What draws you inside a store when you're just window-shopping? And if you're already inside, what makes you want to shell out your hard-earned cash to buy something?
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Store owners would love to know the answers to those questions, and that same goes for online store owners. How can they attract surfers to their website and persuade them buy a product or engage in some other activity that the site offers?
Often something as small as a change in font size, the location of an image or background color for the landing page can influence users' behavior. But there's no formula for predicting the degree of influence such changes can have. The startup Pluralis uses the wisdom of crowdsourcing to help website owners find out which changes to their website yield better results.
“The strongest motivation of online businesses is a better conversion rate – or the number of visitors that go to a site and actually buy something or take action beyond just visiting,” says Hagi Erez, Pluralis’s founder and CEO. "Let's say a thousand people visit and a hundred of them buy, but after a change in the store’s structure or display a thousand people go in and two hundred buy, then you’ve doubled your business. So the most important factor for an online business is a better conversion rate."
At the same time, though, website owners are often in no hurry to change or adapt their websites. “There’s an amazing statistic,” Erez says. “For every hundred dollars invested in bringing traffic to a website, less than a dollar is invested in improving the conversion rate.” The reason for this situation, he says, is that improving a website requires a long process of trial and error that is costly. “They have to create several landing pages with various messages, fonts and colors and check them against one another under the traffic of a real campaign,” Erez says.
“For that they need a designer, copywriter, IT manager and website developer, and after that they have to do testing. In most instances, they conclude that the original page converts better than all the new pages that took so much work to create, and then they have to redo everything again.” The cost for such a process starts at $10,000, and isn’t really affordable for small businesses.
So what does Pluralis offer? The company developed a platform whose purpose is to improve the conversion rate of landing pages – those pages where users perform an activity such as shopping, giving contact information or registering for a newsletter. Business owners looking to boost their conversion rate launch a contest offering monetary compensation that depends on how much the rates improve.
For example, a website owner can determine that an improvement of 15 to 20 percent will bring $1,000 to the person who suggested it. Using simple tools, Web surfers can take part in the competition and make changes on the site’s display within minutes. After the site owner chooses several pages, surfers test them in real time. If, at the end of the process, there’s a winning design that gives the owner the conversion rate he or she wants, its designer wins the prize. Pluralis takes a 30 percent cut and the developer takes the rest.
The competitions are open to anyone who wants to try his or her luck, but the opportunity is most suitable for website designers and copywriters. There is currently a community of 1,000 optimizers who participate in the competitions at Pluralis – a community that Erez says is growing. His vision is to make Pluralis an online home for optimizers, just as 99Designs is a center for logo designers. At any given moment, five to ten open competitions take place on Pluralis, and Erez forecasts that the number will grow to 100 in another year.
Erez says that in one competition that took place recently on Pluralis, a change in a landing page headline raised the conversion rate by 22 percent. “For a business, this is of critical importance,” he said. “We deal with the bottom line, which is the most important thing for a business.”
Established in June 2011, Pluralis has eight employees. Erez, the founder, was the VP of product management at MediaMind, one of the largest digital advertising companies ever to come out of Israel. So far, Cyhawk Ventures and the incubator TheTime have invested more than $1 million in Pluralis. Another round of fundraising is underway, to be completed in the first half of 2013, that aims to gain another $5 to $10 million.