Conversion Rate Optimization: The Best Approach to CRO

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is not a well understood eCommerce subject. CRO needs to be reconsidered because, well, it’s important. For too long eCommerce stores have put CRO on the backburner when the return on investment (ROI) is clear.

While the definition of conversion rate optimization is clear (an increase in the rate of conversion), what’s not clear is how it gets done, how long you do it for, and what’s the return on investment.

CRO done right can provide a significant boost to annual revenue. For example, for a company generating more than $5 million in annual revenue, a .1% increase in CR could lead to $200K+ annual revenue. What happens with multiples of that can be huge. When you work with the right optimization partners, the ROI can be anywhere between 5-10x.

The Traditional Approach

When you think about improving eCommerce conversion rates – the traditional approach has been:

  1. Analyze your industry competitors and identify what that they do differently.
  2. Based on your analysis, determine what you think will move the conversion rate needle the most.
  3. Directly implement changes and wait and see if your conversion rate increases.

The Better Approach

The better approach is to not worry about your competitors. Instead, identify the right eCommerce partners for your business. To be clear, the right eCommerce partners:

  • Have clearly defined plans for optimization beyond the basics (basics = split testing colors of buttons, rearranging category pages, etc.)
  • Dig deep into every segment of your audience to ensure a personalized & well designed experience.
  • Approach user research as an investment, not a cost.
  • Prove ROI time and time again.

Your Next Move

Once you’ve identified a great eCommerce partner with a proven track record, the next step to improve CRO is take a step-by-step approach based on research.

  1. Note your store’s current conversion rate.
  2. Audit your site against top eCommerce Usability Standards (i.e., Baymard). This will help you identify infractions. Infractions are areas where you have not followed recommended user experience (UX) practices.
  3. Determine the scale of infractions and the level of effort to fix each infraction.
  4. Immediately resolve the biggest infractions that require the lowest level of effort (LOE).
  5. Develop a hypothesis of how to resolve other infractions. Resolve these from from lowest to highest LOE.
  6. Once you have resolved 25% of the full list of infractions, remeasure your conversion rate.
  7. Keep resolving infractions until you are 100% complete.
  8. Re-audit the site once more with fresh eyes and repeat.

The above process can take three to four months. While this approach is far superior than just solely coping your competitor, it’s not the end all be all to conversion rate optimization. It’s actually just the starting point.

Dig Deeper – Detailed User Flows

Once you’ve standardized your site based on eCommerce Usability Standards, basic user experience challenges for your store should no longer exist.

The next step is to dig deep into detailed user flows. Detailed user flows are the complete set of pages and interactions that users go through to make a purchase.

To do this, ask these key questions as you review your site:

  1. What are the Media centric weak points in user journey design for each incoming channel (i.e. Paid, Referral, Social, Email, Display, Affiliates, Organic)? For example, is there an infographic or video missing that would connect the dots?
  2. What are the Page Navigation & Call-To-Action centric weak points in user journey design for each incoming channel (i.e. Paid, Referral, Social, Email, Display, Affiliates, Organic)? For example, where are you missing an email subscribe box to hook a user into obtaining more information.
  3. What are the Content & Narrative centric weak points in user journey design for each incoming channel (i.e. Paid, Referral, Social, Email, Display, Affiliates, Organic)? For example, do your ads promise something that your product page doesn’t deliver?

The great thing about the above approach is that we’re able to equalize the CRO metric. This is because CRO can be a very lopsided metric with some channels performing excessively well while some don’t perform at all. So, an average is not indicative of true performance.

Once you get this far – you’ve done more than 90% of the industry has ever done. This means that as a result see conversion rates that 90% of the industry will never see. Is there still more that can be done? Absolutely.

User Research

The next, and last, stage we’ll address is User Research. User Research digs deep into discovering customer experience issues that can only happen through qualitative methods. This approach allows qualitative metrics to move quantitative metrics.

User Research can be achieved through a number of qualitative tools ranging from surveys to usability studies. To be sure, with each tool you’re evaluating your customers, and not the industry as a whole.

User research allows you to identify:

1. Who makes up your user base?

So far you’ve only hypothesized who your customers are, what their needs are, and what you think they like. Now, all of these theories get thrown out the window because you’re speaking directly to your base. This allows you to create new proto-personas (demographic, psychological and desires profiles) so that you’re no longer working with only two persona profiles in your design guidelines.

2. What do they really love and what do they absolutely hate?

Only your real customers can tell you what they really love and hate. Sometimes, it’s the most abstract of elements that customers fall in love with and the most simple things that they wish were not on the site. Real human interactions unlock these points which no quantitative metric would allow. With this information – you can produce more of the love and get rid of what they hate.

Return On Investment (ROI)

The article showcases a potentially 1 year (or more) journey into conversion rate optimization.

So why keep spending on optimization? Because, again, for a company generating $5 million in revenue, every .1% increase in CR could lead to $200K+ annual revenue for a company.

The ROI is crystal clear – spending on CRO with the right partner is a no-brainer.