Conversion research is an important part of the conversion rate optimization process. While visitor surveys and user testing give us the opportunity to directly observe visitors’ behavior and the thought process behind it, these methods suffer from a serious limitation: visitors and testers are aware that they are being observed.
And that changes things.
Read any quantum physics lately?
One of the fundamental premises of quantum theory (known as Heisenberg’s principle) is that by the very act of watching, the observer affects the behavior of the observed.
It is just as true for electrons as it is for humans.
Conversion Research – Needless to say, finding your way around Heisenberg’s department can be confusing.
Conversion Research #1: Analyze live chat transcripts and call recordings
Support calls, live chat recordings, transcriptions, or logs are easy to get — they should already be among your resources (just ask your customer relations department).
These qualitative data sources contain the opinions of customers who have questions about, or issues with, your service or products.
And people tend to talk more freely on these channels. They specifically point out the problems they’ve observed, which may not be the case with surveys.
But the best is yet to come:
You don’t have to offer any incentive to get their opinions.
If you don’t have these resources already available, put their implementation on your priority list!
Establish a support call line and a live chat on your website. Consistent research shows that the presence of live chat on ecommerce sites increases conversions. The live chat must be manned and available at all times, or at least during periods of normal operating hours.
Live chat enables visitors to pose their issues in real-time to a live person and get answers immediately. In addition to resolving potential hurdles that stop visitors from converting, a live chat:
- Increases visitor trust.
- Creates a bond between the visitor and the website.
- In the context of qualitative research, it creates a permanent record of the issue so that it can be analyzed.
Analyzing chat logs is very similar to interpreting open-ended survey results. Look for repetitions: Repeated words, phrases, question types and concerns. Finding common keywords allows you to do a keyword search to get an idea of how frequently each type of question is raised. From there, you can resolve the issues that come up most frequently (an indication that they are the most significant).
Support call transcripts or recordings also require the same approach. It’s all about determining categories and calculating frequency to find which fixes will have the most impact.
Having consumer data on record saves a lot of effort (and money!) when doing research for conversion optimization, marketing, and copywriting.
Conversion research #2: Useful messaging from product reviews
Most e-commerce websites allow visitors to review products they’ve bought. This feedback is highly valuable in several ways:
- It works as “social proof,” which builds trust with would-be purchasers and improves conversions.
- Voice-of-customer data can be used to improve your marketing messaging and copy. Let your users tell you the most important benefits!
- You can use this feedback for your qualitative research.
A common mistake is to limit the feedback to ratings only (usually using stars), without the option for written feedback. If your product or service receives many 1-star ratings, it will have a hugely negative impact on conversions — and you won’t have any understanding of why customers are unhappy. Even if you receive 5-star ratings, you still won’t know why (and neither will your prospective customers)!
Conversion Research – Sony, for example, has made user reviews extremely useful at first glance
Written feedback lets you know what to improve and what customers like about the product. Every review system should allow written feedback.
Not many visitors will make the effort of leaving elaborate feedback. To balance this, we recommend you offer some sort of incentive.
The most obvious incentive is a monetary one: discounts, coupons, or other shopping benefits to customers who write a review. If it can be executed without significant impact on the bottom line and protected from manipulation, this type of system works well! Another way to incentivize customers to leave feedback is to create some sense of achievement (without offering monetary benefits).
This way, a person’s individual sense of accomplishment effectively drives them to leave detailed, helpful reviews. This is the system that Amazon.com uses with great success.
Finally, there is the option of offering access to premium features of the website or service – otherwise found in the package they purchased (in SaaS companies, for example),
Conversion research #3: Tackle research head-on with customer interviews
Customer interviews allow you to ask participants to elaborate on their answers. You can conduct these interviews either in person or over the phone.
Remote interviews may be more cost-effective, but they remove an essential ingredient that is only available via direct contact with the interviewee.
Don’t be too quick to jump on the phone rather than do the footwork to interview in person.
If you’re in the same room with the person you interview, you can observe body language, facial expressions, and other subtle non-verbal communication that can reveal a great deal more about the subject than only verbal answers.
Conversion Research – Never lose sight of this fact, and take it into account when interpreting your interview responses
Face-to-face interviews are time-consuming and difficult to arrange, however, especially if the business is online. Customers may be spread across the globe!
The best alternative is the video interview. Skype, Zoom, and other video conferencing platforms provide a middle ground for interviews and offer the option of recording the interview for later analysis.
To be useful, interviews must be structured and well-planned. Questions can be the same as the online survey but prepare additional questions that complement or expand upon them.
Plan your selection criteria for your interviewees ahead of time. It’s very important to choose respondents from your existing or potential customer base (people who have already bought something from your website).
The fact that they’ve purchased something means that they already find value in your products or services (target customers). You want their feedback.
You don’t want feedback from people who are uninterested in what you offer, or who are chronically supportive friends or family members.
To get the best results from in-person or video interviews, they shouldn’t feel like interviews at all.
A good interview flows like a regular conversation. It feels more natural than awkward. Interviewers need strong interpersonal communication skills to pull this off.
Use interviews to find out how customers use your product or service, what their anxieties and motivations are, and what their deeper emotional backgrounds might be.
These findings will enable you to improve your copy. You can even use the answers verbatim as statements of your product’s benefits; in headlines or ads; and even as part of your value proposition.
Successful interviews can also become testimonials, provided the respondent agrees to them.
Another use for the interview is to find out about your competitors. Questions like, “Did you consider any other product/service?” can reveal the ways your product is better than other available solutions, so you can update your value proposition with those insights.
Conversion research #4: “Eavesdrop” on social media posts
Social media channels, and other places where customers spend time, like blogs and forums, are also goldmines of customer opinions.
Every day, your customers are freely sharing their opinions of products they bought from you. This can be a source of free promotion, (if those opinions are positive).
And if opinions are negative, it can also be a valuable source of user feedback and voice-of-customer data.
When people post about products voluntarily, they’re much less inhibited. They’ll tell you how they really feel. It’s vital to track relevant social media posts and blog mentions.
A few handy tools to monitor when your brand or product is mentioned:
- Meltwater: Instantly search blogs, Twitter, and Facebook for specific terms.
- Social Mention: Monitor multiple websites and find out which keywords people use when talking about your company.
- IFTTT (If This Then That): Automate simple online tasks using “recipes”. For example, “If [website] mentions [company], then send me an email alert”.
There are many other tools out there. When selecting those you prefer, choose tools that show you not only where you were mentioned, but exactly what was said. That will give you the voice-of-customer data you need.
On your website, you can also provide social media links for visitors to use to share their opinions directly on Facebook or Twitter.
Quantitative analysis can then help you identify which social media platforms are most useful to your website since your analytics tool will track the number of visitors coming from each individual channel.
Conversion research #5: Got a niche product? Learn to love blogs and forum posts
Even more than social media, blog posts and forum posts can offer deep, comprehensive opinions and critiques of products and services. Track these mentions — you need to know what people are saying about you.
For niche products especially, blog posts and forum posts are the best and most readily available sources of voice-of-customer data. Influencer opinions and reviews reach your target audience, giving the most valuable form of social proof you can have.
They can also do serious damage to your conversions if their impressions are less than favorable.
Since conversion optimization is primarily interested in the performance of the website as the main source of conversions, issues with products themselves may be outside of your purview. But blogs and forums still contain useful feedback that you can use to improve the copy on your website and address usability issues.
Conversion research #6: How to stay focused & avoid data overwhelm
Too often, the most readily available sources of user feedback are ignored in favor of more complicated and expensive methods of acquiring qualitative feedback.
Don’t let that happen to your business!
Begin your qualitative data gathering process by making a comprehensive review of existing available sources. Just be careful not to get distracted by issues that are not directly related to conversion optimization.
Conversion Research – This maxim is just as applicable for conducting customer research as it is for leading Apple
Your task as an optimizer is to improve the website, not the products or services themselves.
To reduce the risk of distraction, approach your data gathering with a plan.
Use your survey questions as a guideline for what types of answers to look at more closely.
And if product issues continue to arise, pass on that information to the appropriate people — so you can stay focused on your job.