How to Hire a CRO Agency: A Process to Get It Right

Historically, CRO has taken a backseat to SEO, PPC, and other forms of digital marketing. But it’s on the rise—60.8% of businesses are making CRO a priority. As more companies think about starting or expanding CRO programs, the “agency or in-house?” question is also earning more attention. Hiring an agency can make sense for companies […]

The post How to Hire a CRO Agency: A Process to Get It Right appeared first on CXL.

Historically, CRO has taken a backseat to SEO, PPC, and other forms of digital marketing. But it’s on the rise—60.8% of businesses are making CRO a priority.

As more companies think about starting or expanding CRO programs, the “agency or in-house?” question is also earning more attention. Hiring an agency can make sense for companies that don’t have the time or resources to build an in-house team.

But to find the right agency, you need to do your homework. CRO isn’t cheap: Picking an agency is a five- or six-figure decision. (Some 44% of companies spend more than $10,000 a year on A/B testing products alone—many spend far more.)

Before you start contacting agencies, weigh the pros and cons of doing the CRO work in-house versus outsourcing.

Should you outsource CRO to an agency?

Both in-house and agency CRO teams have advantages and drawbacks. The right choice depends on your company’s size, goals, and budget.

Even then, some limitations apply to any CRO program. For example, if you don’t have enough traffic to your site, you won’t have enough data to run tests. The potential ROI of CRO also varies based on revenue. Peep Laja, CXL Founder, explains:

If you increase sales by 1% for a company that makes $100 million, that’s $1 million of added revenue. CRO makes sense. But if you get that same 1% increase for a site that makes $1 million a year, the ROI—$10,000—isn’t there. 

If your company and site clear those initial hurdles, here are other factors to consider.

Building an in-house team:

  • Takes time. Finding seasoned CRO experts can take many months, and launching a CRO program can take even longer.
  • Is prohibitively expensive for many companies. You’ll need at least $500,000 to build a skeletal team.
  • Can be a bottleneck for launching multiple tests. An in-house team often can’t launch multiple tests because their plates are full.
  • Doesn’t make sense if you have only one funnel to optimize. Once your in-house team maxes out conversions for that funnel, what will they do next?

On the other hand, hiring a CRO agency isn’t always the best fit either. This is the case if you have:

  • No clear (or realistic) goals. You’re not aligned on what an experimentation program needs to achieve or can realistically achieve.
  • No one to own the relationship. You need a point person who can clear roadblocks and hold the agency accountable.
  • No one to implement changes. Test wins become revenue only after they’re deployed across the site.

The two options aren’t mutually exclusive: If you hire an agency, you can lean on them to help you build and run (or speed up) an in-house CRO program. They can also, periodically, serve as a second set of eyes on a program or come in to help resolve a particular challenge.

As Viljo Vabrit, Managing Director of CXL Agency notes:

The best goal for every organization should be running a CRO program in-house. Hiring a CRO agency should create additional capacity when there’s a lack of resources.

Agencies are also used to teach processes to improve existing CRO programs. If a CRO program ends after an agency is done with their work, it’s not been a successful engagement

Optimization has to be continuous.

If your business goals and challenges push you away from the in-house option, here are some additional reasons that companies settle on agency services.

4 common reasons companies go with CRO agencies

1. Conversion rates are low—or unknown.

Plenty of sites have succeeded at acquisition—getting people to the site—but struggle to persuade those same visitors to take action.  

Codeacademy struggled with that exact issue. “We were just trying to get better at monetizing the business side of Codecademy, and CRO is a big part of that,” said Daniel Layfield, Product Manager of Growth at Codeacademy. “Codecademy has always had strong traffic, but we just didn’t have a lot of expertise in conversion.”

Other companies have trouble nailing down their conversion rate due to analytics challenges. That was the obstacle Priscilla Leake, previously the Conversion Optimization Manager for startup JungleScout, faced. Her team needed to untangle a misconfigured analytics setup:

I was hired to work on the marketing team and own analytics and CRO for the website and realized that our revenue-tracking in Google Analytics was misconfigured by 60–80%, not directly tied to our credit card processor, and didn’t have events or tracking to account for churn and returns—which had large revenue implications for the business model. 

Before scaling testing, we wanted to get foundational tracking implemented on the marketing side to better understand testing results relative to the health of the business.

2. You can test CRO before going all-in with a team.

Only 7.8% of companies made CRO less of a priority in 2018, and most optimizers (56.4%) reported better results compared to the previous year. Strong CRO programs get results. But how do you go from “nothing” to “strong”?

effectiveness of cro in 2018 vs 2017 chart.
Most CRO analysts report that programs were more effective in 2018 compared to the previous year. (Image source)

Outsourcing CRO to an agency lets companies try optimization before building their own team. Unlike SEO, you don’t have to wait six months to see whether the changes are delivering results. 

If you have a wealth of traffic and want to see if you can make it more efficient, a CRO agency is an option. The ROI from a short-term project can help gauge whether building an in-house team makes sense.

3. In-house teams are a big, long-term financial commitment.

“Running an effective CRO program is like running an Olympic cycling team,” Vabrit advises.

He continues: 

The coach (CRO agency) is not enough to get your champion to the pedestal; you need world-class equipment, physiotherapists, technicians, funding, etc. If some of that is missing, the whole program falls apart. A CRO program is never isolated from other marketing and development programs.

Experts are hard to source, and expensive—an average of $76,000 in the United States, according to Payscale. And you don’t want to hire below-average talent.

As Laja cautions, “CRO is 100% skill work—it’s not a lottery or game of luck. A mediocre person can get you results if your site is terrible. If it’s somewhat or highly optimized, hiring a cheap person won’t work.”

Laja: “CRO is 100% skill work—it’s not a lottery or game of luck.” 

While hiring one or two CRO generalists can help a company get set up, it takes a team to implement the ongoing testing that makes a major impact on your bottom line. That team can set you back around $500,000 annually

Even if your team is able to run a few tests here and there, the reality is that CRO goes far beyond a single test. It’s a process that takes time, consistent effort, and ongoing resources.

“It is a process, not a solution,” cautions Ben Labay, Research Director of CXL Agency. “There aren’t any silver bullets in CRO—those days are gone.”

4. The rate of testing is too slow.

The slow rate of testing by in-house teams is one of the biggest reasons companies outsource CRO work to agencies.

Lars Lofgren, CEO of Quicksprout, said that, in his experience, building a bare-bones growth program typically takes six months to establish, and several months more to “run at full speed.” Agencies can get up and running more quickly and, quite often, run faster.

“The development resources are a common bottleneck,” explains Laja. “Agencies can come in and offer additional capacity for building tests.”

If the agency route is the right choice, here’s how to hire the right agency.

How to set an agency up for success (and get the most out of your engagement)

Before you jump on a call with prospective agencies:

  • Figure out your budget and needs;
  • Compile your own testing history and customer research. 

Figure out your budget and needs

“CRO services” can mean many things: ongoing experimentation, user research, or analytics audits.

For help with ongoing experimentation, retainer services make sense. A longer engagement means an agency can run multiple, iterative experiments over time.

Many CRO agencies also offer stand-alone research projects that include user surveys, mouse-tracking analysis, and user testing. Research can help your internal team better understand what customers want, what problems they’re encountering, and how they’re using your site.

You can also engage an agency, as Leake did, for an analytics health check. You can’t run an effective experimentation program—or, for that matter, marketing department—on bad data. 

Once you have a sense of your needs, you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • How much can you realistically spend? What is your budget for CRO services plus the costs to run tests? One report shows that top-converting companies spend more than 5% of their budget on optimization alone. “It’s tough to find a great agency under $10,000 a month,” says Laja. “And $3,000 a month is a major red flag.”
  • What are your objectives? Get as specific as possible. You won’t know the percentage improvements that are possible; you may not even know what needs optimizing. But any details beyond “increase conversions” (e.g., you’re planning UX changes, leads are down, your internal team lacks experience for a particular project, etc.), can help identify the right agency partner. 
  • How will you measure success? This could include KPIs like customer lifetime value, average conversion rate, cart abandonment rates, and others.
  • Which services fit for your needs? Are you looking for ongoing experimentation, customer research, analytics implementation, or all of the above?
  • What tools are you currently using? Catalog your martech stack with all the log-in details. With this handy list, it’s easy for an agency to dive in and get started right away.
  • Who’s the point person in your company for the agency?

Compile your own testing history and customer research

Historical testing data can help an agency avoid repeating past work.

If your team or company has run experiments or done testing in the past, put together a comprehensive history. Include details like:

  • A description of each test/experiment;
  • The goal of each experiment;
  • How and when the test was executed;
  • The results and learnings from all testing.

The history offers much-needed context and avoids waste. “We can either learn from them and iterate on these ideas, or we will just know what has been already done. This will save us time,” says Gertrud Vahtra, an analyst for CXL Agency.

Customer data is equally vital. “Experimentation and testing is about being customer-centric,” Labay notes. “It’s about listening to customers, finding out about their problems, coming up with solutions and testing those. It is the opposite and doesn’t work very well with product-centric and siloed teams.” 

Collect all existing information about your ideal customers:

You can share existing documents or set up a call to walk through the information. If an agency doesn’t request historical testing data or customer info, consider it a giant red flag.

Once you’ve gathered all your research and data, it’s time to start chatting with a few CRO agencies. 

How to vet CRO agencies

Word-of-mouth referrals are a great first step. It’s also a good idea to ask agencies for references. Request a list of companies they’ve worked with in the past, particularly any in your industry—and actually contact them. 

“Asking about an agency’s experience is essential, especially to assess if an agency has experience working with companies in your league/size—startups, SMEs, enterprise,” Vabrit notes. “A solid CRO process should be universal to whatever industry; experience is needed to know how to apply it effectively for organizations in different growth stages.”

You can also ask agencies about their experience solving specific problems. In Leake’s case, JungleScout looked for digital agencies that worked on analytics issues. “Our use-case was pretty specific since it was more of an analytics/development challenge than a traditional CRO ask,” Leake explained. 

To figure out whether an agency can help you achieve your specific goals, contact at least three of their previous clients and ask key questions:

  • What problem did they hire the agency to solve?
  • Did they have a process when researching and launching experiments? If so, what did that process look like?
  • What were the tests and experiments that the agency launched?
  • What were the results of those experiments?
  • How was the agency’s response time and level of service? Did they always reply quickly and were they polite and helpful? Were they transparent throughout their engagement?
  • Is the company still working with the agency? If not, why?

If an agency is hesitant to provide a list of clients or claims that it’s “confidential,” Vahtra says, that’s a red flag. While an agency might not be able to divulge info about all their clients due to non-disclosure agreements, they should be able to offer a few client references.

Two major red flags from a prospective agency? Not asking about your testing history or consumer research, or claiming that no references are available due to confidentiality agreements.

On top of referrals and references, you can also establish an agency’s credibility with case studies. Check their website (or ask your contact person) for case studies for customers within your industry, of a similar size, and/or with a similar problem. 

Case studies reveal agencies’ approach to CRO and give you an overview of the kinds of problems they’re great at solving. But be wary of case studies that tout big conversion gains without offering specifics on how they achieved those results. 

Almost every agency has case studies that showcase outsized wins. But how big were their sample sizes? Did the test results hold up when pushed live across the site? If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

Ask agencies about their process, costs, and structure

Once you’ve checked an agency’s references, it’s time to ask about their approach to CRO—the related elements of process, cost, and structure.

Process. “Ask about the process that’s being used to optimize websites,” Vabrit suggests. “This process should be data-driven. Clients should investigate what data will be gathered, how it will be analyzed and turned into a testing hypothesis, and how learning management is organized.”

Frameworks are particularly important because the CRO industry is rife with rogue consultants promising big lifts. I reality, those “experts” are just throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks.

Asking about stopping rules for tests can be revealing. There are no magic numbers, like “100 conversions per test,” a response that would be a major red flag. Sample size calculators should determine how many conversions are necessary for statistical validity.   

“A good agency has already found the patterns of successful work,” said CRO expert Andre Morys, CEO and founder of konversionKRAFT. Morys continues:

And if you found these patterns, usually you build your own framework or methodology because success in CRO is not a result of trial and error. There are enough people who misuse A/B testing for trial and error or gambling. But what you want is a success that is based on a great methodology.

There are a variety of CRO systems and frameworks used throughout the industry. For some examples, check out this rundown of a few effective CRO systems, or read about CXL Agency’s ResearchXL framework and PXL prioritization model.

researchxl framework for conversion research.
What framework does a CRO agency candidate use? Great agencies have repeatable processes.

Some other ways to separate the amateurs from the experts:

  • Big, upfront promises. If they predict big lifts in conversions without running any tests, those results are unlikely to materialize.
  • No process details. A good agency will be transparent about all the testing details before launching. For example, they’ll work with you to decide how long specific tests should run.
  • Too many clients per analyst. How many clients does each CRO analyst manage at an agency? It’s a revealing question. “They should have one analyst per 3–4 clients max,” suggests Laja. “Anything more and quality suffers.”

Cost. “Ask about all costs related to running a CRO program with a specific agency,” Vabrit says. “What’s included in the service, what’s not. Should they allocate additional budget to develop and QA tests? What are different tool costs needed for optimization?”

For example, one agency’s retainer may be half that of a competitor—but if that fee doesn’t include QA testing and development costs, you may end up paying more in the long run.

Ask whether an agency’s fee includes:

  • QA testing;
  • Multiple variations for each test (ask how many variations are included in a package);
  • Optimization/analytics tools;
  • Developer time;
  • Designer time.

If one agency comes in vastly lower than others, ask why. As Laja notes, some young agencies are just hungry—everyone starts somewhere—and they may be willing to take on clients for less money.

However, others may try to close the revenue gap with client volume, meaning that analysts are managing 10 or 12 clients at a time.

Structure. Does the agency team function like a factory (i.e. many clients per analyst), or would you receive a personalized, consultant-like service? Will you have a single contact, and, if so, who? 

Some aspects of team structure aren’t necessarily better than others, but knowing how the team is structured can help you establish expectations. “The main piece of advice that I would have is making sure that all of the parts of the company that an agency will touch are aligned,” Codeacademy’s Layfield said. “Communicating everything is key.”

Also, ask about their human resources. Do they have developers, designers, customer researchers, and data specialists in-house, or do they outsource their projects to external experts? While outsourcing design or development isn’t inherently bad, this setup can affect timelines, so it’s important that you know what to expect.

“It’s one thing to have a customer research specialist and to have a web analytics or data specialist. A lot of agencies don’t have both,” Morys explained. “On a deeper look, if I have to drill down, I would ask also them: ‘How do you connect data and customer behavior?’ Because for me, this is the secret sauce.”

Additional checks before choosing a CRO agency

At this point, you’ve established a rapport with your top CRO agency candidates and asked some tough questions.

Here are a few final methods to help you narrow down your list further:

  • Customer testimonials. Read any testimonials on their website (or ask for them, if none are published).
  • Let your team ask questions. Leake had plenty of questions while vetting JungleScout’s CRO agency. She recommends letting relevant team members ask questions as well. This engages the entire team and helps them understand how the agency would affect their role.
  • Ensure the agency specializes in CRO. Vahtra cautions against hiring an agency that focuses on SEO, for example, but does CRO as an add-on. Outsourcing your CRO as an add-on service often leads to slower testing, inaccurate data interpretations, and poor processes.
  • Read their content. Is the agency publishing thought-leadership content that highlights new, innovative ideas? 
  • Educational opportunities. CRO agencies will often help “teach a company to fish.” Do they educate your team so that you can eventually run your own in-house CRO program? 

Conclusion

More and more companies are trying conversion optimization, but it doesn’t always make sense to build an in-house CRO team—at least, not right away.

Still, concedes Laja, “hiring any agency is a risk. Even the best agencies in the world fail. Every CRO agency has failed. If you hire an agency and think they’ll magically solve everything, odds are, it’s not going to happen.”

Here are ways to give yourself the best possible chance at success:

  • Know whether the potential ROI is there. Hiring a CRO agency won’t make sense for every company.
  • For some, leaning on experts can help you run tests efficiently and transition the agency to a consulting role as your team matures.
  • Put together a history of the tests you’ve run previously and any customer data to set your agency up for success and get the most out of your relationship.
  • When vetting CRO agencies, ask tough questions. Talk about costs, processes, testing frameworks, team structures, and client referrals.

The post How to Hire a CRO Agency: A Process to Get It Right appeared first on CXL.

New research report on the experimentation practices of fast-growth companies

New research report available for download Widerfunnel has just published the new 38-page research report on the experimentation industry. Download…Read blog postabout:New research report on the experimentation practices of fast-growth companies
The …

New research report available for download Widerfunnel has just published the new 38-page research report on the experimentation industry. Download...Read blog postabout:New research report on the experimentation practices of fast-growth companies

The post New research report on the experimentation practices of fast-growth companies appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.

Long Tail Keywords for eCommerce: Our Advanced Strategies to Rank for and Profit from Them

Get your products on page 1 of Google using these overlooked strategies for turning long tail keywords into eCommerce sales.

We have seen that eCommerce marketers tend to chase keywords with a high search volume. As a result, everyone in a given space is hunting for the same keywords that get search traffic. Does that sound familiar?

These higher volume keywords can get good, sometimes great results…if you can beat the competition. Often, however, you end up running out of high volume keywords to target that you can actually rank for.

We’ve noticed an interesting pattern, though. Sometimes there are low volume keywords that do get clicks.

For example, take a look at one of our eCommerce clients in the moving company niche. They are getting clicks on “0” volume keywords:

1724 clicks on an ELEVEN-word keyword! (And another 559 clicks on a separate six-word term.)

Trying to outrank your competitors can get tiring, quickly. So, why not change the game to one you can win by going after less competitive keywords that people are searching for?

In our experience doing SEO for a variety of eCommerce stores, we’ve often noticed our clients bringing in traffic and revenue from these terms.

Long tail searches for eCommerce are often less broad and more targeted to the people at the bottom of the marketing and sales funnel. They convert well as a result.

We recommend that companies do some research to see if they can cash in on long tail keywords. Below, we’ll tell you how to do it.

Note: If you want us to improve the SEO for your eCommerce store, we’d love to help you to target these keywords as part of a strategy to increase organic traffic and sales from search engines. Get in touch.

What are long tail keywords, and why do eCommerce marketers ignore them?

Long tail keywords are typically 3-4 words (sometimes more). They are typically very specific to a product a company is selling, like “Honeywell Wifi Thermostat RTH6580WF.” Or they will be a question the customer has, such as “control thermostat with smartphone.”

Short tail keywords, as you might guess, are one word, sometimes two. Like: “thermostat” or “wifi thermostats.”

High Competition vs. Low Competition: Single Word Phrases > 2-3 Word Phrases > Long Tail Keywords

As you can see in the graphic, long tail keywords are named because they make up the long tail end of traffic (there are many of them and they don’t get as many searches).

eCommerce marketers with less experience will overlook or write off long tail keywords because they see the low or non-existent estimated monthly search volume as a sign that it won’t bring in traffic. As should be clear by this point, that is a mistake.

Long tail search queries convert well because they are down the funnel compared to head terms. Somebody searching for “wifi thermostat” may be shopping around and comparing models while someone searching for a specific brand or model is WAY closer to making a buying decision. It’s all about the search intent behind them.

About eCommerce Search Intent

In order for long tail or short tail keywords to convert, it’s important to look at intent.

We’ve noticed that companies doing SEO for eCommerce will sometimes pick keywords without considering what led someone to type in that phrase, and what they are actually looking for.

A simple way to check search intent for a keyword: Type the keyword into Google and look at the first page of results. This shows you what people are actually clicking on because it matches their intent.

For example, you might think that someone with the intent to buy would type a keyword like “vegan makeup.”

Yet, a bunch of articles from 3rd parties like magazines and the PETA listing vegan makeup brands are what come up. Not eCommerce stores with individual products:

Google search results for "vegan makeup"

Google is always learning from what people type in and what they engage with. The results they push on the first page for a given keyword are generally a good indicator of what people want to get when they type it that keyword or phrase. So for a short tail term like “vegan makeup,” people are researching what’s out there but aren’t looking to buy any makeup just yet.

Long tail keywords, on the other hand, do tend to have high intent. Especially if they contain a branded phrase. For example, “tarte maneater mascara” brings up available stores where you can buy the brand’s product:

Google search results for "tarte maneater mascara"

Long tail keywords are important for ranking product and category pages, for the same reason we’ve been talking about: those pages are near impossible to rank for competitive short tail terms.

The bottom line: You can have less competition, a lower cost, and a better conversion rate when you keep search intent in mind.

Our Process to Find Good Long Tail Keywords for eCommerce

Our typical keyword research process for long tail keywords consists of several steps:

  1. Look at the client’s site and their competitors in Google Search Console.
  2. Sort by clicks to find the most relevant terms that are ranking for the website.
  3. Are there any keywords without volume getting clicks? (If we identify a longtail keyword opportunity we will typically optimize existing pages for them, or create content targeting the keyword if our client’s site doesn’t rank for it yet.)
  4. We then do some additional research in a keyword tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush. (We sometimes find other keywords to target through those tools.)
  5. We’ll sort by search volume, then start plugging keywords into a spreadsheet to match them up to the page that ranks for those terms.
  6. Then, we check each term manually in search results to make sure it matches the intent. (We don’t want to optimize a product page for a keyword when people are looking for blog posts, and vice versa).
  7. Usually (but not always), we find long tail terms in the top 6 keywords for that page and will optimize for them.

Keyword Monitoring

Another thing we like to do is set up keyword alerts in Ahrefs to monitor for new long tail terms we should incorporate. Each week, Ahrefs sends us an email of the keywords our client’s site is ranking for that jumped into the top 20 (or 40-60) of results — and we can optimize further to get in the top 10 results.

Over time, a page will rank for additional long tail keywords as the keyword research tool indexes it. If we think one of those keywords can convert well, we make a recommendation to our clients to optimize for that phrase.

Additional Ways to Find Long Tail Keywords

There are plenty of tutorials for finding keywords and implementing them (our eCommerce Copywriting Guide is an excellent primer). So, rather than go in depth we’ll list some other methods for finding them.

  1. Google Keyword Planner shows which long tail keywords have commercial value, but we typically find fewer of them.
  2. Google Suggested Search and “People Also Ask”, on the other hand, is an easy and quick way to get some additional long tail ideas. Just start typing and look at the autocomplete options:
     

    Google search for "Women's red..." and the autocomplete results.

    Or type in your keyword and look at the questions people are asking (these questions are long tail terms):

    Google search: "vintage men's watches" results in multiple "people also ask" questions.

    Sometimes, an article on your site answering the question can fill the “People Also Ask” box.
  3. Google Ads Search Term Report will show you which ads were triggered by actual searches. Sometimes you will see that somebody typed in a relevant long tail keyword you didn’t think of and your ad came up for it!
  4. Keyword Research Tools: Ubersuggest, Moz, SEMrush, and Ahrefs all have huge keyword databases. Type in a head term (short tail keyword) and swipe long tail keywords from the related terms that these tools show you. Even if you see <10 searches a month for a long tail phrase, you will get at least a couple of clicks. Rank for enough of these phrases and you can get a significant amount of traffic.
  5. Answer the Public is another good tool. With this one, you put in a head term and see a good list of questions that people are asking about it in search engines:

    Answer the public: For example, when you insert the word "dress", here are common questions/results.
  6. Last but not least, Amazon is a great source of long tail keywords for eCommerce.

If you are listing products on Amazon, you can use their search term report to see which phrases people typed in to get to your product page. Then, you can add those keywords to your Amazon listing AND the product page on your own website. Chances are, people are typing those same shopping-related phrases into Google.

Plus, just like Google, Amazon will give you suggested search suggestions when you start typing. Pair your suggested searches in Google, Amazon, and elsewhere with a tool like Keywords Everywhere to see quick stats about the terms:

Amazon also gives suggested search suggestions, as seen here with "ping pong paddles" and the results.

How We Implement Long Tail Keywords for Conversions

Now you know how we find long tail keywords for eCommerce. To make them work for your online store, you need to make the right pages relevant for them.

Here’s our basic process for implementing long tail terms that we’ve targeted:

  1. Once we have a long tail keyword to target in mind, we take a look at the page we’re optimizing to see what else it is ranking for, and what products it converts for so that we can tailor our optimization to that.
  2. Then we optimize the page including ‘H1’, Title, and meta tags, body copy, and images. If we are optimizing a page for a head term, the long tail keyword will be included secondarily to help the page rank for both the short and long tail phrases.
  3. Depending on the page type, we may add more content to the page to make it relevant for the long tail keyword. This works better on product pages rather than category pages in your catalog. Too much content on a category page pushes the product grid down further down the page and that added scrolling space can hurt conversions.

  4. To increase relevance for the long tail phrase even further, we’ll search for blog posts to internally link to from the product or category page and use the long tail keyword as the anchor text.

  5. If we aren’t adding content to an existing page, we will create a new page or update one to optimize it. When updating content, we look for pages that performed well in the past based on their former rankings or sessions from visitors but have since dropped off.

For these, we’ll try to reoptimize the page by:

  • Sprinkling long tail keywords into the copy
  • Adding new sections to the page that weren’t there using the long tail term as an ‘H2’ 
  • Refreshing the page by adding more useful content for visitors

What might this look like in practice?

We have a client with an eCommerce store in the freeze dried food niche. In our research, we discovered that their product page for freeze-dried ice cream was ranking for adjacent phrases like “space ice cream” or “astronaut ice cream.”

Rather than simply sprinkle those words onto the product page, we created new ‘H2’ headings on it for those long tail keywords to really target them. Their rankings for “space ice cream” and “astronaut ice cream” increased as a result.

Now they are targeting and ranking for three separate terms that their customers used in Google when looking for freeze-dried ice cream rather than just the one.

Important: If you’re running PPC ads, use the longtails for that too! Google ads are there so that you can pay to beat the organic rankings. So, we recommend you target longtails in both SEO and PPC.

Conclusion

Business growth doesn’t tend to happen overnight. It’s the result of small pieces of value adding up over time. This same mindset is useful when thinking about what keywords to target.

Ranking for more long tail keywords than your competition is a tried and true strategy for increasing the value of your eCommerce store. The extra traffic from each longtail keyword you rank for can really add up.

Keep in mind that inbound marketing for eCommerce relies on the pain points (or simply the needs) of your customers.

Start by taking an inventory of all the products, questions, and objections that potential customers have about what you sell. Are there certain questions they have to ask before they buy a product? Is there something else in their head that is preventing them from making a purchase?

Take all of those answers you have for your customers and put them on your website. Now, because you’ve put the content there, they’ll be more likely to:

  • Find the right product
  • Get the answer to their questions
  • Trust your store to make the purchase

This might sound simple, but it’s the core of why SEO works, and it’s why long tail keywords lead to conversions.

Note: We do this type of work for our clients day-in and day-out. If you want us to increase your traffic and sales by implementing our winning SEO strategies, please contact us.

Want to Reduce CPA? Try Machine Learning–Driven Retargeting.

The way we do retargeting is restrictive. Creating a tailored, personalized campaign is often done with micro-triggers: Did the user spend more than X minutes on the site? Did they view more than Y pages? Did they add to cart? Are they visiting on mobile? All of these data points personalize the messaging for retargeting […]

The post Want to Reduce CPA? Try Machine Learning–Driven Retargeting. appeared first on CXL.

The way we do retargeting is restrictive.

Creating a tailored, personalized campaign is often done with micro-triggers: Did the user spend more than X minutes on the site? Did they view more than Y pages? Did they add to cart? Are they visiting on mobile?

All of these data points personalize the messaging for retargeting campaigns.

But even a talented campaign manager can juggle only so many variables. Eventually, you end up with tons of segments that are difficult and time-consuming to manage. 

Platforms with built-in machine learning capabilities can make this a problem of the past.

Using (not just talking about) machine learning

Machine learning is a promising technology. But, until recently, many of the purported benefits—especially in paid acquisition—have been discussed but remain largely unrealized.

New tools, however, offer marketers more possibilities without the pain of managing those complicated systems. Google’s machine learning–based metrics, for example, give you access to insights and audience segments you can put to work immediately in your campaigns.

From Google’s Session Quality and Conversion Probability reports to related smart retargeting platforms, machine-learning segments users like no PPC manager can. These tools are available with a price tag that ranges from free to highly affordable.

Why machine learning for retargeting?

Audiences that have shown explicit intent—such as users who added to cart—make up a tiny portion of traffic. Identifying other indicators for intent will help you reach more ready-to-buy people with a CPA that’s similar to your best-performing audiences.

The question should always be, “How do I find the people who intend on buying but didn’t explicitly show intent?” This is where this technology shines.

Machines don’t mind handling a ton of variables. A computer can easily point out (after a short learning period) that, on your website, users who visit between 8 and 10 p.m. on a mobile phone and visit at least 3 pages per session are more likely to convert. 

The process of predicting future behavior based on a variety of given variables is called propensity modeling. The outcome of a propensity model is a propensity score, which rates the likelihood of a conversion. 

Different tools use different propensity models to predict the likelihood of conversion. The tools mentioned in this article have unique approaches to predict future outcomes given a set of user behaviors.

The best way to see whether (and how) these models actually work is to try them out yourself.

Google Session Quality (works only on Google platforms)

Last year, Google quietly released two interesting Analytics features—Session Quality and Conversion Probability. Both give marketers access to machine learning–based analysis and retargeting on Google’s stack.

Session Quality and Conversion Probability split your traffic into segments on a score from 1 to 100 based on the likelihood that they’ll convert. They provide a Dimension as well as an average Session Quality/Conversion Probability metric, which makes them versatile.

The features are similar. (Google even uses pretty much the same explanation for both.) Session Quality has been around longer, and I’ve tested its performance many times. In my experience, Session Quality provides more consistent results, so we’ll focus on it for the rest of the post, but you should try both to see which works best for you.

Google uses machine learning to compute Session Quality based on many (undisclosed) factors. One thing is clear by looking at the report: The score correlates with the likelihood of purchasing.

session quality score and correlation with purchasing.

You can export these segments into Google Ads for remarketing campaigns. And, since Session Quality is also a Dimension, you can view different metrics and split them by Session Quality to find correlations and analyze your activities further.

Let’s take a look at a test our agency ran to see this metric’s power in action:

comparison of session quality audience to regular audience.

In the above screenshot, you can see the summary data for a campaign that ran for four months. The top section shows the results for campaigns that ran with a Session Quality–based audience. The lower table includes a summary of all other campaigns. 

Over the four-month period, Session Quality campaigns outperformed other retargeting campaigns, generating a Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) three times higher, as well as CPAs 65% lower.

But Google being Google, you can use these features only under specific conditions.

Limitations to Google’s Session Quality/Conversion Probability

First off, you can’t even view these dimensions/metrics unless you have more than 1,000 transactions per month. These are ecommerce only, transaction-based features. 

If your business doesn’t generate at least 1,000 transactions per month or doesn’t have Enhanced Ecommerce in place, Google’s features aren’t the right solution. 

Moreover, you can use Google’s segments only on Google’s platforms (e.g., Google Display Network, YouTube)—no smart Facebook/Linkedin/Twitter ads.

So what are your other options?

Smart retargeting platforms

I’ve recently tested Fixel, a platform that segments your audience similarly to Google’s Session Quality, with some minor differences. Fixel segments your audience into three categories:

  • Basic;
  • Medium;
  • High.

The platform excludes the low-quality audience (similar to Google’s “1” score), so even “Basic” is pretty damn effective.

Fixel generates events, meaning you’re able to segment each audience on Facebook (by targeting users who’ve fired Fixel’s High/Medium/Basic events), Analytics (same idea), Linkedin, and even Native platforms like Taboola and Outbrain. 

There are many other platforms in the “smart retargeting” game. Criteo and AdRoll have offered similar machine learning–driven retargeting tools for a while. The main differences are:

  1. The algorithm. How each of these platforms segments users and determines their quality.
  2. Pricing. The more features a tool has, the more it costs, and pricing models vary. Fixel has a set price based on website traffic; Criteo has a CPA model where you set a target CPA, and they “earn” the margin.
  3. Ease of implementation. Some tools require a complete setup to define page types and click events. Others are more “plug and play.”
  4. Features. Unlike Fixel and Google’s Session Quality metric, platforms like Criteo offer other features, like cross-platform dynamic retargeting capabilities, which, of course, affect pricing.

What’s interesting about both Google’s Session Quality and Fixel is that they’re unobtrusive—all they do is fire an event during sessions, giving users a score. 

Other retargeting tools offer an all-in-one solution, which requires you to move your workflow, as well as assets, to a new platform. That means they’re harder to test head-to-head against the original campaign.

comparison of ROAS of fixel campaigns against others.
In this campaign, we created seven retargeting audiences. Four were Fixel audiences. Comparing Fixel’s 14 day + High audience with a generic retargeting  + 14 days audience, Fixel’s CPA was 70% lower. It was also 56.8% lower than the average CPA for all ad sets.

Find top-performing channels based on quality scores

Machine-learning segmentation can also help you optimize your marketing strategy. Instead of using these tools strictly to improve conversions, consider using them to find out which channels bring the best traffic to your site.

You can use the score as an indicator that predicts the success of each channel and identifies the best audiences. This is especially valuable if your user journey is long and you can’t gather much insight from analyzing purchases/conversions, or if you want to learn more about the performance of top-of-funnel efforts.

This is even more relevant to content marketing, where achieving the end goal takes time, and you’re paying to bring back users who may or may not make a purchase.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create a Custom Report in Google Analytics that splits your traffic by source. 
  2. Add Average Session Quality/Fixel High event as the metric.
  3. Compare channels to see which generates the most high-quality traffic.
comparison of channels showing the difference between conversions and revenue.

For the report above, compare Paid Search and Display. Both have a similar ecommerce conversion rate. But Display’s average Session Quality is way higher than Search, even though Search resulted in more transactions. Session Quality—as a predictive tool—seems way off.

But take a look at the Revenue column. Display generated approximately 30 times the revenue of Search. If you’re optimizing solely for conversion rate—or any single metric—you may miss what machine learning’s more complex calculation takes into account. That can be the difference between hitting vanity metrics versus revenue goals.

Smart retargeting campaigns vs. behavioral segmentation

Our agency tested machine learning–driven retargeting tools on about 30 clients, and the following statements apply to at least 85% of tests:

  • These platforms generate CPAs that more closely resemble the results of “Add to Cart” than any other retargeting tactic.
  • By simply excluding users with Session Quality <2, or targeting Fixel Basic (which excludes retargeting audiences that Fixel did not “catch”), you’ll narrow the retargeting audience by approximately 60% and reduce CPA by at least 30%. As shown above, you may see up to 60–70%).
  • Users who scored low rarely convert.

To test how these metrics can expand your high-quality audience, simply create an A/B/C test of your audience with the following setup:

  1. Separate the machine learning–derived audience to its own campaign on your ad platform of choice, and exclude people who have shown explicit intent (added items to cart, for example) from that audience.
audience with fixel basic.
  1. Create another campaign and target the rest of your site traffic, excluding the machine-learning audience and cart adds.
  1. Create a third campaign targeting people who have performed the explicit-intent action (e.g., added to cart) exclusively.
add to cart audience creation.

By running these 3 campaigns—with the same budget—you’ll be able to compare the CPAs of these segments.

  • How does the machine-learning audience compare to your (presumably) best-performing segment?
  • How much better does it do than the “generic” audience?

In the example below, the machine-learning audience was—remarkably—nearly as efficient as the “Add to Cart” audience.  

comparison of machine-learning audience against general and add-to-cart audience.

You can now decide if you wish to exclude the generic audience or lower its budget. You can also run additional tests against your top hand-crafted segments to see how the machine-learning audiences perform against your own work.

Machine learning to automate campaign optimization

Tools like Acquisio and Kenshoo take a different approach, providing a better platform for campaign management, rather than improving retargeting alone. 

While Fixel, Google, Criteo, and the like use machine learning to segment your visitors based on engagement, Kenshoo, Acquisio, and similar tools use AI to optimize campaign performance based on data from the advertising platforms themselves. 

In other words, these platforms use machine learning to analyze advertising platform data, rather than behavioral user data. As a result, their main focus is on campaign management automation—removing the need for manual optimization.

The effectiveness of these platforms is harder to test since, to use them, you have to transfer your workflow to a new system. The number of variables (including time saved/wasted for the platform’s learning curve) make it hard to measure their value in the same way we’ve measured smart retargeting tools.

At the same time, paid campaigns are a lot of work. And, regardless of the tool, the idea is the same—you’re leaving audience segmentation to the algorithm to focus more on strategy and acquiring high-quality users. 

Conclusion

Marketing is fertile ground for AI and machine learning, and the use cases already exist. By implementing one of the above solutions, you’ll be able to harvest AI benefits today.

  • Google’s Session Quality or Fixel’s scoring help you identify audiences with high intent even when users’ on-site actions don’t reveal it.
  • Testing machine-learning audiences against explicit-intent users, your best hand-picked audiences, and your general audience shows the potential value of machine learning for your campaigns.

The post Want to Reduce CPA? Try Machine Learning–Driven Retargeting. appeared first on CXL.

5 Easy Fixes that Will Instantly Help you Get More from Google Analytics

Google Analytics is without a doubt the single most popular digital analytics tool of all time. Full stop.  While it’s impossible for anyone to give the exact number, according to many different sources it’s used by over 50% of websites on the int…

Google Analytics is without a doubt the single most popular digital analytics tool of all time. Full stop.  While it’s impossible for anyone to give the exact number, according to many different sources it’s used by over 50% of websites on the internet. And because about 30% of the remaining half is not using any […]

The post 5 Easy Fixes that Will Instantly Help you Get More from Google Analytics appeared first on The Daily Egg.

8 Powerful (& Actionable) Ideas to Boost Your eCommerce Marketing Strategy

So you’ve recently set up a flashy eCommerce store. That’s terrific! However, to build brand awareness, drive traffic and ultimately boost sales, you are going to need a solid, comprehensive and effective eCommerce marketing strategy built around providing your customers the most seamless shopping experience possible.  Your primary goals are simple- customer acquisition and generation…

The post 8 Powerful (& Actionable) Ideas to Boost Your eCommerce Marketing Strategy appeared first on Blog.

So you’ve recently set up a flashy eCommerce store. That’s terrific! However, to build brand awareness, drive traffic and ultimately boost sales, you are going to need a solid, comprehensive and effective eCommerce marketing strategy built around providing your customers the most seamless shopping experience possible. 

Your primary goals are simple- customer acquisition and generation of more repeat purchases. And to achieve them, all you need are practical and actionable marketing ideas that ensure that your eCommerce marketing strategy cuts through the clutter.

While there’s no set formula, there are a few eCommerce marketing tactics that should definitely make it to your hygiene checklist. Here are 8 of those impactful ideas for your eCommerce marketing strategy that can help you retain your customers, build thriving brand loyalty, and increase sales: 

1. Optimize Your eCommerce Website and Mobile App for Better Conversions 

Even with major players hogging the limelight, the eCommerce domain is vast and diverse. Competition is huge, and the average conversion rate is as low as 2-3%. Moreover, the cost of acquiring new visitors through pay-per-click, Facebook ads or search engines is also steadily rising. So, it is now all the more important for businesses like yours to make the most of incoming visitors and existing users through your eCommerce marketing strategy.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) steps in here, helping you convert more visits into purchases. It is the constant process of improving different aspects of your website and mobile app that impact your users’ experience and decision-making. This will make sure that your visitors are more likely to checkout what’s in their carts. Websites and apps are constantly monitored to see at what point the customers are falling through the cracks and leaving. With the help of CRO platforms, you can continuously learn more about your users’ behavior and optimize your site and app to boost conversions. 

2. Create Content That Offers a Personalized Shopping Experience

For your business to survive and thrive in this era, simply offering quality products isn’t enough. Your customers expect more. To ensure they come back to your online store, you need to offer them a personalized shopping experience centered around individualized deals and product recommendations. 

To get started, try and get to know your customers better by checking the product pages that they visit, the type of content they consume, the device they use to shop, and so on. Once you comprehend these details, you can start building audience segments and give your users a personalized shopping experience. 

You can use tools such as VWO to understand user behavior on your website and target them accordingly. 

Here’s a glimpse of how Sephora provides personalized communication and product recommendations on both their website and emails; based on user behavior.

personalized product recommendations

3. Use Targeted Push Notifications For People Who Have Visited Your Website

With web or browser push notifications, your customers need not install your mobile app to be notified of your offers or discounts. Unlike app push notifications, web push notifications work on desktop and mobile browsers. This medium of communication is a compelling one, power-packed with sharp features like scheduling and audience segmentation. 

How do they work?

When a visitor comes to your website for the first time, an opt-in box appears, asking for permission to send them push notifications. When the visitor clicks ‘Allow’; they are added to your subscriber list.

How can web push notifications help your business? 

Sending push notifications in your marketing campaign helps you engage with your customers (or potential customers) at different stages of their purchase journey and constantly keep in touch with them. The great part is, your users don’t have to share their email id or any other personal information while subscribing to your web push notifications, which makes opt-in incredibly hassle-free. Moreover, once they opt-in, you can connect with them whenever they’re online, they don’t necessarily have to be on your website to receive your push notifications. 

Quick tip: Use tools such as VWO Engage to further segment your subscribers and send out targeted push notifications for better engagement.

Here are some interesting push notification ideas that you can steal for your eCommerce marketing strategy:

New product announcements:
Tell your customers about newly added products/collections to your store.
For example, if you’re a clothing store and you’ve recently added a floral collection, you can send a notification to your customers that looks something like this:

flash sales or discounts on ecommerce stores

Sale & discounts:
Prompt your customers whenever you run flash sales or discounts. This can also be personalized based on your customers’ last interaction or browsing behavior on your website.
For instance, if a user usually visits the ‘Home Decor’ section of your website, you can send them a personalized push notification which looks something like this:

Get more signups:
Not everybody who comes to your website would want to shop from you instantly. However, you can surely engage with them and nudge them ahead in the buyer’s funnel by sharing targeted and useful content.   

Let’s say you’re a travel eCommerce company; you can send out notifications about new blog posts that you publish to get customers back to your website.

push notifications for new blog posts published

The key is to keep your push notifications exciting and contextual. If they check these two boxes, they will work wonders for your eCommerce business. 

4. Start Loyalty Programs & Provide Special Offers

If you haven’t already, it’s time to get to terms with the harsh reality that 80% of your business revenues come from 20% of your customers, which essentially are your repeat customers.

Loyalty programs are a great retention tool for your eCommerce marketing strategy to keep your customers coming back to your store and thereby convert them into loyal customers. There are several types of customer loyalty programs that you can use for your store, so narrowing down on one can get difficult.

To make things simpler, we’ve listed the top 3 loyalty programs that you can opt for along with examples of how you can use them to your brand’s advantage.

Reward points programs:

The math here is simple: spend more to earn more!

Every time a customer makes a purchase from your eCommerce store, they earn reward points based on the size of their purchase.

It’s normally advised to keep the points system extremely easy for your customers to understand so that they can see what’s in it for them (the real value) right away without having to spend too much time calculating.

Shein.com runs a very interesting ‘SHEIN Bonus Point Program’. 

SHEIN bonus point program

The SheIn Bonus Points Program has multiple activities listed down for customers to perform, and each activity is associated with bonus points ranging from 1-100.

Every 100 points=$1. Customers get to earn these bonus points once they fulfill these activities. For instance, as soon as a customer completes their registration, they earn 100 bonus points. They can then use their accumulated bonus points to pay for their purchases.

VIP memberships

As the name suggests, in this program, your customers can buy a quarterly or annual subscription to join your VIP member club. You must give exclusive discounts and benefits to your VIP members to create brand stickiness and improve loyalty. Here’s an example from Amazon Prime.

Amazon prime benefits

Amazon’s Prime membership has transformed customer loyalty and the way people look at eCommerce, forever.  For just $99 per year, customers get access to fast, free shipping on thousands of products along with unlimited video streaming and exclusive early access to flash sales and deals.

• Gamification

By gamifying your loyalty program, you can boost sales and entertain your customers; keeping them hooked for more. 

MasterCard’s Scan, Spin & Win program is a fairly straightforward example of how you can leverage gamification for your eCommerce marketing strategy to achieve your business goals.

gamification of ecommerce strategy by MasterCard

Every time a customer makes a purchase using their MasterCard, they can scan their receipt and spin the wheel to win exciting prizes. The giveaways range from discounts on movie tickets, free magazine subscriptions, travel gift vouchers, and lots more!

5. Redefine Customer Support

Providing exceptional customer support is critical for your eCommerce marketing strategy for both acquiring and retaining customers. In fact, stats suggest that a customer is 4 times more likely to switch to a competitor if customer support isn’t up to the mark.

Here’s how you can make an effort to keep your customers coming back to your store by providing efficient customer support:

  • Keep an eye on social media: Whenever customers face an issue, they crave human interaction. Stats suggest that 88% customers refrain from buying from a brand that leaves complaints on social media unanswered. So, closely monitor every social media channel to ensure that no complaint/issue goes unresolved.

Pro tip: There are a bunch of free social media monitoring tools that you can use, such as HootSuite, BuzzSumo, and SproutSocial

  • Provide online chat support: While shopping, may it be online or offline, we all need a little help or have a quick question. With live chat, 8 out of 10 times you won’t have to follow up with a customer. According to Forrester research, “44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live agent while shopping on a website is one of the most important features a brand can offer.”

You can use tools such as Olark, Intercom, or Drift, which provide near-zero wait times and personalized responses to customer queries.

  • Don’t make your customer wait: When your business has eager customers, as all growing businesses do, there will be an endless stream of questions, issues, complaints, queries, and compliments and when customers reach out to you, they expect you to address them immediately. Be prompt with your responses and try and resolve queries within 1-5 hours, from the time they’ve been raised.

Always remember, timely responses help build customer trust and loyalty, which in turn will improve customer retention for your business.

6. Surprise & Delight Your Customers

Walk that extra mile to make your customers feel special. Here are a few things you can do to surprise and delight your customers without having to break the bank: 

  • ‘Thank You’ note: You might feel that ‘Thank You’ notes have lost their charm considering that it’s such a tried and tested tactic. However, in this age of automation, a personalized, handwritten thank-you note can go a long way in telling your customer that you care. 
Tweet With An Image of Thank You Note Showcasing Customer Service

Pro tip: If you’re a small team and don’t really have people to write Thank You notes, you can always use tools such as Handwrytten or Thankyoubot.

You can also read this to get ideas for writing the perfect copy for a thank you note: 7 Sample Thank You Notes for Business

  • Free goodies and giveaways: A great way to delight your customers is by sending them free stuff. Make sure your gifts have your company’s logo and branding, which will build brand recall and also increase brand awareness when customers share gifts on social media. You can choose whom you want to send gifts to, it could be your newest customers or brand loyalists, you can set a milestone for which customer you’d like to send gifts to.

Here’s an example of EE– UK’s prominent internet service provider who sent a gift to one of their customers and how the customer proactively tweeted about it.

Customer Engagement Strategy from EE

7. Make The Most of Social Media 

Let’s face it. Your customers thrive in a world that revolves around social media. The good news is that this allows you to engage with your customers and be relevant in their lives. What’s more, social media enables you to receive direct feedback from your customers and provide them with instant support. And all these factors ultimately help you achieve your business goals.

In fact, it might interest you to know that brands that engage with customers via social media gain 20-40% more revenue per customer as opposed to brands that don’t. 

One such social media marketing tactic that is slowly gaining traction (and could work wonders for your eCommerce marketing strategy) is Facebook and Instagram live videos- a great way for eCommerce companies to interact with their customers in real-time and reach wider audiences. 

Case in point is Sephora’s AMA on Facebook Live, where they invite special guests to answer their customers’ questions and have discussions on beauty trends and products. 

Sephora’s AMA on Facebook Live For Customer Engagement

This attracts a large number of viewers who wouldn’t miss an opportunity to interact with world-class beauty experts. And it goes without saying that the brand makes it a point to integrate their products in almost every discussion point, thereby advertising themselves while answering their customers’ queries.

8. Nail The Art of Email Marketing 

Since digitization, emails have long remained the primary channel of communication between a company and its users. It’s important that you don’t bombard subscribers with offers and discounts right away. Else, this will make you come across as too promotional.

With more eCommerce players joining the wagon, build a powerful content marketing strategy that helps you stand out by introducing your brand to the subscribers the right way. Tell your subscribers who you are and what your story is, while also telling them whom you sell your products to. Everyone loves to know where the brand comes from and how they fit into this brand’s’ story.

Huckberry has mastered the art of branding and marketing through emails. In the image below, they tell their brand story. This helps subscribers connect with the brand at a more human level.

Pro tip: By making your emails content-intensive, you’re educating your email subscribers with information that they will love you for. For instance, if you happen to sell stylish clothes, provide content on the kind of accessories and hairstyles that go well with these garments for various occasions.

While none of the ideas listed above are a secret, including them in your eCommerce marketing strategy and implementing them effectively and efficiently will ensure that your brand is always on top of your customers’ minds.

The post 8 Powerful (& Actionable) Ideas to Boost Your eCommerce Marketing Strategy appeared first on Blog.

Unintended Consequences of Colorado’s New Pricing Disclosure Legislation

Colorado has passed an interesting piece of legislation that went into effect last month.

At first glance, a requirement that pharmaceutical manufacturers provide physicians with information about not only their own product pricing, but also generic a…

Colorado has passed an interesting piece of legislation that went into effect last month.

At first glance, a requirement that pharmaceutical manufacturers provide physicians with information about not only their own product pricing, but also generic alternatives, seems like a positive public benefit. A closer look, however, suggests that this legislation may be characterized as more than a harmless jab at the manufacturers.

The new Colorado law requires that pharmaceutical manufacturers communicate wholesale average cost (WAC) pricing details to prescribers through either primary detailing or non-personal promotion (NPP) such as email or third-party messaging. This will change the way the pharmaceutical industry communicates in Colorado, the way it interacts with its ecosystem partners, and even the way it takes products to market. While many other states have passed or have proposed pricing legislation in some form, this takes the trend to a new level, while aligning with the broader national desire for drug price transparency.

As of March, 2019, there are 1,005,295 prescribing physicians (excluding NP/PAs) in the US, of which approximately 480,000 are primary care and 525,000 are specialists. Of this total, Colorado accounts for 1.4 percent. On the surface this may seem trivial; it really isn’t.

This legislation effectively restricts and severely challenges traditional communication to HCPs in Colorado, be that sales rep detailing or targeted digital messaging.

First, it not only requires retail pricing in communications, but it also requires presentation of wholesale average cost, or WAC. This is pharma’s wholesale cost before retail. By providing this information, anyone in almost any jurisdiction beyond Colorado can more closely estimate margins for distributors and retailers, study competitive pricing structures, and adjust negotiations (managed markets, payors) and go-to-market strategies. It positions pricing as a key consideration of the drug value proposition. This impacts everyone from pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to pharmacies and distributors, as well as patients, who are caught in the line of site between legislators, who are suggesting it’s all about price, and manufacturers, who are trying to convey the value of potentially life-saving medicines. Value often goes beyond the straight therapeutic value, but also the patient support, coaching, and educational programs that they support. This is not to mention the cost of research that goes into development and future improvement.

Additionally, the law requires manufacturers to provide educational materials with the name and acquisition cost of at least three generic prescription drugs in the same therapeutic class. The pharmaceutical manufacturers may not even have access to the proprietary pricing information from generic manufacturers. If there are not three generic prescription drugs available, the manufacturer is to provide the names and acquisition cost information for as many as are available for prescriptive use.  Imagine if generic pricing is not available; could promotional materials or even whole launches be delayed?  If so, Colorado may get left out of receiving important drug efficacy, safety, and access updates.

Effectively, this forces the pharmaceutical manufacturer to:

  • Disclose proprietary wholesale prices to the HCP and virtually all other ecosystem players who can access these materials
  • Require the manufacturer to promote competitors
  • Provide educational material that effectively compares the efficacy or “value” of generics vs. a branded product, which may not be scientifically valid

In effect, a branded manufacturer is now tasked with promoting and positioning alternative products in front of their own branded products. The question begs to be asked, why would pharmaceutical manufacturers even talk to HCPs in Colorado?

This totally changes the nature of an HCP detail, the design and content of any NPP (digital and otherwise), and the entire Medical Legal Regulatory (MLR) review process.  If the law is too complicated to execute, will the branded pharmaceutical industry simply stop detailing or promoting to HCPs in Colorado?  Possibly. The law of unintended consequences may very well play out as local lawmakers try to address a symptom of a much larger national debate.

This is a big deal, and one that could have an unintended, far-reaching impact on the pharmaceutical industry in the US and beyond.

eCommerce Growth Study: How We Segmented PPC by Seasonality for a 103% Profit Increase

Increase profit and reduce advertising costs by segmenting PPC campaigns by seasonality.

When running eCommerce PPC campaigns for Google search and Google Shopping ads, most companies focus on creating a great return on ad spend (ROAS) to generate profit.

The problem is that focusing on ROAS alone does not yield the maximum potential profit. In our experience running PPC for clients, we’ve seen that we can gain better results and profit for the client by factoring in multiple KPIs.

By thinking beyond ROAS, we achieved a 103% year-over-year profit increase on the high end (and 69% on the low end) for our client Dollar Days (a wholesale eCommerce store selling a wide variety of products):

Shopping campaigns: Spend vs. Revenue vs. ROAS graph

Today, I’m going to show you how by getting creative with data, you can factor in additional KPI’s beyond ROAS and use them for greater profit in your own Google PPC campaigns.

Note: If you are an eCommerce store and want us to maximize profit from PPC campaigns for your business, you can get in touch with us today.

Why ROAS Falls Short

  • What is ROAS? If you don’t already know, ROAS is a metric that measures how effective eCommerce ad campaigns are. We use it to see which advertising methods generate dollars (the “return” on our ad spend) and get insights for future marketing campaigns.

  • How do you calculate ROAS? The formula is simply to divide the revenue created by advertising by the cost spent on it. (Revenue / Cost = ROAS)

The bottom line is: ROAS is an important KPI for running ad campaigns that shouldn’t be ignored. At the same time, we’ve recognized two flaws that can occur when focusing on ROAS alone:

  1. Once you max out ROAS on a campaign, it can be hard to know what to do next to increase results and you might assume nothing more can be done.

    This is simply because your psychology is focused on the one metric that is maxed, rather than focusing on something else to increase results.

  1. You can be blind to situations where it actually makes sense to decrease ROAS in order to increase eCommerce revenue overall.

    For example: ROAS may go down once you expand targeting to an additional set of keywords. While ROAS might decrease, you potentially stand to bring in more revenue with those new keyword targets. If there is room in your ROAS, that new revenue may come in at totally acceptable margins for the business overall.

So, we can’t ignore ROAS for Google ads. But it is possible to generate a greater profit by optimizing for other important KPI’s:

  • Transactions
  • Revenue
  • Conversions
  • CPC Cost

First I’ll show you the base strategy we used to create a good ROAS. Then, I’ll demonstrate how we optimized for those other KPIs through analysis and segmenting to create big results for this client.

1. The Base Strategy

A year prior to optimizing for those other KPI’s (and producing the results of this case study), our PPC campaigns were already performing well for the client across channels, including Google.

The core strategy we used was a tiered campaign of low, medium, and high bids on search terms with low, medium, and high buying intent. In other words:

  • Low bids on general terms (creating a catch-all for the campaign)
  • Medium bids on search queries we found to have a higher return
  • High bids on brand-terms (queries containing the name of the online store)

For our Shopping campaigns, we did this through the use of priority settings and negative keywords.

The catch-all campaign was set to the high priority setting. We added negative terms to avoid targeting queries that we wanted to bid higher on in the other tiers.

We set the medium bids campaign to medium priority, and similarly negated the terms used in other tiers to avoid redundantly targeting them and wasting spend.

There are 3 tiers: tier one (high priority, low bid), tier 2 (medium priority, medium bid), and tier 3 (low priority, high bid).

This worked — yielding a Google Shopping ROAS of 6.39x from April 1st to June 14th, 2018.

For context: Dollar Days’ goal for working with us was an account-level 4x ROAS, given their diverse catalog. They were thrilled that we had achieved over a 6x ROAS in their Shopping campaigns, and an account ROAS ranging from 9-13x!

Was ROAS the only KPI that mattered to continue growth?

2. Getting Creative with Search Queries

Now, for the hard question: How could we continue to grow and increase results?

Worth noting: If ROAS is your only KPI, the answer to this question is very likely to be “yes.” Because if you’ve experimented with different factors and increased ROAS to a given point, and then you continue to experiment and it doesn’t move, you’ll be really tempted to think “Well, this is as good of a job as we can do” because you have no other KPI you can turn to.

Contrast this to a focus on multiple KPIs. When your efforts aren’t moving the ROAS needle, you can move to another metric and try your hand at that. If all KPIs serve to help the business, then that second effort is still very productive.

As I mentioned, PPC is not a “set it and forget it industry.” You must continually change, adapt, improve, and test. (Or, you can get left in the dust as your ROAS eventually plummets.)

This client’s Google shopping campaigns were the best performing campaign type besides high-bid branded search queries. Yet, it was difficult to segment because of the client’s many different product types.

We dug into the Google Analytics data and interviewed the client further about their business. We realized that exploring seasonal trends could be a way to segment our campaigns, optimize for those other KPIs, and increase results.

Ok, then. The next hard question was: How do you look at seasonality when your client sells everything as a wholesale general store?

Answer: Piece by piece, using search query data. This analytical work of matching queries up to the products and seasons they are relevant to would make all the difference.

Here’s what our process for segmenting by season looked like:

  1. First, we took the queries from our campaigns and filtered Google Analytics by summertime industry queries. This included product queries such as: bathing suits and other types of summer clothing, wedding favors, 4th of July, and back to school products.
  2. Then, we looked at Fall and Winter related queries and did a similar segmentation of products by their relevant season. For example, blankets, winter gear and apparel, winter holiday decorations, and presents.
  3. After combing through this data and speaking with the client, we came up with six main categories for a seasonality calendar based on search queries over the past year.
  4. After examining the click, spend, revenue, and ROAS data — as well as highlighting the best months for each category — we learned that they had two main seasons: Summer and Winter. There were also two product categories that worked year-round.

Now, we had this data about how people search for each product category throughout the year, based on a full year of queries.

Next, we had to use it to optimize Google Shopping campaigns.

3. Putting the Calendar to Work

At this point, we had our search campaigns optimized and the queries from them arranged as a calendar by season:

Calendar arranged by season: Summer 1/ Winter 1/ Winter 2 / Year Round/ Summer 2

How could we use that data to improve the client’s Shopping campaigns?

The answer was clear: adjust bids and budgets for the time of year. Spend more of the eCommerce ad budget to bid higher on summer items during the summer, and do the same to bid higher on winter items during the winter.

Executing on it was more difficult. To make it work we needed:

  • More control over the budgets for each season.
  • Products to be categorized in different shopping campaigns

Budgets: The main issue with the Shopping campaign structure at the time was due to having over 30,000 SKUs. With this many items, it wasn’t feasible to go through and adjust bids from season to season.

There wasn’t a simple answer to categorization in our campaign creation, because we couldn’t rely on Google’s product category or product type in the feed as it was. So, we turned once again to our partner at Dollar Days. 

Categorization: To solve our categorization challenge, we asked them to send us the IDs of items in each category so that we could create a custom label in the product feed and segment products that way.

It took some legwork, but using those custom labels in the product feed, we created new campaigns using the original tiered system.

The difference this time is that it was done for each of the six categories. Everything that didn’t fit went into a separate “general” tiered campaign. This created 7 sets of tiered campaigns ready to set to “live” in April, before summer would begin.

Heading into April, our goal was to create maximum exposure on the most profitable summer categories and to be conservative elsewhere. This was only made possible by the new seasonal campaign structure.

We now had a structure to adjust bids and budgets for the proper time of year. Doing that should have the effect of optimizing other KPIs! Next, we set our goals and strategy to try it out.

Was all this work worth it?

4. The Results

It was worth it! Here are the results we got through optimizing beyond ROAS:

All data in this section will be looking from April 1 – June 14th of 2019 compared to the same dates from 2018.

Results Overall for Summer (Google Shopping & Search Ads)

Across shopping and search, our main summer category saw a:

  • 15.44% increase in ad spend
  • 10% drop in CPC
  • 207% increase in transactions
  • and a 151% increase in revenue

Google analytics: Ad spend, CPC, transactions and revenue

Year-Over-Year Results for April-May

Looking at the seasonality calendar for this segment we can see that April and May improved dramatically year-over-year: growing revenue from about $9k in 2018 to about $31k in 2019 while spending only about $2k more on ad spend.

April and May improved dramatically year-over-year, as seen in this graph

Google Shopping Results for Summer

The numbers for just the Google Shopping ads for this category? Even better, with a:

  • 269% increase in ad spend
  • 4% increase in CPC
  • 729% increase in transactions
  • 940% increase in revenue

(The 4% increase in CPC was part of the goal as we were being more aggressive on this category than the previous year.)

Google analytics: Ad spend, CPC, transactions and revenue

Google Shopping Results Overall

Shopping overall, across all seven sets of tiers, had a:

  • 241% increase in ad spend
  • 16% decrease in CPC
  • 140% increase in transactions
  • 146% increase in revenue

Google analytics: Ad spend, CPC, transactions and revenue

Google Shopping Conversions

Shopping campaigns also posted similar growth in assisted conversions (144%) and assisted conversion value (142%).

Conversions: 144.88% vs. Conversion value: 142.38%

We were able to spend 15% less on CPC year-over-year — even while being more aggressive in bidding on the summer categories that were breaking up the products.

You may be wondering why revenue did not outgrow spend — in which case ROAS would have declined. That’s correct. However, the client’s goal was a 4x ROAS, which we still hit. This is exactly why ROAS cannot be the only KPI you are thinking of or optimizing for.

Is ROAS what actually grows the business, or is it revenue and profit? Since revenue and profit matter the most for growth, ROAS should be in their service. There are situations where you can sacrifice a little of total company profit by spending more on ads on a per unit basis (decreasing ROAS) but potentially increase overall dollar revenue as a result.

The average margins for this client are somewhere in between 35%-50%.

So, on the low side, these shopping campaigns drove a 69% increase in profit Y/Y, and on the high side a 103% increase:

Shopping campaigns: Spend vs. Revenue vs. ROAS graph

We and Dollar Days were both justifiably excited. This is the scale for growth that we aim to achieve for our clients.

Conclusion

Is this type of seasonality calendar something that could be a benefit to your business as well? 

Keep in mind: seasons made sense as a category to optimize KPIs for this client, but you may find another way to categorize different points in time for different product categories in your business.

So, get creative by looking at what you sell, and when customers are buying it. Segment that data in a way that makes sense.

The key takeaways from this case study are:

  1. Focusing on ROAS alone can prevent you from optimizing other KPIs that increase revenue and profit.
  2. Optimizing for those other KPIs can require some creative thinking about what the business offers and what customer buying patterns exist.
  3. Once you identify those customer buying patterns, aggressively target them to take advantage and increase results.

Our hope is that you found this case study helpful for your business’ eCommerce ad campaigns.

Note: At Inflow, we often take a creative approach like the one in this case study to successfully grow our clients’ revenue through PPC and other marketing channels. So, if you would like our help growing your business, get in touch.

21 Field-Tested Strategies to Increase Live Chat eCommerce Conversions

Increase sales, conversions, and revenue by optimizing your live chat for eCommerce conversions.

You know that live chat is helpful for the customer experience on your eCommerce site…but does your live chat increase conversions?

We’ve noticed that many eCommerce companies are hopeful that the resources they put into live chat are helping to increase sales. The problem is, they often don’t know what their ROI from live chat is (or how to improve it).

Before we help our clients optimize their live chat and implement live chat conversion tracking, we see some unfortunate commonalities:

  • They have chat available only in case the customer needs to reach out, so it’s essentially an inbox
  • They don’t have a system that agents can follow to get more sales via chat
  • They don’t have an automated way to convert customers with a chatbot
  • Or possibly, even worse: they don’t have chat on the site yet

The thing is: You can proactively optimize chat to sell. Inflow has been testing live chat eCommerce conversions for years with almost every client we work with and we’ve found that it can positively impact conversion rate.

This article is for you if have live chat or are considering adding it to your website ⁠— and you’re unsure how to use it to get more sales.

To use your chat in a way that helps drive more conversions, take a look at our list of best practices below.

Note: If you want our conversion experts to evaluate your chat implementation, or help you find a strategy for increasing your eCommerce conversion rate, you can reach out to us here.

Does live chat increase eCommerce conversions?

Our clients have expressed that live chat seems complicated. While it does take a fair amount of work to implement a live chat system, it makes a big difference. In our conservative analysis for a client selling specialty pen kits, we saw overall conversion rates lift by 3.84% with a 6% overall lift in revenue once we implemented live chat on their store.

Intercom found that one reply in chat “can increase the likelihood of conversion by 50%; one more reply makes that visitor 100% more likely to convert. A simple conversation with 6 exchanged messages makes a visitor 250% more likely to become a customer.”

The takeaway here is: Yes, live chat does increase sales and other conversions. But the actual chat conversations don’t need to be that complicated, nor do they need to be long and time-consuming to get people to convert.

One caveat: Live chat, when set up improperly can decrease conversions. For example, if your chatbot just plain sucks because it isn’t helpful, it’s intrusive, or off-putting to customers for any other reason — this can reduce trust and contribute to a lower conversion rate.

Real-time conversations move your online customers through the marketing funnel more quickly by building relationships with them. This turns browsing a website into a 1-on-1 shopping experience.

Live chat is the interface of this whole new marketing niche, coined by Drift as: “conversational marketing.” It’s all about tailoring the chat experience to increase satisfaction and conversions by engaging with, understanding, and recommending products to customers individually.

In addition to testing chat on behalf of our clients, we compile an annual Best-in-Class research study of eCommerce brands within the industry at-large. Of 25 well-known brands from Adidas to Sephora to Zappos, 80% had live chat. Only 5 of these major companies did not use it on their websites.

2019 Best-in-Class eCommerce Brands Who Have Live Chat: 80% do, 20% don't.

In our annual Best-in-Class study we review these brands for many other features and considerations in addition to live chat. The below image is a preview of the 2019 Best-in-Class Matrix. Click the image for a full view of the matrix:

Inflow's 2019 Best in Class eCommerce Features

Now, we’ll go over how to make sure live chat gets you more sales.

How Do I Optimize Live Chat?

There are numerous ways to tailor live chat for your business and your audience. You may not do all of the below best practices, but you should certainly make some of them a part of your live chat optimization (where it makes sense).

Conversion rate optimization relies on testing. So, our recommendation is to take one tactic at a time and test it before moving on to the next. Start with tracking your conversions and getting used to analyzing data from live chat as the bedrock of your optimization.

1. Integrate Your Chat Platform with Google Analytics to Track Live Chat Conversions

If you’re using live chat on your website to increase conversions, you will want to track the ROI to make sure the tool you’re paying for is worth its cost. Is live chat helping to convert more website visitors into sales and increase revenue?

While you can manually tag conversions from chat in Google Analytics, many chat services including Live Chat, Zendesk, and Olark integrate easily with Google Analytics so that you can track live chat conversions alongside conversions from other sources. Follow their tutorials (linked above) to set it up.

We recommend segmenting your conversions between chats that fired proactively and chats that visitors initiated themselves to get a more nuanced view of the data:

  • To get the overall conversion rate: Out of all the chats that occurred on your site, how many led to a conversion?
  • For the conversion rate of proactive live chat: How many times did proactive chats fire? How many visitors engaged back? How many of them converted?
  • For conversion rate of visitor-initiated chat: How many times did a visitor initiate chat themselves? How many of those people converted?

2. Nine Questions to Ask When Analyzing Live Chat Conversion Data

In addition to tracking conversions, you’ll want to analyze the data from live chat more granularly to investigate how to increase the conversion rate.

Ask the following questions to get insights:

  1. Which pages have the most chats initiated on them?
  2. What differences (if any) exist in how people use chat across different devices?
  3. How does chat perform on different marketing channels SEO, PPC, email, etc.?
  4. Which marketing campaign is an individual chat attributed to?
  5. Which keywords and campaigns in Google ads are driving chats?

It’s also vital to optimize the chat conversations themselves:

  1. Is there anything said that made someone convert sooner?
  2. Did visitors leave without their needs met?
  3. Was there an opportunity to follow up with a coupon because you have the visitor’s email?
  4. You can also monitor this data to see which live chat agents are closing the most sales through chat.

What is a Live Chat Conversion?

Keep in mind that the conversions you track may vary depending on what your online business sells.

For physical products, you will track product sales, of course. However, you may also track conversions for email addresses.

Service businesses may also track form fills and signups along with their sales and customer email addresses because those are all types of conversions that can lead to a sale.

3. Tailor the Chat Flow to Your Business’ Sales Funnel to Optimize Conversions

eCommerce and service businesses will often need a different approach to optimizing chat for conversions.

With eCommerce, creating automatic sequences can be a bit more difficult. Live human agents initiating the chat, rather than a bot, may convert better. This is because every product tends to get different questions. So, customer inquiries will vary with the size of your product catalog.

In our experience, eCommerce stores with human chat agents who give quick responses to customers tend to have the most conversions.

With Services, it’s common to see a lower conversion rate when compared to eCommerce. There are typically more barriers to making a purchase with some services due to reasons like a higher price, more custom options needed, or a longer path to a sale compared to eCommerce.

For example, an insurance company doesn’t necessarily get a purchase right away. They would measure their ROI from chat by looking at how many people are engaging with chat, then downloading and submitting insurance application forms.

That said, creating chat sequences can be more straightforward with service businesses as customer questions tend to be more repetitive. For that reason, service businesses can see a bigger benefit than eCommerce to getting their chatbot scripts dialed in to these common questions.

4. Use a Portrait to Increase Engagements and Conversions

When one of our clients replaced the low-quality portraits of their sales reps in chat with high-quality headshots, our tests showed that people were more likely to engage and convert through chat when the picture was better.

It may seem like a trite factor, but in our experience, having a high-quality image of an agent next to their speech bubble improves the customer experience enough to make an impact.

Even if your “Live Agent” is a chatbot, a human portrait is important.

Live Agent: "Hi there! I am a Live Agent. How may I help you?" (With a headshot of a "real person" seems to attract more attention.)
While a high-quality portrait is probably a good bet for most brands, try to use an image that will generally connect to your target audience. For example, a company selling power tools may use a grittier image of a tools expert as the portrait, while a jewelry brand would have a more polished headshot of their live agent.

In either case, a portrait of any kind is better than none at all. So, human or chatbot: make sure that you have headshots in your chat.

5. Tailor Your Language to How Your Audience Speaks

Continuing with the theme of making chat more conversational — responses and interactions writ through chat need to be authentic. Meaning: even though you have a standard script with greetings and common responses, write them in the way that you would actually speak to the customer.

The actual tone you use is going to depend on your business’s brand and customer demographics.

For example, a cosmetics brand geared toward young women in their 20’s might greet a visitor with, “Hey there! Did you want to know more about our products?” while a high-end oven range brand might start with, “Hello Chef, did you have any questions about cooking with us?”

Live chat agents need a professional demeanor regardless, so good grammar and a pleasant overall tone is important regardless of the business.

6. Use Pre-Written Responses to Increase Answer Speed

As you get your chat system set up, collect pre-written responses to increase answer speed by your agents. In most live chat software there will be a dropdown for canned messages to use in the message window:

Along the way, take note of good customer reactions to your chats. When a customer gushes or expresses a positive emotion (e.g. “Oh my gosh! Thank you so much for your help. You’re the best!”), you’ll know you said something right.

Add these messages to an ongoing list that you can use as saved responses for agents, or as part of a chatbot’s script.

7. Use a Pre-Chat Questionnaire to Personalize Conversations and Build on Customer Profiles

If you need to collect contact information about your customers or other details in order to help them in chat, test having a pre-chat form to collect it. That way, your agents will have the information they need already and be able to jump to helping the customer.

The best practice here is to integrate that information into your CRM system — such as Drift or HubSpot — so that you can continue adding to your customer profiles. Collecting data from chats gives you information like customer names and locations/timezones, which allows you to further personalize your messages with them and improve their experience.

Addressing your customers by name and being able to wish them “good morning” based on their time zone are small touches that can help make customers more comfortable when chatting.

8. Integrate Chat With Email to Retarget Visitors Who’ve Chatted With You

You can (and should) also integrate chat with your email marketing. The easiest way to do this is to add an email opt-in box to your pre-chat survey (even if that survey is simply their name and email address).

While it’s better to be available immediately, Avocado Mattress has programmed their chatbot to collect visitor emails or phone numbers when their staff isn’t immediately available to follow up with them later:

Avocado Green Mattress' chat typically replies in a few minutes.

You can also import the data from your CRM into your email system like ActiveCampaign or Mailchimp. Then, you can use that data to segment customers and send them more relevant emails, improving the open rate.

A simple coupon offered in exchange for an email when the chat ends is often a good way to incentivize email opt-ins and remarket visitors who didn’t convert the first time.

9. Use a Post Chat Survey to Improve Live Chat Using Audience Feedback

In addition to a pre-chat survey, you can offer a post-chat survey to make sure they got the help they needed and that they are satisfied.

While some people won’t fill out the survey, you can get more responses by having a 5-star chat rating system to reduce the friction in leaving you feedback.

Any feedback is useful for tailoring your chat and leaving customers more satisfied. After all, satisfied customers convert.

10. Make Chat Easy to Find: But NOT Irritating to Look At

As we mentioned, live chat CRO is not a one-size-fits-all practice. Depending on your business and audience, your chat will take shape differently in terms of its placement and content.

It starts with how chat is part of your website’s UI. How does a visitor first notice chat, and does seeing the chat make them feel irritated or helped out?

For example, we’ve seen websites where live chat gets triggered within seconds of a visitor landing on the page. Sometimes, using a loud ding, bright colors, and a vibrating or shaking chatbox to get their attention. This “look at me!” approach to chat may backfire by reducing their trust if your customers find it irritating. It can be even worse when coupled with pushy sales messages.

Instead, make sure chat is visible and easy to find, but not in their face in a distracting way. An icon in the lower right corner using a contrasting color will work for most websites.

11. Test Chat on Mobile to Maximize Conversions from Smartphone Shoppers

We can’t understate how important it is to test your chat on mobile. While mobile shopping is going up, people are more likely to convert on desktop.

According to research by Monetate, the average conversion rate across different devices in the 4th quarter of 2018 was:

  • Desktop: 4.84%
  • Tablet: 4.06%
  • Mobile (smartphone): 2.25%
  • Other: 0.13% 

Conversion rate across different devices in Q4 2018: 4.84% (desktop), 4.06% (tablet), 2.25% (Mobile Smartphone) to 0.13% (other).

The smaller screens on mobile devices makes everything harder: whether it’s clicking around the website, looking at product images, or going through checkout. It also makes interacting with chat a bit more cumbersome for customers.

So the bottom line is: test your chat on mobile and make sure it is super easy and smooth to use. If chat is as easy to use on mobile as it is on desktop, you will have better interactions with customers shopping on their phone.

12. Make Chat Available on Every Page to See Where Customers Use It

How do you decide what pages to put live chat available on? Simple: all of them!

Some sites will bury the link to chat in their footer or leave it available only on the “Contact” page. We recommend making chat available on every page so that it’s right there when visitors need it.

If you see that engagement is happening the most on certain pages, while other pages barely ever see a chat engagement, you can then start to pair chat back from those pages.

13. Make Chat Available 24/7 to Meet Customer Expectations

People expect an automatic and quick response these days, even after business hours. It’s better not to display chat at all while no one is manning it rather than show this after they click:

If you’re offline, take their message and let them know when an agent will respond.

Better yet, outsource chat agents from a service like HelpSquad or Moneypenny when your own is not available. Just as you may outsource agents for inbound calls that come in after hours, you can do the same with chat agents!

14. Let Customers Set the Conversation Pace and Help Several of Them Simultaneously

The nice thing about chat is that you can handle other conversations simultaneously if any one visitor is slow to respond.

We’ve noticed that different customers will often chat at different speeds for a number of reasons, such as being distracted from multitasking or having a slower internet connection.

It’s best to let customers set their own conversation pace. At the same time, you can increase the efficiency of your chat by engaging with multiple customers if one is slower to type and reply.

15. Make Chat Relevant to the Page Visitors Are On to Increase Engagement

Personalizing chat to customers’ behavior has been a running theme in this article for a reason.

You can start making chat more relevant when triggered by making the initial message directly related to the page they are on. When possible, we like to use chat to encourage visitors to go through deeper levels of the site.

You can ask customers on category pages: “Are you finding the products you’re looking for?” And try to direct them to the product that got them on the site in the first place.

An eCommerce store might ask if a customer needed help deciding between different backyard playset models if they were on that category page. If they are on an individual playset’s product page, you would ask if they had any questions about this particular playset.

A business such as a travel agency selling excursions might ask visitors what country they are interested in visiting when they are on a category page of vacation packages. If they are on a category page for vacation packages, the next page in the funnel we should guide them to is a product page of their ideal vacation!

16. Test and Use the Right Chat Trigger to Initiate Chat Right Before a Visitor Is About To Do It Themselves

Remember, we’re tailoring our chat to your business and customers. So the way chat gets triggered depends on the context.

In general, dwell time is the simplest and most solid proactive trigger. If somebody is lingering on any one page they are either looking closely at that page because they are interested, or they are on another tab because they’re not.

In either case, triggering chat after a certain dwell time lets them know you’re available for help if they need it, and often the chat notification will bring them back to your tab if they’ve gone somewhere else. You can start testing a trigger after 45 seconds, for example, and then decide whether to trigger it earlier or later.

Page-specific triggers are also great. This is when you can tailor an opening message to specific products on their pages, or ask customers if they need help choosing while on a category page.

While you can leave chat for visitors to initiate, proactive chat has tested better. Initiating it can indicate that you provide an above-average customer service experience in comparison to just making it available for them to use, and some visitors will engage better as a result.

17. Don’t Make Customers and Agents Have the Same Conversation Twice: Save Conversations and Start Where You Left Off

It can sometimes take multiple visits and multiple chats to create a conversion as a customer considers their purchase.

Make sure your chat platform saves conversations from visitors and displays where you left off to agents the next time the visitor returns.

When using a chatbot, the same principle applies but it’s harder to execute. In that case, be more open-ended. E.g. “Welcome back! Did you need my help with anything?”

18. Give Agents Easy Access to Help with a Support Process and FAQ

Make sure you establish a sales process for agents along with a support process for when they don’t know how to answer a customer’s question.

It helps to have an internal FAQ for agents to go to. Since you’re already collecting common customer questions and effective responses, place all of those in one place to make it easy for agents to find help.

And if an agent can’t solve a customer’s need, have a process for them to make sure it gets met. If someone else isn’t available to help the agent, following up with the customer through email may be the best option.

19. Upsell and Cross-Sell Through Chat to Increase Average Order Value

Upsells and cross-sells make up 10-30% of eCommerce revenue according to VWO.

Similar to how many eCommerce stores have a “People Also Buy” displaying relevant products, test doing the same via chat rather than a static display before they checkout to increase cart totals.

This can make a big impact. For example, a client of ours selling camera equipment will offer lenses to people who add camera bodies to their cart. A proactive chat agent or chatbot would notice that the customer added a $10000 camera body but no glass lenses to their package, and ask them, “Want to look at compatible lenses?”

20. Catch Dissatisfied Chatters Before They Leave a Bad Review

Make a dissatisfied customer happy before they leave a negative review or write an irate email.

It’s almost always better to have a live agent to deal with angry customers. A good process for this is to have a chatbot ask if a customer is satisfied or not and punt to a live agent if they are unhappy.

Agents should be sensitive with their responses in this situation and address customer fears and concerns.

In certain circumstances, you may have to help the customer over the phone — so make sure that’s also an option.

21. Use a Chatbot to Save on Support Costs and Read Your Customer’s Minds!

We love chatbots because they can save on support costs and help to streamline the sales funnel a visitor goes through.

You can program chatbots according to how most of your customer interactions go, and anticipate what to say to lead them to a conversion.

For example, we know that many people come to our website to learn from our blog posts (like this one), and our library of eCommerce marketing resources! Our bot asks visitors for their contact info so that we can remain in touch and send them more useful content since they’re already interested in it.

eCommerce companies often have questions about hiring us after they read our content, so we’ve programmed our bot to ask visitors if they want to schedule a time to chat with an actual human about our services:

Chatbots are an efficient way to get back to someone quickly and schedule a more personalized chat.

Whether or not they convert on the spot, this chatbot works on its own accord to encourage a relationship that can lead to additional business.

While conversational marketing is headed toward a world where customers interact with chatbots more than humans, many eCommerce businesses today will benefit by doing a hybrid option like this: Start with a robot to see what the customer need is, then, punt the conversation to a human who can fully meet that need.

For common customer needs, or to get a conversation started, chatbots are great. When things need a bit more personal attention, humans are irreplaceable.

Increasing conversions with chatbots can also tie in with remarketing. Does your chat software integrate through Facebook messenger? If not, a messenger bot like Recart can integrate with Shopify or Woocommerce to message your customers on Facebook and remind them to complete their purchase after they’ve abandoned their cart.

The work of setting up chatbot is in making the brain tree (also called “decision tree”) for it. This is essentially an “If/Then” logical sequence to create chatbot conversations, and it’s different for every business.

Inevitably, when you make your brain tree, there will be certain moments detected by the chatbot — such as a dissatisfied customer, or multiple complex questions — that results in a switch to a live agent.

Our Process to Get Started With Chatbots

Relying on chatbots alone is rarely the best option, but can be a great way to increase conversions and lower customer support costs.

If you are wondering whether a chatbot makes sense for your business, consider this:

  1. First, ask yourself and your team if there is a need to have a chatbot.
    Is there something that customer service reps do repeatedly — like answering common questions, or help requests — that you could automate to take that burden off of their shoulders? (Make a list of these repetitive questions and topics.)

  2. If there is a need, how will you apply it?
    It’s helpful to have one person in charge of getting the chatbot set up with scripts while they continue to refine and improve the chat sequence. This is to ensure that the chatbot doesn’t create more work, but lightens the load for the rest of the team.

  3. Start to model your chatbot around FAQs.
    Logically order the questions in terms of which comes up first in conversation. For help, look at your site FAQ, if you have one, or ask your customer service reps to keep track of common questions that come in. Start to model the chat around that.

  4. Refine and Improve Your Chat Sequence
    Over time, as you receive more questions from customers, you can refine your chat sequence to be even more useful. This will include adding, removing, and switching things around based on what works best for your customers.
  5. Continue Getting to Know Your Audience and Improve
    Creating a conversational marketing system takes time, and it’s an art in that it’s specific to each site and audience.

    Different audiences respond to different chat scenarios. For example, an older demographic might not want to talk to a chatbot at all.

    Modifying, monitoring, retaining and making sure people are engaged is what makes your chat tip top. The biggest ROI from chat comes over time as your satisfied customer base grows and returns to your business repeatedly.

Conclusion

This list of conversion optimization best practices for live chat isn’t exhaustive, but it is what tends to work from our experience.

While setting up a live chat system might seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. There are some important principles to follow, but overall, you’ll be testing and refining over time to make your chat perfect for your business and customers.

If you do get chat dialed in, you’ll find that the path to a purchase is a bit easier for the customers who use it.

Note: If you want to get started with implementing live chat or apply some of these best practices to convert more visitors, we’d love to help. Our conversion rate optimization experts will make sure that not only your live chat is converting at its peak, but that your entire eCommerce operation is as well. Get in touch.

Tips and tools: Easy conversion calculators; DIY videos; and horrendous panoramic dogs

Here are some great resources we have recently shared with one another (We don’t profit from recommending things. We just love sharing things we think you’ll appreciate. You can see our other Tips and Tools articles here.) An easy way to add a calculat…

Here are some great resources we have recently shared with one another (We don’t profit from recommending things. We just love sharing things we think you’ll appreciate. You can see our other Tips and Tools articles here.) An easy way to add a calculator to your website ConvertCalculator allows you to add calculators to your […]