How Merchants Can Effectively Optimize Conversion Rates
by Ron Dod
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As it stands, the eCommerce industry is booming.
According to Statista, the eCommerce industry generated roughly $2.8 trillion in 2018. The firm predicts that by 2021, that figure will nearly double, reaching upwards of $4.88 trillion. For three years, that’s a healthy boost in sales.
However, before merchants the world over begin collectively patting themselves on the back, it’s currently 2019. To bring Statista’s prediction to fruition, it is necessary for eCommerce retailers to consider and implement a plan of action for multiplying conversions across their sites.
As any relatively successful merchant knows, conversions just don’t happen. Much work goes into driving them and optimizing for their manifestation. While clicks and traffic are all well and good, it’s conversions that breathe life into an organization.
In today’s digital sales ecosystem, there are a wide array of tactics and channels that marketers and merchants can utilize to inspire consumers to engage with a brand and ultimately convert into a loyal customer.
To help retailers pin down some of the most useful methodologies for bolstering their conversions, we will be taking a deep dive into the world of conversion rate optimization.
What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?
The term conversion rate optimization (CRO) gets tossed around quite a bit in eCommerce and marketing circles. But what exactly does it mean?
“Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the systematic process of increasing the percentage of website visitors who take a desired action—be that filling out a form, becoming customers, or otherwise. The CRO process involves understanding how users move through your site, what actions they take, and what’s stopping them from completing your goals.”
In even simpler terms, CRO is the methodical enhancement of the shopping experience.
When visitors arrive on an eCommerce website, how should they be greeted? With a cluttered and clunky interface that leaves them befuddled on how to proceed? Or by clearly-defined pathways and eye-catching product images?
The answer here is obvious. Websites should do all they can to make consumers feel comfortable to browse around and find the items they desire or new ones that pique their interest. Therefore, eCommerce sites must improve their UX by implementing intuitive menus, prominent CTAs and engaging messaging and imagery.
However, it matters not how well-designed a site might be if the checkout experience is drawn out, frustrating, personally invasive or otherwise incapable of facilitating a smooth and expedient purchase.
Combine all these elements, and the concept of conversion rate optimization is encapsulated. But for companies to intuit where they must go, it is necessary to understand where they are currently.
To calculate a brand’s conversion rate, divide the number of conversions received during a specific period (month, year, duration of a campaign) by the total number of website visitors. Then, multiply that figure by 100 to express it as a percentage.
For instance, if a site receives 32,475 visitors and generates 7,356 conversions in a single month, then the conversion rate would be approximately 22.65 percent.
When aiming to optimize conversions, retailers should seek to increase the conversion-to-visitor ratio, thereby getting more of the total visitors to convert. However, when achieving this goal, a site will likely see an influx or referral traffic as a byproduct of its premier experience.
This brings us to the first step in optimizing conversion rates–effectively tracking a brand’s goals.
Tracking Goals with Google Analytics
When properly established, Google Analytics is an invaluable tool for gaining a deep-rooted understanding of a business’s performance. Google Analytics not only tells merchants who their customers are but how they found the retailer’s site and how they interacted with their pages. Therefore, this measurement tool is an essential element for enhancing eCommerce effectiveness and efficiency.
Obviously, it is essential to set up proper conversion tracking to grasp how a site fairs in that department; however, there are a variety of goals that can be established in Google Analytics.
To create a goal, head to the “Admin” section within the platform. Next, click on “Goals.”
From here, click “+ New Goal.” Merchants will be given the option to select a template-based goal or a custom one. These are largely the same and selecting “Custom” seems to be the easier option. After selecting this option, name the goal.
Now users are presented with several goal options:
Pages/Screens Per Session
Destination goals are easy to set up and allow retailers to track when users hit a specific URL, thereby triggering the goal. This goal is excellent for monitoring “thank you” pages after purchases, confirmation pages and the like.
When inputting the URL, do not enter the full URL. Only the information that comes after the domain should be utilized. Therefore, if the URL is https://www.visiture.com/blog, all that would be registered is /blog.
Pages/Screens Per Session Goals
Pages per session goals are quite simple to set up and are much like setting up duration goals (which are less relevant to our aims), so we won’t cover both.
Pages per session measure the number of pages a visitor views before leaving a site. This data is important for retailers to measure and understand, in part, how buyers are interacting with a website.
For instance, setting the “Goal Details” to “greater than” aims to measure engagement, whereas setting it to “less than” can help measure the potential effectiveness of specific web pages.
Event goals are the most complicated to implement because it requires users to establish specific events. To set it up correctly, it is necessary to add some tracking code to events or elements that should be tracked. The Google Analytics Event Tracking Guide can walk users through this process.
With event goals, retailers can track a wide array of occasions such as:
Social media button interactions
Item added to a shopping cart
Pretty much anything a consumer can interact with can be tracked through this goal. When establishing an event goal, it is necessary to define its parameters with an action, label, category and value.
With goals properly established, merchants can monitor their visitors’ behaviors in various ways, and alterations can be made to optimize conversions effectively.
CRO Changes, Big and Small
There are a wide array of site modifications to increase its conversion rates. Often, many of these changes are ones that live above the fold: headlines, sub-headlines, calls-to-action and similar elements.
CTAs constitute a significant element in this discussion because they influence user behavior. CTAs should not be generic and uninspired; they should speak directly to a consumer’s goals and desires.
Landing page layouts are also essential to consider as any ambiguity of what to do next is likely to turn consumers away. This includes the aesthetic elements such as colors, amount of white space, image and image placement and similar components.
However, for eCommerce retailers, some of the most important pieces of digital territory ripe for improvement are a site’s product pages and checkout process, which are the heart of the digital retail experience.
Product pages should be a no-brainer to navigate and should be intuitive for consumers to reach the page’s most vital elements (product descriptions or specs, image galleries, “add to cart” buttons). Moreover, these pages should ideally feature as much information about a product as possible without creating clutter. Providing this will help consumers to decide without leaving the page.
As far as the checkout process is concerned, merchants should go through this portion of the site meticulously to ensure that any extraneous elements are removed. Utilizing UX design to optimize a site’s checkout process should be one of the most scrutinized and tested changes to a site as this can be a significant factor in making or breaking conversions.
Speaking of testing…
A/B Test Relentlessly
While making such changes as those outlined above, it is essential to A/B test the entire user experience because it’s the only definitive way to know what works and what might need improvement.
Even if the page elements appear to be working well, they might be capable of performing better (hence optimization), so be sure to test everything. This includes copy, CTAs, graphics and all of the other factors listed above.
As far as tools are concerned, Optimizely is one of the leading experimentation platforms available. However, this tool isn’t the only game in town. Crazy Egg also provides an excellent A/B testing tool along with a heatmap solution that enables retailers to better understand which parts of a page are attracting attention and which fail to draw eyeballs.
Conversion rate optimization requires a significant amount of planning, implementation, testing and tweaking. It can be a lengthy and laborious process; however, achieving higher rates of customer conversions can have far-reaching impacts for a site.
While it can certainly be a challenge to understand and implement the necessary changes effectively, merchants can gain help with conversion rate optimization efforts from trusted eCommerce marketing and UX design professionals who can ensure alterations that produce results.
Start testing and optimizing your site today to be a part of the eCommerce industry when it reaches the $4.88 trillion mark in 2021.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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