That question is at the heart of whether many businesses succeed or fail.
Once you’ve established your online presence, it quickly becomes a conversion-focused numbers game. The sad truth is the majority of website visitors will not convert – or take the desired action you teed up.
Across all industries, the median conversion rate is 4.6%, but differs by industry. This means a ton of folks visit websites without taking meaningful action (like buying, subscribing, or downloading) – actions that deepen their relationship with your brand. (Image borrowed from Unbounce.com)
If your goal is to be better than average (we have a hunch it is) and see much more than two out of every 100 visitors take action, it’s time to dive into conversion rate optimization to incrementally increase audience action and engagement.
(Psst – we all know its cheaper to keep customers than get new ones. By converting more of your existing audience, you’ll decrease customer acquisition costs – a win/win!)
What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?
Let’s start here, because whether it’s making a purchase, creating an account, or doing something else, getting website visitors to engage with your site the way you intend is what it’s all about.
Your conversion rate is determined by dividing the number of times those visitors complete a goal by how many total visitors your site gets.
For example, if Betty’s Fabulous Frittatas gets 1,000 visitors to her website in a month, and only 15 people complete her desired goal of making a purchase, that’s a 1.5% conversion rate. Mind you, these are delicious frittatas, so that rate is criminally low.
Betty deserves better, and the process of making that percentage better is called conversion rate optimization (CRO).
Is CRO Just About the Numbers?
Optimizing your website or campaigns to increase conversions seems like a straightforward numbers game – make a change, measure if it increases or decreases goal submissions, use experiment findings to find the best next change.
It’s critical that we take a human approach to CRO. We’re ultimately converting humans, not data points, and need to focus on creating better engagements to deepen relationships with our customers.
Don’t take your eye off the data – but – think of CRO as a process of figuring out:
What is persuading your audience? (Do more of this!)
What causes them to pause? (Do less!)
How can you make their experience more satisfying? (Marketers’ Pot of Gold!)
The CRO goal is to reduce friction, elevate appeal, and incrementally make the experience more pleasant, personal and relevant.
To identify CRO experiments, think through all areas of the customer journey - from audience intent, promotional offers, visitor type or personas, previous behavior and activity, or traffic sources leading them to your site - to determine the most meaningful modifications for your unique audience. Dissecting the user’s journey, actions, and obstacles before converting is crucial.
Do I Have a CRO Problem?
A strong sales period – or a weak one, for that matter – does not necessarily reveal whether your site is in good shape. Only the conversion rate numbers can tell that story.
The first step is to benchmark your status quo – how do you know if you have a conversion problem?
A web analytics platform, like Google Analytics, tracks your conversions and shows you all kinds of valuable information, including:
Which page your visitors arrive on
How long they stay and how deep they explore
Which pages they engage with most
Where they clicked to get to you
What devices and browsers they use
Who your customers are (age, demographic, and interests)
Where your users leave your site
What percent of your audience completes a goal (like subscribing or downloading)
These data points reveal opportunities across the customer journey to make improvements.
From there, dig deeper:
Tools like Mouseflow provide data rich heatmaps and session recordings of your audiences’ website experience, so you can see where they get stuck, get frustrated, and leave the site.
Some DXPs, like our partner Optimizely, bake powerful A/B testing and multivariate testing tools, website personalization, and feature toggle capabilities, as well as web content management and digital commerce, into their platform. It’s really a one-stop shop for CRO, and one that has worked wonders for brands like Mazda, who saw 5+ million visitors and a 200% increase in engagement on its' site within two months of launching with Optimizely.
User surveys or direct feedback – one of the most reliable ways to understand your customers struggles is to simply ask them. User surveys will reveal your audiences’ motivations, put offs, challenges, and questions, so you can tailor the digital experience to better suit their needs.
What Can I Test?
With that information in hand, it's time to begin experimenting or testing.
There are multiple types and approaches to experimentation. (Image borrowed from Hubspot)
A/B testing refers to the scientific method of seeing how changes to a website impacts a user’s behavior.
Multivariate testing involves testing two or more variables.
User testing looks at whether users need a feature or capability to determine if it’s a good idea.
Usability testing looks at how well a user can interact with the element you’re testing to validate your solution.
So, heading back to Betty’s Fabulous Frittatas, let’s look at a sample A/B test for how her landing page is structured:
Test A: a large photo of a scrumptious-looking frittata sits at the top of the page, with text beneath it about Betty’s varieties, pricing, etc.
Test B: The text about the varieties, pricing, etc. sits at the top of the page, with the photo beneath it
Which layout converts more customers? Let the experiments run to a large enough audience to gain statistically significant findings.
This test – and the many others to follow – will scientifically determine which words, images, and page layouts provide the best user experience (UX) to maximize conversions.
Test as much as you reasonably can, from your content strategy and copywriting to your website’s visual design, information hierarchy, webforms, and checkout process. There are endless elements and experiences to test.
For a long list of experiment and test ideas to run, download our CRO Checklist!
After Testing, Then What?
After testing, it’s time to strategically implement the necessary changes, which can range from simple messaging tweaks to complex overhauls of your site’s infrastructure.
Make sure to apply your findings to other areas of your website and campaign strategy.
For example, if Betty’s Fabulous Frittata audience converts at a higher rate when the product details live under the delicious frittata photograph, make sure you’ve laid your emails or ads out in a similar fashion.
While there are definite best practices when it comes to CRO, they are frequently evolving due to the zig-zagging nature of how we use technology (more users on mobile, searching via voice assistants, etc.).
A cursory look at some relevant trends might indicate where your CRO journey is headed:
In the first quarter of 2021, 54.8% of web searches were done via mobile devices (source). Is your site fully responsive for all mobile devices?
Using video on landing pages boosts conversion rates by 80% (source). Does your page feature any video content?
Personalized calls to action improve conversion rates by 202% (source). Did you know you can make your CTAs smart?
Guided by your testing results, you’ll then be able to form a clear action plan for your site.
What Can CRO Do for Me?
Of course, the ultimate benefit for you (and Betty!) will be more conversions, but implementing CRO will yield multiple upgrades, including:
Improved customer insights: CRO helps you understand who your audience is and how they behave.
A better user experience: CRO examines what works best on your site, giving you the power to craft the best UX possible.
Informed decision making: CRO minimizes the risks to your business by reinforcing your strategies with data-backed evidence.
Enhanced trust: CRO guides you build the kind of website users can trust and when a credit card is involved, trust is everything.
Embracing a Culture of CRO
Trusting one’s instincts is, well, instinctual. We’re naturally inclined to go with our guts. But running a business on gut feelings is a recipe for disaster. That’s why one or two rounds of CRO is just not going to cut it. A full-on culture of CRO must be adopted to see real results.
For certain, it’s the companies that create a CRO-based culture that thrive. They’re the ones constantly gathering data, testing different iterations, and fine-tuning the entire customer journey.
Learning where and why users are leaving before converting – and how to minimize those occurrences – is a constant battle.
Improving your website’s user experience will increase conversions. Finding out exactly how to improve your UX is very much a data-driven process. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a complicated one.
With the right data, testing, and the adoption of a lasting, CRO-focused mindset, your conversion rates will only increase. Now grab a frittata and get going!