Guidance for e-commerce, marketing and SaaS directors, managers, analysts and specialists.
Working to ensure the best possible customer experience overall is key.
Conversion optimization needs to be driven by the specific goal of each individual page or customer funnel.
JeremySaid has developed a bona fide, structured approach to increasing revenue with our trademarked conversion optimization methodology.
Conversion optimization is one of the more commonly misused terms in digital marketing. It really should be thought of as an umbrella expression that represents many core processes. Unlike other common industry terms that represent a specific tactic or a series of steps to complete, conversion optimization is much more abstract. Trying to contain it within one uniform definition does it, and the reader, an injustice.
One core element of conversion optimization that most will agree on is that it’s about the user. Doing whatever is necessary for that user to have the best possible customer experience overall is key, and will ultimately lead to higher conversion rates.
Directors of e-commerce and managers of e-commerce sites have a tough job. SaaS digital marketers don’t have a cake walk either. These jobs require savvy and seasoned technical marketing skills, but have a very different set of everyday conversion issues with major impact on revenue, both negative and positive. Regardless, they are all vulnerable to the 2 p.m. “analysis paralysis” after an intense data review.
If you are an in-house marketer or part of an in-house marketing team that manages the e-commerce solution for your division, you know that conversion optimization is an absolute must for revenue growth. But at the end of the day, you can’t Google the phrase “conversion optimization” and be satisfied with what is there. Don’t take my word, try it.
If you actually go to the thousands of conversion optimization websites out there that try and define it for you on their services pages, you’ll see they say the exact same thing, but with their own baseless spin and unsound, unbacked arguments for their UVP and why you should call them right now.
Satisfy Your Users’ Needs First
The revenue demands from your higher-ups are going to require more than what you’ll find in a conversion optimization checklist from an industry blog or some quickly-put-together 30-minute web seminar. The sad reality is that most of those web seminars or blog posts are someone’s attempt to create a piece of evergreen content that was out of focus from the start and has since become outdated as well.
Conversion optimization is viewed by many as a systematic way to increase the percent of visitors who convert into customers, but it’s actually much more than that. Some define it a little better as getting someone on your site to take the desired action on a web page. That still falls short.
Conversion optimization is different for a director of e-commerce from what it is for a SaaS digital marketer or for any other digital marketer trying to increase bottom-line revenues.
Conversion optimization needs to be driven down to a funnel level or page level and focused on the specific goal of each individual page or customer funnel (which may be a series of pages). It should be laser focused on the user. After the user, then we can look at revenue. But without the user, we have no revenue.
No two sites are the same, not even in the same industry, nor is the user experience the same. A simple example of that is found in the user segments “new” vs. “returning.” Differences will also be device-driven. User experiences change, as well, according to intrinsic variables, like motivations, biases, education levels, etc., and due to extrinsic variables, like timing, location, income, world events, etc.
Case Study: Retailer’s $12,000 AOV Falloff
A big retail customer had us come in and sign 23 NDA’s (or that’s what it felt like), and then we started digging. Very quickly, we:
- Identified three different product types that had the highest single average order value.
- Identified the user segment as “return visitors” with no prior purchase history.
- Identified the day-parting segment as Monday through Friday (24 hours/day).
- Identified top user platform as Windows 7 and the browser as IE.
- Split conversion values between IE 10 and IE 9.
Immediately, we saw that users of IE 9 showed an average $12,000 revenue shortfall per product. But that was only half the battle. As we added up the total revenue loss for the three products, we started looking at each previous month, and the data told almost the exact same story. (It’s good to know a problem is not an isolated incident.)
There was a random comment during our initial discovery work (hence why it’s so important to dig and document) about an odd trend of these similar product types all coming out of the gate strong each day and then suffering a sudden sharp downward turn. When we focused our efforts to individual days, and then hours within the day, the data immediately showed a sharp drop in revenue after hour 13 of the 24-hour cycle. Fortunately, the client had video of several site-ranging user sessions. Once we isolated the user segment in the videos, it was very easy to see the problem. Seven people watching the video said “ah ha” at the exact same time.
After 1 p.m. each day, in IE 9 the submit button in the shopping cart was disabled. We validated this by going back up the segmentation drill just to make sure it was all Windows and all IE 9. Sure enough, it was. A problem in the code was immediately identified, which the client speculated to be a specific instance of malware initiated by a former disgruntled employee.
This was a problem with the site’s user experience. When a button didn’t work, potential customers didn’t try to find a way around the problem. They didn’t contact Customer Service. They left and most never came back.
An emergency change request was submitted within a few hours and, after some testing, the problem was resolved.
Your Conversion Optimization Problems Can Be Solved
First of all, any conversion expert shares your pain knowing that your boss’s goal of a 5 percent quarterly increase in average order value is as likely to happen as a Browns Super Bowl win. Regardless, you need an answer.
The reality is, this may not be as hard as you think. Now, we may never be able to stop the higher-ups from attending some of these bait-and-switch web seminars targeted at execs responsible for bottom-line dollars and revenue growth. But we have actually solved simple revenue issues for many e-commerce clients, often with the very first phone call.
On many occasions, we have uncovered several thousands of dollars of lost revenue, and have had a few isolated incidents of discovering anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000 within a few hours of advanced data massaging, which can be done with any web analytics program. To do this, you have to understand where to look for the problems. This requires becoming an expert in a few very simple areas:
- Advanced user segmentation
- Quantitative analysis
- Online behavioral profiling.
After working with specific types of web data over the last 20 years, our data lenses are finely tuned to spot problems that we see time and time again. It’s almost as if the data just jump off the page at us. The secret to all of this user segmentation, however, is a qualitative (observational) cross validation after we spot what is broken. That’s the difference. We always answer the why, not just the what.
How We Define Conversion Optimization at JeremySaid
True, valid and valuable conversion optimization requires an understanding of how to merge different data sets as well as the fundamentals of the complex worlds of science, psychology, statistics and data analysis.
As stated above, conversion optimization is first being worried about what your users want and then considering how to optimize that user experience to increase site and/or page conversions (purchases, subscriptions, leads, etc.). Identifying each individual’s customer journey and their intrinsic motivating (and demotivating) factors represents the quintessence of conversion optimization.
We work to create a better user experience by tirelessly trying to understand how to reduce friction and anxiety for the user so they can feel confident in the experience they are having with the current page/site.
JeremySaid has developed a bona fide, structured approach to increasing revenue with our trademarked conversion optimization methodology. We never use a cookie-cutter solution for any business. The approach may appear similar, but our tactical assessments vary from site to site.
Through a very scientific approach, we figure out very quickly what the lay of the land is. We know what problems typically occur and how to quickly resolve them, but our discovery process is geared toward a documentation of your baseline.
We customize the workflow of our methodology using quantitative and qualitative tools and implement tactical tests or changes that we can immediately leverage, track and adjust to ultimately create conversion lifts. The workflow front-loads the analysis of the conversion tactics used, identifies barriers and dramatically reduces wasted efforts by narrowing down plausible test ideas.
The complexity of this methodology makes its nearly impossible to properly execute without a precise expertise both at a strategic and tactical level. However, this quantitative and qualitative framework’s simplicity in terms of the documented outcome makes it easy to evolve as new opportunities are presented through continuous validation. This is why we are so successful when hired to help a marketing team implement this process.
4 Common Industry Myths Demystified
We know what others think and say about conversion optimization. We know why sometimes they shouldn’t.
Myth: A quick route to conversion rate optimization is to adopt the industry’s well-defined best practices.
Fact: If there is one phrase that makes us slam doors and throw expensive cell phones to the ground, it is “best practices.” If you see this, hear this, experience it in any way shape or form when applying any variation of a conversion optimization methodology, run for the hills.
Following “best practices” is 180 degrees off from what’s required to ensure that your online marketing efforts fit your customers’ particular needs, likes, dislikes, behaviors, etc. There should be no “best practices” talk or beliefs in your foundational analysis, nor documented in foundational benchmarks.
Many people trying to become the next “conversion whatever” will jump on this “best practices” bandwagon as a sales tactic. You surely have realized by now that this is geared toward someone who is already doing conversion optimization, or needs to but lacks resources (time or people) and the expertise of a process methodology.
Myth: There are no magic templates, shortcuts or quick optimization techniques that can be implemented today with the expectation of an immediate improvement in conversion rates.
Fact: There are tons of moves you can make towards improving conversion rates that will have an immediate effect. Well, “tons” may be hyperbole; a search for “quick conversion optimization changes” shows that there are apparently somewhere between three and 30.
If that department meeting is coming up and you need to show that you are ready to kick butt and take names, reeling off a dozen changes to the site that are “guaranteed” to boost conversion rates ought to set ’em back in their seats. Just keep in mind what happens to one-trick ponies.
Truthfully, if quick fixes return consistent results that align even with micro KPIs, like email submissions, newsletter signups, downloads, etc., then run with them and consider yourself lucky. But what you may notice is that these blogs are mostly spitting heuristics – educated guesses – out at you.
Bigger headlines, stronger CTA, this color, that trust signal … If they are features you haven’t adopted or haven’t done well, you may well see an immediate result with them, maybe even a positive result. It may even qualify as “optimization” in some quarters, but there’s no shortcut to the analytical work necessary to create the optimal user experience for your customers, which is what you should strive to provide.
Myth: Your design team has a handle on conversion-centered designs.
Fact: Design is one component of functionality. In most cases, your designers are – by design, actually – looking at the big picture. They are not conversion rate experts.
God love a talented designer. We’d be lost without them. But making a site, page, ad, etc., look good and work well are, while related, not the same thing. Sometimes what makes perfect, it’s-in-all-the-books sense from a design standpoint simply does not yield results once it’s uploaded. Different customers shopping for different products and services online think and act differently.
There are some standard design rules and even current styles that should be adopted, but to determine what design elements will optimize your users’ experience you have to dig into the data, develop customer personas and wire frame models, and test multiple iterations. Otherwise, it’s just guesswork – plus your site’s hot new look.
Myth: Conversion optimization requires A/B testing, and we should always be testing.
Fact: A/B testing is an integral part of improving conversion rates, but there’s a lot of work to be done first. You need to go through a validation process to come up with an effective iterative testing process.
Let us turn to the book of Ecclesiastes. OK, stay here, actually. A/B testing has its time and purpose, as do all things. It’s a simple as this: what are you going to test? But more than that, what you test has to represent a worthwhile starting point – a baseline.
You can start to get a handle on a testable design, text, CTAs, etc., by following heuristic models, but they need to be assessed in light of what your analytics data and user personas tell you. Some heuristics are simply flawed. And once you work through the research and analysis to come up with a model, you need at least a second iteration so you can test one against the other. Only once you have gone through this kind of due diligence should you turn to A/B testing.
Our Best Conversion Optimization Guidance for You
What finally becomes a successful conversion rate optimization program for your e-commerce site or, more relevantly, your business’s individual marketing campaigns, will not – cannot – be plucked from off of the shelf somewhere. It will require intense study, modeling, and valid, meticulous testing.
Some other areas of interest to you might be:
- Landing Page Optimization: The need for landing page optimization never ends as you seek to understand changing customer personas and how to inform, assure and guide site users toward conversions.
- Web Analytics: It’s foundational to conversion optimization, but too few understand how strongly gaining insight from web analytics depends on understanding statistical analysis as well as validation through qualitative analysis.
- A/B Testing: Proper testing can yield a lot of actionable information about your site’s users, but A/B testing is far more complex than the simple either-or proposition its name implies.
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