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What is CTA (Call-to-Action)?

A Call-to-Action (CTA) is any short phrase, button, or image that tells a website user what action to take and how to take it. 

An example of a standard CTA is ‘buy now’ or ‘click here.’ Many CTAs take the form of a call to action button. 

A CTA button should bring the user further through the website. CTAs are an essential part of website design and feature on the home page or landing page as a way to help make sure that users interact fully with a web page.

A CTA is a marketing term. It describes the process of encouraging users to progress to the next stage of the marketing funnel. 

For example, telling a user who is browsing a product to “add to bag” increases the user’s chances of making a purchase in the end.

Writing a strong call to action in marketing is very important in driving conversions. As a result, many marketing copywriters try to tailor their button copy and action words to match the action call to their client’s aspirations.

Recently, CTAs have become less direct and more creative or abstract as the hard-sell approach can be off-putting for a user. 

One example of this would be an online community featuring the lead generation CTA “Join Us” instead of “Register.”

That answers the question of what is a call to action, but you can find CTAs everywhere online. From blog posts to social media, CTA examples are everywhere. 

So what makes a call to action so important?

Why are CTAs important?

CTAs are essential because they are responsible for bringing a user through the buying process. It is the tool that directs a user from the landing page to the final conversion.

 A well crafted CTA should boost conversion rates significantly. Simply put, a great call to action is more than just a marketing term – it is just good business.

Strategic CTAs are win-win. On the one hand, the CTA continues to move the user from page to page and increase user engagement with your website. 

On the other, your CTA should seriously increase the chances of a user making a purchase and growing revenue.

The numbers are in on this one and hard to argue with.

A recent study by AdRoll showed that adding CTAs to something as simple as a Facebook page can improve click-through rates by up to 285%. 

In contrast, research from Ellie Mirman – former VP of Marketing at the software company Toast – showed exceptional results for email marketing campaigns. 

Email marketing campaigns with a singular concise call to action sent numbers through the roof. Clicks increased by 371% and Sales by 1617%.

Types and different ways to implement calls-to-action

Understanding the regular call to action definition is simple, but that doesn’t mean that there is just one way to do it. 

We have all arrived at a landing page and clicked the call to action button—still, there is an art to the implementation.

Here are some of the different ways that CTAs to implement in eCommerce:

Get people involved

Turning strangers into potential customers for your product is one the first step in the eCommerce journey, and as such, it is one of the most important things to manage effectively. 

Increasing the number of people in your community is imperative for increasing revenue. 

Streamline your process 

Access is everything. A convoluted shopping process makes for an angry shopper, and that is bad for business. 

A clear and obvious CTA is the most effective way to make sure of conversion without any hiccups. 

Underline the imperative 

A CTA is a great way to highlight your website’s most important information and convey that to your customer effectively. 

Direct communication is integral to a strong call to action – CTA can be the key to customer understanding and retention.

Proof is truth 

For customers, the difference between your business and your competitors often comes down to trust.

 Any copy that adds value to the company trust can become a perfect call to action, CTA such as links to positive reviews, can make or break the deal.

So, with these core call to action concepts in mind, it’s time to demonstrate some real-world examples.

Examples of calls to action

What is a CTA in marketing? Well, sticking to the previous section’s principles, here are some actual action CTA cases that you can use on your website.

Netflix – Get started

Sure, it is not the most imaginative example of a call to action in the world. Still, it comes first because bringing people into your online community by registering details is the first step to establishing a direct line of communication. 

Also, the phrase implies that the prospective customer will want to follow the process all the way through based on the results of the initial action.

Slack – Try for free 

Openness and transparency are vital when trying to generate a lead. As one of the world’s leading communication software companies, Slack already has a good reputation. 

Try for free is a great CTA because you know you will be able to jump in without taking out your credit card.

OKCupid – Join OKCupid

Okay, Cupid, we get it – in the times of Tinder, it looks like dating is a numbers game –  this CTA is all about the numbers. 

Yet, ‘join’ is so much more effective than ‘register’ (you can test that, and we will discuss that later) because it implies that your user is about to become part of a community. 

Online communities work because they try to reflect the emotional impact of real communities. If your product relies on an online community for commerce, it is always worth trying to express that community’s values in your CTAs. 

Youtube Music – Add to home screen

Remember, when all your favorite news websites suddenly put up a paywall? 

The ones that were successful in migrating customers from a “free” to a “premium” product were the ones that really offered something in exchange. 

Youtube Music is a great example. Calls to action like this demonstrate that signing up will allow you to experience Youtube in its most streamlined form as a fully-fledged desktop app.

Airbnb – Become a host

The Airbnb marketing funnel ends with two possible outcomes. A customer wants to become a host or wishes to take a vacation. 

Airbnb is an example of how a call to action can streamline your process. The button clearly communicates the end goal of a user in the first step. 

Interestingly, contrast this with the CTA for customers that want to take a vacation: ‘Explore nearby’ understands the adventure aspect of travelling.

Hello Fresh – View our plans

Here is an example of a CTA that both streamlines the eCommerce process and conveys essential information.

 Hello Fresh knows that prospective customers understand the core values of the company. As such, the most effective CTA goes direct to the heart of the product – meal planning.

Low Company (Bandcamp)  – Edition of 500, 15 remaining

This is a perfect example of a call to action that doesn’t have to be a button. 

This is imperative information that highlights the scarcity of the product. Understanding buyer mentality can tip the scales in your favor when it comes to turning an undecided customer into a conversion.

Emma – Read full article

Many companies often forget that a successful sign-up should be the second stage in the eCommerce journey. 

Potential customers are less likely to convert if you haven’t first put in the work to attract attention. Blog posts are a great way to contextualize your product and increase legitimacy.

Turbotax – 286,486 reviews

Nobody wants to do their tax return, but everybody has to. Here is a CTA which communicates trustworthiness and market ownership. 

When a product is as important as getting your taxes filed correctly, opinions matter. B

y placing customer success stories at the top of the landing page, Turbotax indicates an understanding that this is a delicate topic. And yes, you can click and read all 286,486 reviews.

At one point, each of these successful companies had to ask themselves what is a call to action, and what does it mean for our customers and us? 

Answering that question is not easy, but there are a few tricks for writing a great call to action – CTA research is something that a business absolutely must do.

How to create a powerful CTA that converts effectively

Creating a powerful call to action CTA is about understanding your product and your audience, and the best way to do that is to research both.

Optimizing your CTA copy for effective conversions is about more than simply playing with the layout or switching up the wordplay. 

The best eCommerce websites try to understand the psychology of their customers during the buying process.

Take a look at the CTA on the landing page of your website and consider these points:

  • How far along is the user in the conversion process?
  • Does the CTA align with the progress of the user?
  • Is the CTA inline with the image of the company?
  • Does the CTA clearly express the benefit of the product?

In the end, answering these questions is about achieving the correct mixture of timing, clarity, placement, and understanding. The optimization of that process is reliant on testing.

CTAs and A/B Testing

The chances are that by now, each of the CTAs listed above has changed. That is because successful companies are continually employing a process called A/B testing.

A/B testing (sometimes called split testing) is a method for directly comparing two different versions of a web page to determine which performs more effectively.

Testing works by randomly assigning visitors to the website to one of your website versions: version A or version B.

This process is especially important for eCommerce websites because conversion rates (sales vs. visitors) are not incredibly high. 

Recent research by Episerver for the first quarter of 2020 assessed over 1.3 billion shopping sessions from 159 brands and was only able to show an average conversion rate of between 2% and 3%.

When margins are already so small, the ability to find an edge is everything, and that is where A/B testing shows its worth.

On an eCommerce website, it is important to utilize A/B testing consistently. There is no limit to how far you can optimize your website, and testing is vital to achieving that potential.

CTAs and eCommerce

For eCommerce, A/B testing should focus on buttons. The first things to test are simple, and placement testing is critical. 

Users often only skim a website for data, and if a user can’t find your CTA, then it doesn’t matter how well written your calls to action are.

In terms of style, there are almost always more things to test: button color, shape, font, pop-up, banner. It is all worth trying.

Another thing that eCommerce websites should focus on is the buy / add to cart buttons. An eCommerce website should extensively test this button as it can have dramatic effects on the conversion rate.

Optimizing an add to cart CTA is about more than just the copy. Flexibility in payment is critical, especially if your customer base is international. 

Add buttons for PayPal, Visa, Klarna, and others to increase your chances of a successful conversion.

Finally, when A/B testing, it is important to stick to two versions when testing as it is harder to judge the effectiveness of an A/B/C test than run multiple A/B tests.

By following all these steps, your eCommerce website should be well on the way to becoming a smoothly operating machine with improved conversion rates.

Written by

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Damien is a self-professed, semi-obsessed word-freak that wants nothing more than to tell small-business stories in a big way. Always scouring the market to find the right tools for the job, he is focused on finding creative ways to bring them to the people. When not writing, Damien is known to be a massive music bore, amateur radio enthusiast, and woodland wanderer.

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