From Analytics Lightweight To CRO Program Heavyweight

There is a lot of CRO content on the interwebs about tools, guides, statistical models, tips, tricks, and what have you. A quick web search on “A/B Testing” renders more than 1 Billion results. Whoa! 😱  A billion results, but what about the human side to CRO? What about the fight it takes to step…

There is a lot of CRO content on the interwebs about tools, guides, statistical models, tips, tricks, and what have you. A quick web search on “A/B Testing” renders more than 1 Billion results.

Whoa! 😱  A billion results, but what about the human side to CRO? What about the fight it takes to step in the ring and set up a CRO program?…especially when you are tasked to contribute to the digital transformation at Hewlett Packard, an 81-year-old giant?

How do you start from scratch and build a CRO Center of Excellence when you’ve been recruited as a mere QA tagging manager? 

pro wrestling image as an analogy to conversion rate optimization

Well that was me. Fresh off my bout as a web analytics and testing manager at www.1800contacts.com[1],  Hewlett-Packard’s analytics team brought me on–via Analytics Demystified–as a new consultant in 2014. Well, I instantly felt pretty timid. 

In fact, a few months into the gig, my HP line manager reminisced that “You were very quiet at first.  I wasn’t sure if you were even going to work out”.  Why?  Because I had previously been a big fish in a medium pond. I went from 1-800 Contacts where I knew everyone in our tight ecom. department and where I got to play in all things a/b/n testing and digital analytics…to something quite different.

HP is a legitimate enormous world-wide enterprise with large disparate business units and a maze of stakeholders (“and in this corner weighing a whopping 325 lbs…”). Not to mention I was new to operating remotely, which introduced a whole new stream of anxiety (as I’m sure a lot more people can relate to since the COVID-19 pandemic…forcing so many more to work from home). 

On top of all that, I was unproven both to HP and to Analytics Demystified.  So how did I grow from the quiet new data guy in the corner, to a contributor of digital strategy at HP?   Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

a meme on deep diving into digital analytics

Matthew Wright, digital analytics mega-guru and my HP line-manager, assigned me to set-up additional tagging on the recently redesigned enterprise software pages (HPSW). This enterprise software division built programs for IT management, server storage, etc. For all I knew they were building flux capacitors…in other words, high tech stuff that is over my head[2]

I felt like mostly just a go-between for dev and the business. Which was good, at first. But secretly I wanted to magnify my job into more than chasing down tracking requests. Because at my previous gig, we had it all!  A/b tests, MVT tests, segment-triggered targeting, full Adobe Analytics set-up, surveys program, heatmaps, UX testing, a robust ideation process…the whole nine! 

And, trust me, once you get a taste of the CRO good life, you only want more.

a meme on the taste of glory

But before getting ahead of myself, I had to build a rapport. This meant not only delivering on tagging architecture projects, but going above and beyond.

For example, I had to provide thick analyses packed with extra insights, to run deep dives on site interactions–they really wanted to know where users clicked–and to help implement and analyze heat-maps.

Another way I won trust was to introduce engagement scoring to help with gauging the site’s appeal (idea credit to Eric Peterson over at Analytics Demystified…one of our industry’s godfathers. If you want to read more around his models of Engagement Scoring; this is a good place to start from[3]).

Eventually, bringing these types of incites led to my voice being heard more and more. Of course, learning from some incredible HP analytics and developer colleagues gave me a huge boost; they were always in my corner.  

The next step was noticing a recurring pattern: there was a data gap that the digital product manager (pm) wasn’t sure how to fill.  A curious guy with a capable team, the pm wanted to achieve a higher level of data-led decisioning.

They wrestled constantly against too-large-for-its-own-good enterprise opponents, like infrastructure that didn’t promote rapid growth, and autocratic top-down decisions imposed on them by dotted-line owners.  Those foes favored gut-feelings and carryover designs. 

Come again?…disprove hunches and prove-out decisions with data?? Say it to my face! Yep, my mind went straight to a/b testing tools. Naturally, web experiments could help them isolate the unknowns that were either helping or hurting the site. 

“18% lifts here and 42% lifts there…we rapidly learned about how the customer preferred to respond to trial software offers”.

Of course, I proposed that they budget for a robust and established platform–such as  VWO–and for a cross-functional CRO/testing team.  Already pretty scrappy and agile by nature, they jumped all over the idea. After getting the platform in place within a couple of months, and with executive sponsorship from our analytics team and PM, the wind was at our backs.

With me as the eager power-user and partnering with a colleague for test strategy, we decided to dip our toe in basic tests to prove the tool. In other words, we started small.  The first test being simple CTA copy tests, and then onto testing color palette changes. 18% lifts here and 42% lifts there…we rapidly learned about how the customer preferred to respond to trial software offers.

a meme on i want to win

During this phase, I relearned one of the most critical life lessons in CRO – early wins are crucial to get everybody emotionally invested. In HPSW’s case, suddenly everybody got excited and started contributing to ideas. Eventually we needed a way to contain all the new testing ideas. We set-up an “ideation” meeting where we could brainstorm, collect and refine testing plans. This gave the boss a testing roadmap and way to socialize this new branch of learning. 

“CRO is about enabling insights that are otherwise very difficult to gather.”

Requests to migrate to new features/designs were next prioritized. People had complaints about the usability and extra maintenance expense and secretive nature of progressive forms (or multi-step forms) in order to get downloads or trials.

So pitting the forms against a flat, all-on-one page in an a/b testing ring shut down the nay-sayers and proved out the control multi-step form by 25% (a similar single vs multi column form test was also highlighted in Ben Labay’s recent May 2020 webinar). Other tests to modernize web design were easily a/b tested and rolled-out once we saw no harm being done (no false positives).

Another winning strategy we tried was to back-test features. An example was to prove the usefulness of a long-standing secondary navigation that directed visitors deeper into the site. To some–I being one of them–the secondary nav added clutter and information overload.

But I was happy to be wrong when the test showed a statistical drop of page depth without the nav (in other words, we needed the secondary nav, even if the execution could have used a massage…which it later received via further testing). As we all know, it’s not about being right; CRO is about enabling insights otherwise very difficult to gather.  

Reflecting back

After 18 months of building out HPSW’s program, I was once again tasting the CRO good life. I made friends with some extremely smart colleagues and got to see the crawl-walk-run mode of the experimentation function. I loved helping my client fuel decisions quickly with tried and tested data. In a small way, this new CRO program contributed to my client team leaders getting promoted over digital transformation across ALL HPE business units. And isn’t the biggest win of a consulting engagement to see your client succeed? 

So…go away, read some books! Practice your full nelson hold and stuff. And you too could pin down a cool CRO job. It’s da beest!

meme on its the best

eCommerce Conversion Rate Benchmarks – Quick Glance At How They Stack Up

As the eCommerce sector continues to grow at a steady pace, becoming an integral part of our lives, both personally and professionally, it’s pushing businesses operating in the very space to become more digilet of their offerings and activities. Right from formulating effective marketing and sales strategies to increase website traffic and engage more customers,…

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As the eCommerce sector continues to grow at a steady pace, becoming an integral part of our lives, both personally and professionally, it’s pushing businesses operating in the very space to become more digilet of their offerings and activities. Right from formulating effective marketing and sales strategies to increase website traffic and engage more customers, to present offerings that leave customers spoilt for choices, backing your plans with accurate and authentic data is paramount. The information in the following paragraphs aims to shed some light on the latest eCommerce statistics, roundups, and benchmarks to help reinforce your existing eCommerce conversion rate knowledge as well as upend your notions regarding other industrial trends. 

To start with, let’s begin by defining (eCommerce) conversion rate, later peeping into the latest industrial statistics and benchmarks!

What is eCommerce Conversion Rate?

The eCommerce conversion rate is the ratio of transactions to sessions, expressed in the form of a percentage. For instance, a ratio of one transaction against every ten sessions would make for an ecommerce Conversion Rate of 10%.” [1]

When used in conjunction with other critical metrics, conversion rate serves as an excellent barometer to measure the health, performance, and competitiveness of your online store. The higher the conversion rate, the better the customer value proposition and lower customer acquisition cost.

What is the Mean Conversion Rate for eCommerce Websites?

As per Littledata, the average eCommerce conversion rate ranges between 1% and 4%,[2] with global figures standing at 2.58%[3] across devices (as of Q2, 2019). But, considering all plausible variables and nuances, significant conversion rate disparities exist between sectors, countries, devices, seasons, marketing strategies, and the like. For instance, the average conversion rate for the health and wellbeing market was 3.44%[4] in Feb 2020 as compared to 2.70% for kitchen and home appliances.[5] Meanwhile, where the US eCommerce sector hovers around the global average at 1.4%, the United Kingdom pens down an average conversion rate of 1.8%.[6]

Therefore, it’s important to develop your own key ecommerce performance indicators (KPIs) as well as take into account individual nuances while analyzing the average eCommerce conversion rate of your industry.

At the same time, if you’re comparing the conversion rate of your company with competitors, be mindful that no two businesses can have the same conversion rate. This is because, a number of factors come into play – your targeted audience, geographic areas of business, products or services sold, penetration in the market, and more. For instance, industry giants like Amazon boast a 13% conversion rate, which is nearly 7x the average industry standard.[7]  

How to Calculate eCommerce Conversion Rate?

Calculating the eCommerce conversion rate is quite simple. Just divide the total number of store transactions by the total website visits, and multiply by 100. You have a conversion rate!

eCommerce conversion rate = Total Number of Store Transactions/Total Visits to the Website x 100

For instance, if your website gets 50,000 visitors and witnesses 2500 transactions in a month, this means your conversion rate for the month is 5%.

2500 transactions / 50000 visits x 100 = 5% Conversion Rate

Calculating conversion rate not only helps you map the performance of your overall business, but it silently aids in formulating strategic plans to increase website traffic, customers, and business revenue.    

Let’s now dive into eCommerce conversion rate benchmarks and draw learnings from a future growth perspective!  

eCommerce Conversion Rate by Industry

When drafting in-house goals and benchmarks, referring to market-specific conversion rate standards can prove to be highly valuable, especially to gauge the general and overall performance of your eCommerce store.

IRP Commerce is one of the best sites to study market data.[8]
The graph below shows the average conversion rate of various eCommerce industries as of September 2019.

ecommerce conversion rate variance by industry
Image Source[1]

Ecommerce Conversion Rate by Country

When formulating your KPI’s, it’s essential to consider benchmark conversion rates of leading commerce countries. The conversion rate you’d expect from the Netherlands, for instance, will be quite different from that of the UK. Many reasons stand behind such disparate conversion rates. Some reasons that have seen widespread acceptance are:

  1. Mature Markets:  Mature markets with established online brands have the prowess to produce higher conversion rates, while those where eCommerce is still trying to penetrate the online market economics and facing stiff competition from bricks-and-mortar stores will naturally churn a lower conversion rate.
  2. Purchasing Power Parity (PPP): Also stands as one of the primary differentiating factors. Besides a country’s inflation rate, it’s economic growth rates, consumption behavior, and demographic changes also significantly affect conversion rate.  
  3. Credit Card Penetration (CCP): The global dynamics behind Credit Card Penetration (CCP) has been quite haphazard. For instance, Czechia marks credit card penetration of about 25% only (as in 2019) against a relatively high penetration in two of the non-EU regions – Russia and Ukraine. Hence, eCommerce conversion rate here ought to be different.[9]
  4. Logistics and Distribution: Not all countries across the globe have the leverage to enjoy a robust logistics and distribution network and hence, modern eCommerce businesses in many countries are unable to meet high velocity demands. This again accounts for a low conversion rate in many countries as compared to others.
Conversion Rates With Time
Image Source[2]

Furthermore, knowing the country-wise conversion rate also serves beneficial, especially when you’re planning to expand your market base and cater to a broader customer segment. Such information helps make necessary amendments to your KPIs and prepare foolproof business strategies for sureshot winnings. 

Ecommerce Conversion Rate by Channel/Source

Besides eyeing upon the industry and country-specific conversion rates, knowing the total number of conversions coming from various traffic sources is important. The figures here help define channel-specific goals while also hone in on the best-performing and most promising traffic sources. As per the latest stats we could gather from industry-acclaimed statistical sources, referral traffic is by far the best performer, getting maximum conversions, followed by emails, and social media. The reason is quite simple. Every company, including eCommerce stores run a series of initiatives to highlight their offerings – either through featured product roundups, guest posting on authoritative sites, social media campaigns, implementing SEO strategies, or running Google Ads. Each activity helps lure visitors to your site, further increasing engagement. Besides, give it a hard look and you’ll realize that every channel works towards increasing referrals, in turn boosting conversions.  

ecommerce conversions from different traffic sources
Image Source[3]

As is evident from the graph given below, the performance of each of these traffic sources remains fairly consistent as best and worst, regardless of the industry. However, in the case of some specific sectors, the acquisition channels can serve as better mediums than others, such as emails in the case of the Food & Drinks sector. 

Meanwhile, Facebook remains as one of the favored social media channels to drive high traffic as well as conversions across industries like Fashion, Beauty & Wellness, Electronics, and Food & Drinks. Besides being a home to billions of people, the medium’s visual component (images plus videos) and communication feature makes Facebook the go-to channel for product promotion for the above mentioned sectors.   

ecommerce conversion rate by different product type and traffic source
Image Source[3]

Average Ecommerce Conversion Rate by Device

Benchmarks related to specific devices, typically desktop, smartphones, and tablets, are also worth considering when formulating specific KPIs for generating high conversions. As can be interpreted from the data below, conversion rates for large-screen devices such as desktops and tablets are approximately 2x as compared to ones recorded from mobile devices. Such information helps paint an accurate picture of how your business is performing across various devices, and the percentage increase/decrease it is witnessing.

ecommerce conversion rate by device and quarter
Image Source[4]

eCommerce Conversion Rate Statistics in 2020

  • Global conversion rate across devices is 2.58%.[3]
  • The average mobile conversion rate is about 4.14% against 1.82% on mobile.[9]
  • 61%[10] of consumers rely on online reviews before taking a purchasing decision. 
  • Best performing websites usually showcase a conversion rate of 11% and more.[11]
  • The average conversion rate of Facebook ads is about 9.21%.[12]
  • While the Sporting Goods industry witnesses the lowest average eCommerce conversion rate at about 2.35%, the Food and Beverages industry marks the highest average eCommerce conversion rate of about 4.95%. [13]
  • A Website that rank #1 on Google usually has a click-through rate (CTR) of about 30%.[14] This percentage drops (by 10%) if a website ranks third and goes below 2% if they position ninth or below on SERP.
  • The baseline eCommerce conversion goal of an online store must be 2%+.[15]
  • Mobile devices are a much popular choice for in-store price comparisons amid users.[16]
  • The reason why people shop online is because they get the 24×7 shopping advantage.[17]
  • Industry experts predict that by 2040 nearly 95% of purchases will be eCommerce purchases.[18]

Conclusion

Exploring the world of online data is quite taxing. Hundreds and thousands of new studies, covering a broad spectrum of metrics and talking about new set benchmarks, are published every year. But where should you start or draw a line?

At VWO, we believe it’s best to adopt a focused approach to ecommerce conversion optimization. Rely on well-research studies and sources, including Statista and Baymard, or conduct your primary research to define your website conversion rate benchmarks and KPIs. 

Remember, the role of benchmarks is simply to help you to understand the current performance of your online store and shape optimization strategies accordingly. They’re not gold standards that must be replicated. Rather, run conversion optimization A/B tests and learn what works best for your online store. Sign up here for a trial. 

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Creating Heatmaps the No-Code Way using VWO

In 1991, Cormac Kinney, a software inventor, and entrepreneur designed an application that equipped securities traders to decipher market trade economics and beat the odds.[1] His program mimicked a virtual chessboard where each square represented tradable security. If any security’s price spiked during a trading session, it’s respective square turned blue. Meanwhile, if it dipped,…

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In 1991, Cormac Kinney, a software inventor, and entrepreneur designed an application that equipped securities traders to decipher market trade economics and beat the odds.[1] His program mimicked a virtual chessboard where each square represented tradable security. If any security’s price spiked during a trading session, it’s respective square turned blue. Meanwhile, if it dipped, the square turned red. Besides enabling traders to analyze market conditions quickly, the application aided them to predict activities and encash on fruitful opportunities. 

a screenshot of a Heatmap index

The cognitive theory behind his invention (which he named and later trademarked as ‘heatmaps’) was simple. He exploited the fact that the human eye can easily spot color differences than comparing numbers. Kenny also concluded that colors can help transform large quantities of data into simple and immediate visual representations, directly resulting in faster decision making, an essential trait for succeeding in financial markets. 

Owing to the success of his invention, heatmap today has become the go-to tool for visual data representation and interpretation not only for statisticians but geographers, business owners, marketers, biologists, and the like. This blog aims to navigate your way through heatmap applications in the digital sphere of websites. Let’s dive in!  

What do Heatmaps do?

By utility, a heatmap is a technique to visualize data that shows the magnitude of visitor activity or engagement on a website using colors in two dimensions. The variation in colors depicts the intensity of visitor activity/engagement, giving experience managers enough visual cues to read visitor reactions and draw learnings. 

Many different color schemes are used to illustrate heatmaps considering the advantages and disadvantages of each. In general, rainbow colors are used as humans are more responsive to such colors than shades of gray. In the case of website heatmaps, hot-to-cold color codings are utilized for representation of data. Here, the color red typically represents the hottest areas (or regions with maximum activity/engagement), fading through orange and yellow to cooler areas in green and blue highlighting areas with least activity/engagement.

illustration of the different types Of VWO heatmap

How to Create a Heatmap?

We recommend VWO Heatmaps to get started. A useful trait of VWO Heatmaps is its ability to constantly work under the hood and analyze millions of engagement data once you’ve added a small code snippet (VWO Smartcode) just once, to your websites.

If you wish to drill-down into specifics, such as track the activity log of a particular visitor segment, simply create custom views and deep-dive into data. You can also look at heatmaps for specific segments that are of interest to you. For instance, VWO Heatmaps offers the ability to compare heatmaps of visitors from San Francisco using iOS versus visitors from New York using Android.   

Here’s how to view a heatmap in your VWO account:

Step 1: Log in to your VWO dashboard.
screenshot of the VWO dashboard
Step 2: Click on INSIGHTS and then on HEATMAPS. 
click on Heatmaps tab in the side navigation menu

Here’s how the Heatmaps dashboard looks like:

screenshot of the Heatmaps overview in VWO
Step 3: To create a new view, click the CREATE VIEW button present on the right panel. A new VIEW page will open.
how to create a new heatmap in VWO
Step 4: Click on the pencil icon next to the NEW VIEW and give your heatmap a suitable name. Here, we’ve named our view as “CRO Pillar Page Heatmap” – in this case we want to see the heatmap of people who visit one of our long form pages on CRO.
Step 5: Next, enter the page URLs you wish to analyze. Here, you get two options: SIMPLE and ADVANCED View. 
enter the name of the URL for which you want to generate the heatmap

Simple View

screenshot of the heatmap view within the VWO platform

While the former helps generate a cognitive heatmap view of the entered URL, the latter gives you the leverage to include or exclude URLs from the view. This way you can generate heatmaps for specific pages and accordingly record goal conversions as well as map other essential metrics. 

Additionally, you can also define advanced pattern-matching choices to either add a broad URL with wildcard entries or a particular URL. For instance, if you enter pattern URL as “http://www.example.com/products*” (with the asterisk symbol), you’ll be able to record goal conversion for all of your product pages. Meanwhile, if you use pattern URL such as “http://www.example.com*”, you’ll be able to track conversions on the entire website.

Step 6: To record the click pattern of a specific visitor segment and plot it on a heatmap report, click on the “Enable tracking heatmap data for a specific visitor group” checkbox. 
how to enable segments for generating heatmap data

As the above image indicates, you can easily enter segment specifics, add custom conditions, and also even save the segment for future reference. The option is available in both Simple and Advanced View options.  

Step 7: To run, pause, or stop a heatmap at specific intervals, expand the Advanced Options tab, and enable scheduling. To learn more about scheduling options, refer to How to Schedule Your VWO Test.
Step 8: Lastly, click on CREATE to proceed further and generate a heatmap view. You can either immediately run the view or select a specific start time.

Here’s how the heatmap looks like:

screenshot of the heatmap of our website page

Note, as visible in the image above, the tool enables you to view page Heatmap, Clickmap, Scrollmap as well as look at the Element List to view total clicks + click percentage per page element.

Post-requisite

To verify the successful creation of your heatmap view, go to INSIGHTS and click on HEATMAPS. All newly created views appear in the VIEW tab present on the right panel. A preview of the heatmap link is also displayed below the view title for future reference. 

Note, Safari browser blocks third-party cookies to load and capture data. To load heatmap data correctly, go to Safari and click on PREFERENCES. Next, click on PRIVACY and disable the “Prevent Cross-Site Tracking” option.

Although producing a heatmap is quite simple and easy, don’t rush it. Build your understanding of the analytical tool in layers. Move ahead only when you’ve mastered each level. If you try and analyze your entire website at once, for instance, you’ll surely be overwhelmed. Instead, start by analyzing a page that gets enough traffic to generate a meaningful heatmap. How about your blog post page?

What Does a Good Heatmap Tool Do For You?

Heatmaps provide richer performance insights than many traditional web analytics tools. Here are some ways in which you can use heatmaps

To see the elements being clicked on: In an ideal world, marketers would love to see a uniform spread of clicks across all key elements over their website. However the real world depicts an extremely disproportionate distribution with only a few elements getting a majority of clicks. Heatmaps make you aware of the set of elements that are gaining more traction than others so that you can

  • Make the good stuff more prominent: “Request Pricing” & “Free Trial” getting more clicks than “About Us” & “Why Us”? Maybe you should think of removing the latter altogether so that you reduce the clutter in the visit and get their focus on the buttons that matter.
  • Improve UX: Elements that don’t drive any clicks have no business to be on the site, except the ones bound by legal and compliance laws.

To increase page interaction depth: Want to move your visitors from “Above-the-fold-look-but-dont-touch” to “Mid-scroll-engage-with-content’? Say hello once again to your friendly heatmap. To figure out what can move your audience from the first fold to the second and so on, the only real ally is the heatmap. For instance, if the site starts cooling off right at the first fold, you instinctively know that adding an engagement element at the fold drop-off point might help you plug the problem. Keep on repeating this for all cool-off points and you have won the engagement battle.

Where content isn’t getting attention as expected: Visitors spend about 80% of their time scanning through content that’s placed above the fold[3] than scrolling through the entire page. Having a bunch of marketers guess what about to hold above the fold without looking at engagement data is , in our humble opinions, missing a big opportunity here.

Enter, heatmaps. The analytical tool helps examine various parts of your web page(s) for maximum and minimum traction, maps visitor engagement, and provides insights on plausible loopholes or conversion leaks. 

For instance, The Vineyard, a luxury hotel located in Berkshire, used VWO Heatmaps to analyze the performance of their Room Booking Page CTA button. They learned that the page’s CTA was unclear, practically invisible amid the rest of the content, and hence, it failed to engage visitors. They then prominently placed the CTA button above the fold and witnessed a 32.12% increase in conversions.

Whether or not your site is responsive to all types of browsers and devices: Besides the above-mentioned specs, heatmaps also allow you to study micro details. With custom field and segmentation options available in VWO heatmaps, you can even analyze if your webpages are effective and responsive to all types of devices and browsers. Such detailing helps track technical issues and even map the quirkiness of visitor behavior.

To conclude, a heatmap may appear as a colored canvas but it’s more than that. It’s the backbone of any CRO strategy. Besides statistically computing and graphically representing data, a heatmap allows experience managers to quickly analyze data and take necessary web optimization decisions. If you’re new to the world of heat mapping and want to learn more about the analytical tool, sign up for a free demo session or opt-in for a free trial.

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Financial Steps eCommerce Businesses Can Take Now to Weather the COVID-19 Downturn

Our CFO of 10 years outlines a multi-step cash flow projection and expense cutting plan for eCommerce companies to weather the COVID-19 economic downturn.

COVID-19 has completely changed consumers’ lives and their buying habits, which has created a lot of uncertainty for consumer-based eCommerce businesses.

In recent posts, we’ve shared what other eCommerce businesses are doing to get through this challenging time and what marketing strategies you should consider for your eCommerce business during this crisis. But in the end, the most important decisions you’re going to make right now are financial.

Your financial situation is either going to get you through this crisis or potentially take down your company. That’s why it’s critical to take immediate steps to give your eCommerce business the best possible financial footing during the challenging weeks and months ahead.

I’ve been the CFO of Inflow for 10 years, and I’ve had a financial consulting business for 19 years — a consulting business I actually started during a recession. From all this experience, I’ve learned how businesses can weather this storm and make it out on the other side.

In this article, I’m going to discuss the steps I recommend to keep your eCommerce business financially afloat during this downturn.

Use Projections to Look into Your Financial Future

To plan for the challenging months ahead, the first thing I recommend all eCommerce management teams do is get a handle on how much financial runway they have. To do that, I suggest you model out different scenarios based on three different levels of financial impact: (1) the worst case cash flow scenario, (2) various tough scenarios that fall somewhere in the middle, and (3) the most realistic scenario based on your specific business.  

Eventually, you’ll use these scenarios to implement cost cutting and other financial strategies to get your business through this downturn. But right now, you’re just trying to wrap your mind around some of the difficult financial scenarios that could arise in your business. It’s also important to note that these scenarios will change frequently under the current conditions, and that’s okay. You’re just trying to get as much clarity as possible in this time of uncertainty.

(1) Worst Case Scenario: All Revenue Stops

Your first step is to create a model that depicts what would happen in your business if sales stopped completely but you still had to pay for all the essentials. How long could your business operate before you ran out of cash?

Most businesses I’ve worked with have less than six months worth of operating costs on hand. With no revenue coming in, many of these businesses’ cash supply would dry up in a month and a half to two months max.

Luckily, the worst case scenario isn’t likely for most eCommerce businesses. But we have seen the worst happen to businesses we work with. We have one client whose business completely shut down because they’re under such a severe lockdown that no one can go to their warehouse to stock orders that people are putting in on their website.

That’s why, even though looking at the worst case cash flow scenario for your business is hard and uncomfortable, it’s necessary. It’s better to know where you stand if the worst happens, so you can prepare.

(2) Tough — But Not As Bad — Scenarios

More likely than not, sales won’t completely stop for your businesses. However, a variety of other bad financial situations could arise. To prepare, you’ll want to model any potential financial situations that could happen as a result of this crisis.

I recommend brainstorming all the potential supply and demand issues your business could face. On the supply side, think about all the possible ways your product supply could be impacted by the current crisis throughout the entire supply chain.

What if your container ship gets stuck in the middle of the ocean because the US ports won’t let it dock? Or what if, like the client I mentioned above, you’re under such severe lockdown that no one can get to your warehouse temporarily?

On the demand side, you can use historical sales data to sort your products into three categories: (1) low demand, (2) moderate demand, and (3) high demand. Then, using SEO, conversion, and paid search data, get a better idea of where demand stands for these products right now. Model potential demand scenarios based on the changes you’re seeing in the data.

For example, if you notice that demand for a typically high-demand product has dropped by 20%, create a model forecasting how this will impact your business financially in the months to come. For each scenario you model, you’ll want to calculate projected monthly revenue and compare it against operating costs.

(3) The Most Realistic Scenario for Your Business

After you’ve fully immersed yourself in the worst case scenario and other bad scenarios that could arise, do something a little less scary: model a more realistic scenario based on current factors in your specific business. Start by thinking about:

  • How much supply you have available
  • How much supply is set to come in
  • How much revenue you can produce based on your current supply

You can also go back to that PPC, SEO, and conversion data to get a realistic picture of what people are searching for and buying right now and how those trends have been shifting in the past few weeks or months.

We’ve written another article sharing what some of our eCommerce clients are seeing and doing right now as a result of the COVID-19 economic downturn. If you need help determining what your PPC, SEO, and conversion data means for your business, reach out to Inflow. We’d be happy to help.

In the end, these scenarios should give you a range of possible cash flow situations for the next few months. This will allow you to match those range of scenarios with a range of different expense saving actions you could take if any of them actually happen, which we’ll discuss in the next section.

Look for Ways to Extend Your Financial Runway

Once you’ve modeled the different cash flow scenarios above and have a sense of the range of “runway” your business may have, the next step is to brainstorm and take action to extend your financial runway. Here are the steps I recommend:

#1: Apply for a Line of Credit

You might be tempted to wait to apply for a line of credit until you actually need the money. Don’t wait. You’ll only get approved for a line of credit if you have a reasonable amount of cash already, so the sooner you do this, the better.

There are two reasons I recommend all businesses apply for a line of credit during a downturn (even if they’re not sure they’ll need one). First, a line of credit has a much lower interest rate than credit cards. So, it will prevent you racking up high-interest credit card debt if you find yourself in a financial pinch.

Second, you don’t have to use it, this just gives you the option of using it if you need it. You’ll only be charged interest if you actually draw from your line of credit. If you don’t use it, the most you’ll have to pay is a low annual fee (usually between $99-$200 per year). So, you don’t have much to lose by having this option waiting in the wings.

If you’re a new or small business, you might have trouble getting a line of credit. But if you own a home, you can get a line of credit against your home and make it available for your business.

#2: Cut Expenses to Slow Your Burn Rate

No one can truly predict what’s going to happen in the weeks and months ahead. A good practice in these situations is cutting expenses now, even if you don’t necessarily need to yet.

In terms of what to cut, all the business owners I’ve talked to have said they don’t want to eliminate staff. They want to take care of their people, and they don’t want to contribute to the unemployment problem. So, start by putting every expense you have (other than staff) into three categories:

  • Absolutely essential to my business
  • I can reduce this cost or pause this cost.
  • I can completely eliminate this cost.

If you’re struggling to think of expenses you can completely eliminate, start with the lowest hanging fruit. For example, right now, nearly everyone is working from home. So, what are some expenses that are unnecessary when no one is in the office? The office streaming service or other shared subscription services are the first ideas that come to my mind.

As far as pausing or reducing costs goes, the biggest wins here have typically been found by reaching out to landlords and suppliers. In many cases, companies are able to negotiate equipment, rent, and warehouse lease agreements.

You could ask to reduce your lease payment for the next four months, and then catch it back up over a twelve-month period. And you could ask suppliers to temporarily extend your payment terms. Obviously, there are no guarantees you’ll get a “yes.” But I’ve seen it work over the years for many businesses. 

If reducing staffing costs becomes absolutely necessary, you have options besides laying people off: furloughing staff or reducing salaries temporarily. Furloughs can take many forms. But one way to implement a furlough would be to reduce the days staff work to four days of work per week rather than five and prorate salaries accordingly for a set period of time or until net profit reaches a certain amount.

Salaries can also be reduced by a specific percentage to preserve cash. The federal government CARES Act SBA Payroll Protection Program Loans can also provide some relief for businesses to enable them to continue to pay their employees. You can find out more about SBA Payroll Protection Program Loans here, and the application form can be found here. The SBA also has an Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program for businesses impacted by the crisis, which you can apply for here.

I do have a few words of warning when cutting expenses, though. Approach expense cutting like solving a Rubik’s Cube. Rather than cutting a lot of expenses simultaneously to achieve profitability, identify your first move (expenses to reduce) and then consider all the other impacts to this change.

A few things to think about:

  • Will these cuts impact your ability to come out of this quickly or successfully?
  • How will these changes impact the customer’s experience?
  • How will these changes impact the remaining staff? 

Anything that’s critical to business should be seriously considered before it’s cut. For example, we have a staff member whose computer needed to be restarted four times a day. He put in a request for a new computer, and we’re buying him a new computer despite the current economic situation, because he needs it to do his job effectively.

Unless you’re really in a high-risk financial situation, try not to cut things that your business needs to emerge intact from this downturn, such as marketing. Some expenses may eventually need to be cut, but cut them later on rather than first.

#3: Do Everything You Can to Keep Cash Coming in

To keep cash coming in during this crisis, you may have to get creative. I suggest making the best of whatever you have. Ask yourself what products you have in your possession right now, and what creative tactics you can use to market and sell them.

That may mean using paid search to promote less popular products. It may also mean thinking about substitute uses or marketing angles you can use to sell low-demand products.

For example, in many areas, it’s still cold outside, so suntan lotion isn’t a hot seller. But with school and business closures happening around the country and people looking for safe ways to get out of the house, more people than ever are spending time outside. You could develop a marketing campaign that points out the importance of protecting yourself from UV exposure even when it’s not hot and sunny.

If you want more help marketing and selling your products, we’ve shared detailed guidance in our recent posts about what other eCommerce businesses are doing to get through this challenging time and what marketing strategies you should consider for your eCommerce business during this crisis.

Be Ready to Emerge from This Downturn Strong

There’s something important I want you to remember here — this is a self-imposed recession. It isn’t based on financial factors like the housing crisis in 2008 or the startup bubble in 2001. Once COVID-19 is under control, the economy could bounce back quickly. And when that happens, you want to be ready.  This means only cutting where needed to get through the crisis, getting creative with selling your product to keep cash coming in, and supporting each other.    

Beyond the basic cost saving functions, businesses that work on SEO, get conversions in line, and get content up-to-date now will be ready to maintain (or increase) their market share when the economy rebounds. This could be key in rebounding faster than your competitors. Keep this bigger picture in mind, and reach out to us if we can help you in any way as you navigate the tricky financial waters ahead.

 

How 3 Successful E-commerce Stores Are Optimized For Conversions [In-Depth Breakdown]

Let me be honest – no one will buy your products at first sight. Actually, the average conversion rate (percentage of website visits that end up with transaction) is around 1-2%[1] across different industries and product types. That means that on 100 web visitors only one or eventually two will buy your product. That’s not…

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Let me be honest – no one will buy your products at first sight. Actually, the average conversion rate (percentage of website visits that end up with transaction) is around 1-2%[1] across different industries and product types.

That means that on 100 web visitors only one or eventually two will buy your product.

That’s not a lot.

The real question now is, how can you improve this?

By taking your conversion rate optimization (CRO) on the next level.

And is there some other way of improving your CRO than learning from the best?

Of course not.

So in this article, we’re gonna see in-depth how 3 successful e-commerce websites are optimized for conversions.

We’re gonna analyze different pages and different CRO strategies each one of them implemented.

But before we dive deep into their conversion rate optimization strategies, we’ll need to understand what exactly CRO is, why it’s important, and what’s its impact on the overall e-commerce sales funnel.

What Is CRO or Conversion Rate Optimization?

In a nutshell, CRO is the process of optimizing your e-commerce website for more sales.

When you want to optimize your website for more conversions, there’re plenty of strategies you can implement for different pages.

For example, you can optimize your product pages for more sales, your checkout, your blog, you can add a human element, use popups, use psychology and a lot of other tactics.

We will definitely mention some of them further in the article while analyzing how 3 successful e-commerce stores are optimized for more sales.

Why is CRO important for e-commerce?

Why you should do it? Let’s quickly go through different situations.

1. You’ll have more sales

This is the main idea and goal of implementing CRO strategies. Your sales will go up.

If you improve your conversion rates for, let’s say, 15% – your sales will also go up for 15%.

According to Venturebeat[2], implementation of CRO strategies has an ROI of 223%. 

How much will your overall CRO be improved – depends mostly on the type of strategy you choose.

For example, Unbounce reports that reducing the form size from 11 to 4 fields can improve your conversion rate for up to 120%. Small change – big results.

So without any doubt – we can conclude that popups can boost your sales – especially if you’re running on shopify[3].

2. CRO will save you money

To be honest – CRO is definitely one of the cheapest growth strategies you can use.

For instance, PPC ads can cost you around $10 – $40 per click. Math is simple:

If your conversion rate is 2% – that means that you’ll need to drive 100 visits from your PPC ads.

If the average PPC ad cost is $15 – it means that you’ll pay $1500 to drive 100 website visitors.

Now since your conversion rate is 2% – you will be able to make just 2 sales.

Will you fit into this budget?

Hardly.

So, at the end of the day, we can also conclude that CRO optimization will save you a lot of money – and be proud if you include that in your annual report[4].

Besides these two, most important reasons, CRO will also help you to:

  • Learn more about your customers – by implementing different CRO strategies, you’ll get accustomed to A/B Testing, Split Testing, user segmentation, surveys and usablity testing are the other things that will help you to understand your target audience more and learn what they think about your products
  • CRO will also boost your Google rankings – Without any doubt, user experience is a huge factor Google considers[5] when it comes to rankings websites. More user-friendly your website is – the more sales you’ll make. More user-friendly your website is – you can expect bigger rankings. It’s also important to mention that pages that rank first on Google usually have a click-through-rate of over 30%[6].

What Are Some Current E-commerce CRO Benchmarks?

We already said that the average conversion rate for e-commerce websites is around 2%.

To be honest, if your e-commerce conversion rate is around 2% – you should be more than satisfied. But, there’re always ways to improve it.

If you want to dive deep into the CRO waters, it’s important to mention that, although it’s not very expensive, it still requires some hard work and money. Actually, top converting companies spend over 5%[7] of their total budget to CRO.

But CRO still isn’t as expensive as other strategies.
According to Econsultancy, for every $92 spend on acquiring customers, only $1 is spent on CRO strategies.

If you leverage the power of digital marketing automation (and that’s definitely something we’re gonna mention since it’s an excellent CRO strategy), you can improve your conversion rates for up to 50%[8].

On another hand – according to Eyeview Digital – if you use product videos in your pages, you can improve your conversion rate for up to 86%.

But – whatever statistics speak – we can be sure that the CRO strategies implemented by those 3 brands below definitely have some effect.

Are you ready to dive deep into their conversion rate optimization?

Let’s get started!

8 Easy To Implement E-commerce CRO Tactics

Negative Underwear[9] is a women lingerie brand – since the launch day, they grew for more than 150% in revenue.

Pretty impressive.

Let’s see how they optimized their website for conversions.

Use Widgets to Build an Email List

Popups are a powerful way to optimize your website for conversions. Actually, popups can improve your e-commerce conversion rates for up to 9%[10].

When it comes to Negative, it uses popups in a very smart way.

If you spend around 15 – 20 seconds on their homepage, you’ll trigger the first popup:

screenshot of a popup on Negative Underwear website

As you can see, this popup asks you for the email in exchange for the chance to win gift cards of over $100.

This popup is clean, readable and simple.

There’re 4 crucial elements and popup best practices[11] of converting popups:

  • Context – Are reaching out to your website visitors with your offer at the right time?
  • Copy – Is your text compelling and interesting enough?
  • Offer – How great (for your potential customers) your offer is?
  • Design – Is your design eye-catchy? Does it engage with your website visitors?

In the Negative Underwears’ case – they crushed it in all things.

Context is amazing, the copy is compelling enough (“Yeah, I want to win something!), Offer is unrefutable, and design is simple and clean.

But, this is just the first popup. There’s second one I honestly like more.

When you browse through Negatives’ website, you’ll see a little “Get $20” page in the navigation menu:

screenshot of the sign up incentives on Negative Underwear website

Authors’ note: Using your navigation menu to showcase your offers is a great way to engage with your website visitors and improve your conversion rates. In this case, Negative Underwear used the navigation menu to let their visitors know about the free US shipping on all orders.

Once you click on this Get $20, you’ll see the following popup:

screenshot of an attractive lead generation popup on Negative Underwear website

As you can see – Negative Underwear offers you $20 off if you recommend their underwear to your friends. In that case – they also get $20 off.

It’s a great way to boost conversions and get referrals at the same time.

But what’s so special about this popup?

It isn’t triggered automatically.

It’s triggered only when you click on that Get $20 text. Which means that whoever sees this popup is almost immediately ready to buy your products. This popup will only prompt them to do that with a bigger desire.

Authors’ note: Shoppers have a tendency to add some item to their shopping cart but they don’t finalize the purchase. This is a great way to prevent cart abandonment from happening.

Write Product Descriptions that Convert

There’re a lot of landing page best practices[12] you can use to improve your CRO, now let’s see some of them that Negative is implementing.

Once you choose one of the Negative Underwears’ products, you’ll go to their product page.

It looks like this:

screenshot of product pages of Negative Underwear website

There’re a couple of elements I liked the most about this page:

  • Huge product images on the left (both of the product itself and how it looks when someone wears it) – this is a great way to showcase your products and their quality/implementation.
  • Social proof right below the product name – Social proof is a great way to improve the anticipation and make your shoppers more engaged with the product they want to buy.
  • Option to pay in 4 interest-free instalments – This is a great way to make your products “more affordable” and hence improve your overall conversion rates.
  • In-depth product descriptions – Without any doubt – everyone writes product descriptions. But why I like Negatives’ ones? They’re in-depth and have a special voice that correlates with their target audience.

Once you scroll down a little bit more, you’ll see something great that engages with Negatives’ shoppers even more:

funny product image descriptions on Negative Underwear website

Short and funny descriptions for every image.

Why are they great?

First of all – they can resolve any doubts your potential customer has.

On the other hand, if you know your target audience well enough, you can use image descriptions to build a better relationship with them – just as Negative Underwear is doing.

Now let’s see what happens after you add a product to the card.

Optimize the Checkout Flow

Once you click Add to Cart button, slideout from the right side with your cart will popup:

an example of cross-selling on Negative Underwear website

There’re two things I particularly like here:

  • Nice (and not expensive) upsell – if your shoppers are buying a gift for someone – then this is a perfect way to add a little bit more revenue to your bank account.
  • Subtle hotspot on the cart icon It’s not unusual that website visitors add something to the cart and then forget about it or go to do something else. In that case – their website session ends up without the transaction. This little hotspot reminds them about their item in the cart

We saw how Negative Underwear is optimized for conversions.

Now let’s see how Taylor Stitch is taking CRO on the next level.

Incentivize Suscribers through Rewards

Taylor Stitch is another apparel e-commerce website. Just 3 years after their launch, they’ve made an amazing $1.5 millions in sales[13] – and they’ve continued to grow after that.

Now let’s see how this $1.5 million online store is optimized for conversions.

One thing that blew my mind is how Taylor Stitch team optimized their website for conversions with the constant reminder of the current discounts, reward programs, and other things.

Once you visit their website, you’ll first see the huge modal asking you to subscribe and get rewards and early access to new products

screenshot of the subscriber modal on Taylor Stitch website

This is a great way to engage with your potential buyers early on – especially if they’re returning customers. On this way – you’re able to improve retention.

But, my knowledge won’t be valuable if I also sometimes showcase some bad things and bad practices.

Although this modal definitely helps them to acquire new customers early-on – I would make some tinny changes that could improve their conversion rates even more:

  • Text is invisible – white colour doesn’t match with the background – so I think that they should either change their background or the colour and font of the text.
  • The font is not quite appropriate – for this background, I would put some bold or weighter font.

But, after all, this is definitely a good practice you can implement on your e-commerce store – perhaps they could also try to implement some shopify chatbot[14]. I’m sure it will help them to showcase their rewards and discounts even more.

Now the question is: what happens after you close this?

Well – you’re redirected to the homepage.

And – on the homepage – we can see a nice slideout popping up from the bottom:

subscription reminder on homepage of Taylor Stitch website

It’s quite similar to the previous modal – but with a different offer.

Inside this slideout, you have the option to subscribe (if you haven’t in the previous opt-in) – and in exchange, you’ll get a 20% off your next order.

Why do I like this?

Well, I love this especially because this slideout serves as the second opt-in for those who haven’t subscribed on the first one.

It’s a great way to improve your conversion rates.

You also have a huge headline on the hero image with the discount. This is another reminder for those who skipped the first two steps.

Once you close this, in the header you’ll see the following link:

offer to incentivise signups on Taylor Stitch website

So, again, for the fourth time – Taylor Stitch is announcing us that they’re offering a discount for the next purchase.

Did you miss the first three? Then you will hardly miss the fourth one.

But, if you’re accidentally missing the fourth reminder, you definitely can’t mix the huge notification on the shop page that’s present through your entire user journey.

huge offer announcement bar on Taylor Stitch website

Wherever you go – discounts are following you.

And probably this is the biggest CRO factor that helped Taylor Stitch to made over $1.5 million in sales.

But, let’s move forward and see how Taylor Stitch optimized their product pages for conversions.

Optimize the Product Pages

Once you visit some product, you’ll see the following screen:

screenshot of the optimized product page on Taylor Stitch website

Here we can find two things that I particularly love.

Image of the human being with the product – why is this so special? Well – for the beginning, Taylor Stitch uses the human element to engage with their potential buyers. In the era of robots, AI and automation, the human element is something we rarely use to close more deals – and believe me when I say that it’s super important. On the other hand – this is also a great way to showcase your product in practice.

Pro Tip: Whenever you can – try to use the human element for engaging with your website visitors and building relationships. It’s’ super powerful. As an instance, when we asked the founder of Contenthorse about his TOP 1 CRO strategy – he said that once he changed the testimonials on his website – he saw 2x increase in the number of calls and leads. This is how his testimonials look right now:

an example of a humanized testimonial on Taylor Stitch website

Do you see the difference between casual and ordinary testimonials or customer review and this testimonial powered by the human element?

Now let’s get back to the subject.

The second thing that I like about this product page is how they showcased their pricing.

Showing two different prices – one bigger and the second one significantly smaller is a great psychology trick.

In a nutshell – it embraces your potential buyers to purchase your product now or never. Especially if they see a big difference between the prices.

If you scroll down a little bit more on the product page, you’ll see the following:

a screenshot of a detailed product description on Taylor Stitch website

The first thing that pops up in front of our eyes is the pretty in-depth, detailed and engaging description of the product.

And of course, there’s also one little slideout in the down-left corner that notifies us whenever someone buys something (or the particular item we’re looking at).

Although without any doubt, this strategy is now widely used by different e-commerce stores – it’s still a great way to improve your conversion rates – especially if you also put the limited mark beside your products.

On this way, whoever is looking at your products at that moment will have a sense of urgency.

Build Trust with the Audience

Bluebella is another woman lingerie brand. They’re claiming that their products are built from unusual materials.

Since I don’t wear women lingerie – I can’t speak in that name. But, on the other hand, I can show you how amazing their overall CRO strategy is.

The homepage is the best place to leave the great first impression and engage with your website visitors.

In Bluebella’s case, they’re doing that with sliders.

There were two images from the slider I particularly liked:

image slider on the homepage of Bluebella

In the first image, you’ll see a set of different people who bought Bluebella’s products.

Why do I like this slider?

Three things:

  • It uses the human element which creates relationships with website visitors
  • It’s showcasing different Bluebella’s products
  • These high-quality images help potential buyers to imagine themselves inside Bluebella’s lingerie.

And, what I especially like is the combination of the first slider and the second one:

combination of image sliders on Bluebella website

As you can see, this “slider strategy” is based on two things:

  • Embracing potential buyers to imagine themselves in the lingerie
  • And motivate them to buy products they like with an amazing 50% off.

Reduce Cart Abandonment

In a nutshell – exit-intent popups are the popups that are triggered whenever someone tries to leave your website.

Using them is a great way to prevent your visitors from leaving your website and make them shop more.

In Bluebella’s case, if you spend some time inside the shop, and you try to leave the website, you’ll see this exit-intent popup:

screenshot of the exit-intent popup on Bluebella website

Why do I like this exit-intent popup?

A couple of things:

  • It gives them an opportunity to nurture their leads through the funnel – If someone sees this popup, their context is the following: They either didn’t found anything interesting in the store, or they found something but they don’t have enough money right now. Whatever the situation is – they would like to see the new offers from Bluebella
  • It has an eye-catchy design – I’ve seen a lot of different pop-ups in my career – and to be honest with you – this one is one of the best. Nice background colour with high-quality pictures that leverage the power of the human element. Frictionless subscribe form and compelling copy. Everything you need for great conversion rates.

We can conclude that this exit-intent popup has only one goal:

To collect emails of people who are interested in their products, but not ready to buy them yet.

Why would they do this?

The answer is simple – to engage with them later on and convert them into customers.

Cross-Sell Like a Pro

This part is something I liked the most about Bluebella’s CRO strategy.

Firstly, let’s see the product page:

well detailed out product page of Bluebella website

As you can see – the product page has 4 exceptional parts:

  • High-quality images that (again) leverage the power of human element
  • Catchy CTA buttons
  • Special offer as another CRO strategy to prompt visitors into purchasing the product now not later.
  • Another special offer (free delivery) – to prompt them again, in any case.

Once you add some item to the bag, you will be redirected to the following part of the page before you’re able to go to the cart:

cross-selling on the product page of Bluebella website

What a great upsell!

Once you add some item to the bag, you’ll be redirected to the page with other products.

But – these products are not similar to other websites are doing. And also, these are not frequently bought together products.

These are the products that can be directly paired with the product you’ve just added to your cart.

Pretty great CRO and upsell strategy.

Never the less, I haven’t chosen any of these products.

Let’s see what happens after we go to the cart.

screenshot of the checkout Page Of Bluebella Website

As you can see, there are two different things right now worth mentioning:

  • Here we have another example of using “packaging” as the service for upselling.
  • Also – on top of the page you can see the link that leads you to other products that are relevant to the one you chose.

Let’s finish our shopping here and click on check out.

Here’s what happens next:

screenshot of the offer promotion on popup on Bluebella website

Now we can see another pop-up with great context, offer and design.

At the end of the day – we can conclude that the Bluebella team did a pretty great job when it comes to the CRO and upselling.

Key Takeaways

Huuh – going through these 3 successful e-commerce websites and analyzing their entire CRO strategy was a hell of the ride, right?

But, at the end of the day – it was worth it!

Here’s what we learned from those 3 websites when it comes to optimizing websites for conversions:

  • Using popups is the great way to showcase your rewards and offerings in the right context and time. But, pay attention to the design, offer, copywriting, and triggering point. In order for your popups to work, you’ll need to implement all 4 things correctly. You can use some of the Privy alternatives[15] to build your popups.
  • Upsells are playing an important role when it comes to e-commerce CRO. Try to upsell your products whenever you can.
  • The human element is the next big thing when it comes to optimizing your website for conversions. Try using the human element on your website as much as you can – it will definitely pay off.
  • If someone is still not ready to buy, don’t waste the opportunity. Try to get their email and nurture them through your sales funnel later on. Eventually – they’ll end up buying from you.
  • Pricing psychology plays a big factor in e-commerce CRO. Try to showcase the difference between the old and the new price. It will prompt your potential buyers and motivate them to purchase your product.
  • In-depth, catchy, detailed and engaging product descriptions are a must. If your product descriptions are poor, outdated and non-valuable – you might lose a lot of customers during the checkout process or at the product page. You don’t want that to happen.

So, the last question I have for you is:

What’s the first CRO strategy you’re gonna implement first?

The post How 3 Successful E-commerce Stores Are Optimized For Conversions [In-Depth Breakdown] appeared first on Blog.

Conversion Funnels: Design, Build & Optimize in 3 Steps

Having a clear understanding of your conversion funnels is like having directions (or setting up Google Maps) to where you want to go. A good conversion funnel will make it easier to optimize your marketing efforts because you can speak the same language within your team. Objective data will also remove the “anecdote-driven” analysis that…

The post Conversion Funnels: Design, Build & Optimize in 3 Steps appeared first on Blog.

Having a clear understanding of your conversion funnels is like having directions (or setting up Google Maps) to where you want to go. A good conversion funnel will make it easier to optimize your marketing efforts because you can speak the same language within your team. Objective data will also remove the “anecdote-driven” analysis that plagues many companies.

In this post, I’ll show how to build your own conversion funnel, visualize it and analyze it. Let’s jump right in and start mapping your unique funnel.

What Is A Conversion Funnel

A conversion funnel is simply the series of steps a user must take to convert. The conversion process can have multiple steps e.g. buy something, create an account or some other desired action. 

That first challenge that every product and website will face is that they have a unique funnel that represents how they approach their marketing and view customer satisfaction. The other challenge is that users will not always follow your “perfectly” designed funnel and could enter into your funnel in unexpected ways.

That being said, let’s do our best to map out your own funnel. You’ll find many different frameworks online but I personally like the Buyer’s Journey framework from Hubspot[1] which has 3 stages for the funnel: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.

Awareness is when the potential customer (prospect) is doing research on how to best solve their problem or opportunity, Consideration is when the prospect commits to solving their problem and Decision is when the prospect is weighing specific options and is ready to buy. The stages aren’t final and prospects may go back and forth between the stages of conversion as they learn more information.

Mapping Your Own Unique Conversion Flow

In your conversion funnel, you want to understand how different portions of your website or product fit into these 3 stages. Let’s take an ecommerce store, Indochino[2], as a case study. Indochino offers custom suits and clothes through their online and in-person stores. For this example, we’ll stick to the online portion for simplicity.

In the Awareness stage, users will be spending time on the Indochino website, going through their blog posts. Maybe they have an upcoming party which has a dress code of “Black Tie” and they don’t know exactly what that means.

screenshot of the Indochino website homepage

Or maybe they are trying to understand how much they should be spending on a suit. They think they need a new one but they aren’t sure of all the details behind what makes a good suit.

screenshot of the Indochino website information page

If the user continues their research, they will eventually move to the Consideration stage. They concluded that they do need a new suit for their “Black Tie” event and Indochino might be a good option for that. In this stage, they could be trying to understand the different kinds of suits available. Indochino’s option to “Feel the Fabric”, where you get fabric samples, could be interesting to people in this stage.

screenshot of the product listing page on Indichino website

Finally, if the user moves on to the Decision stage, they will be looking at specific suits and how the checkout process works. This is where we will see the classic ecommerce steps of adding products to cart, checking out and completing the purchase.

screenshot of the product layout on the Indichino website

For a company like Indochino, their conversion funnel could look like this:

  1. Encourage user to visit educational content
  2. Guide them to get fabric samples
  3. Help them narrow down the right suit category and options
  4. Go through the checkout process

This funnel has 4 major steps but there could also be minor steps in between such as signing up for a newsletter, adding an item to cart, entering credit card details and more. The goal here is to design a conversion funnel that gently guides users to your end goal (purchases, signups, etc) and is consistent across devices. 

Once you design your funnel, it is time to visualize it and analyze it.

Visualizing & Analyzing Your Conversion Funnel

The visualization of your funnel in your analytics data will help you see where users are dropping off and then let you choose a strategy to improve it (our next section).

The end goal of of this section is to get a report like this one:

screenshot of the a typical website funnel

We can see all the steps in our conversion funnel, the drop offs between them and we could segment this funnel by different dimensions e.g. country, city, browser, device, marketing campaign, etc.

You’ll need to work with your engineering team to track the right data but it will likely include some combination of analytics events and user attributes. Below you will find links to more information as to how popular tools could visualize this report for you and I’ll show you how to do it exactly inside Google Analytics and Amplitude.

Amplitude Funnel Analysis[3]
Google Analytics Funnels[4]
Mixpanel Funnel Analysis[5]
Heap Analytics Funnel[6]

SQL Funnel Analysis[7] (for companies with data warehouses)

How to Analyze Your Conversion Funnel in Amplitude

Amplitude lets you easily build funnels on the fly, tweak them and then get real time changes to your data. You’ll start by selecting your events for your funnel which you can filter any event or user properties.

analyze your website conversion funnel in Amplitude

This will display the basic funnel and show you the overall conversion rate and the dropoff in between steps.

screenshot of showing the overall conversion rate in Amplitude Funnel

Now we can slice this funnel through any of the available event properties or by using the customer segments available in your account.

screenshot of slicing the conversion funnel using the different customer segments

You’ll soon learn how these options translate into the 3 strategies listed in the next section.

How to Analyze Your Conversion Funnel in Google Analytics

Google Analytics can do many things but funnels is one of the major weaknesses especially on the free version. That being said, you do have two types of funnels available in GA. 

The first is the funnel attached to goals which you define manually when you create the goal completion. It does the basic job but the data can be wonky especially if users can enter your funnel at any stage. 

screenshot of the Google Analytics funnel visualization

The second option and my preferred one is to use the ecommerce checkout behavior. As the name implies, it is designed for ecommerce stores but you could hack it for any kind of sales funnel. 

checkout behavior analysis in Google Analytics

You’ll have the option to slice this funnel using your advanced segments which is quite handy. Both of these funnels have to be defined ahead of time and aren’t easy to change once you define them. This pales in comparison to the flexibility you will have building funnels with tools like Amplitude.

Once you have accurate data for your funnel, we can look at the 3 possible strategies to optimize your conversion funnel.

3 Strategies for Conversion Funnel Optimization

You designed your conversion funnel and you visualized it using your favorite analytics tool. You’re now ready to optimize your conversion funnel and increase the conversion rate. It may seem that there’s an infinite possibility of the things you could do here but they all can be organized into 3 major strategies.

1. Find Outlier Segments

The first strategy is to find customer segments that convert at a higher rate than the average. You may discover that users who come from your email marketing efforts convert better than those who come from social media ads. Having the right data will be critical here as it will let you breakdown your funnel into potential segments.

screenshot of Google Analytic Metrics for outlier segments

Once you discover a segment, you need to make sure that there’s a strong correlation (and even causation)[8] between your results and the conversion rate. Running further A/B tests and collecting data will help you confirm this. This is also where communication like cart abandonment emails can come in. 

This is a great strategy to begin with because it helps you tap into what is already working and simply double down on it.

2. Fix the Biggest Holes

The second strategy is to fix the biggest holes or drop offs. You may learn that 50% of users are dropping off after adding the item to their cart instead of continuing to the checkout. This could be due to technical issues or an overall lack of trust in your website or landing page.

screenshot of finding out the holes in an example funnel

I would focus in particular at high dropoff rates at the bottom of the funnel. A user who is in the checkout process has already committed to purchasing something so seeing high dropoff rates as they are about to enter their credit card would raise alarms.

One common issue that I have seen with some companies is that they hide anything that could turn off the user so they don’t show the pricing or the terms or the caveats in the hope that momentum carries the user forward. If users are surprised towards the end of the funnel then you’re withholding critical information that could be shown much earlier.

This strategy can have a significant impact on your conversion rate especially if you have never audited how the site feels & performs to “regular” users.

3. Remove Steps Altogether

The third and final strategy is to remove steps from your funnel altogether. In general, less steps should increase the overall conversion rate. This isn’t always true but if there any steps that could be condensed or removed, you should do that.

One of my favorite examples here is Amazon adding the “1-Click Checkout” option to some of their products. For some users (like myself), I know I want this product or service and I would prefer to avoid unnecessary steps especially since Amazon already knows my defaults for payment and shipping.

screenshot of Amazon one click checkout

The analysis of your conversion funnel doesn’t have to be complex.
There’s a limited number of strategies but the main issue is ensuring that you’re testing things properly. This means designing the correct A/B tests and reading the data properly.

The post Conversion Funnels: Design, Build & Optimize in 3 Steps appeared first on Blog.

Conversion Marketing: Breaking Down The Art and Science Behind It

You have a strategic and tactical marketing plan driving clicks to your website. All your steadfast focus on content, link building, programmatic advertising, influencer marketing & email campaigns are driving relevant traffic to you. However, your conversion rates appear to be stalling. Sounds eerily familiar? Good news – you’re not alone. A study commissioned by…

The post Conversion Marketing: Breaking Down The Art and Science Behind It appeared first on Blog.

You have a strategic and tactical marketing plan driving clicks to your website. All your steadfast focus on content, link building, programmatic advertising, influencer marketing & email campaigns are driving relevant traffic to you. However, your conversion rates appear to be stalling. Sounds eerily familiar?

Good news – you’re not alone. A study commissioned by CXL, the world’s authority on all things conversion optimization, revealed that more companies are increasing their focus on CRO than ever

a screenshot of the budget allocated to CRO in 2018 vs 2017
Investments in CRO are increasing more than ever
Image Source[1]

At VWO, the world’s leading conversion software, we feel that it’s our duty to educate readers about the reversal of fortunes that high-growth teams have demonstrated using conversion optimization as a part of their workflows. This article is an attempt to demystify how marketing teams should approach conversion optimization and its many building blocks to help you get started.

What is Conversion Marketing?

Conversion marketing encompasses the art and science of marketing with the aim of maximizing the percentage of visitors taking a desired action on your digital properties. A conversion marketing strategy includes tactics to make the most of the existing traffic on a website by optimizing its key elements to uplift conversions. 

As a marketer, you might be juggling multiple hats. In one of your workdays, you might be hustling to build more backlinks for your pages, in others you might be working with your design team for a shinier prototype for some of your web pages. And in between, you are assigned urgent copywriting tasks for your paid search campaigns. In between all this, should you even focus on conversion optimization? It’s a relevant question and begs an evidence-based answer.

Back in 2009 when Google couldn’t decide which shade of blue would generate the maximum clicks on their search results page; Marissa Mayer, then Vice President, Search Products & User Experience at Google, got her team to test 41 gradations between the two contenders to find out which one would receive the most clicks. Experts argued that testing something as trivial as the color could digress the UX teams from addressing more advanced, impactful changes. 

However, for the world’s most popular search engine where a slight drop in conversion rate could translate to millions of lost dollars, experimenting every little change that impacts conversions (clicks, in this case) seems justified, doesn’t it? 

The power of conversion marketing lies in its ability to leverage a traffic base of millions to drive a significant uplift in revenue with a marginal (say 0.5%) uplift in conversions brought about by a minuscule tweak. 

Before getting into the know-how of conversion marketing, let’s take a step back to understand what conversion rate is and how it can be dissected for various channels – 

Defining Conversion Rate

Conversion rate is simply defined as the percentage of visitors on your website who complete a desired goal. A conversion can be anything from clicking a CTA button, filling up a form, to making a purchase. 

To streamline their marketing campaigns, marketers need to figure out and compare the return on investment for each of the channels they use to drive conversions. Therefore, one common way of viewing conversion reports is by segmenting them by the following traffic sources –

  • Paid – Visitor landing on your website through paid promotions
  • Organic Search – Visitors landing on your website organically through search results
  • Direct – Visitor accessing your website directly by entering the URL into a browser 
  • Social – Visitors landing on your website through social channels
  • Referral – Visitors coming to your website from other domains 
  • Email – Visitors coming to your website through email marketing campaigns

There are many ways in which marketers can analyse conversion data by channels and sources. To talk about all of them warrants a dedicated blog post, but for curious readers who would want to take a peep into the mechanics behind it all, we would like to suggest this informative video that lays bare all you need to know about dissecting conversion data by sources in Google Analytics. 

an example of a typical conversion data report in Google Analytics
A typical conversion data report in Google Analytics

For example, according to Episerver’s B2C Dot Com report[1] that tracked 1.3 billion unique shopping sessions across 159 unique retail and consumer brand websites, organic and paid search had the highest conversion rates while social media and display ads performed the poorest: 

a graph showing the conversion rate by traffic source
Image Source[2]

Similarly, you can dissect conversion trends for your website by channel and re-align your marketing efforts accordingly to double down focus on sources that could use some improvement. 

Instruments Used by Marketing Teams to Boost Conversion Rates

Website Surveys 

A tool that can prove to be pivotal in helping unlock the Voice of Customer (VoC), website surveys allow you to glean real-time qualitative feedback directly from your visitors while they’re at your digital properties. By asking the right set of questions and triggering the survey at the right time, you can get insights on what’s working well on your website and learn about your visitors’ apprehensions, so you can streamline your optimization efforts accordingly and nudge them down your sales funnel. 

Heatmaps

Heatmaps offer a visual representation of your visitors’ interaction with your website – elements that draw their attention, those that distract them, and, therefore, help you unlock a goldmine of insights on their behavior. Different heatmaps are used to churn out a range of visitor behavior insights. Clickmaps, for example, arm you with real-time data on the most and least-clicked sections of your website so you can figure out the critical action areas and make tweaks to the design and content accordingly. Scrollmaps, on the other hand, tell you till what point in your website visitors are scrolling, so you don’t end up placing an important banner or a CTA in the last fold that doesn’t attract as much attention. 

illustration of clickmaps and heatmaps

Customer Calls

If you’re in the B2B/SaaS business, analyzing customer calls can be a great way to better understand a typical customer journey on your website. Using the insights gathered, you can refine your suspect personas, discover new friction points, understand the solutions your customers are looking for, and much more, that can constantly be fed into your marketing strategy to make it more robust and consumer-centric. 

illustration of a customer service executive

Customer Support Tickets

Scanning customer support tickets for relevant insights on visitor behavior and their hesitations can be useful in helping you discover some fresh customer pain points that may not have been obvious otherwise. You can get a sneak peek into the most-commonly faced issues on your website that are hampering visitors’ experience and possibly preventing them from converting. 

an illustration of customer review on support tickets

Session Recordings

Another qualitative research tool, session recordings, allows marketers to understand browsing behavior by watching recordings of visitors’ entire interaction with their website over a particular session. It empowers marketers to granularly assess visitors’ preferences, how they navigate on the website, and determine friction points in their journey, which they can fix to improve the quality of their customer experiences and amp up their critical metrics. 

an illustration of session recordings

A/B Testing

To constantly outdo your website customer experience, you need an iterative, data-driven solution that proves why one version of your webpage works better than the other. A/B testing allows marketers to form hypotheses based on analytics and insights gathered from user research, create multiple versions of their webpage and then test them on various visitor segments to compare which variant drives more conversions. Constantly experimenting with different elements of your website can help you streamline your optimization pipeline and drive better results. 

an illustration of A/B testing

Form Analytics

Form analytics helps marketers dissect user’s interaction with their forms and churn out insights on why their forms are performing the way they are. From the total time taken to fill the form and the idle time spent on a form field to fields that were refilled, ignored, or dropped; form analytics helps marketers measure the quality of their forms and identify plausible friction points, so they optimize the same for a smoother experience and better conversion rate. 

form analytics metrics of an illustrated checkout form

Low-Hanging Fruits to Improve Conversion Rate

While the list of strategies to improve conversions on your digital properties is nearly endless, this section offers some actionable tactics that are a good place to start. 

Test and Optimize Your Landing Pages

Since landing pages are built dedicatedly to receive and convert a particular segment of your audience, optimizing them could directly and significantly impact your conversion rate. Therefore, make sure you continually test every element in your landing pages to ensure it nudges the visitor towards the CTA. To begin with, you could get rid of all distracting elements, test the headline, copy, and color scheme of the page as well as the number of form fields, remove navigation, and keep the page single fold. 

Here’s an example of Slack’s landing page that comprehensively states how teams can use the product without driving attention away from the CTA: 

screenshot of the landing page for Slack
Image Source[3]

Improve Your Site Navigation

Driving a massive amount of traffic to your site would be futile if those visitors find it difficult to actually navigate through it. Therefore, ensuring getting around your site is frictionless becomes primary before you expect them to take the desired action. To do so, try to declutter your website as much as possible and keep the design minimalistic so as to draw visitors’ attention to the critical elements. Follow the convention when it comes to certain sections of your site, such as having contact information on the top right and help section in the footer, so visitors don’t struggle to get basic stuff done on your site and find it familiar. If you have an eCommerce store, make sure your search bar is easily-accessible and omnipresent, so looking up products can be done seamlessly. Moreover, make sure your site is mobile responsive; follow best practices to optimize your site for mobile experiences such as doing away with the navigation bar, reducing the number of form fields in the first step, and so on. 

Here’s a look at the menu bar of Kiehl’s mobile website that perfectly lists all its products and makes navigating to a particular type extremely simple: 

screenshot of Kiehls' website navigation

Improve Page Load Times

With so much noise on the internet begging for attention and ever-diminishing human attention spans, nothing kills user experience like a slow website. If your site has a higher than average load time (10.3 seconds for web and 27.3 seconds on mobile), your visitors are probably losing the patience to stick around to go through your offerings. So, in case you aren’t constantly monitoring your web and mobile sites for performance, you are giving away countless conversion opportunities. In fact, a decade ago, Amazon discovered that with every 100 ms increase in load time, their sales were seeing a drop of 1%. 

To decrease your load time, you could start by optimizing your images, consider using a Content Delivery Network (CDN), use external hosting platforms for large media files, and enable caching. 

Ensure Your Value Proposition is Clear and Compelling

Crafting an impactful and promising value proposition to feature on your homepage, product pages, or landing pages, can help you set yourselves apart from the competition and immediately grab your visitors’ attention. Make sure it highlights your USP, yet talks directly to your ideal target prospects. If you’re lucky, the perfect copy could be lurking in plain sight; however, for most marketers, it’s a matter of trial and error. So, don’t shy away from testing continually until you land on one that positively impacts your key metrics. Some best practices to follow would be to keep it concise and easy to understand, and completely avoid jargon as it could put people off. 

Khan Academy highlights its value proposition brilliantly while keeping it short and clear: 

screenshot of the website of Khan Academy
Image Source[4]

Use Videos to Engage Better

Enough has been said about the efficacy of videos in creating impact, engaging with visitors, and holding attention. With video being the preferred medium for information consumption among your audience, you’re probably losing out on a lot of traction by not having a robust video marketing strategy. Therefore, consider replacing written text or images with videos as and where possible and see if this impacts your key engagement and conversion metrics. For instance, instead of just having images on the product pages of your eCommerce store, consider adding videos of the product in use. Or try adding a preview video of the webinar you are going to host on its sign up page. 

ASOS uses 360° videos on its product pages to help people better assess products and convert quicker: 

screenshot of the home page of ASOS academy

Optimize Your Forms 

Popular to contrary belief, reducing the number of form fields does not necessarily guarantee a higher conversion rate. What you can do instead to have a fair shot at improved conversion metrics is do away with all unnecessary fields or combine them if possible to avoid putting off visitors, have a progress bar indicator for longer forms, and experiment with required and optional fields to find out which ones are absolutely necessary and can’t be done without. Moreover, you can use form analytics to uncover visitor friction points so you can rightfully assess the quality of your forms. 

Critical Conversion Metrics You Should be Tracking

  • Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is an indicator of the quality of experiences your website offers. A high rate could often indicate poor usability, slow load times, unengaging content, technical errors, and much more. Therefore, when optimizing for conversions, bounce rate is one of the primary metrics you should be tracking and looking to improve as you can only get your visitors to convert once they are sufficiently engaged and spend enough time on your site. 

  • Traffic Sources

It’s important to be aware of how each of your traffic acquisition channels are performing, so you always have a direction in which you need to reorganize your efforts to have a steady flow of visitors. For example, if visitors coming in via social and email only constitute 3% and 2% of your total traffic respectively, you will probably have to revisit your social media strategy, improve the content of your weekly newsletters and other email campaigns, and so on. 

  • Interactions Per Visit

Whether or not they convert, tracking how a visitor interacts with your site can glean some fruitful insights that you can leverage to optimize your experiences. The number of pages visited, amount of time spent on a particular page, whether or not comments were left on blogs, and similar interactions can help you understand visitors’ behavior on your site, get a glimpse of their hesitations, and figure out what is working well. All of these insights can be good fodder for crafting promising hypotheses. 

  • New Visitor Conversion Rate

It’s safe to assume that first-time visitors’ behavior on your site is drastically different from that of repeat visitors’. Therefore, even conversion rates for the two need to be analyzed separately. New visitor conversion rate will tell you about the first impression your site leaves, whether or not it gets new prospects interested, how effectively your content engages with them, how it performs in terms of usability and functionality, and so on. 

  • Repeat Visitor Conversion Rate

Given that 40% of an eCommerce store’s revenue comes from repeat purchases, one cannot undermine the criticality of effectively marketing to return visitors. Even when it comes to subscription-based businesses, return visitors are more likely to convert than first-time visitors. Therefore, analyzing this metric will help you assess how effectively your site is engaging with visitors familiar with your brand and engaged enough to return to your site. 

  • Form Abandonment Rate

Form abandonment rate will help you assess and optimize your forms to offer a frictionless filling experience. If your form abandonment rate is high, you can be sure that your form needs attention, which will save you from needlessly deploying resources to optimize other elements of your landing page or checkout process. 

Tools You Can Use to Get Started With Conversion Marketing

VWO

VWO is a connected, experience optimization platform that offers qualitative and quantitative research as well as full-scale experimentation capabilities. You can use VWO Insights’ Heatmaps, Session Recordings, and On-Page Surveys to uncover qualitative insights on your visitors’ behavior, understand user friction points, and gather customer feedback – which can be used to outdo your current experiences and double down on what’s working well. Using VWO A/B Testing, you can test any element on your website by creating versions of your webpages and deploy winning variations to strategically improve your site’s conversions. 

an illustration for VWO heatmap

Unbounce

Unbounce is a landing page optimization platform that helps you create, test, and optimize custom landing pages, pop-ups, and sticky bars for improved conversions with a drag-and-drop builder. 

screenshot of the home page for Unbounce
Image Source[5]

Google Analytics

A free tool to track all your website activity, Google Analytics helps you analyze your site traffic in-depth and arms you with data on your traffic sources, bounce rates, session duration, conversion rate, keywords’ performance, and so much more. You can slice and dice your reports to create segments that help you analyze a particular set of visitors for your critical metrics. You can uncover demographic and behavioral attributes of your visitors that can help you draw valuable insights on their interactions with your website. 

an example of a reporting template from Klipfolio
Image Source[6]

GTmetrix

A tool built for analyzing your website performance, GTmetrix, allows you to discover your site speed along with opportunities for optimization. Along with receiving a detailed breakdown of your site’s performance, you also get to track it over time and across devices, and receive timely notifications on your page load speed. Using these insights, you can make quick fixes to your site and watch its performance improve. 

a screenshot of the page load times report from GTmetrix
Image Source[7]

Conclusion

In today’s day and age where improving marketing ROI is a colossal challenge facing businesses across the globe, conversion marketing becomes an indispensable strategy. While you’ll find numerous tips in every digital marketing playbook, finding success in conversion marketing is an iterative process that depends largely on the amount of effort you put into understanding your audience, telling a compelling story, and offering delightful experiences. As you optimize your way to improve conversions, don’t forget to test as many ideas as possible – you might just end up surprising yourself. 

The post Conversion Marketing: Breaking Down The Art and Science Behind It appeared first on Blog.

Landing Page Testing: A Guide To Bring You To Speed

Landing pages are akin to elevator pitches.  A landing page, like an elevator pitch, gives a crisp introduction to your brand, the products or services you offer, and the problems that you solve. Also, they have a common goal–to convert the visitor into a customer.  Just as a good elevator pitch takes multiple rounds of…

The post Landing Page Testing: A Guide To Bring You To Speed appeared first on Blog.

Landing pages are akin to elevator pitches. 

A landing page, like an elevator pitch, gives a crisp introduction to your brand, the products or services you offer, and the problems that you solve. Also, they have a common goal–to convert the visitor into a customer. 

Just as a good elevator pitch takes multiple rounds of refinement, a landing page also benefits from continuous testing and optimization.

How to Test a Landing Page?

To begin with, it’s imperative to talk about the process of experimentation. Testing anything is typically better than testing nothing, but a structured program will bring predictability and long term gains to conversion rates, rather than ad-hoc wins here and there. 

A comprehensive landing page testing methodology would look something like the one below irrespective of what testing methodology, i.e., A/B, Multivariate, or Split, is used:

  • A set of data-driven hypotheses with clear prioritization.
  • Well-defined and important measurable conversion goals.
  • Proper testing tools with a variety of testing options.
  • Calculate the time and traffic required to run the tests.
  • Create variations of different test elements and document them.
  • Quality check and deploy tests.
  • Analyze test results and findings.
  • Deploy winning variations and discard the losing ones.
  • Document learnings from the tests 

Mature experimentation teams thoroughly analyze their test results across multiple segments to uncover instances where the losing variation outperforms the winner to extract more juice out of their testing and increase conversions.

Let’s get into some depth and analyze how landing page testing can help you achieve your focussed conversion goals.

Why is it Important to Test Your Landing Page?

We have created this infographic to easily explain why it is so important for your business to test your landing pages:

infographic on the importance of landing page testing

Types of Landing Page Testing

A/B Testing 

A/B Testing (also known as Split Testing) for landing pages is the most straightforward and most robust approach to compare two versions of a landing page. The changes between the two variants could be small (incremental) or big (radical) depending on the goals of the test. A/B tests help to zero in on elements and changes that impact a user’s behavior and continuously iterate towards the most effective version of the landing page.

As an example, a common use case for A/B Testing on Landing Pages is to swap web forms with chatbots. Most web forms are just repackaged versions of old paper forms. New age businesses are continually experimenting with chatbots to replace web forms to determine which among the two help increase conversion rates.

Img3 Conversational Page Example

Image source[1]

Multivariate Testing

Multivariate Testing (MVT) builds on the core mechanism of A/B testing to test for a higher number of variables on a web page as compared to A/B testing. As testing for multiple variations requires more traffic to reach statistical significance, multivariate tests are recommended for websites with high traffic.

Multivariate tests are a powerful weapon for landing pages that are seen by the maximum visitors on your website, such as those coming from search engines. Testing multiple elements such as hero image, headline, and website copy simultaneously becomes a child’s play with multivariate testing, as you don’t have to create separate versions of the same webpage for all possible combinations. Also, you can expedite the testing and optimization process.

Hyundai used MVT to achieve a 208% increase in the CTR from the landing page for one of their cars. Since Hyundai’s car landing pages had a lot of different elements (car headline, car visuals, description, testimonials, and others), an MVT helped understand which elements influenced a visitor’s decision to request a test drive or download a brochure.

Landing Page Testing in CMS

WordPress

Use this WordPress plugin[1] from VWO to test single elements on your landing pages or run split tests on the landing pages themselves. You can customize templates, track conversion rates, view session recordings, and heatmaps or even run multivariate tests in case you want to test several elements at once.

Hubspot

Hubspot has an integrated Content Management System (CMS) and Marketing Hub that manages all of your content in one place and allows you to run A/B tests on your landing pages.

illustration on what is landing page testing

Analyze Your Landing Page

For marketers, poor conversions on a well-thought and designed landing page are nothing but nightmarish. As a result of your involuntary reflexes, you pull your socks up and start swapping the images, improvising the page design, changing the color of the CTA button, and finally running an A/B test to see the results! But to your dismay, it does not impact your bottom line either. 

Well, it is time to ditch your guesswork out of your conversion rate optimization program and get in the shoes of your prospects and customers to gather the essential insights. You will find all your answers there.

Survey

A web survey allows you to understand your target audience and their motivations and desires easily. Understanding your audience’s motivations and desires can be great fodder for a thorough testing and optimization process. The first rule of surveys is to understand that you’re asking for a favor. To maximize the number of responses from surveys but you can use these tricks:

  • Reward or incentivize your audience: This might be something as simple as a free ebook or a gift voucher.
  • Respect your prospect’s time: Ask relevant questions to your customers that you know you’re going to use. For example, you don’t have to ask them their age, gender, or location, if you do not need that information. Keep the flow streamlined.
  • Ask open-ended questions: Allow yourself to be surprised by asking open-ended questions like, “What is that one big challenge you are facing in your marketing campaigns?” You may uncover pain points you didn’t know your target audience has.
a GIF of running VWO survey on one of VWO's blog posts

Heatmaps

When it comes to user behavior analysis in the world of online businesses, website heatmaps are a popular tool to visualize and understand visitor behavior data. You can utilize heat maps to identify the best-performing sections of your landing pages as per their visitor interaction, and the sections that are performing below-par and require to be changed.

Consider asking yourself the questions below to get the maximum insights out of your heatmap data and get to work:

  • Are the visitors looking at the important elements on the landing page, such as headline, unique value proposition, benefits, and CTA?
  • Are the visitors distracted by page elements that don’t push them towards the conversion funnel? 
  • Is your visitors’ attention straying as they’re not being provided with the information at the right place to complete the conversion?
an illustration of website heatmap

Session Recordings

Session recordings help you see how visitors on your website navigate through your landing page. These recordings capture clicks, taps, mouse movement, and scrolling across multiple pages on desktop and mobile devices. 

Analyzing session recordings helps you to empathize with your customers. It places you in the customer’s shoes as (s)he traverses your landing page and enables you to identify and mend gaps in your customer journey, to achieve a higher percentage of successful sessions.

a GIF of visitor recording on one of VWO's blog posts

Form Analytics

Forms are one of the most important if not the most important element of a landing page. Longer forms typically have higher bounce rates than shorter forms, but shortening forms isn’t enough. You need to realize what in your form is putting off your users. Why are the users struggling to complete the form and hence impacting the conversion on your landing page? Are you not empathizing enough? 

You can gather these insights using Form Analytics, which enables you to measure the visitors’ behavior on a web form such as interaction time, hesitation time, abandonment rate, etc.

an illustration of form analytics

Landing Page Testing Software

Before zeroing on the software for testing your landing pages, ensure that you can easily set up your tests without a need for a developer to do the job. You must pick the one that has a visual editor to make changes quickly, if and when required. Also, it should be well-equipped with a variety of quality templates that can be amended and be suitable for the scale of business and sector, for example, field-level data collection options, layout, and style. Having an integrated CMS and CRM in the software, along with account management that can be used by multiple users, will take you a long way in your testing experience journey. 

VWO

VWO is an all-in-one experience optimization platform that enables users to improve key business metrics by empowering them to easily discover visitor behavior, insights, test ideas, and engagement across their entire journey. The platform offers you an unlimited number of tests in addition to tools that can be utilized analyzing visitor data, understanding user behavior, and thus creating a repeatable and data-driven process for implementing ideas for improving your website conversion. 

Google Optimize

Google Optimize[2] is a free tool created by Google for conversion rate testing. This tool comes with an integrated Analytics and Tag Manager. It strongly relies on the goals and audience that you set in Google Analytics to give you precise results. As compared with VWO, it does not offer tools such as session recordings, heatmaps, survey, form analysis, and comes with a definite number of tests that you can run in a free trial.

Landing Page Testing Across Channels

It is important to keep in mind that testing landing pages across channels has a different set of heuristics and mental models behind conversion rate optimization. Writing about these differences warrants a dedicated article, but I’d like to help you with brief pointers:

Landing page testing for Google Adwords:

  • By its design, Google Adwords is keyword-centric, and keywords are further classified by intent – informational, navigational, or transactional[3]. Testing landing pages for an Adwords campaign entails optimizing for intent more than other variables. Teams should look to identify and categorize all information that supplements the intent and work towards offering it with credible UI and UX for better conversions.

The theoretical principles behind testing for Adwords still remain the same – A/B tests still run the same way, and split tests have the same functionality. Nothing changes other than the philosophy of optimizing for keyword intent. 

Landing page testing for Facebook:

Facebook, unlike Google, is geared for engagement dopamine. Users still use its search functionality but it’s not the go-to function for the social network. Successful Facebook advertisers need to execute two things well:

  • Ensure that the ad creative grabs eyeballs in a feed replete with cat videos, memes, and threads smacking of political jibes.
  • Ensure that the page they land on is a better experience than going back to Facebook (I know it is more complicated than that, but abstraction is key.)

Optimizing for landing pages meant for Facebook advertising is more complex than Google (because of dealing with cold traffic without intent). Still, there are a few proven ways to go about it:

Visually bold pages:

  • Grabbing attention off Facebook can happen because of many reasons, but if there is an underlying theme to driving clicks your way, it is this — Facebook is a visual medium and you ought to have visual flair to your creatives. And since marketers should maintain ad scent[4], landing pages need to be visual too. Go for bright colors that stand in contrast to Facebook’s white and blue.
a screenshot of the facebook post shared by IKEA

This ad by IKEA not only strikes minimalism but stands out because of the bright contrasting red and white color used with a straightforward, actionable ad copy.

Video-centric:

  • With 4 billion daily views, video consumption over Facebook[5] is taking off. Ensure that both your creative and landing pages feature videos so that you can maintain ad scent and grab attention.

What Elements on Landing Page Should You Test? 

For a successful landing page testing experience, you must test the following:

  • Headline of the Page: Headline that speaks to the target audience;
  • Sales Copy: Quick explanation of your offers/combos above the fold (i.e., visible without the average user having to scroll down)
  • Pricing Strategies: Must be clearly mentioned.
  • Call to Action Buttons: Focus on getting visitors to take one specific action: buy or sign-up button depending on your conversion goal.
  • Landing Page Image: Image of the product being offered.
  • Landing Page Video: Create a video in cohesion with your landing page’s goal to support it. Video marketing works.
  • Unique Selling Proposition (USP): Highlight your USP, your value proposition. It should stand out on the landing page. 
  • Text font and Style: Readability of the text is vital for conversions from the landing pages. Anything less than 12px is hard to read.
  • Page Layout and Design: Remove any navigational links and maintain your brand by keeping the same color scheme as your main website.
  • Form: Make the form or checkout option prominent. A large number of fields increase friction, resulting in fewer people to fill out the form. 
  • Mobile Optimization: Keep your landing pages mobile-friendly.
  • Landing Page Load Time: Faster sites convert better.
  • Privacy Policy: You can load it in a pop-up window to keep people on the page.

Commonly Tested Landing Page KPIs and Metrics 

There are a ton of metrics that landing pages should be optimized for. Writing for these metrics in details warrants a unique article, but I’d like to mention a few metrics that can serve as a starting point for you:

Average time on page:

  • Though average time spent on a landing page is not a leading indicator to optimize for conversions, there is a significant bearing of time spent on conversions. For example, if you observe that average time spent on your page is less than 5 seconds, the immediate conclusion is that the page needs an overhaul around many factors – maybe its UI does not inspire trust or the messaging is awry. There are many ways to identify the missing pieces but the overarching theme is this – time-on-page is a proxy of willingness to convert and should be a key metric to look at.

Bounce rate:

  • With the proliferation of sophisticated metrics and dimensions to analyze, most old school metrics have faded away. Bounce rate, however, is still one of the oldest metrics that is still tracked fervently and has managed to stay relevant. A high bounce rate is an immediate worrying factor. Like low time on page, high bounce rates might have varying reasons (bad UI, missing information, uninspiring copy, no ad scent), and optimizers should keenly identify them. The following graphic from Instapage has some benchmark bounce rates for you to compare against:
infographic on the benchmark average for bounce rate for different websites

Form abandonment rate:

  • Almost all landing pages have a conversion zone for it. In most cases, it is a form that visitors are expected to fill. For eCommerce sites, it is an order placement form, while for B2B websites, it serves as a lead generation form. Content websites might startle you with a form to capture emails for notifying you when they publish new content. Whatever be the intent of the landing page, forms are a common binding thread. Optimizers should look to constantly evaluate their form friction areas and fix for more conversions. 
an example of form abandonment rate for a contact us form

A typical form funnel analytics dashboard

Mistakes to Avoid While Testing Your Landing Page:

A poorly written or poorly designed landing page can cost you conversions. To ensure you create a landing page that converts, avoid the following: 

  • Sending traffic from an ad to your homepage. 
  • Keeping the navigation menu
  • Keeping links to other parts of your sites. such as “About Us”
  • Keeping irrelevant pictures or images that don’t relate to the offer
  • Hard-to-read text
  • Keeping forms with unnecessary fields, such as “title” or “fax”
  • Keeping the “Clear fields” button
  • Keeping “Subscription” and “Read more” links.
  • Scrolling is better than clicking to another page; therefore, in case of space crunch, let the user scroll down and process your content. 

Conclusion

Remember that optimization is an iterative process. Frequently testing your landing page elements will surely give you a competitive edge over others in the industry. Not only will you have a lot of data to back up your decisions post the testing process, but you will be surprised to see the revelations these results would present to you. Test to find out.

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eCommerce Marketing Outlook: How eCommerce Companies Are Navigating the COVID-19 Demand Shock

We surveyed 18 eCommerce clients on their marketing plans during the current COVID-19 crisis. Here are the results.

For businesses around the country, the last month has felt like a lifetime.

But in the wake of an economic downturn, we’re noticing that in eCommerce, the response hasn’t been one of panic. In fact, what we’re seeing from many of our clients is a calm and measured approach.

This article, we’ll detail our observations in eCommerce during the pandemic so far. It will feature specific examples of how some of our clients have chosen to respond. We’ll also highlight four emerging trends during this period among our own eCommerce clients:

  1. Staying the Course
  2. Decreasing Ad Spend
  3. Increasing Ad Spend
  4. Fluctuations in Organic Traffic

Circumstances are bound to change in the coming days, weeks, and months. With that in mind, we’ll continue to update this post with how our clients adjust. Below is what we’ve gathered over the first few weeks since the economy took a turn for the worst.

Trend #1: Staying the Course in Light of the Crisis

Since COVID-19 caused major concerns in the U.S., this trend has been the most common response we’ve seen. Of 18 clients surveyed, 10 have chosen to wait and see how the pandemic unfolds. Most want to hold on making any drastic decisions.

After all, we only have a few weeks of data to work with at the moment. It’s not a bad idea to wait things out and gather more information before making any major moves.

Now for some of you reading, you may not be in a position to do that. Maybe you’re in an industry hit hard by the downturn. Or perhaps, you have a heavy reliance on cash flow to keep your business running.

But for most of our clients, the shock of the downturn hasn’t weakened the health of their business. And because of that, they don’t need to give up any ground on what they’ve already built (with SEO and paid advertising) in spite of the crisis.

What Staying The Course Looks Like for Some eCommerce Companies

Some companies we work with haven’t seen their business slip too much during the downturn. Meanwhile, there are others that have seen steep drops in results.

In either scenario, both kinds of companies aren’t hitting the panic button, yet.

Sporting Goods

We have a client in the sporting goods industry that specializes in fishing. In the immediate aftermath of the U.S.’s coronavirus wake-up call, they saw an initial drop in organic traffic. But in the week that followed, visits to their site followed an upward trajectory.

covid 19 coronavirus ecommerce observations 1

Users from Mar 1 – Mar 22 in 2020 vs. the same period in 2019, showing more traffic in 2020. We’ve intentionally hidden the traffic numbers for client privacy.

 

Now when you think about it, this isn’t all too surprising. Fishing is an outdoor activity you can do alone.

We recommended that they highlight this in their messaging. But other than that, they’re not planning to alter much of their strategy. The only changes they’ve made is to postpone the launch of their blog, which they had planned for this time.

Baby Products

Another company we work with sells high-end baby products. Unlike the business above, they’ve had significant decreases in sales from PPC. They’ve generated less organic traffic, too.

A baby sitting on the floor with toys and books

The drop in search traffic is likely due to their consumers’ behavior. Luxury baby products are likely the least of their concerns right now. Despite the decreases, the company is still on track to hit its first quarter goals. Although things are changing rapidly, the current plan is to focus more on marketing essential baby products to meet current consumer buying habits. 

Trend #2: Decreasing Ad Spend

While most stand pat, we’ve seen some eCommerce companies make cuts to their PPC spend. In fact, 3 out of the 18 companies we surveyed have chosen to do this. Some have to do this because their industries are obviously hard hit by COVID-19 (e.g. travel). For others, it may be more subtle issues. Below are some examples.

Travel

Here is an example of industry proving to be a major factor. This particular eCommerce company we work with is in the travel business.

Tourism has been one of the industries hit the hardest by the spread of the virus. As a result, our client decided to cut spending because demand for trips have declined. This is a totally reasonable decision.

Home Improvement

Decreasing ad spend has helped some of our partners find their footing. That’s been the case for one eCommerce company we work with that specializes in home improvement.

Before the downturn, we had been helping them recover from a slight decline in SEO. This was due to Google’s latest algorithm updates. Then, the pandemic took center stage, which caused a decrease in search volume in their space.

As a result of lower demand, they also chose to trim their PPC budget. But so far into the crisis, we’ve seen an exponential increase in ROAS (12x now compared to 7x in the previous period) for their campaigns. This is due to lower CPCs (costs per click), and cutting PPC budgets in less efficient areas. This combination cut costs by around 70%, but the revenue drop was only 45% lower. Therefore, we were able to maintain far more revenue than the amount of ad spend that we cut. This led the account, as a whole, to see a sizable increase in ROAS.

Trend #3: Increasing Ad Spend

We’ve also seen a select number of eCommerce companies who’ve enjoyed an uptick in business. In particular, one of the companies we work with has already decided to increase their spend. Meanwhile, another is on the verge of recalibrating their promotional efforts.

What Increasing Ad Spend Looks Like for Some eCommerce Companies

Similar to businesses who’ve been forced to lower their budget because their industry is hard hit by the current crisis, some eCommerce companies stand to get a sales increase from this situation.

For example, some companies sell products that their customers can’t get anywhere else right now. As a result, stay-at-home orders have actually boosted their sales.

Rather than standing pat, these companies have decided to act. To take advantage of the opportunity, they’ve chosen to scale up their PPC budgets.

Pet Supplies

Take, for example, one business we work with that sells pet supplies. Instead of pulling back, they’ve chosen to become more aggressive. They hope to capture as much new business as possible.

A photo of a dog with 3 toys

The data we’ve seen since the outbreak supports their decision. Key metrics like transactions, revenue, and ROAS have all been on the rise.

covid 19 coronavirus ecommerce observations 2

Revenue Enjoying an Upward Trajectory Despite the Downturn

 

Our assumption is that eCommerce has become a focus for pet owners in light of the pandemic. Many physical retailers have had to close due to stay-at-home orders around the country. That’s likely forced many pet owners to buy online.

Magazines

Another company we work with sells magazine subscriptions. Despite the downturn, they expect their sales to remain steady.

Why? Because they sell a product that people staying at home have time to use.

They haven’t decided to increase their spend yet, but they’re mulling the possibility. If they do, they may make their digital magazine selection the focus of their new promotions.

Trend #4: Decreases in Organic Traffic

Many of our clients have seen their traffic from Google take a hit during the crisis. Of the 18 companies we surveyed, 4 saw their traffic drop in the days that followed the initial downturn.

This could be because some of the products they sell are non-essential. It’s also possible that many consumers are directing their searches to the topics related to the pandemic instead.

How Some eCommerce Companies Have Chosen to Respond

Decreases in SEO traffic have ranged from significant to slight. For some companies, a decrease in search volume across their niche is the cause. For others, we’ve seen a slight week over week or short term traffic decline, but they are overall still performing better than the previous year.

Homeware and Household

We have one eCommerce company that’s in the home improvement business. They experienced a sharp decrease in traffic in the days after Wednesday, March 11th. If you recall, this was the day when these four news stories broke:

  1. The World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
  2. President Donald Trump restricted travel to and from Europe.
  3. The NBA postponed its season after one of its best players tested positive for the virus.
  4. Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, announced on Twitter that they had COVID-19.

The drop in traffic concerned them at first. But they felt relieved to hear that they weren’t alone in their experience, too.

Mobile Accessories

These decreases haven’t scared most of our clients away from pushing onward. One company we work with sells mobile accessories. Instead of scaling back, they’ve approved us to ramp up their SEO efforts.

In April, our plan for this client is to start investing more in the following facets of SEO:

  • Link building
  • Creating more content
  • Re-optimizing any existing pages on their site.

Looking at eCommerce Marketing Long-Term

For the large majority of clients we’ve talked to thus far, the common theme is patience. They see this pandemic as a short-term disruption to business. It hasn’t spooked them into making major changes yet because events continue to unfold.

This is a testament to the kinds of businesses our eCommerce clients have built. Many of them did the hard work of fortifying their companies before disaster struck.

Some are even hopeful about the long-term prospects of their business. Remember the company that sells suburban Home Architectural and Design products? It isn’t farfetched to assume COVID-19’s impact on cities may motivate more people to move out of cities, resulting in new constructions (in suburban areas), thereby increasing demand for our client’s products.

The immediate future is murky. But in spite of the pandemic, the long-term outlook for most of our clients remains optimistic. Before making any drastic changes, they’d like more information. The only way to achieve that is by weathering the current storm with calm.

Further Reading

If you’re debating what to do on the marketing front for your eCommerce store, here are a few additional articles that could help.

How Seattle Southside RTA Increased Visitor Guide Conversions

One of the most common challenges for a destination is accurately capturing a visitor’s intent to visit and ensuring that a personalized experience leads to both clicks and goal conversions. Visitor Guides, often referred to as Travel Planners, are an essential way to track intent to visit.   Like many other destinations, Seattle Southside Regional Tourism… Read More

The post How Seattle Southside RTA Increased Visitor Guide Conversions appeared first on Bound.

One of the most common challenges for a destination is accurately capturing a visitor’s intent to visit and ensuring that a personalized experience leads to both clicks and goal conversions. Visitor Guides, often referred to as Travel Planners, are an essential way to track intent to visit.  

Like many other destinations, Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority’s Travel Planner requests remain a critical goal in tracking website engagement.  In Fall 2019, the Seattle Southside RTA team saw a decrease in their Travel Planner request conversions, both year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter. Furthermore, the team found that the gap between their Targeted and Default audience increased, highlighting that this goal had become a more challenging conversion point for audiences.

With the intent of increasing Travel Planner conversions, the Seattle Southside RTA team decided to refresh their content with a seasonal focus on their imagery.  They first created two versions of Travel Planner content, both with gorgeous Fall scenery highlighting the region’s colorful season.  

Launching the content as an A/B test, the Seattle Southside RTA team was amazed at the increased engagement.  Within the first few weeks, this new content saw an 8% increase in Click Through Rates (CTRs) over their regular Travel Planner content.  Better yet, the team saw a 15% increase in Travel Planner conversions within the first month of the new content running.

Encouraged by this initial response, the team continued to run the seasonal content until the last few weeks of the year.  Quarter over quarter, the team saw a 26% increase in conversions, with a year-over-year increase of 43%!  Using the new Goal Dashboard, the Seattle Southside RTA team was able to further breakdown the conversion rate for each of the new content pieces allowing them to see that the new content pieces not only had higher CTRs, but also much higher conversion rates vs their original content. The team found a 79% increase in conversions for their Desktop content, as well as a 63% increase for their Mobile content.

Inspired by the results of their A/B test, Seattle Southside RTA plans on launching more tests for goal related content with seasonal imagery.  Knowing that the new Goal Dashboard allows for a deeper level of insight into their testing, the Seattle Southside RTA team is better equipped to deepen their visitor’s personalization journey to increase goal conversions and engagement.

Congratulations to Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority for a job well done!

 

Interested in increasing your conversions?  Personalization can help you get there.  We’d love to chat with you more about making it happen!

 

The post How Seattle Southside RTA Increased Visitor Guide Conversions appeared first on Bound.