If you use a web-based, third party service for your career center, ticket registration or maybe webinar registrations, you are probably feeling some conversion pain. Even though these systems provide a (usually) less expensive option than building it yourself, they are usually quite ugly and have a subpar user experience.
We’ve become accustomed to third party services being this way because everybody has to use them, but there are options that might be worth looking into that could give you a little bit more control over those ugly systems.
Their poor user experience may stem from the fact that many third party services were developed early in the last decade and they are now hampered by legacy code that lots of companies use, that generates a lot of revenue for them. Therefore, a lot don’t feel huge pressure to change much. But you need better conversions, so what can you do?
Putting Lipstick On The Third Party
Many of the third-party services have tier based pricing. Their out-of-the-box product, which often seems barely supported, is what you get. There is no changing it. They may let you put your logo on it, but that is about it.
For a greater fee, there is more you can do. If you can afford to do it, here are the typical options third-party vendors should (hopefully) have for customer-facing web applications.
1. Subdomains. When possible, try to use a subdomain of your own site. This way it won’t appear that visitors have left your site but are still with you even though the experience might have changed some.
2. Add your logo and text. The most common option with third-party services. If they don’t have at least this, find another service.
3. Add your own styles. This next level should allow you to style colors and fonts to be more like your site. Again, this shouldn’t be a hard thing for them to do, but the closer you can get to your main website’s experience, the better your conversion rates will be.
4. Custom Look and Feel. You often have to pay a premium for this one, but it’s one of your best options short of integration through an API. You’ll probably have to provide either Photoshop PSD files or the HTML, CSS and graphics to the vendor, which they will integrate and build into the service. Being able to combine this and a subdomain for the service gets you almost as close as you can get without building it yourself.
5. Application Programming Interface (API). This may not be the most expensive option from the vendor, but it’s probably the most expensive option to you because it will require you to do some programming on your end. An API basically gives you the ability to send information from your website to their system.
If they have a good API and you have a good developer, this will usually be the best option for conversions since you will be in control of the user experience. The downside to this is that these vendors are notorious about changing their API, causing you to regularly change your integration code. This will probably only work if it’s a simple system. If it is really complex, like HR apps can be, you may not want to choose this route.
A Sneaky Solution With Google Tag Manager
There is another way you may be able to gain more control over your third-party vendors and improve conversion rates at the same time. As you may know, you can use Google Analytics to track cross-domain performance. With that, you can track someone entering your website through an SEM campaign all the way through to a purchase at your third-party vendor website. (This assumes they will let you add your GA code on their site — fortunately, this is becoming more common these days as customers are demanding it.)
Well, rather than installing your GA script on their site, take the option of installing Google Tag Manager instead. This will open up a wide array of possibilities for you. All of a sudden, you can now install other scripts like Clicktale, Crazyegg, Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer, among many others. This will give you amazing insight into what is actually going on.
Beyond the insights, you also have virtual control over their interface, as well. For instance, let’s assume you have Tag Manager installed and within it you also have Visual Website Optimizer. Well, now you can modify their interface and run all the tests you want.
For inflexible or slow vendors that charge for every little change, this could be a huge cost and conversion benefit for you. No longer do you have to wait for them to make a change, but you can make visual changes and run them as tests to see if it actually improves performance before requesting the change.
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