalogue e-business magazines.


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