by brantley crowder - February 21, 2019
In my earlier post, Digital Strategy Is Micro-optimization I discussed the three primary macro-data points that determine the success of an e-commerce website, traffic, conversion rate, and average order value (AOV). In a later installation of this series, The Micro-optimization of Website Traffic, I detailed the components and the optimization strategy for the macro-data point traffic. In this post, I will dig into the micro-optimization of your conversion rate. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a hot topic in the world of e-commerce and there are many CRO tools available on the digital marketplace. However, before you allocate any of your precious marketing ad spend, you need to first develop a detailed CRO strategy specifically tailored for your business. It is important to keep in mind that optimizing your conversion rate is an iterative process that involves the repeating cycle of planning, execution, analysis, optimization. CRO is an ongoing process and a critical part of successful e-commerce. Let’s dive right in!
The most obvious place to start is your website. Maintaining a functional is one thing but maintaining a high converting website is something completely different. It is important to take an honest look at the digital experience you are putting forth from the perspective on a first time visitor. This can be difficult for a couple of reasons. First, you are an expert user of your own website. Things that seem intuitive to you may not be as straightforward to a new visitor. It is important to understand how your customer experiences your website. Second, you love your business. It is hard to be critical of something we created and love. It is important to let customer data and feedback drive the optimization process. This may require you to move away from branded elements of your business that are not working. Sometimes this can be a difficult process.
- Create a Focus Group – There are several different ways to organize a focus group to test and provide feedback for your website. You can contract focus group services which is a great option if you have the marketing budget to spend. These services are very specialized and campaigns can be designed for just about any type of business website. Another great benefit of contracting a focus group service is the management of the response data. Typically, data generated by the focus group will be organized and presented as a report including recommendations for user experience optimization which should improve your conversion rate. If you want to save some money, you can start by organizing a local focus group yourself. Put together a group of friends and family to test various actions on your website like account registration, password change, product searches, etc. Make sure you provide a specific list of actions for your group and space for feedback on each action. After testing, conduct a feedback discussion to discover any issues your testing group uncovered. This type of real user data is very valuable and could illuminate any impediments to conversion.
- Explore User Testing – The next best thing to conducting a live focus group is using a user testing software to record actual user sessions on your website. There are several user testing/user recording software services available. Although similar, each service offers unique insights so take a little time and find the right service for your business. Here’s how it works, you set the demographic attributes for your customer profile and the service will recruit testers from their testing community that match your customer profile. You create a list of actions that you would like the testing community to execute and provide feedback. The testing session is recorded so you can watch the movements of the testers mouse and the clicks that are executed. Some testing services even include an audio recording of the tester who verbally explains their actions. This in combination with their mouse activity can be very powerful feedback uncovering navigation issues your website may have. Keep in mind the goal of user testing is to identify and remove anything that impedes the path to conversion.
- Install Heat-mapping Software – Another great way to understand how your customers interact with your website is by installing heat-mapping software. There are a few great options on the market today but I recommend Crazy Egg. Crazy Egg is inexpensive, easy to set up, and very comprehensive. In addition, Crazy Egg has a free 30-day trial period which, depending on your traffic volume, may provide you with enough data to begin CRO of your site. The term heat-mapping refers to two-dimensional mapping where data is represented by colors to provide an easy to read summary of the data. Think about a weather radar map where storm intensity is represented by specific colors. Software like Crazy Egg presents user click data from your website as a heat-map. Using this technology, you can quickly see where your webpage hotspots are and where your visitors seldom travel. This can be very helpful in organizing your products, services, and information on your website. You will want to arrange your pages so that higher converting products are placed in high activity locations on your site. Although we think of these services as heat-mapping software, they offer many types of data visualization options that can be an important part of understanding how your customers interact with your website.
- Conduct A Series of A/B Tests – A/B testing refers to the process of creating two or more versions of a webpage or a page element and randomly displaying the variants to your visitors to discover which variant performs the best. An A/B test can be as simple as changing a button color on a product page or as complex as creating four different variations of your homepage. The goal of A/B testing is to put forward the highest converting version of your website one element at a time. There are a handful of really powerful A/B testing CRO tools available today, each with unique features and reporting options. You will need to do a little research to find the best tool for your organization. Some important factors to consider include cost, ease of set-up, maximum number of testing variants, and reporting options. A/B testing software can be pricy and many services require a developer to set up the tests. In addition, depending on the traffic volume of your website, tests may take several weeks and even months to deliver statistically significant results and many never do. In fact, most A/B tests do not deliver significant results, but the ones that do can inform a conversion changing enhancement to your site.
- Review Your Copy and CTAs – One of the most powerful conversion tools on your website is your brand voice. This is the voice that speaks directly to your customer. You should use demographic analysis to really understand who your patrons are and use language that is inspiring and convincing. You should manually perform a complete website copy audit every couple of years and update your copy as necessary. A call to action (CTA) refers to the language and page elements that solicit action from your customers. Examples of CTAs include “Buy Now”, “Add to Cart”, and “Read More Buttons”. Since CTAs are typically short and sweet you can easily experiment with buzz words and phrases that foster the desired customer response. Updating your website copy and CTAs regularly can improve conversion but it also keeps things fresh on your website.
- Review Your Onsite Media – The media on your website including photos, video, infographics, etc. may be your most persuasive set of assets. In fact, many studies show that low-quality lifestyle and product photos create customer purchase apprehension. Many customers will leave your website and continue their search because of low quality, images, linking elements, formatting, and video. When you are selling online you don’t have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with your customers. Instead, your media becomes the face and the salesperson of your brand. Your content needs to inspire and motivate your customers. Your media assets can sell your products but they can also compel your potential customers to bounce and find a more appealing store. Find a great product photographer and make the investment. Beautiful images, video, and content are one of the most important conversion rate optimizations you can make.
- Recruit More User Generated Content – Recently we have seen a shift in the shopping/purchasing behavior of online customers. Today customers are no longer responding to traditional marketing. Don’t get me wrong, traditional digital marketing strategies are still an important part of new customer acquisition. However, once a customer arrives on your website, the strategy changes. Today online shoppers are using existing customer feedback to drive their purchasing process. We all want to know what real people think about the products they have purchased. Product reviews are an important part of the e-commerce sales process. You need a solid strategy to recruit product reviews from your existing customers. Creating a post-purchase email is a great way to solicit real customer feedback. Typically, this type of email is automated and personalized. It should be sent to customers around two weeks after they receive their order. This gives them plenty of time to evaluate the quality of the product they purchased. It’s also a great opportunity to touch base with your customers and request feedback on your services. The more content you can provide from your existing customers means that new customers will spend more time on your site and increases your conversion potential.
- Understand Your Exit Page Analytics – While understanding what motivates your customers to convert is important, it is equally important to understand why they abandon your website. You can use Google Analytics to view the pages your customers exited your site. Although customers exit websites for many reasons, you may notice exit behavior trends. If you do you might consider rethinking the content and layout of these common exit pages. All efforts must be made to keep visitors on your website which will increase the likelihood of conversion. A/B testing is a great way to explore and understand the exit behavior of your visitors. You will find that many customers exit your website from checkout pages. Often this behavior takes place as shipping rates are posted. The cost of shipping is one of the primary reasons customers fail to convert. It is important to develop a shipping strategy that is competitive. Free shipping is a great way to motivate shoppers to complete their purchase.
- Become An Expert on Your Competition – It is important to research and understand your competitions marketing efforts. Subscribe to their emails, read their blog posts, and follow them on social media. Are they doing any of these better than you? If so close the gap. Do you find any of their promotions compelling? If so follow their lead. Find all the places that your competition is missing and insert your brand there. Close all the gaps. Use your competitions marketing successes to help drive your marketing strategy. How can you win over their customers? Are your prices competitive? Is your shipping policy competitive? Is your site easier to use? Does your brand instill a sense of trustworthiness? These are all important questions to ask and your competition can serve as a measuring stick to help you discover the answers.
Think about it like this, every action and improvement you make on your website should be data supported and designed to increase your conversion rate. Your website should be designed to help your customers decide to make a purchase. All efforts should be based on improving your conversion rate and increasing your sales revenue. If you have a great idea, test it. If it works keep it. If it does not, let it go. Improving your conversion rate is an ongoing process. Try to do something every day that will have a positive impact on your conversion rate.
If you would like to schedule a free conversion rate consultation session with one of our professional digital marketing specialists, just click here. We would love to know more about your business!
Other posts from this series: