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Running an eCommerce Business

eCommerce Essentials: Conversion Rate Optimization

eCommerce Essentials: Conversion Rate Optimization

by John Larkin

John runs the blog here at eCommerceLift and is a verified Shopify Expert. Interested in an initial growth consultation? Click here

6 years ago

eCommerce Essentials: Conversion Rate Optimization

The very best of internet marketers strive to increase web traffic for their clients. Next they focus their attention towards higher sales conversion rates through a process known as Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Specifically, they are striving to create experiences for website users that turn online browsers into paying customers. 

Using a variety of tools and techniques available at their disposal, later they can effectively measure their successes and failures, eventually reaching a higher percentage of those coveted, converted consumers. By closely examining and understanding their trials and tribulations, we can also achieve better online success. 

In the process of becoming more knowledgeable on the subject, quite often, we are blindsided by some common misconceptions and myths when it comes to working the magic of CRO. We’ll take a look at a number of these misperceived notions, along with some of their best and worst strategies. We can also answer some important questions, while at the same time gaining a better understanding of this mysterious science and often misunderstood online art form.

The Basic Lingo: Common CRO Terms

  • A/B Testing - Sometimes referred to as “split testing,” where two examples of a web page are compared side-by-side to see which one gets the better results. After simple and subtle changes have been made, the success and failure rates are then carefully measured, one at a time.
  • CTA (Call To Action) - A type of link, button or other type of user interface that calls for the user to take immediate action, a shopping cart symbol, download now button, order here link, etc.
  • CTR (Click Through Rate) - Gives a percentage of users that enter that website through an outside link, usually an online advertisement, perhaps a connection to a social media post, blog article, etc.
  • Conversion Funnel - the path that a user takes to complete their buying journey, it might be entering a homepage, going to a product search, landing on description and review pages, ending with checkout.
  • MVT (Multivariate Testing) - Multiple variations of different page compositions are tested, placement of pictures are compared, various types of content used, title changes are reviewed, etc.

Different types of data and information are closely examined to reach some possible hypotheses for CRO testing purposes. Statistics on visitors leaving a website and numbers showing engagement metrics include:

  • Bounce Rate - The percentage of users who leave a website after only visiting one page, without performing any type of action or function.
  • Exit Rate - The specific number of visitors that leave a certain page, the very last page they viewed, as those with higher than normal exit rates are problematic.
  • Average Time On Site - While these times will appear low if the previous rates were abnormally high, people just aren’t sticking around on the website. 
  • Average Time on Page - If users are visiting multiple pages, but not spending much time there, they are likely confused and there is no clear path through the conversion funnel.

The difference between CRO and CTR (Click Through Rate)

While some may confuse the two and others believe they are synonymous with each other, they are like two people playing on the same team, ultimately reaching for the same goal, which is more sales. A better analogy might be they are similar to a successful partnership between a promoter (the Click Through Rater) and a popular musician (the Conversion Rate Optimizer).  

Think of it this way, the CTR is out there busily promoting the artist, showcasing the grand performance, opening the doors to the arena and inviting people to attend the event. Conversely, it is the performer who actually entertains the audience and delivers a performance worthy of the their paid ticket price. They support each other, both are beneficial to one another and each has something valuable to offer towards the same anticipated result, a sold-out concert with increased revenue.

The First Tool: A/B Testing

In order to better understand the results of CRO efforts, one of the first tools to be implemented is A/B testing. Most of these efforts are focused on subtle differences on web pages and are tested individually, for example:

  • Buttons: Changing the wording, color, size and location
  • Colors: Background hues, tints and textures
  • Fonts: Various sizes, styles and colors

Often these miniscule changes may not seem to make much difference when it comes to getting better results, but you never really know for sure until you try. For example some people will say you should use a red button for a CTA such as making a purchase, since it is a real attention grabber, while others will argue that it is a “stop” color you you should use green instead. While often dependent upon user choice, it may be relative to a particular industry. 

People have also used color psychology and statistics believing that blue is the most popular and friendly color - it sure seems to be working for Facebook. This may eventually gravitate into the other, more comprehensive methods of testing mentioned, like MVT for example, where multiple items are changed, modified and then analyzed for results.

Poor Usability Can Also Affect CRO

Conversion rates can also be increased by improving usability on a website and can become an integral part of the A/B testing strategy. Generally speaking, usability is defined as the ease of use of when it comes to functions and features of a website through good design techniques. When examining usability, it is important to remember these five key elements:

i. Learnability - How easily a user can adapt and learn to use features.

i. Efficiency - How quickly can they perform these functions.

i. Memorability - When return visitors have been offsite, how easily do they regain their understanding on how to operate on the website.

i. Errors - Are users making mistakes? How quickly can they recover from missteps?

i. Satisfaction - The design is pleasant and visitors are satisfied overall with their online experience.

Quite simply put, if a online user has difficulty navigating a website, they become lost, confused or frustrated, they will leave, and they will do it quickly.

Real Tools, Not a Crystal Ball

It is important to remember that CRO is not just about optimizing the performance of any given webpage, it’s geared more towards better understanding a potential customer’s behavior and what drives them to perform certain functions. 

Statistics show an overwhelming 67% of online shopping carts are abandoned and CRO seeks to understand why. I know what you may be thinking, I’m not a mind reader, how do I know what people are thinking when they are on a website, I have no clue what they are doing and why.

Luckily for online CRO marketers, there are other tools available online to guide them in better understanding user’s behaviors and motivations.  Here are some popular options:

Google Analytics: Even though this search engine assistance is free, it is very popular with users and offers many powerful ways to track website traffic. It will give detailed statistics about visitors, where they are coming from, the path they are taking on a website, which pages they are visiting and the links they are following. Premium options provide even more data for analysis.

Crazy Egg: For a real comprehensive view of user behavior, Crazy Egg gives you a free “heat map” that shows color-coded hot spots on a website denoting the areas on a page with the most traffic. For a low monthly fee there are more comprehensive options, follow the user’s mouse movements and see where they may be clicking where there is no link available.

Survey Monkey: To get valuable answers to important questions from your website visitors, you could simply ask them. This free platform offers ten surveys with up to one hundred responses for evaluation. If you’re unsure what to ask your users or how to craft a survey, they have over two hundred templates available online. Premium options start at just $19 per month.

Effective CRO will ultimately build stronger relationships with online customers by better understanding their thoughts and actions. While conversion rates continue to climb, customer satisfaction will also increase. 


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