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How Customer Research Amplifies Your Conversion Rate Optimization Efforts

Qualitative research plays a huge role in conversion optimization. With qualitative research, you can find out information about your customers’ behavior beyond what they did and where they came from.

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When you deal with website performance and the technical side of it, detaching from your customers is a common mistake to make.

We can get overly absorbed in the technical details of tracked events, goals, conversions, and other numbers. Quantified data points are easy to interpret — the data can’t lie, right?

But with quantitative data, the “why” of our users’ observed behavior remains out of reach. 

We’re frequently surprised by the findings of the analytical tools that we’ve taken great care to configure. Or visitors are human: no amount of statistical data will ever be enough to completely explain their behavior.

‍Real people visiting a site. Real people trying to figure out whether to buy anything or not.

Imagine you’re trying to solve high cart abandonment issues on your product landing page. Analytics and quantitative data will tell you how many of your visitors leave without completing their purchase, but the reason why they abandoned their purchase will remain unknown.

Customer research gets you to the real "why". 

Qualitative research plays a huge role in conversion optimization

With qualitative research, you can find out information about your customers’ behavior beyond what they did and where they came from.

Not only do you get to know what people think and feel about your website firsthand, but you can also understand the story underlying the dry data.

Qualitative research’s biggest advantage is to be directly related to every business’ most important consideration: its customer.

And the customer adds more weight to any insight you may have.

Remember our landing page cart abandonment example?

You can simply point to the number of real-life customers who say that they’d like to see PayPal as a payment option. No more guessing what your users want. 

Exactly what you wished for: a direct route to improvement. 

By just following your customers, you can match their expectations and meet their needs more closely — and sell more.

So how do we go about doing the qualitative research itself?

Methods of qualitative customer research

At this point, you might be asking: "So, how to gather qualitative data?". 

The answer: ask your customers directly. 

There are multiple different ways to ask the right questions the right way.

‍First, though, let’s list the main sources of qualitative research:

  • Surveys and questionnaires
  • Direct interviews
  • User testing
  • Customer support interactions
  • Customer reviews of products offered on the webpage
  • Social or forum posts

These methods deliver insights obtained from customers or prospects. But which ones to use?

For example, ecommerce websites can gain insights from sending surveys about their checkout process and placing polls at friction points. Identify why customers are unwilling to complete the purchase process, and you'll be closer to the solution.

‍The trick with any qualitative research is to conduct it in an unbiased way, collecting users’ genuine opinions without putting words in their mouths.

The wording of a question can change the outcome you get. These examples both aim to understand why a customer failed to complete a purchase:

‍“What problem do you have with the website that is stopping you from completing a purchase?”

‍vs.

‍“Do you find our website credible?”

‍In the first example, the customer is being asked to identify the problem in their own words. In the second example, we are already planting an idea in their head.

Ask the right questions and you will get the right answers.

How customer research benefits your CRO efforts

If you conduct customer research properly, you'll get valuable insights into what bothers your visitors.

By understanding your main friction points, you can hypothesize and test solutions, all the while knowing exactly what your visitors and customers expect.

Once you get to know your customers and what they think of your website, you can create user personas with much more accuracy. Potentially, you could predict the behavior of your existing and new visitors.

The advantages and possibilities of this deeper customer understanding are numerous:

1. Plan your marketing efforts better

By knowing who your customers are, you can find out: 

  • Where they hang out.
  • What social networks they use.
  • What message is likely to grab their attention. 
  • How to bring them to your ecommerce store with the intent to buy a product. 
  • The search keyword and channels are most likely to drive traffic.

You can also create campaigns and landing pages that will cater to their specific needs.

2. Plan for future revenue

If you can accurately track what your regular customers buy, when they do it, and how much they spend, you can identify patterns and create predictions that relate to similar, unknown customers. 

This is one of the primary benefits of developing personas. Once you can predict customer lifetime value, you can accurately plot spending and the resultant revenues.

What ecommerce owner wouldn't benefit from that?

‍3. Predict costs

As a mirror image of revenue prediction, you’ll be able to predict and reduce your costs. 

Along with adjusting and perfecting your marketing strategy and ad spends, you can optimize your inventory to fulfill the needs of your customers avoiding the unpleasant surprise of random expenses.

4. Personalize your user experience

‍The next logical step up from customer research? 

Personalization. 

The more you know about your customers, the more familiar the user experience you can offer them. It’s a well-recognized and thoroughly researched fact that personalization increases the likelihood of conversion and causes visitors to spend more on average. 

There is really no excuse to pass up this opportunity.

Speaking of which, what is personalization?

Personalization: The perfect child of CRO and customer research

Personalization means tailoring user experience to match users’ expectations and preferences. 

It’s not just limited to content, either. 

Personalization can apply to design and interface elements, too, allowing the user to adjust website display to match their preferences.

It results in increased brand recognition, as visitors naturally like your website more when it adapts to their preferences. 

And if visitors like you, they’re more likely to convert. Loyalty increases.

With that, they are more likely to answer surveys or polls, which allows you to further increase your site’s personalization. This process is a positive feedback loop, and hopefully, self-perpetuating too. 

Increased knowledge of your visitors (a natural byproduct of personalization) allows you to present different content and offers that fit your customers’ needs. Tweak product offers, campaign messages, and even marketing channels to increase the number of visitors you bring in (and know they’re more likely to convert). 

‍Personalization naturally leads to better engagement and a clear view of which content is relevant and attractive.

There are many examples of successful use of personalization in conversion research, but Amazon is a great one to start. According to Business Insider, they were able to reach $544 in average annual revenue per user by leveraging personalization. Their Prime members spend over $1.000 a year...

With more conversions, there are more opportunities to cross-sell and upsell, yet another example of a positive feedback loop started by increased personalization. 

Sounds amazing, right?

We know.

In the ideal world, there'd be no alarm bells. So let's jump to the important warnings. 

Personas must be based on real data

Personalization will only work if you have real information about your visitors. 

This is easy if your site requires user accounts, i.e. customers have a login they can use to shop or access the site as a uniquely recognized customer. An ideal situation for personalization!

However, users may not be willing to give you all the personal information necessary to establish an account. Establishing this sort of trust takes time, and you can't speed up the trust process.

In the meantime, you can start personalizing on a more general scale. Using analytics, track the patterns of behavior or origin of individual users group them into personas according to specific criteria such as age, gender, geolocation, marital status, and other demographics that are interesting or relevant. They depend on the nature of your business, of course.

Using tools like Tag Manager, you can also assign specific attributes to individual users. When we gather sufficient data, we can sort new users into the right persona purely based on behavior.

These basic “personas” will allow you to identify a few customer types that represent larger groups. Using this small sample, you can offer a more personalized experience to new visitors as they begin exhibiting the behavior tied to a certain persona.

‍As a rule, you’ll need a relatively limited number of personas. If you have more than 10, that might be too many. The point is to generalize visitors and reduce the number of different solutions for personalization.

Article recap & what’s coming next

  • Customer research is essential for ecommerce, as it creates unique opportunities to increase the relevance and attractiveness of your offers. 
  • Knowing more about who’s buying makes the process of selling easier. 
  • Customer research is mostly conducted through direct contact with customers or prospects.
  • Personas allow you to address the different needs of different groups of customers, recognize patterns of behavior, and emphasize the content or products in which a given group is interested.

Personalization, however, is only the beginning. Get more deep into customer research, how to define personas, and how to use analytics to identify personas.

See you on the other side!

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