When I was chatting with Earthlink's Executive Vice President Don Berryman for our Case Study (see below) he said something that really struck me, "Online purchasers really don't like to be sold too much, maybe that's why they are doing it online instead of calling our 800 numbers."
Earthlink gets 10-12% of its orders online these days and about 50% from phone call-ins. (The rest come from those promo CD ROM disks and deals with PC makers such as Dell.) So, there's plenty of activity for Don to draw this insight from.
Recently I've heard several other marketers -- both in b-to-b and b-to-c -- make similar comments. The breakdown seems to be between impulse shoppers/visitors versus deliberate visitors.
If someone is responding impulsively to a promotional message you're running in any medium, then a more sales-y landing page and site generally works best. Deadlines, gift with order, exclamation-points ... all that classic stuff can help the conversion.
However, if someone is proactively surfing the Web looking for exactly the sort of thing you offer, classic promo copy and offers can seem far too much like hype. Salesy messaging may lose you sales.
Instead, this type of shopper prefers clear, explanatory language detailing what your offer is all about. Comparison charts work extremely well with this audience because they're probably looking at your competitor's sites at about the same time anyway.
So, your promo-style pages might work best for house list campaigns via email, ad banners, and offline ads promoting online response. On the other hand, your calmer, explanatory pages might work better for search-driven traffic.
Worth testing anyway ... and be sure to let me know how it goes.
By the way -- Here's that Earthlink Case Study I mentioned: How to Convert More Online Shoppers with Live Chat Pop Invites -- Detailed Result Data from Earthlink's Tests
(Open access until March 12, 2005)