When the Apple Falls Too Far From the Tree – 10 Conversion Mistakes Being Made by the Tech Giant

Steve Jobs steered Apple to success with his obsession with perfection, such as limiting how many screws should be in a laptop and taking six months to finally sign off on the scrollbars for Mac OS X.

Yes, Apple certainly committed itself to create innovative products, but its website could use a little work. To attract an audience, a website needs more than just glossy photos and tech specs. Here are 10 noticeable conversion mistakes that are costing the tech giant customers and sales.

The Homepage Contains Only One Product

ipad splash page

On visiting Apple’s homepage, you’ll notice that a significant chunk of it (one full screen width) is devoted to showcasing a single product, such as the iMac or iPad.

This is interesting since most of Apple’s revenue comes from the iPhone, which isn’t presented anywhere on the homepage. That may be because a lot of their sales come from cell phone stores, but I bet there are a lot of online sales as well.

apple sales pie chart

Also profiled on the homepage is the iMac, which accounts for a very small portion of Apple’s overall sales. So, if most of its income is from the iPhone, and a significant chunk is from things like the MacBook Air, you’d think the company would want to show a more inclusive lineup of all of its products, rather than relegating them to the navigation bar above.

Small, Infrequent Call-To-Action Buttons

On the iPad mini homepage, there is a single call-to-action (which is nearly drowned out by the large hero shot of the product) – a link to “Watch the Video.” On the sub pages, such as for the MacBook Pro, they dive right into the specifications and small details that truly help set the products apart from the competition. But if you’ve read enough and you’re convinced you want to buy, you’ll have to scroll all the way up and find the tiny Buy Now button in the sub-navigation on the page. A better idea would be to strategically place Buy Now buttons after every piece of story description that Apple indulges in as you scroll.

Proprietary Media

As stated above, there is a single call-to-action on the homepage, which is a link to a video. Here, Apple stays true to its proprietary roots (which, consequently, locked it out of becoming a major computing player in the 90s), by forcing you to download QuickTime in order to view the video if you don’t have it installed already:

quicktime

While QuickTime is an Apple product and it’s understandable why they’d use it, this method shuts out anyone who doesn’t have the program. It forces them to abandon what they were looking for, download the software, install it, restart their browser, and then slog through the usual hassle of updates. Not the best first impression for someone considering switching from PC to Mac!

Too Many Tech Specs

Apple is big on dazzling customers with lots of specifications and large, picture-perfect images. And while these definitely are good to have on the site, they don’t translate into benefits for the end user. It has a 32 gigabyte hard drive? Great! How many movies will that hold?

On its product customization page for the iPad, Apple showcases the different options that customers can select, such as between 16 and 32 GB hard drives or between Wi-Fi alone and Wi-Fi plus various cellular providers.

ipad storage sizes

When customizing a product as detailed as an iPad, these are necessary steps. However, they don’t translate into something meaningful for the customer until you scroll down past the gushing descriptions of the Retina display, the warranty, and the huge library of apps. That’s when you’ll finally see a description of what the different storage sizes mean and what sort of connection you’ll get with Wi-Fi alone or Wi-Fi + Cellular.

Beyond this brief description, it would be a good idea to include various typical sizes of memory-intensive things like movies. Let customers know that by upgrading from the 32 GB to the 64 GB version, they could essentially store up to 30 more movies on their device.

How Do I Work This Thing?

Apple also could stand to improve things in the ease-of-use department, starting with the huge image on the front page. Not only does it not contain relevant ALT text, the gallery function doesn’t have any clear method of navigating from one photo to the next:

how do i work this thing

In navigating photo slideshows, users generally expect to see arrows (which you won’t see in this gallery unless you move your mouse to the very far side of your screen) or smaller thumbnails below the main image to demonstrate what’s next in the series. Apple’s website gives you glass dots instead.

Poor Social Media Presence

Finding Apple’s social media icons is a real challenge, considering that it keeps them well-hidden deep within the pages of its site. Apple itself has numerous branches of social media for its various products, such as @ibookstore, @itunestrailers, and @itunesmusic, but they’re all entirely self-promotional, with no responses to customer inquiries, complaints, or other problems.

This goes back to Apple’s strong need for control over every aspect of its online presence. If you have a problem with a product, you’ll need to pay for Apple Support to look into it. Possibly, that’s because if everyone had their issues resolved by Twitter or Facebook, there would be far fewer tech support calls and less cash coming in.

Or, perhaps Apple believes it doesn’t need much of a presence on social networks because it’s Apple, and its fans do the majority of promoting for it. But maybe Antennagate wouldn’t have generated such a firestorm of angry customers and lawsuits if Apple had been honest about the issue to begin with and simply communicated it clearly over social networks.

Lack of Reviews and Ratings

Beyond social media links, other things you won’t find on Apple’s website are reviews and ratings for Apple products. There certainly are ratings for accessories in the Apple store. But if you want to know what people really think about the iPad mini or the latest iPhone, you’re going to have to scour Amazon or another third-party site. For a company that prides itself on having a high level of customer satisfaction and a drive for ultimate perfection, what are they afraid of?

It could be that they don’t feel the need to include reviews or ratings because, as with social media, their customers take care of it for them. They camp out overnight by the Apple Store to be the first to blog about a new product, review it, and cover it in detail, in turn, generating buzz for their viewers and more sales for Apple.

Still, reviews and ratings do affect conversions. A study by Reevoo indicated that 61% of customers read reviews and ratings before making a purchase online. And sites that do include reviews enjoy an 18% uplift in sales, which ripples out to higher conversions, larger average orders, and higher visitor return rates. By neglecting to include them, Apple is distancing itself from generating more rapport with its customers and fans.

user ratings

Lack of Up-Sells with Social Proof

Apple includes up-sells on its site; however, it doesn’t include any compelling reason to buy the items.

apple ipad accessories

It would be much better to include reviews and ratings of these accessories and add social proof, such as 300 users added the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter to their order. When you see how many people purchased the product before checkout and what they thought of it, your inclination to purchase it goes up as well.

No Guarantees

While Apple has built quite a following in the last decade based on the reliability, performance, and design of its products, it might attract many more hesitant users into the fold if it tested some sort of guarantee as many other computer and device retailers do. Even something as simple as a 30-day money back guarantee could ease a lot of the uncertainty for first-time Apple purchasers.

Behind the mobile curve

Apple didn’t have a serious mobile presence until mid-2012, far behind the curve of its competition. Then, to its credit, it didn’t just acknowledge the growth phenomenon of smartphones, it sank its teeth deep into optimizing for mobile, giving it high scores in a recent customer satisfaction survey. Of course, it could leverage this technology even further with mobile updates on new releases or deals via text, QR codes, and other smartphone technologies that are growing in popularity.

Conclusion

It could be argued that Apple doesn’t need any of these conversion fixes simply because their brand does the selling and promoting for them. But Apple is no stranger to slip-ups. And a few problems, made worse by a lack of communication via social networks, could make a small problem mushroom into a serious PR catastrophe. With Apple raking in billions of dollars per year, adding these conversion-boosting suggestions could only increase its appeal to reluctant buyers and firmly cement it as the creative, supportive, forward-thinking brand that it is.

What would you add to help improve the Apple site? What are some things they could do differently that might earn your business?

About the Author: Neil Patel is the VP of Marketing of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

  1. Apple definitely makes themselves stand out. You would think they’d be a little more concerned with these exact points you’ve mentioned, but I think it also is what keeps them leaps and bounds ahead/away from their competitors.

    Their brand is incredibly powerful / recognizable so probably in itself a great conversion tactic.

  2. “It has a 32 gigabyte hard drive? Great! How many movies will that hold?”

    Something I have noticed about Apple. Making people ask (esp boomers and older, who probably don’t have a clue about gigabytes) isn’t smart. You should never, never, never make your prospects feel stupid.

  3. Sometimes, the true genius is knowing when to break the rules.

  4. I think you’re being a little too cute with some of your comments just to make a few general points.

    The homepage area is one that is highly arguable.. Anyone who watches the Apple site over time knows that the home page image or promotion changes regularly depending on which product has just been released and that they are currently promoting. Usually quarterly.

    In that way, all of their marketing has a consistent message and reinforces each other, and that’s got to be good for overall conversion – offline and online.

    In marketing and conversion terms it’s called making the product the hero and not letting anything else distract from it. This is a practice recommended by many CRO specialists, as well as sales and marketing experts.

    The iphone gets its turn on the home page when the iphone is released.

    Also, the home page image/promo alternates between several products each time you revisit it during a session, so again other products such as the iphone still get their turn on the home page. But the first image is still the current major promotion or product release.

    The call to action buttons is another debatable point. While your general point is valid, you have to know what the primary purpose of the page is. Is it to make a sale then and there, or is it to inform the wider audience of what the product is about?

    If that’s the case, then time on page, pages per visit become much more important metrics than how many people clicked on the Buy Button.

    The social proof and reviews argument you’ve already countered. Their fanatical customer base is all the proof they need.

    Also, they do provide a Guarantee/Warranty right under the Tech Specs section.

    As I said, many of the criticisms you level are highly debatable. Without knowing Apple’s objectives for the site, KPI’s and analytics it’s impossible to make a strong case against them.

    (Written from my PC and Windows OS)

  5. Small, Infrequent Call-To-Action Buttons:; not sure why it’s a priority that Apple has a ‘buy product’ (large) button on the iPad mini page when on every page has a button linking to the Apple Store.

    Proprietary Media: Apple controls the user experience, mostly by making sure their software/products work well —- by having users use Quick Time, this ties into their overall gestalt.

    How Do I Work This Thing?: Actually this one ties into Apple’s unified user experience; the dots are what you see on the iPad / iTunes / other products that show that there are other pages and you would swipe to get to them.

    Poor Social Media Presence: it may also be that Apple doesn’t want to look like a twit, offering tech support in less than 240 characters. Would Apple be better off if its fans “friended” the company on FaceBook?

    Lack of Reviews and Ratings: this might tie into Apple having mostly a single ‘family’ of product with strong ties —- would a review / rating really help me decide which iDevice: iPod/iPhone (Classic, Touch, iPhone) I should pick?

    Lack of Up-Sells with Social Proof: so I need to know that 50 others bought a specific accessory? Will that really tell me that a particular accessory is more than just a want?

    No Guarantees: Apple’s Return/Refund policy: “You have 14 calendar days to return an item from the date you received it. For an Apple iPhone, you have 30 calendar days. ”

    Is this really Keep It Simple Statistics/metrics or is it DIMWCIBGYEM? (Do It My Way ‘Cause I’m the Biggest Genius You’ll Ever Meet!)

  6. Neil,

    I dont think those opinions about your article make sense. I totally agree with you in many points.

    I think apple are becoming blind by the beauty of they brand and forget what really matter.

    I used to love the reviews from Itunes movies and that was making the difference. Now they leave the door opened to people search it elsewhere. Maybe in youtube. I think it’s not a god business for then

    I’m a Mac startup developer and love the brand but totally agree with you.

  7. Isn’t it Apple’s style to make customers work to be good enough to buy an Apple, and to make them feel stupid for feeling stupid? Everybody knows all the cool, smart people have Apple products so they’d better get shopping or be one of the stupid people. It’s brilliant, eleventy-dimension chess.

  8. 1. The 1 thing apple showcases on homepage is actually one of their most brilliant marketing strategies! Clarity is POWER and what is being showcased is their “baby”, their point of focus, for the moment.
    2. The “call to action” is also overvalued as a conversion tool. Apple mostly operates the “pull marketing” model. When a beautiful woman sits alone at the bar she doesn’t say “talk to me” but you talk to her :)
    3. Couldn’t agree with you more on Social Media but I guess this is due to the fact that one of the biggest companies in the world has to run a gazillion of specs, ROI mambo jambo etc.
    4. If apple did have lots of upsells it would negate the “pull marketing” philosophy (see 2)
    In one sentence, I believe apple’s success is 80% focused image communication 20% product.

  9. Enjoyed reading and picked up some stuff to add to our website.
    Thankyou!

  10. Ur publish definitely affected me to deal with such issues. It’s certainly help me a ton.

  11. Many of your points highlight the fact that Apple is a product company – not just a retailer, per se.

    Their site has to do double duty – both as an inspiration to people who want to fall in love with a product – and as a commercial enterprise looking to close a deal.

    They’re clearly more oriented to romancing the product versus being a merchant.

    If you look at sites from powerful product brands – try a brand like Chanel – and you’ll see much of the same. Product leaders aren’t likely to want (or need) consumer reviews getting in the way of their message.

    Some great little tidbits in here, nevertheless. Especially how giving context to “speeds and feeds” can help customers select the right option.

  12. Maybe they ought to roll out those awesome videos for all their accessories a lot more!

  13. Apple doesn’t need to do the things you suggest, they just are. But the rest of us do need to do them. Thanks for the article.

  14. iphones are not user friendly when compared to other Android smartphones. They must add one back button. Although many features are great but i personally don’t feel comfortable using iphones.

  15. Do Apple need to consider their web conversions? Obviously they’re a massive retailer and all business is money, but really, it’s Apple.

    Their shops don’t do the best job of converting either. I always find it cringeworthy having to approach someone to say “look, I really just want to buy something”. Seems so false having to loiter near the iMac’s, just waiting for someone to approach you.

    But, back to the original point. They make an absolute fortune anyway.

  16. Apple didn’t get where they are by following the “rules”. They do things their way because it works for them. It might not work for anyone else, but few companies have the global brand recognition that Apple has.

    I don’t think their website is intended to convince people to buy an Apple product. If you’re on their website, you already know what you want and you’re almost certainly going to buy, regardless of price – so they’ve already got the conversion. If you’re comparison shopping, you’ll be on Bestbuy.com.

  17. I am guessing the usual conversion mistakes mentioned in the article aren’t applicable to Apple. Apple site is not for everyone. Their audience is apple fan boys who cares less for call to action or anything else. Their site is focused on providing wowsome product experience of their products.

  18. Pretty outrageous of you to think you know better than Apple. Maybe when you build a multi-hundred billion dollar company we’ll care more about your opinions.

  19. Ha I love all the people coming on here offended by the idea that Apple might not be perfect at marketing! You must not criticise Apple marketing just as you must not criticise Apple products it seems. One or two people make valid counterpoints, but the general case that ‘Apple are successful, therefore they must be doing everything perfectly’ is pathetically weak. You think Apple never makes a mistake? What about Apple maps? What about losing the whole personal computer war to Microsoft/IBM etc? Clearly the success they have now means their website is not a significant impediment to sales, but it may well be costing them at least a few percentage points, which to a goliath like them is a hell of a lot of money. Neil makes several valid suggestions for improvement.

    That being said, I think in one way Apple is a special case – they do like to cultivate this image of themselves as superior, special, aloof. So confident in the inherent brilliance of their product and themselves that they do not need to ask people to buy or to offer proof through reviews. This make sense in that a sizable portion of their consumers have similar illusions, but it can certainly go to far, as outlined in the examples above

  20. Thank you for sharing your opinion with me they were greatly appreciated.

  21. So many points in this article are wrong… in Apples case. Whilst, yes, these points make sense for a lot of CRO for other sorts of ecomms websites, this isn’t the way Apple operates.

    Small CTA’s? The entirety of Apple bricks and mortar retail is set up not to push sales (although they obviously do) but for people to discover the Apple experience. Bearing that in mind it’s no wonder they use small CTA’s (at the top of the pages), however at the bottom of the (extremely engaging) micro sites for their products they have a large CTA for ways to buy. Just goes to show you don’t need a massive button imploring to buy now if your content is engaging enough and your proposition has enough value.

    As many have said, the homepage pushes one product as it tends to be the new release that they want to direct attention to. If you came onto the site and wanted an iPhone you will not bounce because of a large iPad Mini on the front page, you will simply navigate to wear you want.

    Poor Social Media, Apple don’t really do social. In fact Apple doesn’t talk about anything unless it’s at a big media event. What benefits could social bring to the table for Apple? The social proof that their products are something you should invest in is when you sit at a bar and all your friends pull their phones out of their pockets and slap it on the table. Beyond that, you want to speak to Apple? Call ‘em. Just make sure you have a warranty or Apple Care, after that they are your best friend.

    No Guarantees, apart from the one year warranty, 14 day money back guarantee & Apple care. I’m pretty sure these are talked about throughout the order funnel.

    Behind the mobile curve… apart from the Apple Store app in the (surprise!) App Store which not only replicates everything you need from the website but also brings in new methods of payment/check-in for genius appointments/product pick ups. Mobile web cannot replicate these things right now and one of Apples main strategies appears to be keeping the App Store a strong environment for both the dev eco-system and the consumers. Despite SJ’s belief that web apps were the way forward in 2007 at the iPhone launch (and even earlier if you take into account OSX dashboard widgets) Apple have pretty much totally ditched web apps.

    Lack of Up-Sells with Social Proof. Again, do they need it? Do I need to see proof from 10 Facebook friends to let me know whether I want/need the ethernet adaptor for my rMBP?

    Lack of Reviews: http://www.apple.com/iphone/why-iphone/

    I have no great conclusion here, just that Apple isn’t your normal brand, hopefully they never will be. Apple have worked with conversion optimisation specialists before if Conversion Rate Experts are to be believed and I have no end of clients that want ‘this’ or ‘that’ that they’ve seen on the Apple store (fixed position baskets on scroll, I am looking at you).

    If I had one wish for the Apple website it would be to break free from the 960 grid for desktop and take advantage of the expanded real estate for larger monitors (Consider all that space on a large 27″ iMac) and fall back to 960 width for tablets. I’d love to see how Apple would work with that screen space for ecomms as no one else is really touching it yet.

24 comments

Please use your real name when commenting. Otherwise, your comment may be deleted.

← Previous ArticleNext Article →
Buffer