What if you could get inside your customers’ heads and really understand what drove them, so you could provide guidance?

Thanks to brain-mapping data and technology provided by groups like the Human Connectome Project, this isn’t a far-fetched, futuristic idea.

(Man, I love science.)

Even in that future (or any other, for that matter, Morty), data-driven analytics will drive sales.

In fact, it’ll be even more important in the future than it is now. People who are able to successfully gather and analyze data will win.

(Man, I love data.)

Marketing and conversion rate optimization focus on creating a perfect experience to attract both new and returning customers and lead them through your company’s sales funnel.

The higher your conversion rate, the higher your ROI.

Here’s how it works:

Infographic explaining a strategy for conversion rate optimization

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That strategy outlines the necessary process to optimize your website for conversions.

As you’re aware, there’s no such thing as an “ideal” conversion rate across industries and websites. However, regardless of where you’re at right now, you can go higher.

And the foundational strategy in ramping up your conversion rate isn’t as much about tactics and tests as it is about knowing your customers.

Refining and increasing a conversion rate involves understanding your business from the customer’s point of view.

Image you could sit down with a focus group of customers and conduct a research study. What would you want to know, and how would you use this information to your advantage?

Here are 10 questions to ask your current customers:

1. How was your overall experience?

You want everyone who does business with you to have a great experience, but if there’s a problem, you want to know that as well. This open-ending question, “How was your overall experience” will get you the good, the bad and the ugly.

Everywhere you go, you hear retail employees, servers and others in customer service industries asking how your experience was.

Why? Because customer experience matters.

Survey results showing that 86 percent of buyers will pay more for better customer service, and that importance of customers service will continue to grow

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In the realm of conversion rate optimization, this is especially true. I’ve asserted elsewhere that conversion rate optimization is basically user experience optimization.

The prospect needs to have a great experience in order to convert.

Online, you don’t have the opportunity to personally greet each individual visitor (though you can create the illusion with creative CRO techniques), but you do have a ton of available options to rate a visitor’s experience.

As Nitin Deshdeep at VWO points out:

“You can analyze the data for your website’s conversion funnel, and recognize web pages that are leaking out customers. You can do that by finding pages in the funnel that have a high exit rate. A high exit rate for a page means people are reaching that page but are dropping off. For instance, a high exit rate on a checkout page is a good indicator that something’s broken with the user experience on the page.”

Google Analytics is one tool you can use to locate problem pages.

The two datasets you’re looking for are pages with high bounce rates (located at Behavior > Site Content > All Pages) and the top exit pages (Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages).

With this information, you’ll know exactly where the problems are on your website, and can focus your optimization efforts on those landing pages first.

2. Why are you here today?

Although content marketing is gaining in popularity, one of the biggest issues companies face is understanding what type of content to produce.

Here’s a chart of content marketing pain points from SEO Consultant Rod Gardner:

Pie chart titled Biggest Content Marketing Challenge

To engage your audience, you need to know their motivation for coming.

This motivation changes through each step of the sales funnel. You also need to be careful that your content marketing initiatives don’t destroy your conversion optimization efforts.

There’s a science behind understanding customer motivation, and it doesn’t take mind-reading to utilize. You don’t need to be Matt Foley, either.

Motivation comes in two types: positive and negative. Positive motivation is along the lines of having pictures of your kids in your office or saving for a vacation. Negative motivation is the punishment for breaking laws.

Think carrot and stick.

Rather than using fear-based clickbait headlines, focus content on the customer’s core motivations. Feed their desires.

Understanding customer motivation allows you to create viable content for each step of the funnel.

Infographic depicting content marketing formats for each stage of the sales funnel

 

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This is one component to a personalized approach to marketing.

By personalizing content to each stage of the content marketing funnel, you’ll be able to effectively guide customers through to conversion. Engagement and retention rates go up alongside this, so the overall ROI is fantastic.

With an effective content marketing strategy in place, you can map why a customer is here based on their landing page.

3. Did you find everything OK?

Ecommerce lives and dies on whether every page on the site is easy to find and use. Khalid Saleh offers some great tips on landing page optimization at Conversion Sciences. By following leading retailers, and making products and information easier to find, you’ll increase conversions.

Not only does each landing page need to be optimized, but searching and navigating between them do as well.

Some writers use a technique of deleting every other sentence of their first draft to make it more dynamic. I believe landing pages should be optimized through essentialism.

Basically, removing all but the core essential elements of a landing page is a simple way to optimize it for conversions.

Here’s a quick infographic about web design trends to help you determine what’s most appealing to customers:

 

Infographic depicting web designs tend ins and outs for 2016

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Make sure your website follows current design trends so it’ll blend in with what internet users are accustomed to seeing. Like Facebook focuses on in-feed marketing, your site should focus on presenting your content to users in an efficient way on every channel.

4. Would you recommend us to a friend?

Features or qualities of a company that inspire trust in the minds of customers take several forms, one of the most effective of which is customer testimonials.

The most trusted testimonials are from family and friends, as this March 2016 Harris Poll confirms:

Infographic of survey results: 82 percent of Americans seek recommendations from friends and family when considering a purchase.

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Your website should include a variety of ways at every juncture to share photos, phrases and other viral content through social media outlets, email and text to friends.

Upon signing up or purchasing, customers should have the option of claiming a discount on future purchases by sending a discount to a friend.

These small checkout changes allow for add-on sales and trusted recommendations from free brand advertisers. Here’s how the poll rated incentives:

Graphic presentation of survey results: 88 percent of Americans say they would like some sort of incentive for sharing a product via social media or email. That number jumps to 95 percent among 18-34-year-olds.

In fact, the more money a customer has (and the higher the purchase amount), the more likely they are to consult with social networks about purchases.

Don’t simply ask for recommendations. Instead, provide calls to action such as social sharing buttons in your brand communications.

5. What about this product/service struck out to you?

Your customers prefer what they already know.

This is a standard aspect of web psychology, known as attentional bias.

Attentional bias provides powerful clues as to what about the product, service or web experience was most notable to them. This information, in turn, allows you to understand the user’s perspective, response and conversion potential.

You need to discover know how you converted the customers you have so you can replicate that experience for others.

6. How did you hear about of us?

You’ve probably done enough data mining to figure out where your customers are coming from.

But have you ever asked your online customers how they heard about you?

The answers you get will differ in deep and substantive ways from the raw data you’re getting from Analytics.

It’s important to do both — to ask your customers in person and to do the data analysis.

You can pull in data from Google Analytics to find out which search terms and links are referring people to which landing pages on your website. Social media, search engines and backlinks are the typical traffic referrers.

This is an older report that ignores platforms like SnapChat, but does highlight the importance of social media.

Graph of social media traffic referrals December 2011 to 2014, with steep growth of Facebook, some growth of Pinterest and several others flat

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Since 2014, social media has driven 31.24 percent of referral traffic. Organic search is still important, but, as people communicate more on social media platforms, social media shares and referrals rise proportionately.

You can ask in-store customers who referred them, and if at any point collecting customer information to create a savings account either online or off, have them include a referral source among the array of personalization information you can harvest during the sign-up process.

7. What do you know about our company, or what would you like to know?

Whenever you do get a chance to talk to customers, ask what they want from you.

Be their servant; cater to their stated needs. This is how you build trust, and the value of an online marketing campaign is you get to build these relationships on a mass scale if done right.

It’s not just limited to you and the customer. There are four relationships that brand trust is built upon:

  • Consumer-product
  • Consumer-brand
  • Consumer-company
  • Consumer-other companies.

Any time you have an opportunity to improve on these relationships as they apply to you, jump on it. Be as transparent as possible about how your business operates on all levels, and provide factual information and guidance to all visitors.

Social media is the best platform to interact with customers on a wide scale and learn more about their pain points in real time. It’s also a great place to generate buzz, promote new products/services, and resolve customer complaints.

Eventually you’ll encounter negative feedback on social media or online forums. Connectivity posted a great article about how to respond to negative reviews. Be prepared for the best and worst, and keep your brand voice and messaging consistent at all times.

Social media can be a wild corner of the internet, but these are friends, family and customers in the surrounding community.

8. What problems have you experienced in the past with similar products?

You don’t want to just know what customers do or don’t like about your products; you also want to know how they feel about other products. Brand affinity is a complicated matter, and it depends as much on the competition as it does you.

Here’s an infographic detailing the difference in brand affinity for The Flash and Gotham, two TV shows derived from the same comic book universe with very different fans:

flashandgotham

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Even within the same DC Comics umbrella, different brands appeal to different types of people. This is why brand affinity is so important. You want to target the right people who will actually do business with your brand.

Affinity categories can be found in Google Analytics and you can go a step further in investigating competitors by reading their online customer complaints. Don’t just revel in them failing and potentially driving another customer to you, but learn from their mistakes so you don’t offend the same customer segment.

9. What would you like to see us do more of online?

Online marketing is becoming more and more vital in every company’s marketing initiatives. Here are a few trends in online marketing for 2016:

nfographic discussing seven digital marketing trends in 2016 and which will likely continue

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By finding out what your customers want more of, you can adapt your online marketing to optimize it for demand. Some groups react better to social media, email or paid banner advertising, so keep this in mind when developing a plan.

Optimizing overall web conversions is accomplished by optimizing every step of the process. Think of it as taking on a new healthy lifestyle. Instead of listening to your body, you need to listen to your customers in order to reach your full potential.

If customers want you to be funny, be funny. If they’re looking for an educational resource, provide it. Whatever the customer wants, the customer should get.

Google Analytics can also provide data to back up decisions through traffic referral sources. If you’re not drawing in enough direct or social media traffic, those are the areas you need to focus on improving.

10. When can we expect to see you next?

Like in weather, business forecasting is a vital process that is often incorrect. Here are the four stages of data-driven forecasting:

 

Infographic discussing the four stages of buisness forecasting

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If it were possible to tell the future, you could appropriate resources, reassure investors and schedule a workforce to correspond with the shifts. Seasonal businesses need to know their up and down times.

Finding out when a customer is going to return would be the holy grail of marketing analytics. Unfortunately there’s no way to truly determine this on an individual basis.

Asking an open-ended question like the one above can help you obtain a level of insight that will prepare your optimization efforts to truly take off.

Conclusion

User research is a fundamental part of any company’s CRO initiatives.

By stepping into the user’s shoes, you can find out how to convert them to customers. A variety of data-driven tactics, from content marketing to graphic design, are used to move users through a sales funnel.

The more transparent you are in doing business, the more customers will feel like being transparent with you.

If you haven’t done so yet, set up the analytics and reporting necessary to learn how to optimize your ecommerce site to fit your business needs now.

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