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How to conduct conversion optimization

The goal of conversion optimization is to make websites more accessible, trustworthy, and relevant to users. To achieve this goal, you must analyze every aspect of your ecommerce ’s performance. 

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The goal of conversion optimization is to make websites more accessible, trustworthy, and relevant to users. To achieve this goal, you must analyze every aspect of your ecommerce ’s performance. 

The process consists of several steps:

  • Measuring & Research: This initial step forms a foundation for understanding the website’s current performance
  • Reporting: Before the optimization process can begin, you need to establish reporting standards and a baseline for improvement
  • Analysis: The measurements and other research need to be analyzed to understand existing issues and devise solutions
  • Testing: Testing shows which solutions work (i.e. result in improvements), and which don’t
  • Implementation & Refinement: Once the first round of testing is done, it’s time to implement the results, refine them, and continue to further improve the website

Though it might seem straightforward, there’s more here than meets the eye!

Measuring a site’s performance doesn’t mean just counting the number of people who visit it and/or buy from it. 

True measurement means tracking every aspect of visitors’ activity on the website, from arrival to their exit, regardless of whether they convert or not, to identify patterns of behavior.

You’re looking to find out what makes them more likely to convert, how customers) arrive at the website, and how they interact with it. This also helps you to find out which parts of your website are functioning optimally and which are not.

Set yourself up for meaningful measurement

The initial task is to measure your website’s current performance. This involves defining the site’s purpose, the owner’s expectations, the target audience, etc, making possible to define goals and measure improvements.

But first: Are you measurement tools configured properly? 

Proper configuration and setup is necessary to make measurements accurate and timely. Even if everything seems to be in order, take a second look just in case.‍

Without accurate initial measurement, no conversion optimization can take place.

Measuring is comprised of several steps:

  1. Creating your measurement plan
  2. Choosing tools and instrumentation
  3. Reporting on gathered data

1. Creating your measurement plan

To conduct valid measurement, the first thing you need to do is to establish a plan for it. 

To be able to measure, you need to know what you want to measure and what constitutes a positive outcome.

A measurement plan starts with objectives.

Once you identify the overall objective(s), go a level down and identify goals. The goal should inform the means with which you could achieve an objective. For example, if your objective is to make more sales, one of your goals may be to increase your store’s conversion rate.

Each goal informs your strategy and provides you with an idea of what actions you’ll need to take . For the previous example, you’d track and measure your conversion rate. Conversion rate represents a key performance indicator (KPI) of the goal of increasing conversion rate.

How to set up KPIs:‍

KPIs should be easily measurable within a timely period, so you don’t have to wait for an extended period of time to see if the tactic(s) you selected to reach our goal are working. This means that KPIs should be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attributable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

Here’s an example of a SMART measurement plan:

Once you have a measurement plan in place, then you can start measuring.

2. Measuring

Measuring your website’s performance starts with implementing your measurement plan so you can track all the data. 

Next, your task is to set up the mechanics of gathering data and making it available for analysis.

You need to be able to observe patterns of visitor behavior, so you can understand what drives your customers to convert. To facilitate this understanding, most measuring tools (Google Analytics, KISSmetrics, and others) allow you to define your own events, interaction touchpoints, and goals. You can also define segments (groups of customers that share similar characteristics).

If you set up a measurement plan, avoid collecting more data than you need. Gathering every random piece of data will put you in a situation where you can’t make sense of any of it.

If many of your buyers viewed a video of a product prior to buying it, you’d want to track the number of times that video was viewed, what visitor segment(s) are more affected by the video, what acquisition channel brought the visitors who viewed the video, etc.

‍Then you can use this measurement to show how your site is conforming to the overall plan.

Pro tip: stick to your measurement plan to avoid getting overwhelmed.

3. Reporting

Once you’ve set up your chosen tool(s), you need to decide what forms of reporting you’ll use. You’ll usually need to customize the reports and include specific metrics and information for various websites. There’s no “one size fits all” report.

By using other tools, even simple sheets, you can define your own reporting layout and standardize it throughout your organization. It requires some effort, but it will give you the best results.

You can also use business intelligence tools like Google Data Studio or Tableau. It’s easy to integrate many different data sources in those tools, making visualizations quick. 

The main point here is to make a choice and stick to the method you choose. Visualization can be a great help, saving you a lot of time in the analytical process.

Before you begin using analytical data from your tool, ensure that it’s configured properly — otherwise your data will be worthless!

Analyze your measurements & conduct more research

The research phase includes the initial data collection and your website’s baseline performance. Here, you can find out what issues are limiting your website. Any successful conversion optimization process needs thorough research and analysis. Only when you identify a problem do you attempt to solve it!

​​Generally, the research and analysis process can be divided of in four parts:

  1. Heuristic analysis
  2. Quantitative analysis
  3. Qualitative analysis
  4. Technical analysis

These types of research touch on every aspect of your ecommerce website.

First, conduct heuristic analysis

Heuristic what? This word means "to enable someone to discover or learn something for themselves". Here, it translates as a research that you conduct yourself. 

The primary aim of heuristic analysis is to ensure your website provides:

  • A user-friendly interface
  • Clear and relevant content
  • A logical process or flow

One of the most famous tools of heuristics is a “five-second test”: you should be able to judge the purpose of any website within the first five seconds of viewing it. If possible, find a random person who’s not familiar with your website, and ask them if they “get” what your site is about.

If they can’t tell within five seconds, that’s a sign that you should make changes until your site’s value and function is clear.

The five-second test is based on common principles that govern human-machine interaction. Some of the most famous and frequently used principles are 10 heuristics devised by Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen-Norman Group.

They are, as applied to websites:

  • Tracking the visitor's process or flow
  • Clarity and relevance
  • Visitor’s ability to control the process, and freedom to pursue their objectives)
  • Consistency of the site’s message
  • Anticipating most common errors and reducing the possibility errors triggered by visitors
  • Creating a user experience that helps customers recognize how to operate your website
  • Flexibility and efficiency that allows visitors to use shortcuts and time-saving measures
  • Attractive aesthetics
  • Testing error messages for clarity and relevance to help users diagnose and recover from errors
  • Available documentation and help services

Overall, you’re making sure that visitors can navigate your site quickly and effortlessly to accomplish their goals.

On all ecommerce websites, the visitor’s primary aim and the owner’s primary aim largely coincide. The owner wants to sell as many products as possible, and visitors want to purchase products that they need.

The journey to purchasing should have no obstacles. For example, when you need to get data from a prospect (like payment information) ask only for the data you really need.‍

Optimizing the customer journey means tackling the easiest issues first, like technical ones. By improving the customer journey and giving the customer clear and relevant information along the way, you’ll improve the chances of a sale.

Pro tip: The stores that provide the clearest and most relevant information will be the ones prospects purchase from.

‍Heuristic issues and user testing

User testing is one of the best ways to check your website for heuristic issues: give a task to a random visitor and observe (locally or remotely) how they attempt to solve it.

When you get users to navigate your website and observe their behavior, any problems they encounter will be obvious to you. 

If you'd like to know more about how to spot and solve issues on your website using heuristic analysis, check out this detailed post.

Quantitative analysis: The facts

By using quantitative analysis you can estimate the performance of your optimization program, and see if you’re doing it right. If you don’t notice an improvement, you can change your approach or focus more intensively on other aspects of your business. 

Friendly tip: (No conversion optimization program can help you if your product suffers from a market mismatch or your business strategy is weak. 

Quantitative analysis relies on analytics and other measurement tools to deliver its numerical insights, often in graphic or visualized formats. If you’d like to dig deeper into your quantitative data, check out this post.

Qualitative analysis: The feelings

A qualitative analysis lies in understanding customers and discovering why they act the way they do.

Asking customers what nearly stopped them from purchasing as well as what other information they need to feel comfortable purchasing, can reveal obstacles that for can lower or neutralize to improve sales.

The various methods of qualitative analysis, including surveys, polls, interviews and other direct communication. Your aim is to get to know your customers and find out why they behave the way they do.

By asking them questions, you can refine findings from other parts of the process. Knowing the “why” is a critical component of making visitors’ experiences better, and your customers’ desires and wishes can help you improve your site.

The most important part is to establish what steps in the conversion funnel present the most issues for your customers and prospects. In addition​​​​, you need to identify what information is missing from your site (and what the visitors expect to see). 

Finally, you can discover what stopped prospects from converting. Isn't that the most important piece of information you need?

How to interpret your qualitative research

When you conduct qualitative research, the hard part is usually interpreting the results. It's tempting to give significance to a vocal minority with a complaint, and heading down an optimization rabbit hole. 

With a rich amount of data, it can be hard to make sense of what's relevant. Techniques like cluster analysis can help identify the most important bits of information.

‍What is cluster analysis?

Cluster analysis is a technique that identifies keywords related to issues, and counts the number of times these keywords appear in the surveys or interviews you conduct. This way, you can use data to prioritise problem-solving.

For example, if out of 200 surveyed customers, 70 had trust issues with payment, and only a few had an issue with the provided product information, your greatest priority would be to improve payment security indicators and the overall credibility of the website.

To optimize your cluster analysis even further, make a sheet listing the issues or establish automatic reporting into a table using tools like Google Forms

‍Qualitative Analysis: Establishing Personas

Personas are — distinct groups of customers who share common characteristics. This includes information on geographic location, age, gender, and other data that can be gathered using analytical tools.

Personas help you provide relevant content to each group of customers, and greatly improve the probability of conversion. 

To learn more about qualitative analysis, read this post.

Technical analysis: Let's Fix This

As technical constructs, websites are prone to errors and malfunctions that can have an adverse effect on your conversion rate. Those issues can reflect in a loss of customer trust.

‍Put simply, technical analysis aims to ensure that your website functions properly. 

The surest way to detect any technical issue is to check the entire website for errors. You can use tools like Screaming Frog, which crawls the website and finds all technical issues immediately.

In addition, use analytics to check for issues with different devices, browsers or operating systems.

The process begins by analyzing the technical aspects of a website, as this is the most important step. If visitors can’t see your website, they can’t buy anything!

Technical analysis must confirm that your website functions properly in every way. Here's what you should be checking for:

1. Browser and device compatibility

By checking that your site displays correctly on different browsers and devices, you can detect and solve any problems..

Visitors using mobile devices represent 50% of your audience. Mobile users are an important demographic, so your website should make sure that mobile users enjoy an experience that enables them to achieve their goals.

Navigating your site, from arrival to purchase, should be automated for mobile users. Decrease the number of form fields required on mobile, for example, or allow visitors to log in to your website using popular social logins.

2. Localization

One task of technical analysis is to make sure your website is properly localized. The iInternet used to be mostly English-only, but nowadays, customers from every country expect to websites to speak their language. 

Insert the proper country code, check that your geolocation works properly, and offer translation options.

3. Site speed

How fast is your website loading? Research has shown that a website has 2 seconds or less before a visitor loses patience and closes the browser. . Mobile device users have even less patience. 

Therefore, your site needs to load as fast as possible if you want to avoid losing customers.

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