Conversion rate optimization is about knowing your customers.

It’s really that simple.

This process of knowing your customers involves understanding their needs, creating a relationship, and intuiting how they will purchase.

To build that relationship with a customer, you need to understand how to provide for their needs.

If you know me, you know that this conversation is on a slide toward psychology.

I’m a big fan of Maslow’s Hierarchy, and using content to satisfy a tiered set of needs.

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs illustrated

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Each of Maslow’s levels can be transferred to principles in your conversion optimization process.

It’s about meeting customers’ longings.

By meeting those longings, you’re building trust, like Robert De Niro’s “circle of trust” from Meet the Parents.

Robert De Niro

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Trust makes businesses and companies more likely to want to do business with you. Here’s a graph to that effect from Edelmann:

Edelman chart

The more a customer trusts you, the more likely they are to become (and remain) a customer. Otherwise, you’ll have created a customer for your competition through bad service.

Not good.

Of course, solving customer problems creates a medley of questions.

Successfully satisfying every customer’s physiological, safety, social and esteem needs while guiding them through a sales funnel is tough.

It requires content personalization and relentless split testing, two CRO tactics that are both effective and difficult.

CRO tasks chart

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How do you personalize a consistent experience for each user in each step of your sales funnel? And how do you conduct accurate split testing all the time?

There are shortcuts — ways to make conversion rate optimization’s most difficult tasks into something easier.

Six customer questions to optimize you website.

And don’t worry if you can’t answer all these questions. I’ll provide some hints for how to find answers.

1. How does your customer prefer to be contacted?

Email, text and call marketing are great ways to keep customers informed about sales, discounts, specials, new products and other branded news.

As UK retailer Missguided learned, keeping a consistent, adaptive omni-channel design across all platforms was one way to increase customer retention rates by 19 percent.

We now live in an opt-in society, in which consumers can choose how to be contacted from a wider variety of personalized platforms than ever before, yet email is still most popular, as MarketingSherpa found out.

Chart depicting customer contact preferences

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Try to get customers to opt-in to sharing as much information with you as possible. Also, third-party services like Connectivity can fill out missing information in customer databases automatically and efficiently.

Salesforce and CRM databases should be synced with Google Analytics to categorize demographics and further refine customer data. Here are a few detailed instructions on how to do so from Salesforce themselves.

As Dan Wilkerson at Lunametrics states:

“Many of our clients and Google Analytics training attendees use Salesforce and want to merge data it contains with their Google Analytics data. Thankfully, Salesforce offers a robust set of features to let us integrate the two.”

By understanding how customers prefer to be contacted, your email, mail, online and phone campaigns can be better optimized for a higher conversion rate across all channels. Your CRM database should be optimized to show preferred method of contact.

However, please don’t assume customers prefer to be contacted the same way they prefer to contact you.

Some customers still prefer direct mail — like paper stuff!

Pie chart depicting consumers' preference for direct mail contact

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You have to know your customers.

2. What affinity category does your customer belong to?

User intent is a vital tool in conversion rate optimization.

The more relevant your content is to a user’s intended purpose, the longer they’ll stick around and the more likely they’ll convert to a customer. These customers are retained much longer.

Long story short, it all goes back to building trust. If you’re a trusted resource, you can be trusted to do business with. Ideally, your content marketing and SEO plans should work in tandem to build trust in every step of the sales funnel.

This infographic from Alex Packham explains how content moves customers along through your process:

Infographic depicting how to influence customers to buy online

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Your storytelling and content marketing have to be aimed at audiences from every walk of life. Using Google Analytics and Salesforce, you can learn which demographics are engaging with your content and why.

To locate Demographic and Affinity information in Google Analytics, click the link in the paragraph above and check the screenshot below:

 

Google Analytics' Affinity Categories

Matching these segmentations with other information, perhaps from Google AdWords or another marketing analytics platform, will allow you to further segment your users and customers on both sides of transactions in a dynamic and adaptive way.

Understanding affinity categories allows you to customize your marketing. For example, both Sprite and Adidas know they attract customers with an interest in hip-hop, so you’ll find Lil Wayne and Kanye West promoting these brands to great success.

 

Chart depicting most expensive tennis shoes

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You wouldn’t think a rapper could sell basketball shoes better than a basketball player, but West and Adidas outpaced the iconic Nike Air Jordans to become the most valuable shoe on online retailer Ebay.

Kanye West and Adidas logo

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The secret?

Customer affinity identification.

Adidas applied this affinity principle directly to their website by creating an entire look, feel, messaging and optimization process for such customers.

Adidas illustration of Kanye West's Yeezy Boost

They did everything they could to remove friction, reduce anxiety, build trust and get their customers exactly where they wanted them.

Adidias website ad for Yeezy Boost

If you can identify customer affinity, then you have a powerful source of conversion optimization magic that you can unleash.

3. Which social media sites does your customer spend most time on?

You have social media, and so do your customers.

Do you know which social media platforms they’re on?

A global study by Smart Insights shows a 10 percent increase (which equates to 219 million users) in social media usage from January 2015 to 2016.

infographic depicting use of mobile devices to access social networks

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It only makes sense that you would want to know which of these social media sites your customers are on.

Matching social media sites to customer lists is another specialty of Connectivity’s software, which is why I brought them up earlier.

Targeted email campaigns are one thing, but targeted cross-platform campaigns executed correctly can sustain a business through a tough market.

When 79 percent of marketing leads never convert to sales, refining and retargeting your marketing strategy across all platforms can really turn a business around.

All platforms includes social media.

Here’s a quick look at a basic social media sales funnel by Buffer, a popular social media post scheduling tool:

Inforgraphic depicting Buffer's social media ales funnel

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Social media is designed for socializing, so you need to convert strangers into friends.

Don’t exempt yourself from social media analysis just because you’re B2B. That cop-out doesn’t work anymore.

Chart depicting B2B social media engagement rates

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Social media acts as both a customer service platform and a marketing platform, allowing you to build trust with customers.

Following customers on a social media site like Twitter, or adding a business client on LinkedIn can help build trust and create lasting customers.

The solution? Higher trust equals higher conversion rates.

But then you’ll also need to recognize whether a customer is new or returning.

4. Is your customer new or returning?

Sometimes we want to go where everybody knows our name.

Child dressed as superhero and the legend: Everybody knows my name!

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A returning visitor is 181.2 percent more likely to convert than a new visitor, one of many interesting stats from this infographic from CPC Strategy:

ecommerce infographic - new vs returning site visitors

Google Analytics, thankfully, tracks this information for your web traffic, but you’ll still need to account for every other channel to fully understand how returning visits should influence your sales funnel.

Sometimes a customer will make two or three visits before making a purchasing decision. Being able to personalize each visit while providing a consistent brand voice requires segmenting new and returning visitors.

Chris Goward at WiderFunnel outlines how to successfully implement segmentation, and I’ve provided plenty of advice on the subject, too. As Goward puts it:

“With so much content swirling around, marketers are scrambling to create messages that are more relevant to consumers. Segmentation and personalization can be seen as saviors in a content shocked world.”

Recognizing and catering to both new and returning customers is a vital part of any business strategy. You may not realize it, but device tracking is one method of recognizing a returning customer.

In addition, you must implement segmentation into your split testing process. Failing to do so is compromising the validity and reliability of your testing.

5. What devices does your customer user for shopping and browsing?

With so many connected devices on the market, it’s important to know which ones your customers use to access your content, how they interact with your content, and how this influences their ability to convert.

Mobile devices rule the roost, and you should be optimizing all content for mobile capabilities. Google Maps, for example, notifies customers of deals when they are near certain businesses, regardless of whether they enable mobile notifications with the business itself.

Beacon technology allows your business network to track whenever customers pass through your store. As James Martin at CIO puts it,

“Marketers are also more likely to get the attention they want for their marketing messages when they use beacons. And the geo-targeted messages beacons transmit can increase the ‘open rate’ of mobile marketing messages significantly. In fact, people open standard push notifications about 14 percent of the time, but they open messages transmitted by a beacon 53 percent of the time, because they’re more immediately relevant.”

chart: share of digital media time spent by platform

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Statistics continually show that mobile device usage outperforms desktop, and growth is heading the same direction. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever to understand what content you’re presenting to which users on what devices.

Google Analytics provides this data for web traffic, but you’ll still need to match it to customers by either offering an opt-in or creating a mobile app to track it yourself.

Kissmetrics recently posted three simple hacks to use when merging data from Google Analytics and Salesforce, one of which tracks users across devices. These hacks are a great start to driving your marketing campaign with data.

Both Google and Facebook are updating their algorithms to favor quality websites, so it’s a good idea to stay updated on the 2016 online marketing trends. Mobilegeddon was just the kickoff of a global shift to mobile content.

Chart: popular activities on smartphones

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Email rules mobile devices, but you should be aware of what mobile devices are used for, including social media, local search and maps. When you know what devices your customers use, you can personalize content for those platforms.

This optimization and personalization should increase your conversion rate by a noticeable level. Using this type of data-driven marketing technique can improve your effectiveness.

Before you go whole-hog on a mobile-crazy campaign, however, it’s important to understand what your users are doing.

Are you angling for mobile transactions as a conversion goal? If so, then optimizing your mobile checkout process is probably a worthy pursuit. Are you simply trying to increase brand awareness from mobile browsers? Then maybe the checkout process needs to take a backseat.

As with every one of these issues, the key is know your customers, and the answers will come automatically.

6. Would your customer be interested in a virtual reality option?

Indulge me in a bit of forecasting, prognostication and conversion potential.

The consumer launch of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have VR on the minds and mouths of the media and most tech and game-savvy social circles.

Man wearing Oculus rift VR headgear

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Here’s a chart from Statista showing U.S. consumer interest in VR:

Chart: Is virtual reality the next big thing?

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This potential is huge, and brands as diverse as Marriott, Patron, Mattel, Facebook and Disney have already invested huge in this growing market.

Justin Lafferty at AdWeek’s Social Times best described the intersection of marketing and virtual reality:

“As an increasing amount of people have access to VR headsets and technology, brands are finding space in the virtual realm. It’s a bit early to say exactly how brands can market via VR, but the possibilities are exciting.“

Marriott’s Teleporter program allows visitors to order a Samsung Gear VR headset to experience exotic locations.

two Marriott virtual reality booths

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Patron takes visitors on a “How It’s Made”-inspired tour of its tequila from seed to bottle.

Man using virtual reality headset as others wait turn

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Mattel partnered with National Geographic to revive the ViewMaster headset for educational virtual and augmented reality experiences for children.

Facebook acquired Oculus, and Disney invested in Jaunt VR. Both have plans to expand, as do others. Some brands are simply learning new ways to advertise in AutoCAD-driven spherical environments. Others are simply uploading 3D models of all their products to adapt to mixed-reality internet browsing.

Although it’s difficult to understand how exciting VR is and how your brand can fit in until you’ve tried it, virtual and augmented reality (known collectively as mixed reality) is already here. If a hotel chain, tequila company, toy giant, social media network and movie studio are interested in VR, you should be too.

Maybe.

It all depends, again, on your customer. Know them. Know what they want. Know how to give it to them.

That’s what conversion rate optimization is all about.

Conclusion

Data-driven marketing can transform every level of your business by bringing a scientific approach to it.

By understanding how to properly locate and integrate information about customers from all channels, you can better guide them through the sales funnel.

Quality content that is optimized will survive upcoming changes, so long as you focus on delivering a consistent message to customers on all channels.

Be aware that these channels could include social media and other online platforms, as well as entirely new methods of connecting, such as virtual and augmented reality.

Future-proofing your evergreen content and optimizing your business for all distribution channels requires an omnichannel, data-driven conversion optimization plan.