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The Ultimate Guide to Shopify Conversion Rate Optimization

Shopify CRO guide covers all aspects of ecommerce conversion rate optimization needed to increase your sales. An increased conversion rate is the balm to soothe the growing costs of traffic acquisition. It allows you to grow revenue from your existing visitor base without having to bring more visitors to the website.

Chapter 1

Concepts of Ecommerce & Conversion Optimization

The notion of ecommerce arose as the Internet grew out of its infancy and became available to a large number of people. As the Internet became accepted and more approachable to the majority of the population, without requiring technical knowledge for its use, it became possible sell products through this new medium.

In 1995, some of the first ecommerce stores, such as Amazon and eBay, became operational.

Since then, ecommerce has continued to grow almost exponentially. According to a study by eMarketer, ecommerce retail growth will continue is expected to reach $4 trillion US in 2020.

But despite the ecommerce industry’s fast growth (or rather due to it), competition on the market is intense, and all the advances in technology still have some hurdles to overcome.

Challenges faced by online stores

  • Physical disconnect between the consumer and the product/store
  • Security concerns about payments
  • Security concerns about personal data
  • Concerns about the quality of delivered products, as opposed to what’s shown on the page
  • mazon — A challenge of its own, since it sells everything at great prices with affordable (usually free) shipping

Overcoming the physical disconnect is not an easy proposition. An ecommerce store needs to present its products to potential customers in a way that makes the customer decide the product is something they would pay for.

Since the prospect can’t touch, smell, or taste your product, they have to rely only on what they read, see, or hear on your site.

All those early ecommerce stores had a clear vision of what they wanted to be and how they would operate. This vision, however, was not aligned with available technology. The early Internet was a novelty, and most consumers didn’t trust it; nor was the user interfaces evolved enough or the access fast enough for the majority of users. 

At first, ecommerce stores faced the obstacle of prospects who were unfamiliar and ill at ease with buying products online. The concept required consumers to make a mental switch, actually deciding to buy something they could not touch or feel. Early adopters proved the concept had merit, and eventually, more and more people decided to buy online.

As turnover of ecommerce stores grew, various techniques used to gain consumer confidence developed — all with the ultimate goal of turning as many visitors into customers. 

While brick and mortar stores need to get window shoppers to purchase products, ecommerce stores need first to convince their prospects that the shopping window was real. These efforts resulted in the creation of techniques to foster trust and increase a prospect’s likelihood of buying, and their systematization led to the creation of a number of industry-wide best practices.

Finally, every ecommerce store must consider the fact that Amazon.com is the most popular ecommerce site online. Virtually every product can be bought there and Amazon offers free shipping everywhere in the U.S. 

Your store can only succeed online if it positions itself in a niche segment and offers better conditions for specific products. Every store still needs to overcome the credibility gap that exists between its offer and Amazon’s.

Amazon is the most popular ecommerce site online

The basic psychology of conversion

Before we go any further, let’s examine one of the most renowned theories of conversion psychology. According to a model created by Stanford professor B.J. Fogg, the primary elements of conversion are motivation, ability, and trigger. 

When combined, these three elements lead the prospect to a desired behavior or action. In terms of ecommerce, that desired behavior is purchase.

“Motivation” is the initial value that reflects the customer’s desire to solve their problem using your products. This is largely a given value, and there’s very little that can be done to increase it. 

However, you can actually lower prospects’ motivation to purchase if your website doesn’t fulfill certain requirements. Motivation can be thought of in three subcomponents: pain/pleasure, hope/fear, and social acceptance/rejection. 

This is the point where triggers and ability come in. “Ability” means that prospect is actually able to turn their motivation into action. The easier it is to act (AKA purchase), the more likely a prospect will be to convert, and vice versa. 

Ability depends on a variety of factors, such as money, time, effort, state of mind, social deviance (we’ll get to this), and how routine a task is.

The “trigger” is the specific spark that drives a customer to action. In practice, it’s called a “call to action” Triggers begin to succeed at the intersection of motivation and ability. Below that line, they’ll fail, and you’ll need to reconsider where your trigger (call to action) is placed and what your prospect’s motivation is at that moment.

Fogg’s model of behavior, showing the “action line”

The 2 basic ways to generate more ecommerce revenue

Before we begin talking about CRO, let us just briefly examine an alternatives.There are two basic ways to increase the revenue of a website. One is to bring in more visitors (increase traffic), and the other is to turn more visitors into prospects (increase conversion rate).

Way #1: Increase total traffic

Getting traffic is vital for any website on the Internet, so there are multiple ways to attain it. Plus, doing A/B testing without traffic usually doesn’t make sense.

Cost of traffic acquisition
The cost of traffic acquisition is usually expressed as cost per thousands of visitors delivered. Search engine optimization can be highly variable in pricing, starting from a couple of hundred dollars and reaching into the tens of thousands. SEO is an indispensable marketing activity for low-traffic ecommerce sites.

Pros of traffic acquisition
The benefits are obvious. More people will come to your website, and you’ll rank higher in search results as they research purchases. This enables you to grow traffic further, attracting even more visitors and more customers.

It’s a lot like the ancient credo of brick and mortar stores: “Location, location, location!” Except instead of a prime physical location, your store will enjoy top search engine results page rankings for relevant keywords.

Cons of traffic acquisition
There are two problems with traffic acquisition as a main engine of ecommerce growth. 

First, the cost of traffic acquisition tends to curve as it grows, reaching an exponential as your traffic increases. Second, the potential of traffic acquisition is finite — there are only so many people you can attract to your website. 

Sooner or later, you will encounter one of these obstacles.

Sooner or later, every marketing activity hits the point of diminishing returns.

Way #2: Increase conversion rate

An increased conversion rate is the balm to soothe the growing costs of traffic acquisition. It allows you to grow revenue from your existing visitor base without having to bring more visitors to the website. 

By improving your content, user interface, and other elements of your website and/or offer, you can both make it more likely for visitors to buy and to leave with a positive impression of your website (positive enough to influence other visitors to buy, too). Customers can encourage potential prospects through reviews, testimonials, or social network activity.

CRO works hand-in-hand with SEO to improve your website’s relevance, clarity, quality of content, technical functionality, and more. Together, these two disciplines can improve both your website’s appeal to prospects, and the performance of your selling process.

By determining your target audience and identifying the best-performing customers, you can better focus your marketing and SEO efforts.

The role of conversion optimization in ecommerce

Eventually, the entire process of analyzing a website from the ground up in order to increase its profitability and total revenue became known as conversion rate optimization. 

It can be broadly defined as “all activities aimed at increasing the likelihood that a visitor to the website will actually convert from prospect to customer”.

By its very nature, CRO for ecommerce is a multidisciplinary approach to increasing purchases and improving the performance of online stores. It combines customer psychology, website copy, UX, design, and functionality into a mix that makes the visitor want to buy from your store again and again.

While conversion optimization can be seen as an exact scientific approach to the problem of increasing conversion rates, there are some caveats. Unlike with math or other exact sciences, there are no definitive answers and solutions in CRO. What might work for one ecommerce store might not work for the next one. 

Yes, there are some best practices, but the rest of the process involves researching and testing ideas for improvement. Testing ideas means that optimizers can implement the winning solutions to enhance your ecommerce store, improve revenue, and provide a smooth shopping experience for your customers.

Chapter 2

The business case for CRO

When does CRO make sense?

As with any investment, there is a time and place for CRO. Let’s get into when and how to implement CRO so it makes sense for your business.

The right time for conversion rate optimization will become obvious once you reach the limits of growth through other means. Getting to this point means you have already solved the basic issue of product-market fit, you’ve ensured regular profits from your business, and you’ve reached a relatively stable number of visitors. This is the ideal time to dedicate increased efforts to optimize your conversion rate.

(This is not to say that you can neglect the basic aims of CRO even earlier: AKA creating a user-friendly customer experience, defining your unique value proposition, and addressing technical issues.)

However, a fully fledged conversion optimization process is only possible once you have a mathematically significant number of customers, and you’re able to conduct every part of the CRO process (measurement, research, and testing) with full confidence in the results.

Prior to this point, your ROI from other activities — such as business process improvement, product development, and traffic acquisition — will be greater.

Since product development and business process improvement are somewhat outside of the scope of marketing techniques, we’ll assume you’ve managed to overcome those hurdles if you are considering CRO and traffic acquisition. 

Now, let’s examine traffic acquisition briefly as a potential competing way to increase revenue.Costs and benefits of CROThe costs of conducting a conversion optimization process are usually presented as an up-front fee paid to a conversion optimization agency, regardless of the final result.The effects of a properly applied conversion optimization process are permanent, and additional investment can make the results even better.

Even if you test everything already, the CRO process can help you redesign your website to entirely new specifications (while avoiding costly missteps).

The cost of agency-conducted CRO is usually not tied to performance. It’s often a fixed sum, to which only the cost of tools and eventual costs of benefits for customers are added. Since an agency-led process involves close cooperation with the staff of the site being optimized, it also results in the creation of a knowledge base that enables the site’s team to continue optimizing on their own once the initial contract ends. 

In truth, no ecommerce store can neglect conversion optimization and experimentation if it wants to grow.

According to an Unbounce study, this is the best combination of SEO and CRO budget (source)

And here is a quote from the article the table is sourced from:

“Your own private sweet spot (?) will depend on how successful your CRO efforts are. Perhaps you’ll only achieve a 5% increase per $1,000 spent. The only difference is that you’ll have a different chart and a different sweet spot. The important thing to learn here is that there does exist a point where you optimize your expenditure based on optimization efforts.” Oli Gardner, founder of Unbounce

Put another way, the initial cost of the CRO process is not likely to grow exponentially or significantly, even after a prolonged period. 

Let’s look at the benefits CRO offers in both the short and long term.

The process of conversion optimization research has immediate benefits for every website. As we’ve seen, technical and heuristic research can provide immediate solutions to obvious issues, which can also have the fastest impact on a store’s conversion rate.

Most practitioners have reported some of the greatest increases in conversion rates in this short-term phase, even before conducting any experiments. Fixing technical and obvious heuristic issues makes a website much more accessible to visitors, and can help recover prospects who dropped out of the funnel for related reasons.

More mature websites, where these issues have already been largely sorted out, will experience steady, albeit usually lower growth.

Taking a longer view, conversion optimization improves the overall content and design of your website. These benefits will show up later and have a compounding effect over the long term. By improving your content’s quality and relevance, learning about your customers, and increasing personalization (an aspect we’ll cover in more detail later), your store can experience exponential revenue growth and even attract more visitors.

What’s behind these longer-term benefits? Simply put, the CRO process makes your website and your entire approach to customers better and more effective. Qualitative research is most useful here, as you’ll find out more about your customers…. and then you can bring your offer more in line with their expectations.

The prime benefit of CRO lies in establishing an ongoing process. As a matter of fact, that’s how all the big names in ecommerce (Amazon, Booking.com etc) have found success.

When you start conversion optimization, you enter a self-perpetuating cycle.

Pros of conversion optimization
We’ve already covered some of the most important benefits above, so how about looking at some of the less obvious ones?

  • You can start the conversion optimization process yourself at a relatively low cost
  • In the initial phase, you’ll likely see large and immediate wins
  • You can learn more about your market and target audience
  • Conversion optimization helps make your overall marketing more effective, by allowing you to target audiences more likely to correspond to your ideal customer

Cons of conversion optimization
While the advantages of conversion optimization are many, there are only a few real disadvantages. The main disadvantage lies in the fact that the process requires effort and diligence. After the initial gains, there can be a period of decreased gains, which may disappoint you. However, as we examined above, this situation won’t last, and the gains will pick back up as the process runs its course.

Essentially, the only con is the need for patience to complete the research diligently and methodically. Sometimes this research can take a month or two.

As attractive as conducting experiments may sound, you need to keep in mind that experimentation isn’t viable unless you have enough traffic to make testing possible, and you’ve also conducted enough research to make testing cost-effective.

Another disadvantage is the time it sometimes requires to achieve gains after the initial ones. While initial gains can be immediate, the process of structuring hypotheses and running tests can take six months to a year. This kind of timeframe may be intimidating at first.

However, you can be confident that the advantages greatly outweigh the disadvantages, and that a properly conducted process of conversion optimization is the most cost-effective growth activity you can conduct.

As you can see, with an assumed conversion rate of 2%, 5000 daily visitors, a profit margin of 20%, and an increase in conversion rate of (a relatively moderate) 5%, an ecommerce store can return its entire CRO investment within 8 months. Even this minimal increase in conversion rate results in a quick return on investment.

You can do your own calculation, using our web based ROI calculator.

Chapter 3

Important elements of the ecommerce store

Research is the foundation of the conversion optimization process. If we don’t know the facts behind what is happening on the site — and why — we can’t accurately pinpoint what to fix and how to fix it, no matter how much we test.

As we’ve talked about previously, research can be roughly divided into four main categories:

  1. Quantitative
  2. Qualitative
  3. Heuristic

User interface

The user interface is one area where nearly all websites can improve. It can always be made simpler and more user-friendly, but often, this work is overlooked. 

Some of the most important elements of user interface are:

  1. Input controls
  2. Navigational elements
  3. Informational elements
  4. Containers

Let’s go through these one by one.

Input controls

Input controls provide visitors with a means to convey their intentions and information to your website, and perform desired actions. By making the input elements easier to use, you can improve the user’s interaction with the website.

If you make interaction easy, than your triggers will have a better chance at converting your visitors into customers. This includes making your forms as short as they can be, ensuring that calls to action are prominently visible, automating input fields, offering drop-down selection menus with limited available answers, etc.

For example, if call to action buttons (“Add to Cart,” “Buy”) on your product pages  are prominent, it will be easier for the customer to find them once they decide to buy. If your page has multiple screens of info, make sure the CTA buttons are anchored. 

Ecommerce sites can also benefit from adding call to action buttons on product thumbnails on category pages.d

L.L. Bean’s product pages include breadcrumb navigation and a prominent call to action button

Navigational elements

Navigational elements enable your customers to find the things they need on your website. They include search fields, breadcrumb navigation, pagination, tags, and icons. These items make it easier for the visitors to understand and navigate the structure of your website.

Ecommerce websites should always provide breadcrumb navigation in the structure of their product pages. If your customer advances from the home page through product categories and subcategory pages to a specific product page, enable them to backtrack their progress — since they may change their mind or want to see other products in the same or different categories.

Proper pagination and enabling prospects to enter a specific page number eases navigation through multiple pages of product categories and products. Make sure your prospect is aware of their page position at all times.

Amazon’s bottom-of-the-page numbering shows visitors where they are.

Search fields are some of the most important and useful navigational elements. If a visitor knows what they want but not where it is, they can find the product or item they need immediately by using the website search. 

Thus search becomes a shortcut to the action or goal they want to achieve. This is another way to increase the ease of matching your visitor’s motivation, and making the trigger more likely to work.

Informational content

Informational content provides visitors with information on other elements on the page, or on the shopping process. These elements include tooltips, icons, progress bars, notifications, and message boxes. 

For example, tooltips can make it easier to fill out forms, and progress bars provide information on how long a process will take, alleviating visitor concerns. You can also use tooltips to show different available options for a product, ex. size or color.

Notifications are mostly used to correct errors and notify visitors that they’ve been successful at a given step.

Progress bars can be used to inform prospects of their progress through processes that require extended user input — for example, configuring a laptop computer or adding information during purchase.
Progress bars also eliminate one of prospects’ greatest sources of friction. By indicating how much time the prospect should expect to spend, you diminish their uncertainty and reassure them.

Here’s an example of a checkout process with a progress bar

Containers

Finally, containers represent information condensed in a collapsible form. They’re mostly used to lighten informational load and enable visitors to see only the information that is relevant to them.

Ecommerce stores use containers to provide information that may interest some prospects, but not all of them. By collapsing this information (while still providing a clear indicator that it’s there), you minimize informational load for prospects.

Lenovo uses containers to help prospects navigate their product offer

Checkout experience

The checkout experience is a critical point in the entire user experience. A key part of this experience is a conversion funnel, AKA the path the visitor takes from adding a product to visiting the cart to completing the transaction.

Once a prospect enters the purchase process, they need to proceed through it with as few distractions or obstacles as possible.

The key to a smooth checkout process is to make forms and customer inputs as unobtrusive as possible. Short forms, login options via social media accounts, payment using third-party systems like PayPal, and automating shipping forms by adding location recognition whenever possible, makes the process smooth and quick.

Shipping policy

A store’s shipping policy is part of the shopping experience, and can have a decisive influence on the prospect’s decision to purchase. One of the greatest complaints of prospects who drop out of the conversion process is shipping policy and cost. 

In fact, 68% of all people who drop out of the conversion funnel report that they quit because the shopping policies were communicated too late in the process, or the shipping cost was higher than expected.

This is why you should put great effort into making your store’s shipping policy clear and transparent. Most ecommerce stores nowadays offer free shipping either outright, as part of a subscription package, or for purchases above a certain amount.

Shipping policy

Return policy is one of the best trust indicators you can employ. If you promise to refund or replace faulty products free of charge, you’ll foster trust, and prospects will be inclined to believe you, especially if the claim is substantiated by evidence. If you have a return and refund policy, try to show feedback from customers who have successfully used it.

Contact page

To increase credibility, provide a contact page to show prospects that a real and legitimate business exists behind the website. Provide addresses and pictures of your premises, employees, and founders to prove your store isn’t a scam.

About page

Your store’s “About” page should provide more information about your store and its mission or focus, including your unique value proposition, the provenance of the products you sell, and similar information.

If you’re connected with prominent institutions, companies, or governmental agencies, show those connections here. You can also use the page to provide evidence that your products are used by celebrities and other influential personalities.

Homepage

The homepage, or front page, is the page that prospects see when they type your direct URL in their browser or search for your brand name online. The homepage’s function is to build brand awareness and to steer prospects toward the shopping area. To achieve this goal, your homepage needs to provide links to all the areas of your store, and offer the ability to find or compare products.

Another important aspect of the homepage is including a call to action to some of your most popular products. This enables prospects to find what they want immediately on arrival. You should also point out any current deals or benefits to prospects on the homepage.

Category page

Category pages are crucial to effective, easy navigation. They should enable prospects to reach different groups of products, in much the same way that sections or shelves function in brick-and-mortar stores. 

Products on category pages can be displayed outright, or sorted into subcategories. You can also use category pages as landing pages for your PPC and paid search campaigns. 

To ease category page navigation, offer pagination and filters if there are more products than can fit on one page. Also, enable users to sort products by different criteria (price, most popular products, etc). These simple navigational aids can greatly ease the prospect’s task.

Don’t forget to allow prospects to add products to the cart directly from category pages.

Product pages

Product pages are the main place where your prospects find information about your products. Each product page has one job to do: provide prospects with all the information they need to buy your product with confidence that they’ve made a good choice.

Product pages can feature product photography, descriptions/copy, specifications, user reviews, and testimonials, and customization opportunities. You can also add indicators of scarcity or urgency, such as the number of items remaining in stock, or notifications such as “Order by 2PM for item to be shipped today”.

Finally, the product page is also an excellent place to present cross-sell and upsell opportunities. Offer related products or products that complement the one the prospect is viewing (for example, show prospects on a mobile phone product page a selection of phone cases and accessories).

Privacy page

Every ecommerce store needs a privacy page to inform visitors that their privacy is respected, and their personally identifiable data is treated with due care. This is important to increase trust with your prospects, and neutralize any reluctance they may feel in providing you with their address or credit card numbers.

Terms page

To further protect both you and your customers from any misunderstanding, your store needs a “Terms of Service” page. This page provides prospects and visitors with information about how your website conducts business, how users can cancel their accounts, and usually clarifies your purchase, shipping, and returns/exchanges process. More to the point, to be able to use most payment gateways, you need to have a terms page.

Chapter 4

General approaches to improving your ecommerce conversion rate

Improving ecommerce conversions is a function of many factors. Since a sale is largely dependent on the amount of information a prospect has, improving your site’s informational content will have a large effect on conversions. 

Of course, information about products, transactions, and other information about your company, brand, or store takes precedence over every other type of information.

First, consider your sales funnel

The path customers take, from arriving on your site to completing a purchase, is known as a “conversion” or “sales” funnel. This descriptor references the fact that not all of your visitors actually end up purchasing anything from your website. 

So the top of the journey is wide, or filled with visitors, and the bottom is narrow, which creates a funnel shape:

Provide more information about your products

Product pages (an area of your ecommerce website that we’ll examine in-depth later) are the primary place to offer information about your product(s). At the same time, providing more information in blog posts, how-to videos, or other helpful and beneficial content is the best way to draw prospects’ attention to your website.

The only way to persuade prospects to buy your products is to present as many persuasive facts about those products, as accurately as possible. Some of the ways to offer this info are:

  • Showing high-definition, accurate photographs of the products
  • Providing detailed description of products’ materials and functions
  • Customer testimonials and reviews (these are some of your best tools to make visitors convert)

This type of information makes searching for products easier. As prospects gather information on how your product can apply to their situation or problem immediately, they will be more likely to click buy. The point is to make the information relevant and appropriate to as many prospects as possible.

Relevance is the most important aspect of product-related content. You can make your content more relevant by making it “smarter” — that is, providing immediate and automatic recognition of different customers by gender, age, location, past purchases, or other distinguishing characteristics. Smart content is easily achievable using readily available tools for personalization and user recognition. This approach is part of personalization, which we’ll also talk about later on in a separate section.

Even though high-quality photos, videos, and other visual representations of your products are indispensable to conversion, the entire buying process must be made easy for prospects to convert. It won’t matter how good your product photographs are or how detailed your information is unless your prospect can easily complete a purchase through a series of logical steps.

Help visitors and customers identify more with your brand

Many ecommerce websites use content marketing to establish their brand and match it to a certain lifestyle or the interests of a significant group of visitors (their target market).

For example, a store that sells hiking equipment might publish articles or videos on where and how to enjoy nature; land conservation; and/or humane treatment of animals and the environment. A clothing brand might publish articles on topics relating to luxury or living well, which will help tie its brand to the perception of luxury.

Allay doubts and fears

Often, the largest amount of doubt and fear on an ecommerce site is tied to the process of payment and shipping. It’s paramount to establish trust and dispel any fears your customer may have about the security of their personal information or the process itself. 

To enhance trust, be sure to include detailed and clear information on shipping costs (including countries or regions where shipping is free, and how customers can qualify for free shipping if you offer it).
The other critical aspect is payment. You need to be up front about accepted payment methods and assure customers that their info is secure.

There’s another layer of trust you’ll need to establish, too: namely, convincing prospects that your offer is legitimate. One of the best ways to dispel distrust in this realm is to provide content that proves the usability of your products.

You can also engender trust by providing content that shows there is a real organization behind the products your store makes and sells. Show customers you share their values and interests (the “About” page is a great place to do this).

Videos are an effective way to influence prospects with a credible message, and introduce them to your products in a way that no copy or photograph can. Consider creating video(s) of how to use your product, and showing examples of its application in a real environment.

If you can obtain them, video testimonials are an excellent way to increase your store’s credibility. By providing your prospects with the opinions of their peers, you can influence would-be customers much more than with regular old video.

Increase engagement

One of the important indicators of website performance is how engaged your visitors are as they navigate the content. More engagement generally means a higher likelihood of conversion as visitors spend more time on the site, and read and consume more content.

Along with blogs/articles and videos, which can prolong visitor engagement, interactive content can generate increased engagement. Many websites use gamification to increase engagement and make visitors feel more connected to the website. Gamification can be accomplished in a number of ways — frequently by offering “achievements,” prizes, or tokens to repeat customers.

Loyalty programs combined with gamification can be used effectively to increase customer lifetime value and average order value, as well as to make more customers into repeat customers.
Of course, the ultimate engagement happens when your site is able to recognize every customer and provide them with content and experience tailored to their needs. This is where personalization comes in.

Chapter 5

How to start using personalization to your store’s benefit

“Personalization” has become one of ecommerce’s most frequently used words. The basi goal of personalization is to make a website and its content responsive to each individual customer. 

According to a study done by Forbes, 96% of all marketers believe that personalization is essential to increase conversion, and 88% noticed a measurable increase in revenue when they implemented personalization.

Personalization means you need to collect every available data point about your visitors and customers, and use those data to derive information about what that customer likes or enjoys. A website can be personalized in a number of ways, but the main aim of personalization is to make the prospect’s journey to conversion shorter and easier. Prospects should immediately see products and/or options they want to buy.

Personalization doesn’t stop there, however! It should inform everything you do on the website, recognizing and taking into account prospects’ interests, values, motivations, challenges, and fears. 

At its core, personalization means to offer marketing message custom made to each individual, resulting in increasing the likelihood each of them converting. A truly personalized user experience doesn’t just offer relevant content, but anticipates the prospect’s needs and desires. 

By offering visitors relevant content, guiding them to the products they need, and making them offers that correspond to their life situation and their current stage in the buying process, you ensure that prospects’ motivation and ease of use will be met by a trigger at the right time.

Repeat customers can be encouraged to provide more data, which you can then use to make following shopping experiences even smoother. This data can also be used to match the behavioral patterns of prospects who have not yet purchased anything from your website. This way, you can provide a large part of your audience with some sort of personalized experience, and increase the likelihood that each visitor will convert and purchase something.

As your customer base grows and you obtain more data, personalization will prove to be one of your most powerful tools for increasing conversion. Even the most rudimentary personalization can help increase the conversion rate of first-time visitors and of visitors from other countries, encourage repeat purchases, and reduce cart abandonment.

Personalization can be achieved in two primary ways:

  1. Customized experience using customer input
  2. Automated personalization using available data

One of the most commonly used methods to increase website personalization is to use personas, or groups of visitors that share common characteristics.

By developing personas, you can start to personalize a prospect’s experience as soon as they arrive on the site. Use common behavioral indicators (ex. clicks on particular content, acquisition channels, location, or interests) to observe patterns of behavior and immediately slot individual prospects and visitors into a group. 

For more information on how to create personas, read our article on automating persona creation.

Customize your store experience using customer input

Personalization can easily be achieved using customer input. If you have a method for customers to register, you can then allow them to select layout options for the site, change their display language, or alter other customizable elements of the website.

This type of customization is powerful because it enables you to provide every customer with an experience that mirrors the desires they express. Plus, it doesn’t depend on tracking or interpreting prospect behavior. 

But customization does have one serious drawback that limits its use. Because it depends on data that customers willingly choose to disclose, you’ll need to win their trust and confidence first. Prospects need to register and then start inputting their preferences. Needless to say, they might bounce or never bother to fill in that info.

That’s why you shouldn’t depend only on the data your customers elect to provide. You should also use automation and available data to personalize your store’s web experience.

Automate personalization using available data

Automated personalization has a major advantage over customer-input personalization: namely, that it doesn’t require any conscious effort by the prospect to fill in the information you need. By using a combination of quantitative methods and qualitative research, you can automatically profile prospects and sort them into groups.

Most analytical tools enable you to gather data on visitor location, age, gender, acquisition channel, and behavioral patterns.

By observing and analyzing this info, you can create personas and start personalizing content according to given criteria.

The simplest method is to personalize according to location. Clothing stores often use this approach to provide visitors from specific locations with offers for products that correspond to their climate and current season.

The drawbacks of personalization

While personalization can be extremely useful, there are situations when personalizing user experience can create additional issues — and instead of increasing conversions, it can do the opposite.

First, if you decide to automate personalization, make sure the data you use can be easily translated into something that an automated software can understand and apply. What does this mean? Essentially, you should personalize based only on relatively unchanging elements.

If you go too far with personalization and try to second-guess your customers based on wrong or outdated assumptions, you can end up making their user experience worse.

The second issue is introducing personalization on a level that creeps visitors out. The best personalization is timely and contextual, so prospects and customers see the offer they want, at the time they need it, and in a context that makes sense. 

For example, if your prospect is looking for a laptop computer and you can identify her expected use (mostly for work), offer her devices with a configuration that’s appropriate for business.

How not to personalize: Any personalization effort is always a hair’s width away from going from relevant to creepy. While some of your prospects may assign little value to privacy, many will have concerns about it. If you want to make personalized offers, take care to set reasonable expectations with your customers.

Some guidelines:

  • Make sure you provide them with a timely opportunity to explicitly opt out 
  • Do not personalize based on personal identifiable data (such as home addresses names of the members of the family etc), even if you have this data
  • Make sure that you don’t offend or hurt your customers through inconsiderate promotion, as in the widely quoted example of a father finding an offer for prenatal products addressed to his daughter.
  • Before you start any personalization, establish strict guidelines and procedures for what data to use.

In addition, don’t offer them benefits that they do not qualify for or make wide assumption based upon a single data point. For example, a person interested in organic food may not necessarily be into paleo diets or vegan food. Before you make any assumptions, make sure you have multiple data points available and match them for more accurate and relevant results.

In addition, make sure your personalization is not shallow (ex. offering customers a product they have already bought, or just because they have it in their browsing history).

You should always be collecting data and learning from your customers. No information should be neglected or skipped, since everything your customers and visitors do can help you personalize their experience. Just make sure you use the data wisely and without creeping out your customers.

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, we analyze every aspect of the site’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 of the website doesn’t mean just counting the number of people who visit it and/or buy from it. True measurement means systematically, deliberately tracking every aspect of visitors’ activity on the website, from arrival to their exit, regardless of whether they convert or not.

The idea is to identify your visitors’ patterns of behavior. You’re looking to find out what makes them more likely to convert, how converting visitors (AKA customers) arrive at the website, and how they interact with it. Accurate measurement enables you not only to identify patterns, but to find out which parts of your website aren’t functioning optimally.

Set yourself up for meaningful measurement

The optimizer’s initial task is to measure the website’s current performance. This involves defining the site’s purpose, the owner’s expectations, the target audience, etc. This preliminary effort will make both defining goals and measuring improvements possible.

Before doing any measurement, you need to verify if that your measurement tools are configured properly. Proper configuration and setup is necessary to make measurements accurate and timely. Don’t skip auditing your existing setup, even if everything seems to be in order.

Without accurate initial measurement, no conversion optimization can take place. If you don’t know whether you’re actually improving a site’s performance, then what’s the point?

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 that measurement. 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 high-level indicators known as “objectives”. Management should establish guidelines and set clear objectives against which you can judge the performance of your entire business.

Once you identify the overall objective(s), go a level down and identify goals. The goal should inform the operational aspects of achieving the overall 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 tactical planning and provides you with an idea of what actions you’ll need to take to reach the goal. 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.

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:

A well-conceived measurement plan.

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

2. Measuring

Actually measuring your website’s performance starts with implementing your measurement plan so you can track all the data. Your measurement plan indicates what data points you need to assess the performance of your business accurately. 

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

Consider your website as a sequence of interaction. 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 and start just gathering every random piece of data, you’ll quickly find yourself in a situation where you can’t make sense of all the data you have. To prevent this, make sure you collect only the data you need.

For example, if you operate an ecommerce site and most of your customers buy your products without ever downloading a PDF about your company, then explicitly tracking and reporting the number of times this document is downloaded is simply not important.

If, on the other hand, many of your buyers viewed a video of the product prior to buying it, it stands to reason that 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.

Using measurement, you can establish targets and measure your KPIs against those targets. In effect,  measurement just means providing accurate and timely data to show how your site is conforming to the overall plan. 

Since it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the literal mountain of data-tracking tools available, you need to stick to your measurement plan. You’ll avoid wasting time and effort tracking irrelevant data, and ensure you notice the insights offered by relevant data.

3. Reporting

Once you’ve set up your chosen tool(s), you need to decide what forms of reporting you’ll use. Most tools contain some form of visualization by default. But 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. While this solution requires some initial effort, 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 and easy.

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.

Data at a glimpse is a key feature of most analytical tools

Analyze your measurements & conduct other research

The research phase includes the initial data collection and establishment of your website’s baseline performance. This is where we find out what issues are limiting the performance of a website, and how exactly they’re limiting it.

To properly conduct any conversion optimization process, you need to conduct thorough research and analyze every available data point — since only when you identify a problem can you attempt to solve it! Analysis is the process of deliberately, methodically examining your existing data to derive insights.

CRO takes place in 4 main parts

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

  • Heuristic analysis
  • Quantitative analysis
  • Qualitative analysis
  • Technical analysis

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

First, conduct heuristic analysis

Heuristic analysis can uncover a diverse set of issues, from issues in the design of the website, user interface and finally content.

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”. The concept is that you should be able to judge the purpose of any website within the first five seconds of viewing it. Ideally, you should apply this test to your website by finding 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.

Nielsen’s 10 usability principles, as applied to websites:

  • Ability to keep track of the process or flow by visitor
  • Clarity and relevance
  • Freedom and control (visitor’s ability to maintain the control of the process, and freedom to pursue their own objectives)
  • Consistency of the site’s message
  • Prevention of errors through anticipating most common errors and reducing the possibility of that visitor action can trigger errors
  • Recognition means creating a UX that helps customers instantly, intuitively recognize how to operate your website, instead of having to remember how
  • Flexibility and efficiency that allows visitors to use shortcuts and time-saving measuresAttractive aesthetics
  • Testing error messages for clarity and relevance in order to help users diagnose and recover from errors
  • Available documentation and help services

Overall, you’re making sure that visitors to your website 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 path to purchasing should be unburdened by obstacles. For example, when you need to get data from a prospect (like payment and shipping data) ask only for the data that you really need.

Optimizing the customer journey means tackling the lowest-hanging fruit in the optimization process (technical issues are the other low-hangers). By improving the customer journey and giving the customer clear and relevant information along the way, you’ll improve the likelihood of that customer converting. The stores that provide the clearest and most relevant information will be the ones prospects purchase from.

User testing is one of the best ways to check your website for heuristic issues. The process consists of assigning a random visitor a task and observing locally or remotely how they attempt to solve this task. When you get users to navigate your website and observe their behavior, any problems they encounter will be obvious. 

Want 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

Overall, you’re making sure that visitors to your website 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 path to purchasing should be unburdened by obstacles. For example, when you need to get data from a prospect (like payment and shipping data) ask only for the data that you really need.

Optimizing the customer journey means tackling the lowest-hanging fruit in the optimization process (technical issues are the other low-hangers). By improving the customer journey and giving the customer clear and relevant information along the way, you’ll improve the likelihood of that customer converting. The stores that provide the clearest and most relevant information will be the ones prospects purchase from.

User testing is one of the best ways to check your website for heuristic issues. The process consists of assigning a random visitor a task and observing locally or remotely how they attempt to solve this task. When you get users to navigate your website and observe their behavior, any problems they encounter will be obvious. 

Want to know more about how to spot and solve issues on your website using heuristic analysis? Check out this detailed post.

Finally, 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. (No conversion optimization program can help you if your product suffers from a market mismatch or your business strategy is unsound.)

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

Once you solve all the obvious technical and heuristic issues, the best way to improve your website lies in understanding customers and discovering why they act the way they do.

By improving the aspects of your website or offer that customers consider problematic, you’ll improve the entire website for all prospects and lower their barriers to purchase.

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

You can get to know your customers using various methods of qualitative analysis, including surveys, polls, interviews and other direct communications with customers.

Your aim is to to decode why they visitors behave the way they do. By asking them questions, you can refine findings from other parts of the process — essentially finding the “why” behind the “what”. 
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. Furthermore, you need to identify what information or content is missing from your site (and what the visitors expect to see). Finally, you can ascertain what stopped prospects from converting — this may be 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. There’s a danger of attributing overwhelming significance to a vocal minority with a complaint, and heading down an optimization rabbit hole. When you collect a wealth of data, it can be hard to make sense of, which is why techniques like cluster analysis can help identify the most important bits of data.

Cluster analysis is a simple technique that consists of identifying keywords related to issues, and counting the number of times these keywords appear in the surveys or interviews you conduct. Using cluster analysis, you can figure out which issues affect the largest number of customers and prospects and address those first. 

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 (rather than addressing the relatively minor issue of product info). 

The best way to do cluster analysis is to make a sheet listing the issues, and manually count them. Or, you can establish automatic reporting into a table using tools like Google Forms.

Using qualitative analysis, you can also establish personas — distinct groups of customers who share common characteristics. Personas include information on geographic location, age, gender, and other data that can be gathered using analytical tools.  

Useful personas also include data on the customer’s average order value, interests, and the problems and challenges they face. 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: The “Fix this!”es

Put simply, technical analysis aims to ensure that your website functions properly. As technical constructs, websites are prone to errors and malfunctions that can have an adverse effect on your conversion rate. In fact, technical trouble can even diminish trust on certain parts of your website.

The surest way to detect any technical issue is to check the entire website for errors. Done manually, this would be inefficient and time-wasting. Instead, use tools like Screaming Frog, which crawls the website and finds all technical issues immediately.

In addition, you can use analytics to check for issues with different devices, browsers or operating systems. Relying on analytics to perform technical reviews offers an additional advantage, in that it offers the possibility to assess a given issue’s impact on the performance of the website.

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 convert! 

Technical analysis must confirm that your website functions properly in every way. You’re checking for…

Browser and device compatibility

Your website should display the same way on every device your visitors use. By checking that your site displays correctly on different browsers and devices, you can detect and solve any problems.

Visitors using mobile devices to navigate to your website 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.

That means you need to make the process of navigating your site, from arrival to purchase, simpler and more automated for users on mobile devices. For instance, decrease the number of form fields required on mobile, and/or allow visitors to log in to your website using popular social logins.

Localization

The Internet used to be mostly English-only — until recently. Nowadays, customers from every country expect to websites to speak their language. 

One task of technical analysis is to make sure your website is properly localized. For example, insert the proper country code, check that your geolocation works properly, and offer users translation options.

Site speed

Technical analysis should check how fast the website loads. Research has shown that a website has 2 seconds or less before a visitor loses patience and closes the browser or goes to another website. Mobile device users have even less patience. Therefore, your site needs to load as fast as possible in order to avoid losing customers.

Other technical considerations

Chapter 6

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, we analyze every aspect of the site’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 of the website doesn’t mean just counting the number of people who visit it and/or buy from it. True measurement means systematically, deliberately tracking every aspect of visitors’ activity on the website, from arrival to their exit, regardless of whether they convert or not.

The idea is to identify your visitors’ patterns of behavior. You’re looking to find out what makes them more likely to convert, how converting visitors (AKA customers) arrive at the website, and how they interact with it. Accurate measurement enables you not only to identify patterns, but to find out which parts of your website aren’t functioning optimally.

Set yourself up for meaningful measurement

The optimizer’s initial task is to measure the website’s current performance. This involves defining the site’s purpose, the owner’s expectations, the target audience, etc. This preliminary effort will make both defining goals and measuring improvements possible.

Before doing any measurement, you need to verify if that your measurement tools are configured properly. Proper configuration and setup is necessary to make measurements accurate and timely. Don’t skip auditing your existing setup, even if everything seems to be in order.

Without accurate initial measurement, no conversion optimization can take place. If you don’t know whether you’re actually improving a site’s performance, then what’s the point?

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 that measurement. 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 high-level indicators known as “objectives”. Management should establish guidelines and set clear objectives against which you can judge the performance of your entire business.

Once you identify the overall objective(s), go a level down and identify goals. The goal should inform the operational aspects of achieving the overall 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 tactical planning and provides you with an idea of what actions you’ll need to take to reach the goal. 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.

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:

A well-conceived measurement plan.

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

2. Measuring

Actually measuring your website’s performance starts with implementing your measurement plan so you can track all the data. Your measurement plan indicates what data points you need to assess the performance of your business accurately. 

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

Consider your website as a sequence of interaction. 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 and start just gathering every random piece of data, you’ll quickly find yourself in a situation where you can’t make sense of all the data you have. To prevent this, make sure you collect only the data you need.

For example, if you operate an ecommerce site and most of your customers buy your products without ever downloading a PDF about your company, then explicitly tracking and reporting the number of times this document is downloaded is simply not important.

If, on the other hand, many of your buyers viewed a video of the product prior to buying it, it stands to reason that 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.

Using measurement, you can establish targets and measure your KPIs against those targets. In effect,  measurement just means providing accurate and timely data to show how your site is conforming to the overall plan. 

Since it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the literal mountain of data-tracking tools available, you need to stick to your measurement plan. You’ll avoid wasting time and effort tracking irrelevant data, and ensure you notice the insights offered by relevant data.

3. Reporting

Once you’ve set up your chosen tool(s), you need to decide what forms of reporting you’ll use. Most tools contain some form of visualization by default. But 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. While this solution requires some initial effort, 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 and easy.

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.

Data at a glimpse is a key feature of most analytical tools

Analyze your measurements & conduct other research

The research phase includes the initial data collection and establishment of your website’s baseline performance. This is where we find out what issues are limiting the performance of a website, and how exactly they’re limiting it.

To properly conduct any conversion optimization process, you need to conduct thorough research and analyze every available data point — since only when you identify a problem can you attempt to solve it! Analysis is the process of deliberately, methodically examining your existing data to derive insights.

CRO takes place in 4 main parts

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

  • Heuristic analysis
  • Quantitative analysis
  • Qualitative analysis
  • Technical analysis

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

First, conduct heuristic analysis

Heuristic analysis can uncover a diverse set of issues, from issues in the design of the website, user interface and finally content.

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”. The concept is that you should be able to judge the purpose of any website within the first five seconds of viewing it. Ideally, you should apply this test to your website by finding 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.

Nielsen’s 10 usability principles, as applied to websites:

  • Ability to keep track of the process or flow by visitor
  • Clarity and relevance
  • Freedom and control (visitor’s ability to maintain the control of the process, and freedom to pursue their own objectives)
  • Consistency of the site’s message
  • Prevention of errors through anticipating most common errors and reducing the possibility of that visitor action can trigger errors
  • Recognition means creating a UX that helps customers instantly, intuitively recognize how to operate your website, instead of having to remember how
  • Flexibility and efficiency that allows visitors to use shortcuts and time-saving measuresAttractive aesthetics
  • Testing error messages for clarity and relevance in order to help users diagnose and recover from errors
  • Available documentation and help services

Overall, you’re making sure that visitors to your website 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 path to purchasing should be unburdened by obstacles. For example, when you need to get data from a prospect (like payment and shipping data) ask only for the data that you really need.

Optimizing the customer journey means tackling the lowest-hanging fruit in the optimization process (technical issues are the other low-hangers). By improving the customer journey and giving the customer clear and relevant information along the way, you’ll improve the likelihood of that customer converting. The stores that provide the clearest and most relevant information will be the ones prospects purchase from.

User testing is one of the best ways to check your website for heuristic issues. The process consists of assigning a random visitor a task and observing locally or remotely how they attempt to solve this task. When you get users to navigate your website and observe their behavior, any problems they encounter will be obvious. 

Want 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

Overall, you’re making sure that visitors to your website 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 path to purchasing should be unburdened by obstacles. For example, when you need to get data from a prospect (like payment and shipping data) ask only for the data that you really need.

Optimizing the customer journey means tackling the lowest-hanging fruit in the optimization process (technical issues are the other low-hangers). By improving the customer journey and giving the customer clear and relevant information along the way, you’ll improve the likelihood of that customer converting. The stores that provide the clearest and most relevant information will be the ones prospects purchase from.

User testing is one of the best ways to check your website for heuristic issues. The process consists of assigning a random visitor a task and observing locally or remotely how they attempt to solve this task. When you get users to navigate your website and observe their behavior, any problems they encounter will be obvious. 

Want to know more about how to spot and solve issues on your website using heuristic analysis? Check out this detailed post.

Finally, 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. (No conversion optimization program can help you if your product suffers from a market mismatch or your business strategy is unsound.)

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

Once you solve all the obvious technical and heuristic issues, the best way to improve your website lies in understanding customers and discovering why they act the way they do.

By improving the aspects of your website or offer that customers consider problematic, you’ll improve the entire website for all prospects and lower their barriers to purchase.

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

You can get to know your customers using various methods of qualitative analysis, including surveys, polls, interviews and other direct communications with customers.

Your aim is to to decode why they visitors behave the way they do. By asking them questions, you can refine findings from other parts of the process — essentially finding the “why” behind the “what”. 
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. Furthermore, you need to identify what information or content is missing from your site (and what the visitors expect to see). Finally, you can ascertain what stopped prospects from converting — this may be 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. There’s a danger of attributing overwhelming significance to a vocal minority with a complaint, and heading down an optimization rabbit hole. When you collect a wealth of data, it can be hard to make sense of, which is why techniques like cluster analysis can help identify the most important bits of data.

Cluster analysis is a simple technique that consists of identifying keywords related to issues, and counting the number of times these keywords appear in the surveys or interviews you conduct. Using cluster analysis, you can figure out which issues affect the largest number of customers and prospects and address those first. 

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 (rather than addressing the relatively minor issue of product info). 

The best way to do cluster analysis is to make a sheet listing the issues, and manually count them. Or, you can establish automatic reporting into a table using tools like Google Forms.

Using qualitative analysis, you can also establish personas — distinct groups of customers who share common characteristics. Personas include information on geographic location, age, gender, and other data that can be gathered using analytical tools.  

Useful personas also include data on the customer’s average order value, interests, and the problems and challenges they face. 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: The “Fix this!”es

Put simply, technical analysis aims to ensure that your website functions properly. As technical constructs, websites are prone to errors and malfunctions that can have an adverse effect on your conversion rate. In fact, technical trouble can even diminish trust on certain parts of your website.

The surest way to detect any technical issue is to check the entire website for errors. Done manually, this would be inefficient and time-wasting. Instead, use tools like Screaming Frog, which crawls the website and finds all technical issues immediately.

In addition, you can use analytics to check for issues with different devices, browsers or operating systems. Relying on analytics to perform technical reviews offers an additional advantage, in that it offers the possibility to assess a given issue’s impact on the performance of the website.

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 convert! 

Technical analysis must confirm that your website functions properly in every way. You’re checking for…

Browser and device compatibility

Your website should display the same way on every device your visitors use. By checking that your site displays correctly on different browsers and devices, you can detect and solve any problems.

Visitors using mobile devices to navigate to your website 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.

That means you need to make the process of navigating your site, from arrival to purchase, simpler and more automated for users on mobile devices. For instance, decrease the number of form fields required on mobile, and/or allow visitors to log in to your website using popular social logins.

Localization

The Internet used to be mostly English-only — until recently. Nowadays, customers from every country expect to websites to speak their language. 

One task of technical analysis is to make sure your website is properly localized. For example, insert the proper country code, check that your geolocation works properly, and offer users translation options.

Site speed

Technical analysis should check how fast the website loads. Research has shown that a website has 2 seconds or less before a visitor loses patience and closes the browser or goes to another website. Mobile device users have even less patience. Therefore, your site needs to load as fast as possible in order to avoid losing customers.

Other technical considerations

Chapter 7

A quick introduction to testing

Testing is the process that differentiates CRO from other website improvement activities. It’s the opportunity to put proposed improvements to a real-time test with your actual audience, and get an accurate estimate of how your improvements will perform. This process gives optimizers a great advantage, especially on ecommerce websites.

Since testing and its statistical methods are a broad and complicated subject, we’ve dedicated an entire section in this guide to testing.

Hypothesis creation phase

Once you complete your research, your next task is to come up with viable hypotheses for improvement. This sounds easy, but can be deceptive — because while “make website more credible” may sound like an idea for improvement, it’s not enough for a hypothesis.

Hypotheses need to contain the following information:

  • What the issue is
  • How it affects the process of conversion
  • How many prospects (proportionally) are affected by it
  • What you could do to improve the process
  • How much effort is necessary
  • And the potential for improvement

Only hypotheses that contain answers to these questions can be considered viable and testworthy.
 

Usually, hypotheses are divided between “weak” and “strong”. Weak hypotheses are those that won’t affect many users, or concern minor aspects of the conversion process. Strong hypotheses address major issues and have a potentially large effect in terms of increasing conversions.

It’s a mistake to try and define the probability of success and use it as a criterion for hypothesis creation — because if you knew this information, would you really need to test?

Refining ideas into hypotheses

Hypotheses begin their life as ideas. You go through your research data and figure out your site’s issues. When you compile the list of all issues, a team goes through it and devises solutions. By definition, to create viable hypotheses, you’ll need to have a clear idea of what you are solving for and how. 

Sometimes, an issue will have an obvious solution, and these issues need to be put in a “just do it” category. This is usually the case with technical issues and some heuristic issues.

But often you’ll encounter issues that have multiple possible solutions. For example, you may identify the issue that “prospects are worried about product quality” (this is a common ecommerce issue).

Your research will show how many prospects are affected by this issue, which will give you a ballpark range of improvement to expect. Next, you need to decide how to solve the issue, and gauge the effort needed to solve it.

Obviously there are multiple ways to solve this issue. Your hypothesis should list all of those or their combinations.

For example, you may hypothesize that adding testimonials and social proof relevant to the specific product will help prove its quality to prospects. Another hypothesis might be that inserting a quality seal or certificate from a widely recognized institution will sway your prospects to purchase.
 
Finally, you can opt to include a product video, and prove the quality of the product by detailed presentation of its features.

Each hypothesis can look like this:

“Prospects are not convinced of the quality of our product. According to the survey we conducted, 45% of responders expressed this concern. To solve this issue, we propose adding a quality seal to the product page, which we expect to result in at least ⅓ of the prospects deciding to buy (this estimate is backed by responses to the question “What would make you buy?” in exit surveys). We expect this to increase our sales by 10%, based on the number of existing customers and relative number of survey responders.”

The next step is to define the effort your solution will take in terms of coding and designing the actual variations. The more effort this will take, the less attractive the hypothesis becomes. Give priority to hypotheses that are easy to test, so you can increase your ROI with minimal effort and investment.

Once you’ve listed all of your hypotheses, you need to decide which to test first. There are several models

How to prioritize your hypotheses

In addition, don’t offer them benefits that they do not qualify for or make wide assumption based upon a single data point. For example, a person interested in organic food may not necessarily be into paleo diets or vegan food. Before you make any assumptions, make sure you have multiple data points available and match them for more accurate and relevant results.

In addition, make sure your personalization is not shallow (ex. offering customers a product they have already bought, or just because they have it in their browsing history).

You should always be collecting data and learning from your customers. No information should be neglected or skipped, since everything your customers and visitors do can help you personalize their experience. Just make sure you use the data wisely and without creeping out your customers.

Let’s briefly examine a few existing models for hypothesis prioritization and how to apply them.c

PIE model

This model of hypothesis prioritization ranks hypotheses according to their Potential [for improvement], their Importance, and their Ease. 

  • “Potential for improvement” means the likelihood that the hypothesis will result in an overall improvement.
  • “Importance” refers to the severity of the observed issue.
  • “Ease” denotes the effort necessary to implement the hypothesis.

In the PIE model, hypotheses are ranked from highest to lowest priority, using a scale of 1 to 10.

The weakness of this model is that the “Potential” part of the equation is often hard or impossible to estimate, and may be defined arbitrarily. 

This leads to incorrect prioritization, and possibly solving only minor issues on the assumption that they’ll achieve significat conversion improvements.

TIR Model

This model uses Time, Impact, and Resources as its main factors. The ranking is similar to the PIE model, except the scale runs from 1 to 5. 

Developed by CRO veteran Bryan Eisenberg, this model is tied to the research model Plan, Measure, Improve, and works best when applied with that model.

ICE model

The Impact, Confidence, and Ease model is very similar to PIE, except it uses a confidence factor in place of “potential”. Like PIE, this makes it highly susceptible to subjective opinions and potentially risky.

PXL model

The PXL model was developed by ConversionXL, one of the leading CRO agencies. 

This model is the most complex of the four listed here, as it tries to take into account a number of objective and real indicators to rank hypothesis priority. Its only weakness is its complexity and the effort required to use it properly.

Conducting a test program becomes much easier when your hypotheses are properly prioritized.
That way, the best-ranking hypothesis becomes the first test to conduct. 

The advantages of this approach are twofold:

  1. You’re starting with the hypothesis that netting the greatest improvement creates the most revenue growth.
  2. Large wins at the outset increase confidence in the testing program and the effectiveness of CRO in general.

Testing — Here we are at last!

he entire process of conversion optimization leads to this point, which is the most publicized aspect of conversion optimization. Voila: testing.

Basic concepts of statistics

Testing is a statistical concept that forms the foundation of the conversion optimization process. Without testing, it wouldn’t be possible to try different solutions and select the best-performing one. 

However, to conduct testing properly, you need to follow rigorous statistical rules and be aware of them at all times — otherwise, you won’t extract any value from testing.

To be valuable, an experiment must be “significant” in the statistical sense. This means that a variation needs to be tested against the control on a sample large enough to eliminate any reasonable chance of errors. The key points here are sample size, test duration, and significance level. 

Let’s briefly define these concepts and their interaction to explain why each is important to testing.

Sample size

The first concept to understand in statistics is sampling and sample size. The idea of a “sample” is to use a limited and finite number of observations to estimate the average values of an entire set of figures or population. 

While this definition sounds complicated, it just means the ability to deduce the traits of a large group by measuring only a few members, and extending the results to the entire group.

The accuracy of any sample depends on several factors, and selecting a proper sample size is important to achieve accurate results. A good example is estimate if a coin is “fixed” by tossing it. The actual chance of it falling on either side should be 50%. 

However, to accurately test this hypothesis, 10 tosses won’t do. Let’s say we toss a coin 10 times and get results like this:

Heads, heads, tails, heads, tails, heads, tails, heads, tails, heads

With this result, we can conclude that the chance of the coin landing on chance is 60:40, but that actually is far from the truth. If you toss the coin 100 times, the results are likely to be more along the lines of 50:50, and eventually, at 1,000 tosses, you will get a 50:50 chance. Any other result would mean that the coin is “fixed” or weighted.

The same holds true of testing variations on a website. Your control page is the baseline, and any improvement must be detected by testing until you have a large enough sample to declare a winner. 

The “significance” level is the first thing that determines the correct sample size. Significance is the indicator of reliability of your results. Essentially, it denotes the chances of the result you observe not being random if your initial hypothesis is true. Usually, testing relies on a 95% significance by default. Any lower significance percentage risks “finding” an effect that actually does not exist.

To know how big a sample you need, you can use sample calculation.

The best way to calculate the sample size is to use one of the many online sample size calculators, such as Evan Miller’s sample size calculator. Prior to starting any test, you should use a sample size calculator to determine whether you can test at all.

Sample size also depends on a “minimum detectable effect”. This is the notion of how big an improvement you expect to achieve. This is an important part of the test — and you should be aware that if you’re expecting to track a smaller change or effect, you’ll need a larger sample size to detect the difference. But if you have a large amount of traffic and large revenues, small improvements can have a big effects in monetary terms.

For small websites, though, testing for small-scale changes is usually not cost-effective, even if it’s theoretically possible. So at least initially, it’s best for smaller stores to focus on testing hypotheses with the greatest improvement potential.

Finally, you should always make sure that you test for longer periods of time. This helps eliminate any seasonal effects and/or variations in site traffic caused by holidays or different days of the week.

The mechanics of testing & testing tools

It’s relatively simple to set up and conduct experiments on websites. Once you have your hypothesis, you can start creating variations on it. Variations are usually initially created as wireframe mockups that provide a general idea of the layout of a webpage.

Once the idea is framed into a practical mockup of the page, you need to move forward with designing the variation. For smaller changes, it’s possible to use the tools integrated in testing tools. For more complicated changes, you’ll need actual web design tools.

Once you have a completed page test variation, you’ll import it into a testing tool. Then, you’ll define the goal you want to track and compare between the original page and the variation. The tool itself does the necessary statistical calculations. (You’ll need to know the sample size in advance, though, just to avoid the temptation to call a winner too early.)

The testing tool will randomly assign visitors to the control page and the variation, and compare the results. Depending on the page you’re experimenting on, you might use different criteria to determine the winner. For ecommerce sites, you’ll most likely want to compare the effect of your changes using conversion rate, since that’s the best indicator of better performance.

However, you can also use other criteria to determine a winner, such as whether visitors fill a registration form or undertake another trackable interaction. These criteria can be useful to test changes if you want to improve an aspect of your website other than purchases.

For example, you might have a blog, and you want to try different layouts of your blog interface to increase visitor engagement — hoping that when visitors read blog posts, they’ll be more likely to convert. You can use session duration or depth of scrolling as an indicator of which layout variation performs best.

Continuously adapt & improve

Once you complete the improvement of the issues you found in the first round of the conversion optimization and testing process, you need to continue refining the results. 

When you implement a winning solution, you’ve merely found a design that performs better than the previous one. There’s always the possibility that another variation may turn out to be even better — so once you start testing, you should never really stop.

Testing is a self-perpetuating activity. The success of the first round of tests (and removal of the largest obstacles to conversion) means that now, you can start refining and further adapting your website. 
Gradually, as you eliminate more and more issues, you’ll enter a zone called “local maxima”. Essentially, this is a plateau from which no significant improvements are possible.

If you reach this point, then it might be time to consider a total overhaul of your website. This activity can benefit a great deal from conversion optimization and many of the insights derived from qualitative research.

Chapter 8

Overview of basic CRO tools

As in most professions, conversion optimization comes with some tools. Each aspect of the optimization process requires specific tools to identify patterns of visitor behavior.

These tools can be divided in four main categories according to their purpose:

  1. Research & analytics tools
  2. Experimentation tools
  3. Process management tools
  4. Miscellaneous tools

Research & analytics tools

As you know, before any work on optimizing a website can begin, the first order of business is to establish what exactly is going wrong. This process is called research, and it serves two purposes: to establish a baseline for performance, and to uncover existing issues.

The only way to conduct research is to observe the behavior of website visitors over time, and draw insights and conclusions from their interactions with the site. The research process depends on having many data points, since most of the research is statistical in nature. To get enough research to draw conclusions, you’ll likely need to have a large volume of traffic for an extended period of time.

Although most tools track visitor behavior, there are differences in how they work and what aspects of customer behavior they track. Research tools can broadly be divided in two buckets: quantitative and qualitative research tools.

  • Quantitative research makes use of numbers, percentages and other real data.
  • Qualitative tools, on the other hand, are used to determine the opinions, attitudes, and motivation of your prospects.
  • Process management tools
  • Miscellaneous tools

All research tools rely on a simple fact — that accessing a website means leaving some information with the site owner. Regardless of whether you’re tracking the number of visitors that access your site, what form fields your prospects skip, or you just want to ask them questions, you can directly target each individual customer or group of customers according to specific criteria. 

And the data is there to stay, even if the customer only visited briefly and left without directly interacting with the content.

This is the key advantage of ecommerce websites over brick and mortar stores. No visitor can leave your store without leaving a trace of their presence on the website. If you set your measuring tools up properly, you’ll know not only how many visitors there were at any given moment, but how they reached the website, what products they looked at, whether they started to buy and at what step they abandoned the purchase, etc.

Quantitative tools

A wealth of information is available when you use any of the popular analytical tools, such as Google Analytics (the most popular tool on the market), KISSmetrics, or Adobe Marketing Suite.

Other tools enable you to visualize the most important engagement indicators — clicks, scrolls, form completion, and more.

A brief introduction to Google Analytics

Since Google Analytics is the most frequently used research tool, we’ll use it for most illustrations of how to use analytics to measure performance. Google Analytics measurements are reported in several categories:

  • Acquisition - How visitors reach your site
  • Audience - Who those visitors are
  • Behavior - What those visitors do
  • Conversions - How visitors become customer

By analyzing how visitors get to your website, you can improve your marketing efforts and adjust your spend on different marketing and traffic acquisition channels. Acquisition makes it easy to find out how different channels perform in terms of bringing the visitors, and how many of those visitors convert.

Audience reports contain basic information on who your visitors are. This section includes information on visitor location (country, region, or state and city); the proportion of new and returning visitors; the language they speak, etc. Using this information, it’s possible to find out how different visitors interact with the website. This data represents the basic reference point for your personalization efforts.

Behavior reports show how visitors interact with the website, including what pages they visit and how they navigate the website (in what sequence of interaction). This information can be used find out what particular pages of content sequences performs the best. Using behavior reports ecommerce website can adjust their content and user experience to match visitors expectations.

Finally, conversion reports shed light on how visitors convert. By setting up a conversion funnel, it’s possible to find out what step in conversion represents the greatest obstacle for visitors.

Using Analytics, you can begin to frame questions and form ideas for improving specific sections of your website. For example, if you detect that visitors have low engagement with particular content, or that they drop out at specific funnel steps, you can detect what might be wrong and come up with ideas to improve it.

But despite the wealth of data it provides, Analytics is not the sole source of information. You can obtain measurements from other tools, too, and those can shed light on specific issues and problems.

For example, using Analytics, it’s possible to get information about where users click on an individual web page. However, for truly accurate visualization, it can be more revealing to use specialized tools, like heatmapping tools like Hotjar, Crazy Egg, or MouseFlow. These tools can show where visitors moved their mouse pointers, how fast they scrolled, and what areas of individual web pages they clicked.

Other analytical tools specialize in analyzing forms and funnels. They offer valuable data and insights, that would otherwise be hard to get and require effort to implement through the analytics. For more details on these tools and how to use them, check out our series of Google Analytics posts and free ebook.

Visual tracking tools

Although Google Analytics enables you to track interactions between your visitors and website, you won’t be able to visualize those interactions easily. Enter: tools that make interactions visual! Heat mapping is one way of visualizing the intensity of interactions between visitors and your site.

Currently, this niche of tools offers ever-increasing capabilities and can be used in multiple research types. In addition to their basic function, most of the tools include diverse elements that enable tracking of funnels, forms, surveys, and even user testing. 

Tracking tools work pretty much the same way other analytical tools work: you insert a tracking code on your website, and the tools starts tracking data, then present it in a useful format.
Here are the best-in-class tools for heatmapping, listed in no particular order:

1. Crazy Egg

Crazy Egg is the first and most well-known tracking tool. Like other tracking tools, it has evolved to provide capability beyond just mapping mouse movements, clicks, and scrolling. It also provides session recordings and a “confetti view” that allows you to segment clicks according to their traffic source.

2. Hotjar

Hotjar offers many features in addition to its basic functionality, so you can track funnels and forms and run surveys. One of its main advantages is its limited free plan, which you can use to get acquainted with this tool before you decide to subscribe to a plan.

3. Lucky Orange

Lucky Orange has similar features to Hotjar, and adds a live chat app to the mix, further expanding the capabilities of the tool further. It also offers traffic segmentation, though it’s not as versatile as Crazy Egg.

4. MouseFlow

MouseFlow is another tool that offers much the same features. An additional feature of MouseFlow is the so-called “attention heatmap,” which tracks how much time a visitor actually spends reading the content on the page you track.

Since all of these tools are similar, picking one is a matter of your individual preference.

Form tracking tools

Although most heatmapping tools offer form-tracking, there are multiple tools dedicated to this specific task — and because they’re specialized, they can be a better choice than general tools.

Form tracking is a critical aspect of conversion optimization, since most purchase activities are tied to filling out forms. Accurate form tracking and understanding of customer-form interactions is necessary to fix any problems that can hinder conversion. 

Some of the best-known tools for tracking forms are Formisimo, UseItBetter, and Piwik. While the first two are client-side apps, Piwik requires a server-side installation. It provides more capabilities, but at the cost of being harder to install and maintain (it requires developer involvement).

Experimentation tools

There are many testing/experimentation tools currently available. All of them work in pretty much the same way, with mostly cosmetic differences.

The one difference that may appear significant is the statistical model each tool uses to calculate test results. There are two major models in statistics: frequentist inference and Bayesian statistics. Both have the same purpose: to enable us to test hypotheses.

Frequentist inference relies on the fact that features of any set of data can be determined by measuring a limited sample of them and comparing results. Bayesian statistics takes a more holistic view, using both data available from the past and the data obtained during the experiment itself. The Bayesian method was rarely used in the past, due to the intensive computations needed to obtain results.

As computational power grew, the use of Bayesian statistics has gained traction, as it enables optimizers to reach results a little faster than the more traditional frequentist approach. However, from the user perspective, the difference is minimal. Selecting either Bayesian or frequentist based tool is a matter of individual preference, more than any inherent advantage of either method.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the major testing tools on the market:

Optimizely

Optimizely is perhaps the best-known tool, with 44% of current market share. This tool is very approachable, with a large knowledge base that provides educational articles not only on the tool itself, but many vital concepts of conversion optimization. 

It relies on a subscription model in addition to the costs of running the test. Its wide acceptance and ease of use make it a good choice for conducting testing on medium-size sites.

Visual Web Optimizer

Another tool on the market is Visual Web Optimizer. Currently it holds 22% of the market share, and represents a good alternative to Optimizely. The costs are about the same, and the tool’s accessibility is similar. It’s also best for medium-size sites.

Adobe Target

This tool is thiAdobe Targetrd in the market share, and is part of the Adobe Marketing Suite. While relatively expensive, it is a powerful way to track performance and experiment on your website. Due to its price and relative complexity, it’s a better fit for large websites.

Google Optimize

Google Optimize is a relatively new player on the market, and is a smart play from the company that has become almost a synonym for “Internet”. 

Its advantages include close integration with Google Analytics, a wide user base, and an extensive knowledge base. Plus, the initial cost of using it is zero (though it does come with some limitations). This makes this tool ideal for trying out experimentation and making some headway.

AB Tasty

This is another popular tool with a following, despite its relatively low market share. It’s simple to use, and is a good fit for small and medium sites. This tool is also easy to implement.

Process management tools

While all the tools mentioned above help with individual conversion optimization activities, there are specialized tools to help you manage the process. Those tools allow teams to work together, track progress, and plan ahead. They can also help your team create documentation to report the results of their efforts.

Effective Experiments

Effective Experiments allows you to track the results of your experiments, track analytics, set goals, and share tasks and documents. You can use all of these features to quickly create a report summarizing the work.

Iridion

Iridion was the first dedicated CRO management tool to appear on the market. They offer much the same features as their competitor: namely, project management specific to CRO goals and progress.

Due to the large number of activities and experiments run by large programs, it can be easy to lose track of progress. For every team managing a large number of projects, using one of these dedicated tools is a must. 

Chapter 9

Ways to grow traffic

Grow traffic through content

Ecommerce websites depend on being able to present the products they sell in a way that induces prospects to purchase. And of course, websites would be empty without content! That’s why content marketing has become a widely used method to attract prospects.

Content marketing essentially means providing different types of information on your site. This information is not just about your products — it can also be used to build relationships with customers and build up your brand identity. 

Types of content range from written articles to videos, infographics, quizzes, and other informative content. This content serves multiple purposes on your website, including:

  • Getting better page ranking on search engines
  • Providing more information on your products
  • Helping visitors and prospects connect with your brand
  • Dispelling any doubts about the legitimacy of your offer
  • Increasing engagement

Improve your page ranking

The SEO benefits of content marketing are well documented, which is why many websites started their content marketing efforts in the first place. 

Content is related to search engine optimization (SEO), which focuses on making a website more visible online and more likely to be found by different visitors. SEO analyzes and improves a website’s ranking in search engines in an attempt to attract more visitors.

SEO methods are various, and many are compatible with conversion optimization itself. SEO analyzes content, structure, and search keywords that a site uses to draw visitors.

By creating and promoting content — especially relevant and unique content — you increase the likelihood that prospects searching for solutions (or products) will find your website and your offer. When prospects do research prior to purchasing, they’ll look for the source that provides the most reliable, complete, and up-to-date information. If that’s your site, prospects will trust and buy from you.

To make sure your content is relevant, cater to the needs of your prospects. Your content should provide prospects with more than just information about your products or company. To do well on search engines, it should also provide keywords that are likely to appear in your prospects’ searches.

Run pay-per-click (PPC) ads

Pay-per-click marketing campaigns function as an addition to any organic search traffic acquisition method. In effect, PPC means paying for additional visitors, and it’s the most direct way to get visitors to a relevant web page immediately. 

Since PPC is paid, you need to ensure that this traffic generates a positive ROI.

Link your PPC ads to landing pages with the intention of getting visitors to convert, AKA buy. For this strategy to work effectively, your landing pages should clearly match your PPC message and be relevant to users’ needs. 

Analytical tools can help you estimate the efficiency of your PPC marketing efforts, and help you employ your marketing money more effectively.

Establishing an optimization and testing culture

Although Google Analytics enables you to track interactions between your visitors and website, you won’t be able to visualize those interactions easily. Enter: tools that make interactions visual! Heat mapping is one way of visualizing the intensity of interactions between visitors and your site.

Currently, this niche of tools offers ever-increasing capabilities and can be used in multiple research types. In addition to their basic function, most of the tools include diverse elements that enable tracking of funnels, forms, surveys, and even user testing. 

Tracking tools work pretty much the same way other analytical tools work: you insert a tracking code on your website, and the tools starts tracking data, then present it in a useful format.
Here are the best-in-class tools for heatmapping, listed in no particular order:

Chapter 10

Establishing an optimization and testing culture

The ultimate aim of every conversion optimization program should be to establish a culture that’s always experimenting and trying new ways to improve the website. 

A firmly rooted culture of experimentation is the key to success of some of the most famous ecommerce websites, such as Amazon, Jet (later bought by Amazon), Booking.com, and more. Experimenting with everything is the only way to make the most of your store’s potential.

To succeed at establishing a testing culture, you’ll need to start off with a successful conversion optimization program to foster confidence in the optimization process and gain experience in researching and testing. Establishing this type of culture is not something that comes naturally and easily to many companies, although newer companies will find it easier.

Efforts to build an experimentation culture must be deliberate and methodical at every level of you company. It’s important for management to be convinced that optimization and testing brings results — this is the reason behind aiming for the largest gains possible at the outset of the process. If a process has no tangible or measurable results, management won’t see the value in it.

Plus, your marketing staff needs to gain experience in conducting research and interpreting the data they obtain. Smooth, efficient processing of customer data greatly enhances the entire CRO effort. The critical factor here is cooperation between all the different departments in your company, since conversion optimization must be a multidisciplinary effort.

The marketing and web development departments are the most involved, although you’ll also need input from management and financial departments. 

Your store’s financial department will need to provide exact data on costs and revenues in order for the CRO team to have a base for comparison. This department can also provide information on your store’s ability to offer benefits (like discounts or coupons) to customers without impacting the bottom line.
Management needs to be an active part of the process from the beginning, and it is important that they keep an open mind to every idea. The imposition of pet ideas and HiPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinions) is one of the greatest dangers to successful CRO outcomes.

Testing process when established is the best way to reduce the risk inherent in making changes and adopting the changes most beneficial to your website and discarding those that are less performing. It can also prove concepts and help you iterate to the best possible performance.

Allow us to quote our own article on establishing a testing culture: 

“Even if you’re not testing, you’re going to make changes to your business. That’s the nature of business, after all. You’ll change your web properties, your app, your messaging, your checkout process — you’ll change all of that at some point, because you understand that businesses can’t stagnate. Things move too fast. You need to iterate.You need to stay ahead of complacency.”

If you follow the methodology in this guide, you’ll be able to successfully navigate the CRO process, achieve significant improvements in every aspect of your website’s performance (revenue growth, traffic growth, customer lifetime value, and customer engagement), and prove that dedication to continuous improvement is the most important aspect of ecommerce success.