Conversion Rate Optimisation, or CRO, was once the hot new business buzzword. Today, it's standard practice for any ecommerce website - it's the thing that separates the successful online retailers from the also-rans
CRO is not a once-only technique, it must be rigorously and consistently applied in order to get results. CRO has two key elements - research and implementation. Detailed research and analysis can reveal the issues that people have with your website; with these findings you can then design new web pages. Your designs should be split tested to find out whether they solve the problem and increase sales.
Here are seven ways to keep on track and improve your online conversion rate.
1. Change your mindset
Learn to say: "I don't know… but I know how to find out". This allows you to work without prejudices, hunches, guesswork, assumptions or well-meaning opinions.
The only views that count are those of your ideal customer. You, your boss, your team - they are not your ideal customer and their opinions don't count.
Even the best optimisation process in the world can't help you get results if you're biased before you start by what you think the problems are.
2. Focus on where visitors are dropping out
From landing page to product page to basket to checkout, what are the key pages visitors have to go through to place an order, or convert, on your site? Then look at where customers fall out during their journey.
Use your analytics tool to map visitor progression through these key pages and identify where you're losing the most visitors. The points where most of them drop out represent the biggest opportunity for improving your online conversion rate. These are the areas where you should focus most of your attention.
3. Understand visitor intent
Why do your visitors come to your website? Why do some buy and others don't? What exactly were they looking for, and what prevented them from buying it? Understanding visitor intent is vital if you want to improve your online conversion rates.
Add pop up surveys - with a tool like Qualaroo or HotJar - to the key drop-out pages identified from your conversion funnel analysis to discover why visitors are dropping off there and what they were looking for.
4. Find out "why" as well as "what"
Analytics is great at showing you what's happening on your website, but it doesn't tell you "why". Only by speaking to your website visitors will you get this qualitative research. Although pop-up surveys can help, you can't beat moderated usability testing. "Moderated" means that you speak to a real visitor or customer. Ideally, this should happen while they're using the site, or very shortly afterwards, while everything is fresh in their mind.
Use a tool like Ethnio to recruit them, and a tool like GoToMeeting or Skype to share screens. Watch them as they use your website to complete their task. As you're on the other end of the phone, you can ask them questions as you observe and get unique insight into how – and why – they use your website.
Once the research phase is done, you should have a list of dozens of possible improvements and optimisation opportunities. But how do you decide which one to focus on?
One of the best ways is to rank each possible improvement based on the difference it could make and the strength of the evidence supporting it. Strength is a measure of the number of sources of research it came from. The more sources, the stronger the evidence. You might also want to rank them based on how easy it will be to develop. This will help you prioritise your list so the highest value opportunity is tackled first.
6. Plan your tests - but be open to change
A plan keeps you and the team on track. But before you move on to the next test, take a look to see if there's more potential from the first one.
Be willing to wring out further uplifts from successful tests. If you get an extraordinary, or unexpected, result from testing one change, you can often get surprisingly high results from going back and fine-tuning it.
7. Use a split testing tool
Split testing (sometimes known as A/B testing) allows you to scientifically measure the impact of the changes you make. There are many tools available that let you test one page against another, without any visitor knowing they are part of a test. Even better, you don't need to change any code on your main site.
Firstly, you can easily develop variations from within the tool so you are not waiting around for your website dev team. Secondly, you only need to ask your busy dev team to code new web pages that have been proven to work.
Feeling the fear?
CRO has become standard practice for leading websites because it works. But if a systematic process of optimisation and split testing is not completely embedded into the culture of your organisation it can generate fear - fear of failure; fear of looking stupid in front of colleagues; fear of wasting your company's time; fear of upsetting your customers; fear of having to deal with the boring stuff, like getting the wording for your delivery and returns right.
In many ways it's easier just to carry on designing new web pages that look great and everyone gets excited about. But a pretty new home page or a vibrant banner won't win you big sales increases if the real problem lies buried on page two of the checkout.
You owe it to your customers to make buying easy. They want your products, and they want to buy them quickly and easily, so they can get on with their lives. If you don't systematically look at every part of your website and improve it, you are doing them a disservice. What's more, you're losing sales.
CRO is really about making your website easy to buy from. That's good for your customers, and it's also good for your bottom line. So if you're scared of CRO then the best advice is to feel the fear - but do it anyway.
Written by Dan Croxen-John, ceo of AWA Digital, specialists in website design and CRO.