Do you feel like many of your website visitors are slipping through your fingers?
Let’s say you have a 3% conversion rate, the average for ecommerce stores. This means that for every 100 visitors, three people buy. Not so bad. But let’s look at it from a different point of view. What about the other 97 visitors? Where do they go? What stops them from buying?
These were the questions I started asking many years ago when I was immersed in running my own websites. They led me to traffic generation’s significant other—conversion rate optimization (CRO). And I haven’t looked back since.
Here’s my big realization:
Traffic gives life to your site. But conversion optimization is what makes its life worth living. If your site gets a lot of visitors, but many of them don’t buy, then it’s an uphill struggle. So if you want to build your ecommerce startup on strong foundations, then you should spend some serious resources on CRO.
But exactly how do you do this?
Let me show you how. Here’s a simple process that you can put into action right away. This is the same process we use in our CRO agency, Convertica, for ecommerce clients, many of whom are now seeing 100%+ increases in conversions in just a few months.
Are you ready? Let’s get down to it.
What to Understand Before Starting an Ecommerce CRO Campaign
Let me be honest with you. What I’m about to show you is a simple process. But it’s not easy. It takes work and lots of patience. If this is your first time doing conversion optimization, you will stumble and fall at some point.
With that said, there are a few things you can put into place to stack the deck in your favor.
First, this is not about you
It’s about your users. They’re the beating heart of CRO experiments. You put your audience on a pedestal and learn everything you can about them. It’s about understanding what their needs are, knowing their psychology and meeting them where they are in the buyer’s journey.
I’m not just talking about the customer profile and demographics you wrote down when you first started your business. I’m talking about getting intimately familiar with your audience. About knowing what makes them tick and going out of your way to finding the smallest things that influence their buying decisions.
Only by making changes based on what your audience wants will you significantly move the needle.
Second, CRO is both a science and an art
Conversion rate optimization thrives on data and science. But there’s also an element of guesstimation involved. It’s the type of guessing that’s based on solid data.
Hang on a minute. If it’s based on data, it’s not guessing, right? But here’s the rub. CRO deals with human behavior. As much data as we have to predict behavior, we’re never 100% sure until we do a scientific test.
Finally, you need traffic for conclusive results
Traffic. You need it to start conversion optimization campaigns. The only way to know if your changes affect buying behavior is to have the traffic to test them on. Lots of it, preferably. For quick results and reliable data, you need the numbers to work with.
Enough with theory. Let’s get down to business. Here are the steps to optimize your ecommerce store for better conversions.
Know Your Goals
“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” – Zig Ziglar
There are many different CRO goals. It all depends on your marketing and sales targets. Here are some examples:
- Increase email subscription rates
- Increase social media engagement
- Get more people to move from your homepage to the product page
- Increase sales
Since we’re mainly talking about CRO for an early stage ecommerce company, your goal is most likely to increase revenue. So for now, let’s focus on that one.
You can make this goal even more specific such as:
- Increase the add-to-cart button clicks
- Decrease cart abandonment
- Decrease bounce rate
Know Your Customers’ Behaviors and Interests
Have you ever had to cook Thai curry for someone who isn’t used to spicy food? You don’t just throw in a heap of chili. You add a dash to give it a little kick. But what if you’re cooking for a Thai person who’s been eating spicy food all their life? Then it’s a different story. You make it with as much chili as their taste buds can tolerate. The spicier it is, the better.
The same is true with conversion optimization. Before you start any test, know who you’re cooking for. This helps you decide which pages or elements to focus your experiments on. It helps you customize CRO tests based on your audience and not someone else’s.
Here are three ways you can do this.
1. Use Heatmaps
Using a heatmap is like standing behind your visitors to get an idea of how they experience your site. You’ll see which elements they click, how far they scroll, and which parts of the page they read. Here’s an example from Hotjar of what a click heatmap looks like.
And here’s a video of a scroll heatmap, which shows how far visitors scroll down the page.
To get started, all you have to do is install a script on your site. There’s both free and paid heatmap software that you can use. Here are a few:
2. Dig Deep Into Your Analytics
You don’t need any fancy analytics tools. Google Analytics is powerful enough for this. The problem is that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the numbers.
I suggest you focus on a few key metrics. These are:
Mobile vs Desktop Conversions
There’s a reason this is first on the list. After working on hundreds of sites, I’ve seen that increasing conversions for mobile devices is one of the quickest ways to increase revenue. For many ecommerce sites, mobile makes up more than 50% of their traffic. And yet, mobile conversions are still a lot lower than on desktop. Time and time again, we’ve seen that when you build a product page for mobile users, it can make a big difference in your revenue. It’s how ConversionXL increased BullyMax’s conversion by 24.5%.
Here’s how you get to this metric on Google analytics. Audience>Mobile>Overview
Find out the conversion rates of different devices in Google Analytics
Not all of your visitors will buy a product the first time they visit your site. But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to buy ever. Some of them will leave the site right away – these people you might be able to bring back through retargeting. However, some of them will stay a little longer and interact with your site in other ways. They might look for related products, contact support, or join your email list. All these interactions are useful in understanding their behavior.
Access interactions per visit by going to Behavior>Behavior Flow
Find out which pages customers visit
3. Interview Your Target Audience
Analytics provide a lot of data for you to work with. But actually talking to your target users can give you golden opportunities to fill in information that analytics can’t provide. This is the only way you can understand the heart of your customers. I especially like using customer interviews and surveys for writing copy. It gives you the exact language customers use to describe your product. It helps you understand how they feel and what they think about when they’re on your product pages.
There are many ways to run surveys. You can:
- Send them emails and ask for feedback
- Use push notification surveys
- Contact them for a face-to-face interview
You can also dig through customer support interactions and find the common problems people have on your site. This alone can offer a lot of insight into what makes it difficult for customers to buy from you.
Which Pages Should You Work on First?
For quick wins, find the top 5-10 pages on your site that have the most traffic or bring in the most revenue. This is what I call the 80/20 of CRO campaigns. These top pages usually contribute the most to your bottom line and they are the pages your customers find most important. So look at which product pages are getting the most traffic and work on the conversions of those pages first.
Click Behavior>Site Content>All pages to access your site’s top pages.
Work first on the top 5-10 pages on your site that have the most traffic or give the most revenue.
Other important metrics are:
- Bounce rate
- Overall conversion rate
- Return visitor conversion
Decide Which Elements to Test
So at this point:
- You know your goal.
- You’ve interviewed your customers and studied their behavior through site analytics.
- You know which pages to work on first.
Now it’s time to decide what you’re going to test.
What you’ve been doing so far is putting in place the most important parts of a CRO campaign. You’ve studied your customers and you’ve found what makes them tick. The next step is where you connect the dots. You now have valuable information about your audience. Connect the dots by going back to your site and speculating what changes you can make to match your audience’s behavior and expectations.
Dr. Flint McGlaughlin from MECLABS says that at this point there are three things you can do. You can add, remove, or change.
The changes you make will vary, depending entirely on your customer research. However, there are common questions customers have every time they buy online that your product page needs to answer. These questions are:
- Am I on the right page?
- Is this what I’m looking for?
- How easy is it to buy this thing?
- Can I trust this company?
- What’s the risk involved?
The job of your product page is to make sure the answers to these questions are clear. Let’s dig a little deeper and reconcile your audience research to this part of the CRO process.
Am I on the right page?
This needs answering during the first few seconds a visitor arrives at your site. If the bounce rate is too high, it could be because it isn’t the page they came looking for. One of the main reasons for this is that there’s no message match between the source of traffic and the contents of the page. So check where most of the traffic is coming from. Does it align? If not, here are some things you might want to change.
- If traffic is from a paid ad, make the headline match.
- If traffic is from organic search, make the meta title and description match.
- If you can’t change the headline because it serves a different segment of your customers, then consider building a different page for it.
Business-in-a-box message match
Above is an example of message matching between the PPC ad and the landing page by Business-in-a-Box. Take note of how the words used in the title of the traffic source (Adwords ad) are EXACTLY the same as the headline on the landing page. The ad talks about a business plan template. Then the landing page repeats exactly the same words on the headline. That right there is what message match is.
Is this what I’m looking for?
Now that the visitor knows they are on the right page, they’ll want to make sure it’s the exact product they’re looking for. This is where the images, videos, and product descriptions do their work. If your research shows that a majority of the visitors click through to other pages on the site instead of clicking the buy button, then it might be that the description is doing a terrible job. It could also be that you’re attracting the wrong people to the page. Study your site’s analytics. What pattern can you see? Is there a page most people frequently visit from this page? If so, what do you do then? Here are some tips.
- If visitors often click to a different product page, add a related products section with that product on top of the list.
- If you find that people scroll up and down the page a lot, improve the product title and description to match the intention of the buyer. Also, add clear and crisp product images if you don’t have that already.
Deciem’s product page shows customers everything they need to make a decision
Deciem has a product page full of information about the item. These are all details that a buyer needs before they can decide whether to buy the product or not. Clear crisp image. Big add to cart button. Easy-to-understand table about the product. Plus easy-to-access menu for directions, ingredients, and reviews.
How easy is it to buy this thing?
Don’t get in the way by making this process difficult. What do your analytics say? When people scroll to the bottom of the page or read a lot of the content, but don’t buy, it may be because you’ve made it difficult for them. How can you make it easy for your buyers?
- Offer different forms of payment.
- Make shipping information clear on the product page. Show how much it costs and how long it will take for the package to arrive. If you offer free shipping, all the better. And again, make that clear on the page.
- If they must fill out a form before they buy the product, ask for the bare minimum.
Pretty Frank’s checkout page
Pretty Frank’s add-to-cart page makes it easy for customers to buy the item. Notice how they make the option to use Google or PayPal clear right at the top. People who are in a hurry and don’t want to fill out a form tend to like these additional options. This gives them a chance to quickly check out.
Can I trust this company?
It’s not just whether or not you’ve got the right product. Potential customers also need to know they can trust your company. They want to make sure they’re buying from someone who can deliver. Here are some ways to encourage them:
Lovehair uses third-party proof to support their claims
Lovehair does a great job of solidifying trust. You can toot your own horn all you want, but people believe third-party proof more than they believe you. So how does Lovehair prove to customers that they’re organic, vegan, and cruelty-free? By adding social proof. This page is filled with information that supports this claim. They have various certifications from vegan.org, Leaping Bunny, and the Forest Stewardship Council.
What’s the risk involved?
The less risk involved, the more likely people are to buy. So how do you make sure your guarantee helps a person make a decision?
- Make guarantees clear and easy to see at the point of purchase.
- If you offer a money-back guarantee, also say how quick the process is.
- Some examples of guarantees:
Warby Parker emphasizes its guarantee in order to reduce risk
Warby Parker doesn’t only have a try-on-guarantee. They also have other guarantees that they emphasize on the checkout page. “With every pair, you’ll get free shipping, hassle-free returns, and our one-year, no-scratch guarantee.” This simple one-sentence guarantee immediately lowers the customer’s anxiety by reducing the risk of buying the product.
Do an A/B Split Test
You’ve got the old web page. Let’s call that the control.
Then with the insights you’ve gathered on your target customers, you build a new page. This is variation 1.
The next step is to pit them against each other. You direct an equal amount of traffic to each page and see which one performs better.
This is what you call an A/B split test. And the page that converts better with a 98% statistical significance becomes the winner of the test.
Unsurprisingly, the mention of tests and statistics sounds too daunting for many people. But it’s easier than it sounds. Why? Because there are a lot of testing tools that can help you with this. These tools are often very user-friendly. And all you have to do is write a few things and it does all the calculations for you.
At Convertica, we use VWO. But you can also use other tools such as:
Every A/B testing software will let you go through the process step by step. You will need some information about your site as you do this. So before you log in to whichever tool you’re using, have this information ready. Here are the things most A/B testing tools will need:
- Your conversion optimization goals
- Experiment hypothesis. That is, what do you think is going to happen with the changes you’re going to make?
As I’ve stressed at many points throughout this article, CRO is about getting feedback from your visitors. The way to scientifically measure this feedback is with an A/B test.
How long will this take? It all depends on traffic. It could be anything from a few days to a few weeks. The more traffic you have, the quicker it is. The good thing is you don’t have to calculate all this by hand. Your testing software will tell you when it’s reached significance. Nifty, huh?
Refining Tests to Get 100%+ Increase in Conversions
You might find out a lot with just one test. But if you want a 100%+ increase in conversions, you do it by refining every test you conduct.
Here’s what I mean. Every time you conduct a test, you get feedback from your target customers. Based on that feedback, you build a new variation of the winning page and then test that again. It’s like a back and forth between you and your audience. You put something out there and then you wait to see if that helps with their buying process. If it does, you make more changes to the page. If it doesn’t, you know not to do that. Then you build a new variation again and see how that performs. And on and on it goes.
This continuous testing is what refining a test means. And it’s how you get to a 100%+ increase in conversions. For example with our ecommerce case study, our first test got a 30.4% increase in revenue.
Ecommerce case study – First split test data
From that test, we conducted a second test on the same page. This resulted in an additional 54.8% increase in revenue.
Ecommerce case study – Second split test data
This 54.8% increase was against our first test variant that already produced a 30.4% increase. This means the cumulative revenue increase for these two split tests was 101.8%! (1.5477 x 1.304). Not to mention the bigger win here being the cumulative increase of 162% in recurring revenue.
So don’t stop at one test. Once you get feedback from one campaign, keep on building new variations for even higher conversions.
So That’s It.
That’s everything you need to know to have a solid CRO foundation for your ecommerce store.
We’ve covered a lot of things. Now it’s time for you to do the work. As I’ve said, it’s not going to be easy. Like a lot of things, you’ll hit some bumps and difficulties if you’re new to this. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
And if there’s anything that you’re still not clear about, ask in the comments section below. I’ll be around to answer your questions.