The Importance of Conversion Rate Optimization for eCommerce Retailers

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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For eCommerce titans and startups alike, the higher a site’s conversion rates, the likelier the business is to be healthy and growing. When examined on the surface, swelling conversion rates translate to more company revenue.

For a business to build its bottom line, a site requires qualified traffic to generate sales. Therefore, the logic follows that to continue engendering greater gross profits, a brand must drive more traffic to increase its sales, right?

Yes and no.

While this is undoubtedly the formula that many retailers follow, it isn’t the most efficient strategy. Instead of continually vying for higher levels of traffic, merchants can instead optimize their conversion rates to yield more revenue.

The plain fact is that most merchants have not fully optimized their eCommerce websites for maximal conversions. These issues could be the result of confusing navigational elements, a lack of security indicators that cause consumers to feel wary, a cluttered format, unclear/hard to find CTAs or a myriad of other potential reasons.

While traffic is essential, if a site can’t earn conversions from those clicks, it is doomed to fail.

Instead of traffic generation, conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the necessary route for retailers to pursue. To gain a more comprehensive understanding of what this practice is, why it is important and how to successfully implement its tenants, get ready to take some notes and bookmark this page because we are going to cover everything eCommerce merchants must know about conversion rate optimization.

What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Conversion rates are defined as the percent of visitors who take a prescribed on-site action. This definition holds true across websites and advertising efforts.

conversion rate optimization landing page

If an activity meets a site’s goals, just about any action can be considered a desirable one. Therefore, conversions can be behaviors such as:

  • Filling out a contact form
  • Answering a questionnaire
  • Providing feedback
  • Downloading a resource such as an eBook
  • Subscribing to a service

As far as eCommerce retailers are concerned, conversions tend to fall into a smaller list of categories like:

  • Signing up for a newsletter or product notification list
  • Adding an item to a cart
  • Completing a purchase

By measuring conversion rates, sellers can establish if their site pages are driving the desired actions.


On the other hand, conversion rate optimization is the data-driven process of systematically increasing the percentage of site visitors who take the desired action. To effectively multiply conversion rates, retailers must understand how users move through their website, what elements are successful in driving goals and where blocks are occurring in the conversion process.

The heart of CRO is about methodically identifying elements that fail to produce the intended results and generating designs that can improve upon these weaknesses. Achieving this goal is typically the result of A/B testing, but we’ll dive into that a bit later.

Why Is Conversion Rate Optimization Important?

As mentioned earlier, there are typically two ways to generate more revenue for an eCommerce business:

  • Drive more traffic to a site hoping that sales increase in proportion to the new visitors; or
  • Convert more of a site’s current traffic into repeat, paying customers

reviewing website traffic charts and statistics

The latter of these two options tends to be the superior one as research from Bain & Company has shown boosting customer retention rates by a mere five percent lifts profits by over 25 percent. Why is this the case? As the report notes:

“Return customers tend to buy more from a company over time… What’s more, return customers refer others to your company. And they’ll often pay a premium to continue to do business with you rather than switch to a competitor with whom they’re neither familiar nor comfortable.”

This is the crux of the matter. Time and again, research has shown that customer generation is far more costly than effectively encouraging repeat patronage.

Moreover, the methodologies behind testing and improving on a site’s conversion rate performance is less costly than lead generation campaigns. If that weren’t enough, CRO means that retailers will cut down future customer acquisition costs, thereby padding a brand’s bottom line.

But to maximize a site’s current traffic, business owners must understand the tactics and strategies that drive CRO.

How to Optimize Conversion Rates

ab test button

Conversion rate optimization is a long and tedious process of painstaking experimentation achieved through A/B testing. Great split testing tools that merchants might want to use include Optimizely, VWO and AB Tasty.

Before initiating any testing, it is vital to analyze a site’s sales funnel to understand where friction points and holes exist so that they can be patched and improved to engender more conversions. The best way to harvest this data is to examine the conversion reports in Google Analytics to uncover how users move through a site and where they are disengaging. Other tools such as Hotjar, CrazyEgg or MouseFlow can also provide valuable data on visitor behaviors.

Once the data is analyzed, retailers can then begin making decisions on which pages and elements of a site to alter in experiments. The details to tweak and test are dependent on the site’s conversion goals, as described above. However, for the sake of this piece, the focus will remain on the most common eCommerce conversion goal, which is to increase sales.

Elements to Be Tested

Arguably the most critical part of the CRO process is establishing which features require testing. Retailers should have a good idea of this by following the steps in the last section. However, some key areas are likely to make a more significant impact than others.

Therefore, retailers should analyze the performance of, and likely experiment with, the following elements.


Headline Prominence and Wording

Headlines, no matter if on the homepage or specific landing pages, are an essential element to site performance as these are the first thing users typically encounter and inform (read: excite) them on what they can expect to find on a page and the value proposition.

Headlines should be massive attention-grabbers, while the page’s sub-headline provides a bit more depth about the product, page or offering. The goal of these two elements is to get users to scroll down the page. If they fail to do so, rigorous testing is required.

Merchants should try out various headline formats to see what works best. Some ideas might include:

  • Asking a provocative question that alludes to the value gained
  • Utilize action-oriented words
  • Be direct in the offer (e.g., 30 percent off all shoes!)
  • Employ humor to generate goodwill

laptop with news headline on website


Call-to-action (CTA) buttons are a vital part of any page as these are what lets consumers know how to proceed towards the conversion; therefore, testing is necessary for optimum performance.

CTAs should tout clear, action-oriented wording that drives visitors to the next step of their journey. However, the text is only one of several components that retailers should analyze. Other testing elements to consider include:

  • Shape
  • Size
  • Color
  • Placement

In terms of shape, the now-iconic rounded-corner CTAs leveraged by Amazon have proven to produce better results as rounded corners are easier on the eyes, which helps to pull customers in instead of turning them away like pointed corners tend to do, albeit inadvertently.

Size is another meaningful CTA aspect to consider as buttons that are too small could get overlooked while ones that are too large can come off as obnoxious and desperate. Additionally, it is vital to consider the mobile experience as these buttons must be easy to press on small screen devices.

The color of a CTA should stand in stark contrast to the rest of the page, but in a tone that is complementary to the page’s color scheme. For example, a common combination is an orange CTA overlaying a blue background.

When it comes to placement, consumers should never have to look far for a CTA. Not only should these elements live above the fold of the page, but they should be scattered throughout landing pages to ensure visitors are never far from a conversion.

Experiment with these five CTA components to find the blend that works best for your brand.

The Checkout Experience

A site’s checkout experience is likely one of the most critical aspects to optimize as this is where eCommerce companies make their money.

Many merchants feature glitchy, lengthy and extraneous checkout processes that turn potential customers away in droves. In fact, complicated checkout experiences are the reason for 26 percent of all abandoned carts, according to research from the Baymard Institute.


Therefore, retailers should aim to utilize UX design to optimize checkout processes by enabling guest checkout, minimizing form fields, reducing the number of pages customers must move through and providing various payment options, in addition to other best practices.

By implementing these exact principles, Visiture was able to help famed women’s undergarment and activewear brand, Spanx, increase conversions by 40 percent while simultaneously lifting average order values by 28 percent.

However, do be aware that these aspects are just the tip of the iceberg. Retailers should also A/B test various elements of their mobile shopping experiences, product pages, landing pages and anything else that can help drive conversions.

Conversion rate optimization is an art and a science that should be taken seriously as its benefits, in addition to being substantial, can have long-term implications for a brand.

Properly researching consumer behavior, analyzing the findings, testing various remedies and implementing the correct solutions can be a long and laborious process. To achieve optimal conversion rates, retailers should not disregard the idea of hiring a highly-skilled eCommerce website development team to handle the CRO process. Doing so could be the difference between a minimally improved website and an optimized online store that converts a sizable chunk of its visitors into loyal customers.

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