2014 was the year “Conversion Rate Optimization” became the new “social media marketing.”
Hype riding marketers published story after story about how these “tiny little tweaks” were producing enormous gains, and it got you fantasizing about double and triple digit percentage increases.
Maybe you dipped your toe in and experimented with some of the “tips & tricks” only to be disappointed, wondering why you ever wasted your time.
But here’s the thing, “Conversion Rate Optimization” isn’t a bible of tactics guarded by a mystical circle of cloaked beings high atop a mountainside.
The truth is, a good deal of the Conversion Rate Optimization process isn’t about applying tactics, but by sometimes asking very basic questions of your customers and your data.
I’ve rounded up 7 of my favorite Conversion Rate experts and asked the questions that most of us would feel are too simple, too basic, and too stupid to ask.
Their answers are surprisingly full of insight and will get you thinking more strategically about improving your conversions.
How Do You Define Conversion Rate Optimization?
When design & copywriting teams fall into the “Yeah, but I think it would be better if… “ trap, they unknowingly create a culture where sacrifice, compromise, and butt kissing hold more value than creating real revenue.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is a mindset shift. It starts with data, not opinions, and gets you paying more attention to your customers, their behavior, and why they do the things they do.
For example, maybe mobile buyers spend more than desktop buyers in certain product categories? Why is that? What data can we look at that explains the behavior, and what is best way for us to connect with those customers to learn more about their shopping experience?
These answers aren’t found in anyone else’s best practice guide, and while internal opinions are valid, only your prospects, leads & customers will ever have the “right” answer - which you can use for future test hypotheses.
Where Do You Look For Testing Ideas?
Running an online business without a basic understanding of analytics is exactly like grabbing the pilot’s stick for the first time and expecting to win first place at the air show. You wouldn’t fly a plane without taking a few lessons first, would you?
If you do not understand analytics, or have someone on your team that does, you need to make this a priority immediately.
Analytics isn’t just something only the nerdy kids use and pull insights from, but rather a way to understand without question where your visitors are coming from, what they’re doing once they’re on your site, and most importantly, where they are getting stuck when it comes to buying from you.
Even with a basic understanding of analytics, you can know for sure where the problems are on your site. Once you have that, you can create a testing plan that addresses those problems and works towards very specific outcomes.
How Do You Know What To Test?
Once you know where people are getting stuck, and why, you need to combine your own intuition with the information you’ve gained from your customers to create tests.
Gathering customer feedback can be done with user testing, heatmap tools, customer surveys and interviews, and any other method that gets you into a dialog with real customers.
Brian isn’t saying you shouldn’t be doing these things to understand your customer behavior, but rather, that each of these methods, along with your own professional insight, is what will help you to triangulate the truth and find out what really gets them to pull out their credit card make a purchase.
How Long Should You Run A Test For?
Once you know where and what you should be testing, the next question most people have is, “how long should it run for before I know the results are conclusive”?
The answer is going to vary from website to website, and honestly, depending on what your traffic and sales look like right now, could make some people uncomfortable. But like Peep is saying, without patience, you could end up picking the wrong variation and void the entire testing process.
This is an important rule-of-thumb to accept as you dive deeper into CRO, as it will give you more accurate results, and free you up to work on multiple tests while existing tests “bake to perfection.”
Recommended Reading: Master the Essentials of Conversion Optimization
My friend Judah Phillips adds a little more context to what Peep’s saying:
Also, know that one major misconception about conversion rate optimization is that it begins and ends with A/B testing. In many scenarios, an A/B test might not be the best test to gain the insight you’re looking for.
When Do You Stop Testing And Go Full Redesign?
It’s easy to forget that your customers might not be looking at your site every day, and just because you are tired of looking at it, doesn’t mean they are.
Redesigns are tricky, and unless you’re changing your branding, or addressing usability issues that require a major overhaul, may also be unnecessary. Also if the redesign isn’t handled with a great deal of respect for data, can absolutely demolish your conversion rates.
Oli makes a great point about working improving conversions through channel segmentation, and using tools like VWO (formerly Visual Website Optimizer) or Optimizely, you can show a slightly different version of a page to Facebook visitors than you would for PPC visitors.
This allows you to essentially “keep what’s working” for one traffic channel, and make iterative improvements for the others.
The cool part about using strategy is that when you do go full redesign, you’ll have a deep understanding about what’s working for each traffic channel, and can integrate those things into the new design without making blind sacrifices and losing out on tons of revenue.
About The Author
Tommy Walker is the Editor-in-Chief of the Shopify Plus blog. It is his goal to provide high-volume ecommerce stores with deeply researched, honest advice for growing their customer base, revenues and profits. Get more from Tommy on Twitter.