Today, the term “conversion rate optimization” (or CRO) is the talk of the town (though that town is probably just inhabited by marketers). Indeed, the practice of modifying elements on a website and then testing it has proved its utility in the marketer’s toolset. “Does a green button perform better than a red button?” asks one marketer to another. “Well, let’s find out!” bursts the other. That’s the start of CRO.
Nowadays, a lot of e-commerce businesses are solely obsessed with paid customer acquisition on Facebook, Instagram, Google, Snapchat and other channels. What most of them are forgetting is that you can double your sales by either driving twice more traffic or by turning more existing visitors into buyers through increasing your store’s conversion rate.
Unfortunately, CRO remains one of the most overlooked areas in e-commerce. So, as the founder of a digital agency that specializes in e-commerce and CRO, I put together a list of the four fundamentals to optimize an e-commerce store:
1. Be meticulous about data.
CRO, like any scientific experiment, requires data. Often, entrepreneurs and marketers are so set on traffic acquisition they forget to ensure that analytics is working effectively. And to be effective, it needs to be accurate and exhaustive. To make an impactful decision, you’ll first want to collect and process enough data that allows you to make assumptions on where you can improve your marketing funnel. By having appropriate tracking in place, you can then begin experimenting and A/B testing (testing two alternative elements or pages) with confidence.
Luckily, there is a catalog of tools available for marketers to collect data, including:
• Heatmaps: These are the best way to gather qualitative data on your users’ behavior, such as how far they scroll, where they click, etc. You can find affordable and easy-to-install programs to track on-site behavior from a number of companies.
• Google analytics: As one of the most effective marketing tools on the web, this program can be easy to one-click install and forget. But there’s so much more power to this tool than most people realize, particularly within e-commerce tracking.
• User testing tools: With these tools, you can quickly gather feedback from real people. This not only provides data on user actions and engagement but also allows you to ask questions around people’s motivations for doing things, which is essential for a successful experiment.
• A/B testing: Also known as split-testing, A/B testing constitutes the core of CRO. With tools such as Google Optimize and Optimizely, you can test variations of page elements or even pages themselves to determine what is working best for your users.
2. Have a clear brand or product positioning.
While there are so many incredible tools and growth hacks out there, some of the most effective CRO tactics come down to how you position your product or brand in front of the traffic you’re acquiring. No other CRO tactic is as effective as creating a connection with your prospective customer.
A large part of this comes down to understanding user intent. If you’re aware of why people are clicking on your ads or arriving at your site, make sure you confirm to them that they’re in the right place. The best way to do this is by making sure you align the messaging on your landing or product pages with your ads or the search keywords that drive the most traffic to it.
3. Create a functional design.
Your store doesn’t need to be aesthetically beautiful to convert better than your competition; quite the contrary, in fact. Think of eBay, Amazon, Walmart, Craiglist or other online giants: They don’t have flashy graphics or slick design. But functionally, they are all remarkable. I’ve found the book Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability to be a helpful starting point to learn more about functional web-design. If you’re in a rush, though, here are my key recommendations for functional design:
• Color contrasts: Your product copy should be easy to read (think black text on a white background). This applies to all call-to-actions, too; your “Add To Cart,” “Buy Now” and any other call-to-action button needs to look like it can be clicked on. Essentially, don’t risk the chance of a user having trouble reading or finding something. Make it as easy as possible to extract information and navigate your site.
• Simplification: Ideally, the only choice the prospective customer should have on your product page is to click the “Add To Cart” button. The more options they have, the more they need to think, and the higher the probability of decision paralysis and them leaving the page altogether.
• User-generated content: With Instagram and influencers at your fingertips, along with your customers and their cameras, it has never been easier to obtain photography or videography that’s created by others. Using user-generated content increases trust and boosts the conversion rate as a result. Too few brands are doing this. Instead, they are reverting to sterile factory product photography that doesn’t give the customer a visual cue of what it’s like to actually own a particular product.
4. Page Speed
It’s been widely reported that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, and 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. While you can easily be distracted by glamorous tools and exciting split-tests, optimizing your store load time is one of the most crucial parts of the CRO process.
You can use free tools like PageSpeed Insights by Google to gather extensive insight into what’s influencing your page-load times with very actionable recommendations.
Although you might believe paid customer acquisition is the best way to build a successful e-commerce store, it’s important to remember that CRO can make a big impact as well. By following these four tips, you’ll be well on your way to improving your company’s conversion rate.