Conversion Analysis: PCA


December 3, 2006

I love to critique websites for conversion, but sometimes it feels like shooting fish in a barrel.

Tomorrow I am flying to SES Chicago, so I’m pulling together everything I need for my trip. This usually includes a coupon for my favorite parking lot, Parking Corporation of America. Today, I couldn’t find a real coupon, so I got onto the Internet and typed in “coupon PCA.” I was pleasantly surprised to see that their own site was #1 in Google.

Problem #1: Is it a link or not?

Despite the great Google SEO, I almost didn’t get a coupon, because the site told me to click on my airport, but it appeared that only the airports at the bottom of the screen were live links:

The various ways of showing that a link was mousable threw me off — it was clear that the underlined text was a link, but not so clear that the other text in a different color without underlining also denoted a link. I did figure out that Pittsburgh was a link, and did get my coupon, at which point, I started to see what other benefits the site offered.

Problem #2: Forms that don’t work.

I park at PCA about once a month, for two or three days. It seems from their site that they have a frequent parking service — once you’ve parked there for 31 days, you get a free 10-day stay. This would be valuable if they let you hold onto it until you actually stay at the airport that long, but I don’t know the terms. Nevertheless, I filled out the form and hit “Submit Form.

Strangely enough, my email program came up instead of a “Thank you” page. So I went back to the Frequent Parking service page and ran my cursor over the “Submit Form” button. Sure enough, there was no URL assigned to that button but rather, a mailto address:

Problem #3: No trust.

Then I went back to the home page and looked at their GPS (Guaranteed Parking Service.) Like the free 10-day stay, I had my doubts about that one. I have never been unable to park in the Pittsburgh PCA – ever. That’s not a service or benefit: it’s like making a reservation at a restaurant that always has a couple of empty tables. (Maybe that matters for a weekend like Thanksgiving?) Then I scrolled down to the bottom of the page and saw that the copyright was 1998-2002 (I always wonder if sites with out-of-date copyrights are still in business.)

Still on the topic of no trust, I went to the Pittsburgh prepayment page, and saw that it had collapsed in on itself. Here’s a sample:

As usual, this was a page that rendered beautifully in IE, not in Firefox. But would you want to be leaving 16% or more of your money on the table?

In Summary

It’s true that I did convert – I did get my coupon. But I’m not a new or even semi-new customer; I’ve been there enough days to get lots of free stay cards. I would probably park there even without a coupon, using my AAA card for a smaller discount. Getting a frequent buyer card in the hands of someone like me should be PCA’s prioirty.

And then there is the issue of trust. I know that they’re a real company and that I can trust them because I have parked my car there so many times this past year alone. What if I were just checking them out for the first time?

Robbin Steif