Sign-Up Forms: 14 Ways to Increase Conversions

Growing your mailing list and generating leads should be a focus of your marketing. If HubSpot didn’t have 215,000 blog subscribers, they wouldn’t have a business. Too many businesses don’t give sign-up forms enough attention. They just throw something together—then complain that online lead generation “doesn’t work.” This post shows you 14 keys to building […]

The post Sign-Up Forms: 14 Ways to Increase Conversions appeared first on CXL.

Growing your mailing list and generating leads should be a focus of your marketing. If HubSpot didn’t have 215,000 blog subscribers, they wouldn’t have a business.

Too many businesses don’t give sign-up forms enough attention. They just throw something together—then complain that online lead generation “doesn’t work.”

This post shows you 14 keys to building sign-up forms that convert.

  1. Less is more.
  2. Sell the email signup.
  3. Show social proof.
  4. Tell them what happens next.
  5. Form design matters.
  6. Single column, please.
  7. Try a Mad Libs–style form.
  8. Communicate errors early.
  9. Don’t be picky.
  10. Don’t ask for the password twice.
  11. Know when (and how) to use drop-down lists, radio buttons, and auto-complete fields.
  12. Submit button width = field width.
  13. Avoid “Clear fields” buttons.
  14. Don’t use CAPTCHAs.

1. Less is more.

Every field you ask them to fill increases friction. The best thing you can do to improve conversions is (usually) to get rid of as many fields as possible. In most cases, you don’t need to ask for anything but the email address.

In one study, an 11-field version of a contact form was replaced with a 4-field version, resulting in a 160% increase in the number of forms submitted and a 120% increase in conversion rate. The quality of submissions stayed the same.

In another test, a five-field form outperformed a nine-field form by 34%. Again, data quality wasn’t an issue. (People lie on long forms, anyway.)

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind after seeing this type of form?

form with lots of form fields.

If you’re like me, you physically feel the brain damage happening. Suffix? Really?!

The example above is a lead-generation form for a web-design company. What they should ask for is name, email/phone, and maybe the website URL. Now, a salesperson can get in touch with the prospect and figure out all the other questions over the phone or via follow-up emails. The goal is to get the lead!

Start by getting rid of optional fields.

An eye-tracking study showed that people might not look at the “required fields” note on forms, and, therefore, think that they have to fill every field.

Think about it this way: Every additional fields loses a number of prospects. Is the additional information you gain from the field worth losing those people? Do you lose anything if you don’t get all the data right away?

The number of fields you can get away with also depends on the perceived reputation of the company. Well-known, trusted brands can include more fields in their sign-up forms, but even they can’t go overboard.

I’ve heard that The New York Times subscription form was 18 pages long(!) when they launched their online presence. Times have changed (pun not intended).

Do you really need it?

Do you really need people’s phone, fax, or address? If you aren’t gonna ship them anything, people won’t be motivated to share it. Ask only for what’s relevant. Expedia removed the “Company” field from their booking form and saw an $12 million annual increase in profit.

What will you do with their name? If it’s to mention their name in mass e-mails (“Hello [name]”!), forget about it. True personalization happens through personalized content. Everybody knows that the name field is filled in by an email software robot; nobody thinks it’s a personal email to them.

It used to work really well a few years ago, but now the effectiveness is in fast decline.

The best sign-up form is short.

Here’s an example from Barack Obama’s former campaign website:

example of short sign-up form.

Here’s another one:

second example of a short sign-up form.

2. Sell the email signup.

Getting people to give you their email (sign up to your list) is a transaction. You want them to give you their email address (and maybe other data); they want something in return. Generally speaking, you should ask for as little as possible on the sign-up form—and give the user as much as possible in return.

Motivated users are extremely likely to fill out a form of reasonable length. But are people motivated enough to care?

Here’s an example of the worst kind of form:

  • No reason given to join;
  • Ridiculous amount of fields.
example of a long form that offers no user motivation.

Also bad:

example of form that doesn't offer any reason to sign up.

While it’s short, it doesn’t provide any reasons for signing up.

Creating the motivation is up to you. Learn to create great microcopy. But don’t just ask for the sign-up. Sell it.

Here’s a better form. It’s short, there’s a clear value proposition, and the privacy policy is mentioned:

Or, take this example:

example of a form that offers lots of motivation.

This one converts at 35%, which is pretty high. It works well because most traffic to the page comes via Google search, and the search terms match the offer on the form. When your offer matches user motivation, you get high conversions.

Test your lead magnet.

Test your lead magnet—what you offer in return for their email. The offer itself usually makes the biggest difference in your conversion rate. Everything else is just supporting it.

3. Show social proof.

Nobody wants to be the only idiot filling your stupid sign-up form. Show them tons of people have done it.

Basecamp:

trial form that shows many others already use the product.

HubSpot:

example of sign-up form that offers social proof.

Social proof is very effective.

4. Tell them what happens next.

People like to be in control. Submitting a form without knowing exactly what’s going to happen creates uncertainty. Uncertainty causes friction.

The worst thing your submit button can say is “Submit.” The best way to do it is to make the submit button say what’s going to happen.

Pipedrive:

button on a form that explains what happens after you click it.

SEMrush:

button that shows what happens after you click.

Copytesting:

form button that explains what happens when you click.

5. Form design matters.

People trust beautiful design. This guy doubled his opt-ins with better graphics, showing the virtual cover of his ebook. It’s still a poor design, but progress is visible:

example of design improvement to sign-up form that increased conversions.

Hotjar uses a simple, streamlined form page to encourage signups:

clean, well-designed form page.

6. Single column, please

Our own research showed that single column forms take less time to complete. That was true even when though the single-column for was still pretty long:

7. Try a Mad Libs–style form.

Mad Libs is a phrasal template word game in which one player prompts another for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story, usually with funny results.

Vast.com did A/B testing comparing a traditional form design with a narrative “Mad Libs” format. The Mad Libs–style forms increased conversion across the board by 25-40%.

8. Communicate errors clearly.

If users fail to fill in a mandatory field or do something wrong, be very clear about it. Meetup does this well:

sign-up form with good error messages.

If a user fills the form incorrectly and you need to show an error message, make sure the fields are populated with the data they entered. If they have to start from scratch, it causes frustration, and they might not do it.

9. Don’t be picky.

There’s nothing more annoying than a form that requires information in a specific format.

For example, if you’re asking for a date, accept the year as 19 and 2019. Let them use a slash (/) or dot (.) between numbers. When you ask for a phone number, don’t require spaces, brackets, or anything else—let the user enter their phone number as they please.

If you need the data in a specific format, make it clear. This GEICO form avoids the potential slash-vs-dash issue and clearly specifics the MM/DD/YYYY format:

Better yet, convert form data with a script. You can also design the interface to removal all choice. In the case of dates, for example, you can have them choose it from a calendar.

10. Don’t ask for the password twice

The more fields you ask people to fill in, the fewer people will fill them. Having two fields for passwords is stupid.

Most people do it (since “everybody is doing it”) but for no good reason. The idea is that entering it twice makes sure that there’s no typo. Well, a better way to do that is to give the option to see what they typed.

Vimeo doesn’t do it:

example of sign-up form in which there's no option to view the password as you type.

A “check your password” checkbox to show the password instead of a string of asterisks is a much better way to verify whether there are any typos:

example of form in which you can tick a checkbox to show your password.

11. Drop-down lists, radio buttons and auto-complete fields

You’ve probably seen those huge drop down lists for selecting categories, countries, or cities. If there are tons of choices, a drop-down list isn’t convenient.

This is bad:

long drop-down list in form.

Instead, use auto-fill fields, such as this one for country selection (give it a try, it works):

Here’s a great article on redesigning the country selector.  Get the country selector script here.

Use smart defaults where appropriate. For example, if most of your users come from the UK, it might be a good idea to default the country to “UK.”

If there’s anywhere between 7 and 15 options, a drop-down list is usually a really good fit. If there are only a few choices (2–6), go for the radio button:

Coffee Tea

12. Submit button width = field width

The call to action is the most important part of your form. A small button has weak affordance and can make users feel uncertain about using it. Make it as wide as the input fields (and join our email list while you’re at it):

Join our private newsletter and get the instant-impact guide for boosting your conversion rates.


13. Avoid clear fields button

Nobody who fills in your form wants to clear the fields. If they don’t want to fill it in, they can just leave.

But if they fill the form and accidentally clear the fields, there’s a good chance they won’t start over.

example of "clear" button on a form.

14. Don’t use captchas on forms

CAPTCHAs are those anti-spam things:

example of a captcha on a form.

One study done over six months found that forms with CAPTCHAs could lose out on 3.2% of all conversions. Another study found that up to 30% of CAPTCHAs could be failed by real people because they were too hard to figure out.

Animoto used to have CAPTCHAs on their sign-up forms. When they removed them, they boosted their conversion rate from 48% to 64%. That’s an uplift of 33.3%!

So instead, what do you do?

If it’s an email list sign-up form, just use double opt-in.

If it’s a quote request or another type of form, you can use the “Honeypot” CAPTCHA technique. It uses CSS to hide a form field that’s supposed to be left blank. Every time the form is submitted, you check the field and see if it’s blank. If not, mark it as spam (but don’t delete it).

If you’re still keen on using captchas, this is the best captcha in the world.

The post Sign-Up Forms: 14 Ways to Increase Conversions appeared first on CXL.

Why is my Conversion Rate Dropping? 8 Common Reasons

Having trouble viewing the text? You can always read the original article here: Why is my Conversion Rate Dropping? 8 Common Reasons
Nothing more worrisome than your website conversion rate dropping. Evidently, you’ll want to know why so you can fix it…

Having trouble viewing the text? You can always read the original article here: Why is my Conversion Rate Dropping? 8 Common Reasons

Nothing more worrisome than your website conversion rate dropping. Evidently, you’ll want to know why so you can fix it. Breathe. Here’s where to check. Watching your conversion rate dropping is not fun. It could make you lose sleep until you know what’s causing it. And maybe a bit more until you see it climbing […]

The post Why is my Conversion Rate Dropping? 8 Common Reasons appeared first on Conversion Sciences.

Differences Between Sales Funnel and Full-Funnel Conversion Optimization

Having trouble viewing the text? You can always read the original article here: Differences Between Sales Funnel and Full-Funnel Conversion Optimization
Sales funnel or full funnel conversion optimization? Which should you use and when? It all depends …

Having trouble viewing the text? You can always read the original article here: Differences Between Sales Funnel and Full-Funnel Conversion Optimization

Sales funnel or full funnel conversion optimization? Which should you use and when? It all depends on what you want to understand. Full funnel conversion optimization – or the Conversion Sciences Profit Funnel™ – provides the analysis and insights needed to help positively impact your business bottom line. Analyzing a sales funnel helps improve those […]

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What is a Conversion Rate? What is a Good Conversion Rate?

What is a conversion rate, and what does it really mean for you as a business owner? In this guide, we’ll break down the definition of a conversion rate, show you the formula for calculating conversion rates, and help you identify whether your conversi…

What is a conversion rate, and what does it really mean for you as a business owner? In this guide, we’ll break down the definition of a conversion rate, show you the formula for calculating conversion rates, and help you identify whether your conversion rate is low or high. At the end of the article, […]

The post What is a Conversion Rate? What is a Good Conversion Rate? appeared first on Conversion Sciences.

Google Shopping: How to Set Up, Optimize, and Execute Your Campaigns

In this guide, we’re diving into Google Shopping campaign setup and execution. Here we’ll teach you the nuts and bolts of setting up, optimizing, and executing your ads campaigns.

In this guide, we’re going to share the strategies and tactics we use to help our clients set up and run top-performing Google Shopping campaigns. We’ve previously written case studies and strategy articles (which we link to below) around Google Shopping, but in this piece, we’re diving into campaign setup and execution and linking to our other resources for readers looking for more detail on any particular topic.

Google Shopping consists of two platforms—Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) and Google Merchant Center. Google Merchant Center is where your product data feed lives and Google Ads is where you can build and optimize your campaigns, set your budget and adjust your bid strategy.  

Here’s what we’ll cover to teach you the nuts and bolts of setting up, optimizing, and executing your Google Shopping ads campaigns:

(Who We Are: At Inflow, we work with dozens of eCommerce companies to increase traffic, conversions, and sales. You can talk to one of our Google Ads specialists to see how we can help you increase ROAS. Get started now.)

What Are Google Shopping Ads

Google Shopping campaigns—also known as Product Listing Ads (PLAs)—are somewhat of a hybrid between dynamic search and dynamic remarketing ads. You upload your product feed to Google and then Google automatically displays your ads based on searches it deems relevant. You might think this is bad since you aren’t creating the ads and bidding on keywords. However, if you are doing the work of optimizing your data feed frequently, this can work in your favor as you are showing up for only the most relevant searches at a fraction of the cost of PPC search ads.

In fact, Google Shopping campaigns drive 76.4% of all retail search ad spend, and contribute to 85% of all clicks.

Say you sell Levi’s blue jeans. While there is nothing wrong with this text ad per se, it does lack most of the purchasing triggers like high-quality product images, product descriptions, and customer reviews.

A Google search text ad for Levi's jeans.

Whereas with Google Shopping ads, it looks and feels like you are on an eCommerce listing page already. You have all the info: images, price, review ratings, details, size information, etc.

So you can browse and find the one you want instead of two text ads offering little information. In addition, the ad takes you directly to the product you see as well, instead of a more generic landing page. So, you send traffic further down the funnel and decrease the amount of clicks to final purchase.

Optimizing your data feed allows you to show up for the long-tail keywords with higher buying intent.

Speaking of relevant, when you take the time to optimize your data feed, you can make sure you show up for the long-tail keywords that are the most likely to lead to a sale (such as Levi’s men’s black jeans, size 38) and deliver a shopping ad that specifically takes traffic to a jeans product page with that size and color.

Creating Your Google Shopping Campaign

Choose Your New Campaign Goal  

The first step is choosing your goal or objective such as:

  • Sales
    • If you are first starting out, we’d recommend choosing this goal. If you want to change it later on, it’s easy to adjust.  
  • Leads (and showcase shopping ads)
  • Website Traffic
  • No goal

After selecting “Sales” you can then proceed to “Shopping,” choose your merchant center, and finally select the “Standard Shopping” campaign option to proceed. The next part of the campaign setup includes items like geo targets, budget, bidding strategy, campaign priority and device specific bid adjustments. (We’ll cover these shortly.)

Set Up Your Ad and Product Groups  

You will now be able to create ad groups and product groups. This should be influenced by your business, product performance, as well as your data feed. One quick way to start is to create multiple ad groups, each of which covers a category of products.

For instance, shoes vs pants vs shirts etc. Make sure to pull out the appropriate category and exclude the rest. To make sure you have your bases covered, we recommend having a very low bid, catch-all ad group as well (in case you forget to pull out a specific category).

You’ll want to adjust this approach as you collect data, incorporate more insights and take advantage of custom labels for attributes such as product margins, seasonality, sales, etc.

Pro Tip:  If you want to brainstorm additional campaigns, ad groups, or product group structures, check out this article.

Bidding

While automated bidding can be effective as you can set it to either maximize clicks, enhance CPC, or target ROAS, it can also lead to some wasteful spending if not managed properly. You also need to reach a minimum conversion threshold to use many of the automated strategies. It’s usually best to start with manual bidding until you have a better idea of how the products will perform (conversions, conversion rate, ROAS levels). Then based on performance, you can test out automated bidding more selectively.

In addition to starting with manual bids, it’s a good idea to review the “Products” report for your campaign regularly. Filtering products with low or zero impressions can help you identify opportunities to bid higher on products with little data. You can also filter based on product status (in case products are getting little-to-no impressions due to warnings or disapprovals), which you’ll need to fix in Merchant Center.

You can also build campaigns that specifically target seasonal products (for example, snow blowers) and implement geographic bid modifiers for regions where your products are more relevant such as in North Dakota and Minnesota. By doing so, you can maximize your exposure in those regions while maintaining a more cost-effective bid in other regions (or removing them entirely).

You can also do this with device bid modifiers, as they tend to perform at different levels. In general, while you can use bid modifiers to increase or decrease bids, you can also use them to remove a device/region/audience entirely, particularly if you have to be budget conscious.

Pro Tip: Before you start running any campaigns, make sure your ad account is properly linked to Google Analytics and you have set up eCommerce conversion tracking.

In addition, it can be easy to get carried away with all the segmentation, which we’re typically fans of! The big thing to keep in mind, however, is that granularity should be dictated by volume of data as well.

For instance, if a product category is getting few impressions (5000/month), it probably doesn’t make sense to group this one in its own campaign, which has multiple campaigns based on regions and device types. That’s overkill, unless you have all the hours in the day to manage it 😉

Set Up Promotions

One way to increase conversions is to run promotions. There are four types of promotions you can run for specific products including:

  • Offering a monetary discount (ex: $10 off)
  • Offering a percentage discount (ex: 10% off)
  • Including a free gift with purchase (ex: Buy one pair of jeans and get a free pair of socks)
  • Free shipping

For example, say you sell wooden desks, you could offer $20 off to anyone who sees your ad on Google.

An example of a desk for sale that has a $20 off coupon if you see their ad in Google.

Enable Product Ratings

Another tip for increasing sales is to enable product ratings, which allows customers to rank your products from 1 to 5 stars.

To enable product ratings, you need to apply within your Google Merchant Center account. This feature is open to anyone with 50 or more customer reviews. In your application process, you’ll have to upload your review feed or link to one of the many third-party review aggregators.

Smart Shopping Campaigns

Smart Shopping campaigns are fully automated campaigns powered by Google AI and machine learning algorithms. You set your desired goal target ROAS (so be sure to group products that perform at similar ROAS levels in these campaigns) and then Google automagically surfaces the most relevant products to potential customers across search, display, YouTube and Gmail.

While these campaigns may save you a ton of time, we wouldn’t recommend throwing your entire product catalog and ad campaigns to Google AI.

For one, Google optimizes for transaction history. If your eCommerce store doesn’t have a lot of data, this can lead to subpar optimizations. In general, you have little-to-no control outside of choosing the products and setting the ROAS target. You can’t add negative keywords. You can’t create product-specific bids in case you’re more concerned with outranking a competitor. You can’t add any bid modifier for device type, etc.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing is, you can’t really do too much analysis either, no search queries or network placements to determine what specifically is working. All that said, it’s still worth testing.

It is for these reasons that we recommend starting small with only one ad group, letting it run for at least 15 days and then analyzing the results.

Set Up Remarketing for Your Google Shopping Campaigns

Another way to increase sales is through remarketing. There are two types of remarketing campaigns — Dynamic Remarketing and Remarketing Lists for Search/Shopping Ads.

  • Dynamic Remarketing is display ads that follow shoppers across the web on the Google Display Network. These ads also create dynamic image sets of products people have viewed or added to cart (i.e. YouTube Ads and Google Display Ads).
  • RLSA—Remarketing Lists for Search/Shopping Ads—to use this targeting, you build audience lists either via Google Ads or Google Analytics based on pages someone visited on your site, time on site, specific goals you create, sources of traffic, etc. Most segments you create in Google Analytics to do analysis can be turned into an audience. Once you build this audience, you can attach it to either a Search or Shopping campaign and add a corresponding bid modifier (or leave it in observation mode just to collect data). From here, if someone meets the criteria of your audience list AND searches for one of your targeted keywords (or product), you can decide to bid more aggressively on them, or you can even create a search campaign that only targets this audience and deliver custom messaging.

When you see how effective remarketing ads can be, it can be tempting to go all-in. However, we recommend paying attention to ad frequency (particularly for dynamic remarketing in the display network) as ad fatigue is a real problem. You could end up turning off potential customers. For example, Monday.com use of YouTube ads are a great example of remarketing overkill.

Follow the Google Merchant Center Guidelines

Google Merchant Center has a ton of guidelines and not all of them are obvious. Some of the biggest mistakes we see our clients make are:

  • Not having a returns and refunds policy on their site (or hiding it).
  • Promoting pre-orders or products that are out of stock (Note: This is why optimizing your data feed regularly is so important.).
  • Data mismatches between the product feed and the website. For instance, the price may not match, or the image may not be correct. A dynamic feed solution can help deal with this stuff before it becomes a problem.

Optimizing Your Google Shopping Campaign

To increase sales, make sure your campaigns are set up effectively. There are several tactics you can use with product groups, priority settings, and negative keywords.

Set Up Product Groups to Increase Sales

Instead of manually building ads and bidding on keywords as you have with text ads, with Google Shopping campaigns, you have product groups.

You can then divide your products into groups based on 8 categories:

  • Item ID
  • Brand
  • Category
  • Product Type
  • Custom Labels
  • Condition
  • Channel
  • Channel Exclusivity

If you are not sure where to start, structure your ad/product groups by product type. This gives you more flexibility to optimize your campaigns and adjust your bidding strategy.

How you structure campaigns should be catered to your eCommerce business’s objectives, seasonality, margins, etc.  For example, if you have product-specific margins, then you can create a custom label that tells you what your margin (percent or dollar value) is for each product, and group products into those tiers so you can optimize towards profitability. If you have a blanket margin, then you can be a little more flexible with your setup.

Use Negative Keywords and Campaign Priority Settings to Increase Conversions

An additional way to increase sales is through negative keyword lists and adjusting your campaign priority settings.

Campaign Priority Settings

There are three levels for any campaign—high, medium and low. Google will serve the campaign with the highest priority.

Negative Keywords

Campaign/Ad Group negative keywords will prevent your products from appearing in certain Google searches for that campaign or ad group. These can be exact, phrase, or broad match.

  • Exact Match– only the exact keyword you select will be excluded. If a search query contains more terms before or after keyword you select, it will not be excluded.
  • Phrase Match– only the exact keyword you select will be excluded in addition to the search terms that contain your keyword in that exact order with any terms that precede or follow your keyword.
  • Broad Match– as long as every word in your negative keyword can be found in the search term, in ANY order, it will be excluded.

We recommend updating your negative keyword list at least once a week. Some good negative keywords to include are any search terms with low buyer intent.

A more advanced tactic is using a tiered strategy. Say you have an online business selling Men’s Levi’s Boss Jeans, you can use a tiered strategy using campaign priority settings and negative keywords to bid higher on specific long-tail search queries and lower on more generic ones.

So if you know that when someone searches for “jeans,” they convert at a low rate, but after performing analysis, you find that when the search term contains “Levi” in addition to “jeans” it performs at a higher ROAS, and when it also contains the term “Boss” on top of the brand name, it does even better, then you have the opportunity for 3 campaign tiers.

  • The first campaign (tier 1) will be high priority and low bid—intended to capture general search terms. You can use negative keywords to remove brand and style terms.
  • The second campaign (tier 2) will be medium priority and medium bid—and will catch all brand and style terms to start with. However, you will want to use negative keywords to remove style/model terms (like “boss”) so that this tier will only capture brand terms without the style modifier.
  • The third campaign (tier 3) will be low priority and highest bid—intended to catch whatever you negated from the prior tiers, including the combination of brand + style terms.

Once you secure the proper negatives in place, then you can focus on tiers. However, be careful when you optimize. There is always the possibility that you bid too low in tier one and general terms go to tier 2, which you’re bidding more aggressively on.

Also, if you exclude a product in tier 1 but not the other tiers, that product’s general terms will go to the other (higher bid) tiers. So you have to make sure your campaigns are set up with the same products and that you keep a close eye on them.

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

Analyze Google Shopping Campaign Ad Data Regularly

It is always important to review your ad data on a regular basis. There are several segments you can review in Google Ads, and there’s endless performance data you can review using Google Analytics.

Google Ads can help you understand traffic potential (search impression share), competition (auction insights) and so much more. Google Analytics is excellent for reviewing other engagement metrics, attribution (how does your channel play with all the others?), etc. You should use your findings to:

  • Update Negative Keywords regularly
  • Analyze conversion rates by product group (such as by product id, product category or product type)
  • Perform geographic and device analysis
  • After collecting enough data, test bidding strategies including dayparting.

This will help you steadily increase ad performance over time.

Conclusion

In summary, these are some ways to improve Google Shopping ads performance, lower cost per click, and generate more sales.

Note: You can talk to one of our Google Shopping experts about how we can help you improve your ad performance by reaching out here.

Dynamic Heatmaps — The New E-commerce Data Gathering Weapon

Dynamic heatmaps give e-commerce companies the leverage of study real time customer behavior on pages dyanamic URLs

The post Dynamic Heatmaps — The New E-commerce Data Gathering Weapon appeared first on Blog.

E-commerce is a pure service business that demands utmost precision, patience, and persistence to survive the industry’s ever growing competition. The goal is not just to help shoppers find good products, but also provide an exceptional customer experience that forces them to convert into repeat buyers.

Also, customer actions serve as a valuable source of data at every stage of an e-commerce’s funnel. What you do with these customer insights to improve the overall shopping experience and conversion rate, is typically what makes or breaks a deal for your business.  

Most marketers suggest using multiple qualitative and quantitative analytical tools to do so. But, not all of them have the prowess to give you the kind of information you would need to study user experience.

This is where heatmaps come into play. Let’s see how heatmaps can improve your E-commerce business!

Source

What are heatmaps?

Heatmaps serve as one of the best qualitative tools to collect relevant customer data, especially in terms of understanding their actual behavior across your web platform.  

Think of heatmaps as X-Ray films. They show a detailed picture (in the form of graphical representation) of how users interact with your site or store. You can observe how far users scroll, where they click the most, and the products or pages they like or dislike.

Such data is precisely what you need to make your platform more user-friendly, drive more traffic and improve your conversion optimization strategies.

But, if you think that any heatmap would work wonders for your e-commerce site, you’re absolutely wrong!

E-commerce websites are highly dynamic in nature. They have more interactive elements and “behind login page” elements such orders, cart page, etc. than any other site. Such pages shed visitor interaction and information, which typically serves as the primary data for businesses to use to draw page performance conclusions, find elemental distractions, and improve overall customer experience.    

This is where Dynamic Heatmaps save the day!

What are dynamic heatmaps?

Unlike static heatmaps which can only be plotted on static web pages such as the Home Page, Product Pages, Landing Pages, Category Pages, etc., dynamic heatmaps give you the leverage of studying real time customer behavior on pages which are beyond the scope of static heatmaps. In other words, dynamic heatmaps can be easily plotted on live websites with dynamic URLs such as My Profile, Orders, Cart, Account Settings, etc. to gather in-depth customer activity data.

In general, a typical dynamic heatmap offers four primary features, namely, click maps, scroll maps, click areas, and element list. Each of these allow you to look at a web page’s hot spot areas in a detailed manner.     

Let’s now understand the scope of dynamic heatmaps for e-commmerce using some examples!

Studying Cart Page Insights Using Dynamic Heatmaps

The image below gives us an insight a dynamic heatmap plotted on an e-commerce site’s Cart page. It shows that in general, most people, after adding products to their cart, click on the product image, cancel button, postcode section, ‘Go To Checkout’ icon and discount codes.

Such information helps you draw multiple conclusions. Some of which are as follows:

  • Customers might want to see the product images once more before proceeding to final payment gateway.
  • They may not like their chosen product(s) and hence, remove the item(s) from the cart. Or, since they’re not able to view the product image (in zoom) on the cart page, they abandon their cart.
  • They’re most interested in availing discounts. Therefore, the area is hotter than other page elements.

Furthermore, such information also serves helpful in drawing hypothesis on how to improve the performance of various page elements with dynamic URLs, meanwhile find the right means and ways to enhance customer experience and increase your conversions.

“VWO’s dynamic heatmaps allow you to access information of those web pages which are, in general, very difficult to access using regular heatmaps.”

Studying Order Page Insights Using Dynamic Heatmaps

The “My Orders” page of an e-commerce site is an important page that is lesser explored in terms of gathering customer behavior data.

The page allows users to look at their current and previous orders, check delivery status, seek assistance, and even browse through their history. As an e-commerce company, plotting heatmaps on such pages and mapping number of clicks can significantly help you study which page elements are fetching you maximum customer attention.  

For example, the plotted above shows that maximum people are clicking on the “Track” icon followed by “Need Help” and product images. They’re hardly clicking on the “Rate & Review Product” icon, which, according to your platform, can be an important form page to seek product reviews and other essential information. You can further use such qualitative data to make necessary amendments and compel customers to fill the form, like:

  • adding product review pop-ups or call-to-action buttons on the Order page
  • making the section omnipresent
  • giving rewards for adding reviews

So now that you know what your static heatmap tools are lacking, it’s time to upgrade your e-commerce platform with VWO’s dynamic heatmaps and make the most of them.  


The post Dynamic Heatmaps — The New E-commerce Data Gathering Weapon appeared first on Blog.

16 AdWords (Google Ads) eCommerce Strategies to Maximize ROAS

Discover our favorite strategies for improving AdWords (Google Ads) eCommerce performance covering Google Shopping Ads and more. Find out the exact strategy used to maximize ROAS for our clients.

In this piece we’re going to take a systematic look at how we optimize Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords) eCommerce campaigns to find the best performing strategies.

We’ll be covering a total of 16 different strategies that apply for Google Shopping ads and Smart Shopping Campaigns, Dynamic Remarketing, Search Ads, In-Market Audiences and finally Dynamic Search Ads.

For each Google Ad type, we’ll be covering:

  • The core strategies we use to get the best return on ad spend (ROAS)
  • Use-case scenarios where we’ve seen good results from implementing these strategies.
  • Some of the newest features and product offerings — and how to make the most of them.

Because these strategies all fall inside two of Google’s main product offerings, we’ve split this guide up into two parts:

Part 1: Google Shopping ads

We’ll walk you through 7 different strategies that bring the best ROAS for eCommerce companies. We’ve gone into a lot of depth explaining how you should be building out and optimizing your shopping ads from scratch.

Part 2: Google Search ads

Here we cover 9 of our favorite internal strategies for maximizing ROAS from search ads. We’ll also answer the question: does my company need to run search ads in tandem with Shopping Ads?

  1. Google Shopping Campaigns (or Product Listing Ads/PLA’s)
  2. Google Search ads

First we’ll start with a quick review of the different Google Ads platforms and their use cases. If you know these already, feel free to skip ahead using the links above to get straight to the strategies of choice.

(Who We Are: At Inflow, we work with dozens of eCommerce companies to increase traffic, conversions, and sales. You can talk to one of our Google Ads specialists to see how we can help you increase ROAS. Get started now.)

What’s the Best Google Ads Platform for Selling My Products?

You’re probably already using Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords) to sell your products, but if you’re not, it’s important to have a bit of background info on the Google Ads ecosystem.

Google Shopping ads (also known as Google Product Listing Ads, or PLA’s) are probably the best fit if you’re a B2C selling products online.

eCommerce Ads Strategy: Google Shopping ads are useful if you're a B2C selling products online.

All you need to participate here is a product feed and an eCommerce website.

Google Search ads is perhaps the most well-known of the Ads products due to its longevity and it’s where your text ads are displayed when they match keywords you specify.

Search Ads is different to Shopping Ads because of the way the platform operates. Search Ads gives you more control over keywords, and in turn, shows text ads within your Google search results.

Google Search ads give more control over keywords and are displayed with text ads.

Shopping Ads, on the other hand, are based upon your Product Feed — which needs careful optimization to target the right searches. The product feed contains all the necessary information relating to your product: brands, quantities, sizes, colors, and so on.

This renders a shopping-product ad within the Google SERPS, as well as the relevant pricing and review information.

If you’re a big online retailer, you’ll probably be investing most of your paid ad spend on a mixture of Google Shopping ads and Google Search ads. Participating in both platforms often leads to enhanced product visibility across the customer buyer’s entire journey, from research through to purchase.

This is key when you consider how the customer’s research and purchase journey spans across multiple devices and is made up of many micro-moments — even if you’re only running search ads to cover branded queries.

Our Tried-and-Tested Google Shopping Strategies for Maximizing ROAS

Here at Inflow, we’ve helped hundreds of online retailers from all kinds of industries to maximize their return on ad-spend (ROAS). This is the number one goal afterall.

What follows are 8 of the strategies that have worked best for us on Google Shopping ads over the years.

Note: Do You Trust the Reliability of Your Google Analytics Data?

It goes without saying that you need to be 100% sure of the accuracy of any analytics data before you start investing in Google Ads — or in any other kind of marketing activity.

We always spend time digging into Google Analytics, or whichever reporting tool is being used, to ensure the historic data looks clean and there are no nasty surprises.

If we can’t measure performance to a good degree of certainty, we can’t measure the growth we’re about to deliver. (Then we can’t create case studies like this one.)

Having a reporting tool is not a prerequisite, but we love it when a client comes to us with at least 6 months historic data to delve through. (A full 12 months of data is even better when you’re in a seasonal industry.)

1 – Our 3 Tiered PLA Structure: To Bid More Aggressively on Specific Search Phrases to Maximize ROAS

This is by far our favorite way to achieve the best ROAS from a PLA campaign.

In a nutshell, the 3-tiered campaign structure allows you to focus your spend on the search phrases that drive your sales — something which isn’t as easy as it sounds.

There’s no point wasting spend on non-performers: you want to focus on Search Queries that drive the highest ROAS.

Below we’ve listed the 3 step approach we take when building out campaigns using the “Negative Keyword Waterfall” approach:

Step 1: Review Your Historic Search Volume to Find the Search Terms That Drive Your Revenue  

You need to find the search query themes that generate the most transactions for your company.  

The goal here is to create two groups; one that has the high converting search terms, and another with the low – medium converting search terms.

The best performing search queries group will likely contain several branded terms, with specific model names, SKU codes, part numbers, and other searches that show a high purchase intent.

Step 2: Begin with 3 Shopping Campaigns — Tiers 1, 2 & 3 with the Required Priority Levels

We will setup these 3 campaigns with a shared budget, and each with a different priority level.

(Note: When learning this strategy, remember that in this context, priority setting doesn’t reflect the group’s priority, it’s just the order in which Google will cycle-through the campaigns).

Tier 1 will have the highest campaign priority setting, which indicates to Google that search queries should start here.

This tier, like all the others, contains every product available on the site but with many negative search phrases applied (which we’ll come to shortly).

In tier 2 (or campaign 2), we’ll adjust the priority setting to medium and this is where the average to medium performing search terms live.

In tier 3 (or campaign 3), we’ll adjust the priority setting to “low” and this is where the best converting search terms exist.

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

Step 3: Build and Apply the Negative Keyword Lists

In tier 1, we will be applying negative keywords based on the search queries we want active in tier 2 and 3.

By adding these negative keywords to tier 1, it prevents them from landing in tier 1 and pushes them to the next tier in the funnel — Tier 2.

At tier 2, we again add negative keywords but this time only the best performing search terms.

At tier 3, we don’t need any negative keywords applied as any of those lower value search phrases should have been filtered out already from tier 1 or 2. This was the ultimate goal —  to be able to exclude those lesser converting searches and to bid more aggressively on all searches making it to tier 3.

(Note: We’ve seen some agencies get a little zealous with the amount of tiers they create and it becomes very difficult to maintain — the smallest change in any campaign can completely wreck the entire system. For that reason, we typically keep it to a 3 tier setup).

2 – Identify Your Store’s Best Sellers So You Know Where to Prioritize Your Budget

One of the easiest ways to grow your ROAS is to do a deep audit of your Google Ad campaign to identify historic best sellers — then bid higher accordingly.

You can combine this strategy with the tiered approach outlined above in strategy #1, where you bid your best sellers up on the product or product group level.

Take a look at your historic data (if it’s available) and identify those top selling products.

You can also use the likes of Google Analytics to find best sellers and eCommerce conversion rates, plus the relevant ROAS/ROI metrics.

3 – Regularly Audit and Optimize Your Google Product Feed for Better Overall Performance

If you take away just one thing from this piece, it should be this: your Google Product Feed is essential for succeeding with Google Shopping ads.

Auditing your feed is one of the first things we do when working with a client. This is a vital part of the campaign as it’s a vital cog in the Shopping ads algorithm, so it deserves a lot of attention.

We recently wrote a more detailed piece on how to optimize your Google Product Feed that explains exactly why and how you should be optimizing your feed and covers how to setup and execute your campaigns.

In short, you need to ensure your feed contains all the required product information. If not, you risk a) not showing up when people are searching for your products, and b) being charged a higher CPC to show your ads.

Be sure to keep your product title names relevant without keyword-stuffing.

It’s also vital to keep product titles relevant without keyword-stuffing. This not only helps to enhance visibility for those high intent searches, but it also helps to boost CTR from the ads.

4 – Our Mobile-Optimized Strategy for Improved eCommerce ROAS

Our own research has confirmed that mobile shoppers behave differently than desktop shoppers — no surprises there. The actual queries that convert on mobile aren’t necessarily the same ones people use from desktop.

But many eCommerce teams don’t have a specific approach when it comes to mobile users, aside from reducing mobile bids — which can be a wasteful approach.

eCommerce Ads Strategy: Segment mobile customers

We repeat the search query analysis as mentioned in strategy #1 to segment mobile customers so we can determine a historic mobile-only ROAS.

If we find a gap here, we setup our own tiers with the appropriate negative keywords for mobile users. In the end, we may have 6 tiers setup for a client; 3 for desktop and 3 for mobile.

This beats simply adjusting bids on mobile or desktop. It’s a more holistic and strategic approach to optimising for the customer’s device at that moment, and for the entirety of the customer’s journey.

We find it pays to go into much depth with this.

5 – Seasonality Is Often an Untapped Opportunity (Find Those Crucial Periods for Your Client & Bid Aggressively)

If our client’s in a very seasonal industry, it’s crucial to keep time of year in mind and bid on products/product groups within the tiered structure accordingly.

For example, you should bid higher on flip flops in the summer and snow boots in the winter—but the tiers will remain the same.

By bidding higher on the best converting products in summer, you can maximize ROAS during these peak months when there’s a bigger search demand.

And during those quieter periods in winter, we’ll reduce bids but ensure we’ve still got a good presence — so we often find ourselves bidding differently depending on the time of year.

Take one of our wholesale retailers as an example. They operate in the back to school vertical, so understandably they get peak traffic ahead of the new school year. Search behavior changes in the lead up to these months.

We want to ensure we’re visible during periods of high search activity, whilst ensuring budget for the year isn’t exhausted.

We’ve seen this work across a range of seasonal verticals, and it isn’t something that we’ve noticed many other agencies or in-house teams doing.

(Note: It’s important to fully understand the 3 tiered approach before diving into this strategy or the mobile specific one. The inventory listed will need to be the same across tiers, otherwise you may experience leakage!)

6 – Let Google Optimize (With Supervision!) When There’s No Obvious Tiered Structure or Search Query Tiers

Smart Shopping Campaigns utilize a mix of your product feed and Google’s machine learning to take care of campaigns on your behalf.

We like to bundle any products into a Smart Shopping campaign when they don’t necessarily belong to another tier as explained in strategy #1 above.

These are the smaller products, maybe those lower-priced accessories, which can be left for Google to deal with. Google will then optimize for best-fit based on transaction history: but it doesn’t always mean Google will do the best possible job.

We’ve witnessed occasions where there wasn’t much transaction data for Google to use. Then when we saw a couple of mobile transactions occur Google went very aggressive on mobile — and caused ROAS to plummet.

In this case it would’ve been best to wait until there was more significant transaction data available before leaving it in the hands of them to automate.

7 – Using Dynamic Retargeting to Boost Your PLA’s eCommerce ROAS

As annoying as some people might find them, retargeting ads do convert, and extremely well.

Over time they’ve been shown to have a great ROI so they really work well to supplement your search marketing strategy.

The dynamic retargeting feature from Google Shopping enables you to automatically show ads to people who came to your site without completing a purchase.

It makes use of your product feed to determine the products they display and can intelligently group these together based on what’s likely to convert best.

Using dynamic remarketing is a fairly straightforward strategy to skyrocket eCommerce performance — it’s a must for any online retailer.

eCommerce Ads Strategy: Setup dynamic retargeting ads to close the deal
An example of a dynamic retargeting ad

The Best eCommerce Strategies for Google Search Ads

We’ve covered 7 Google Shopping Campaign strategies above in quite some depth.

But whilst it’s easy to forget, running Google Search ads in tandem with Shopping Ads is a good strategy to cover all your bases.

Here are 9 more essential strategies we use to maximize eCommerce brands ROAS from search ads:

8 – How to Best Structure Your Google Ads Account for More Granular Control (And a Better ROAS!)

Often the best way to setup your client’s account is to actually just mimic their own navigation menu.

They’ve gone through the effort to build it out the way they have — so it’s probably been made that way for good reason.

eCommerce Ads Strategy: Structure your Google ads account in a similar way to how they setup their own website navigation.

If they’ve got a top-level page that contains a category of products (eg shoes) and then sub-categories that contain brands (adidas, nike) then it probably makes sense to have a shoe category, and individual brand-specific ad groups within your Google Ads account.

Setting up in the way above saves a bit of time when it comes to structuring the account, and will make budget control easy too.

With this approach you can also get as granular as you like when it comes to ad group and keyword grouping.

It will also help when other people on your team need to dive in to manage the account, as well as keeping things clean for the reporting team later.

9 – Deep Link to Best-Sellers Within Text Ads & Make It Easier for Your Customers to Checkout

Often within your store’s categories, there will be a handful of outstanding, top selling products.

Instead of directing customers to an individual category page it will often make sense to take them direct to the best selling product page instead — that’s usually where they end up anyway.

You could easily have a few text ads setup on rotate which deep-link to a handful of the top-selling products, and simply monitor which ads bring in the most conversions.

You can run A/B tests on this in the background and keep a close eye on the products that really push the needle on your ROI.

This makes the path-to-purchase cleaner for the customer, and helps to improve your Google Quality Score, too.

In this instance, the keyword/search intent, ad text, and landing page experience is all well aligned and optimized.

In the cases where there is no clear best-seller, it would make good sense to direct the customer to the most relevant category page instead. This approach is often used when bidding on the less specific, short-tail keywords.

10 – Have an Industry-Specific (But Agile!) eCommerce Approach and Test Everything

The strategy we use at Inflow for running Google Search Ads will ultimately depend on the industry the client operates in, and of course the eCommerce platform they use.

We’re forced to tailor our approach to suit our clients (and more pertinent: their shoppers) so when it comes to strategy we’re always flexible to changing our tactics to suit what works best.

It’s important to have an agile approach when it comes to eCommerce marketing since things change quickly and the search landscape is constantly evolving. You need to always be open to new opportunities and test everything!

We like to use Google Experiments within Google Ads to test how variations of campaign setups perform versus our original campaign, helping to shape our ongoing strategies.

11 – Don’t Neglect Any Google Ad Extensions, Especially Price Extensions

We always ensure that every possible extension has been built out when a campaign goes live. Setting up all eligible extensions will give you a better Quality Score on your account and enhances your chances of taking up more valuable real estate within the SERPs.

The obvious choice when it comes to eCommerce clients has to be the Price Extension. This will highlight the product price within the text ad when someone’s shopping for your product.

eCommerce Ads Strategy: Be sure to utilize the 'price' extension because it adds more value to your site.

Ensure your account has the following extensions active and optimised:

  • Callout extensions
  • Structured Snippets
  • Promotion Snippets (essential for Black Friday and other sales)
  • Sitelink Extensions

12 – Product SKU’s, Part-Numbers, and Model Numbers Are a PPC Specialist’s Dream

When running search ads, you’ll want to bid heavily on product SKU and other identifier codes, model numbers, replacement part keywords, and so on.

Whilst these might not have a huge search volume when compared to some other non-brand search queries, they’re going to have a super high conversion rate.

Someone entering a search query for “washing machine” or even “best washing machine” is probably going to be fairly high in the purchase process. They’re probably still shopping around and trying to come to a decision about the particular model they want.

But what about someone searching for a specific washing machine model, like “Samsung WW70K5413UX”? You should be throwing your money at Google for that type of search query.

We often scrape our clients product feeds to get a list of these numbers or SKU’s before using Dynamic Insertion within the Headline of the text ad and the Display URL to help boost CTR, as well as using keyword level Final URLs to send the user to the exact product they are searching for.  

13 – Ongoing Scheduled Maintenance and Optimization Is a Must for All Google Ad Campaigns

Let’s say your ROAS is ticking over nicely at 300% each month. While that’s great, it’s not to say it’s bringing in the most possible revenue.

You shouldn’t neglect campaigns even if they’ve got a great ROAS (that 300% could all be based on a few branded search terms and nothing else that’s going to drive your sales).

Ongoing scheduled maintenance and optimization is vital to ensuring your search strategy doesn’t get left to stagnate.

From regularly reviewing the ‘Search Insights’ report and checking in on the ‘Search Impression Share’, while verifying that rogue searches aren’t eating up your budget — there’s always plenty to do.

eCommerce Ads Strategy: Regularly review your reports for accurate information on how your ads are running.

This goes back to strategies #4 and #5: mobile search behavior is different than desktop search, and seasonality is an important factor to consider too.

Checking how those two variants might affect your search campaigns on an ongoing basis wouldn’t go amiss — especially if you’ve got an old account that has gone a bit stale.

14 – In-Market Audiences Offers Keyword Flexibility (And More Aggressive Bidding Strategies)

In-market audiences can be used within your Search Campaigns to ensure your ads are being seen by a wider audience than normal with a different matching criteria applied.

The in-market audiences to choose from can be viewed from this downloadable Google resource and consists of groups of people who are supposedly in the market for a particular product or service.

Let’s take an example of an online retailer of car wheels and accessories. If somebody searches for a product that is similar to one that the car retailer sells, Google will place them in a particular audience group.

Be sure to target a specific audience with your ads.

As an advertiser, you can then choose to target that particular audience group with your own search ads.

It sometimes makes sense to adjust bids according to your audiences, upping them when they match a particular, high-intent group.

It can also give you flexibility when it comes to your keyword strategy — you don’t need to be quite as granular, because you know this person is (in theory) already interested in what you’re selling.

15 – Dynamic Search Ads Suit Clients with a Huge Product Inventory or No Accessible Product Feed

Dynamic Search Ads are perfect for those who have a lot of inventory but not a lot of time to list everything.

The penultimate Google Ads type we’ll share is our strategy for is Dynamic Search Ads.

This is Google’s offering for those with a massive inventory of products to sell, perhaps without the time required to list individual ads for each product.

Using this method, Google’s ad crawler will scan your entire website and create ads automatically based upon what it finds.

That might be a bit too much control for some, but for others it can be a real time-saver.

For us, we love to use it as a tool to create keyword lists in the unlikely case we may have missed some good search terms during our own keyword discovery phase.

(Note: If you do opt to make use of a Dynamic Search Campaign, you’ll want to ensure you’ve added your normal search keywords as negatives to ensure there’s no overlap.)

Ultimately, Dynamic Ads can be a good low-budget and minimal fuss campaign set to run in the background with low ongoing maintenance required.

16 – Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAG’s) Can Reduce CPC and Grow ROAS

Last but not least, Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAG’s) can be a really simple but incredibly effective way to push out the ROAS.

Using historic conversion data, you can quite quickly identify the few keywords which are bringing in most of your revenue (see the 80/20 rule).

These keywords should be listed in their own individual ad groups (1 keyword per group often gives the best results here) with exact match targeting enabled.

Ad texts are then optimised to match that specific keyword, which helps give a great quality score to Google, and hopefully generates a good CTR too.

In your other Ad groups, you’ll want to ensure exact match negative keywords are applied for the terms above to ensure there’s no overlap which may lead to bidding against yourself in the Ads Auction.

Often by making use of the SKAG strategy, you will see a reduction in CPC, and over time you can push more and more spend into the campaign; you’ll want to cover as much of the search demand as you can.

As with all of the strategies listed here, you’ll want to play around and test the above before you jump right in and make any drastic, lasting changes.

Meet Rover: The chatbot that scaled CRO through automation

As the scope of CRO projects increases, so does the difficulty of management and the tediousness of the manual efforts required. To overcome these pain points, digital marketing agency Oogst – a Merkle company collaborated with HEMA, a leading Dutch retail chain and created a chatbot by bringing together the power of the VWO REST API and Slack, to scale CRO efforts at HEMA.

The post Meet Rover: The chatbot that scaled CRO through automation appeared first on Blog.

Continuous experimentation and testing increases conversions at high growth and data-driven organizations. Scaling a conversion rate optimization (CRO) program requires not only building a long-term testing roadmap but also building a culture of experimentation involving multiple teams and stakeholders across the company. As the scope of CRO projects increases, so does the difficulty of management and the tediousness of the manual efforts required. To overcome these pain points,  digital marketing agency Oogst – a Merkle company collaborated with HEMA, a leading Dutch retail chain and created a chatbot  by bringing together the power of the VWO REST API and Slack, to scale CRO efforts at HEMA.

This blog post shall delve deeper into why and how we leveraged the power of VWO API and Slack to scale our CRO program and help in building a culture of experimentation.

The challenges of scaling CRO

For Oogst and HEMA, CRO involved  constant juggling of interests between its CRO specialists, analysts, clients, website developers and other relevant stakeholders. Each decision and action affects many people, which is why the process needs to go as smoothly as possible.

For example, whenever a test is activated or stopped, many  people need to be informed at the very moment it happens without leaving  anyone out. When you scale CRO program at your organization, informing everybody manually becomes a hassle, especially with new tests being turned on and off frequently. This process needed to be automated to bring efficiency and agility to the CRO initiatives.

The Birth of Rover

We discovered that the VWO REST API makes it easy to monitor tests for changes in status, and that we can use this information to make announcements easily. As a result of these discoveries, the idea for a chatbot was born. By linking the VWO API, Slack webhooks and a local database through Python, we were able to notify the right people about test status changes the moment they occurred. We named him Rover: he would be a dog/bot hybrid that barks at us when it needs our attention. Rover also sends notifications to relevant parties about when to check the preliminary results of a test. A huge burden was lifted from our shoulders, leaving us with more time to think about the next set of strategic experiments.

Growing the bot

As these simple adjustments to our progress proved to be quite helpful to us and HEMA, we began exploring the VWO API to see what else we could do. We came up with a number of areas where the bot could help us with:

Quality control

We run a high number of tests and it is of utmost importance to us and HEMA that everything goes according to plan at all times. We have set up quality control checks internally to limit the risks. There are processes we follow before publishing a test to make sure it’s safe to go live and we double check right after publication in case anything was missed.

For example, some of the things we check for on the VWO side include if the traffic has been set to 100%, if GTM integration has been enabled, and whether the campaign’s name follows our naming conventions. Luckily, the VWO API made it possible for us to automate the checking of settings like this, so that we can be more certain a test is ready to be published, while taking us much less effort.

Monitoring live A/B tests

After publishing any test, we monitor events in Google Analytics to make sure we didn’t miss anything and the test is, in fact, running correctly. Although it allows us to maintain the level of quality we desire, this process is also very time consuming, tedious and prone to human error, much like the announcements.

To deal with this, we added the Google Analytics API into the mix to get Rover to check for the amount of VWO events for a particular test and notify us about its findings. The absence of VWO events likely meant the test wasn’t running (correctly), which is something we always had to check manually before.

Conversational A/B test management

However, at this point, Rover would only transmit messages, he could not process received messages. If we wanted a user to intuitively tell Rover to check a test, we’d have to include an element of interactivity.

That’s why we hooked up our bot to artificial intelligence using IBM Watson, which allows it to naturally process language. With this integration in place, a user is able to ask “Rover, is VWO test 244 ready to go live?” and it will perform the checks. Then, the user can simply publish the test by saying “Rover, publish 244”.

Right now, Rover has truly become part of the team, both of Oogst and HEMA. His contribution to the speed and quality of our process is well recognized. We included even more functionalities such as the ability to pause the manual activation tags we built in Google Tag Manager to trigger VWO tests, thereby linking VWO and GTM together.

But we’re not finished yet!

Scoring points: Building a CRO culture through gamification

Although the power and effectiveness of CRO and A/B testing is well established, building support for it throughout the organization still remains a difficulty.

To combat this, we found yet another role for Rover: quizmaster!

First, we pull basic information about the test and its variants from VWO. We then use this data to extract more detailed information about the experiment from our project management board. This includes background information, hypotheses, descriptions of the control and variants as well as screenshots.

From this knowledge, we dynamically generate polls on Slack where users vote on the landing page variants they think will outperform the rest. These users, generally members of the client organization, then battle each other in a CRO tournament where it is determined who knows most about the website visitor.

The introduction of a gamification element has made CRO more exciting to those not generally involved in it, it has made our efforts more visible throughout the organization and also highlights the successes we have. Furthermore, it builds team spirit and generates more ideas for future testing. All because of our data-driven quizmaster: Rover!

To sum up:

Here’s a quick summary of the benefits we have already achieved:

·         Notify stakeholders of starting/stopping of tests;

·         Notify stakeholders to check preliminary results;

·         Check Google Analytics for presence of VWO events;

·         Perform quality control checks;

·         Pause Manual Activation tags in GTM;

·         Start/stop tests through chat;

·        Perform the role of quizmaster, allowing stakeholders to vote on which variant they expect to outperform the others.

More to come!

Future plans

We’re in touch with VWO to expand the abilities of the REST API even further to make Rover more powerful. This collaboration is a very exciting one to us. The API has already proven to be invaluable in our current operations which are now running more smoothly than ever before.

This bot is the collaborative effort of Gino Renardus, Martijn Heerema and Thom van Engelenburg (consultants at Oogst, a Merkle company) and Floor Hickmann and Raun Sips (UX at HEMA).

About Oogst

Oogst, A Merkle Company, is the leading digital marketing, analytics and optimization agency in the Netherlands. Based in Amsterdam, its team of over 70 experts provide leading brands with digital marketing services aimed at utilizing customer data in the best possible way to achieve the highest returns.

The company has partnered with VWO since 2012 to test and optimize some of  the most popular websites of the country for their clients. Their extensive knowledge of, and experience with the VWO platform has led to these operations continually growing in size. Moreover, this has also led to increased stakeholder involvement and more intensive test management. In order to better deal with this increased scope, the Oogst team was recently joined by a new member: a CRO Chatbot that operates through the VWO Application Programming Interface (API). This chatbot is able to assist in many of the activities surrounding the CRO process.
Do you want to meet Rover or get to know more? Get in touch with Oogst’s Data, Tech and Optimization team! Reach out via gino@oogstonline.nl.

About HEMA

Since 1926, HEMA has made the everyday life of its customers easier and more fun through products that positively stand out: due to their quality, design and price. HEMA offers over 30,000 of its own products and services, has over 750 stores in nine countries and 19,000 employees. As consumers move more towards online, HEMA recognizes the importance of developing a digital strategy as progressive as the brand is.


HEMA’s webshop is widely recognized to be one of the best of The Netherlands, with a top position in the Twinkle 100 and by frequently receiving awards such as Best Department Store Webshop. HEMA and Oogst collaborate on CRO to ensure its Dutch and international webshops remain among the best.


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Death by CRO: 4 Common & Deadly CRO traps to avoid (includes free survival tips)

Experimentation has been the cornerstone of all successful organizations. But many fall prey to the obvious yet deadly traps when running or building a CRO programme in their organizations. Find out how you can avoid these traps in this blog.

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Experimentation has always been the driving force when challenging the status quo – whether it’s the battlefield where a change in the strategy has altered the course of history or a product change which separates successful products from thousands of failures. For online businesses, this has translated into improving customer experiences thus leading to increase in conversions at the lowest risk possible. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your CRO programme too will not be.

So before you get going to prepare for the ultimate showdown using CRO in your organization; let me help you navigate the various challenges you might face during this journey.

  1. Don’t break the news, already!

Case 1: Omg! Just 3 days and my variation is performing way better than the control. Let me ring my CEO and tell her that I was right about this change.

If this is you, congratulations you just got killed by CRO. One of the most important ground rules for testing is to be patient. Initial test results might excite you to go out there and proclaim victory but wait for the test to conclude to clearly state it. Setting high expectations for the success of an experiment after seeing initial traction may do more harm than good.

Expectation setting may not directly be linked to website optimization but trust me when the results don’t come out as well as expected (thanks to your initial excitement), you wont get team buy-ins for bigger experiments.

Case 2: Damn! It’s been 5 days and there is no conclusion I can draw from this A/B Test. What will I tell my CMO if he asks me how the test is coming along?

Initial test result might put you on the backfoot if you see no or minute movement in your conversion graph to justify the CRO efforts. The answer to all worries is patience. Big changes or small, it takes some time for your results to reach statistical significance given a variety of factors such as the number of visitors being tested, number of variations, etc.

To help you not get excited or demotivated before time, we have built a calculator to help you determine the duration for your A/B tests here.

2. ‘This isn’t working’ syndrome

5 tests. But no major change in conversions. But company X whose case study I read did 2x better in conversions. What am I missing?

Let’s assume you ran an on-page survey for an ecommerce site and figured that people who were not completing the purchase were skeptical about the security of the checkout page (even though it may actually be safe). This stopped them from putting in their card details and abandoning their carts. As an obvious next step you form a hypothesis backed by solid data and create a test variation with more security certification badges, testimonials, etc. The result- no difference at all!

So, does that mean you crafted a wrong hypothesis?

The answer is maybe. But take a step back and think about how many ways can you improve security perception of your checkout page? Or make people trust your payment processes?

Answer: More than we care to count.

And this is true for your first successful test which may have got you a 10% lift as well. You still have to think of ways of improving that number. There are better alternatives out there. You just need to keep testing.

Your optimization army should be inspired by the losses to dig deeper and find richer insights to create that one victory which will change the course of your business. Ask yourself how many iterations did you try before arriving at the conclusion that ‘it isn’t working’!

3. Monkey see, monkey do

When our neighbors fought their first conversion battle, they just changed their website CTA color to green and camouflaged their way to get better conversion rates! Let us paint our own checkout CTA green!

They say ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’, but not when it comes to CRO.  ‘Best practices’ may not be the best for you. Hard data and ground reality on your website may be completely poles apart than the case study you read about. Do not expect similar results from the experiments run by others in the arena. Use quantitative and qualitative research methods to devise a unique hypothesis and then launch your test. Also choose the right weapons (A/B testing or multivariate testing) and a structured CRO plan to execute it.

All businesses are different, so are their visitors’ behavior and thus their experiments. What worked for one may or may not work for others, the idea is to always keep testing until you succeed.

4. The show must go on!

CRO should go on. I will make sure that when I retire or lose a limb in the battle for conversion throne, my army is ready to fight without me.

At VWO, we come across customers who suddenly stop testing and the main reason they cite is that the person who was carrying the CRO baton has quit. Find it shocking? Even we do!

We need to understand that CRO is not just a one-person or even a one-team job. Building an organization which thrives on CRO requires not just education and training, it requires a change in the cultural fabric of the company. A CRO-friendly culture requires the HiPPOs to take a backseat and invite the soldiers from different teams (product, marketing, design and so on) to draw up a battle plan. Don’t take anyone’s word on the face of it but test everything! Celebrate successes and publicize results to get a team-wide buy in for experimentation. It is an uphill battle and hence requires you to plan ahead and properly. Remember Rome?

Find some excellent tips to build a culture of experimentation in your organization here and build a CRO army to continue the battle for conversion even if someone calls it a day.

Parting words

While you wear your shining armor of a CRO catalyst, believe in yourself and don’t let ‘Death by CRO’ scare you because with the right attitude, you are going to win it not just for yourself but for future teams within your organization. Don’t take my word for it (you might, I have seen 5000+ customers across 90 countries succeed) but test it!

PS: I hoped to save some lives with this blog. Tell me if you survived in the comments section.

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A/B Testing with a Small Sample Size

The question “How to test if my website has a small number of users” comes up frequently when I chat to people about statistics in A/B testing, online and offline alike. There are different opinions on the topic ranging from altering the si…

The question “How to test if my website has a small number of users” comes up frequently when I chat to people about statistics in A/B testing, online and offline alike. There are different opinions on the topic ranging from altering the significance threshold, statistical power or the minimum effect of interest all the way […] Read More...