How to Improve Website Performance According to Google

Having trouble viewing the text? You can always read the original article here: How to Improve Website Performance According to Google
The effort to improve website performance has traditionally been the problem of your hosting provider or IT. With the…

Having trouble viewing the text? You can always read the original article here: How to Improve Website Performance According to Google

The effort to improve website performance has traditionally been the problem of your hosting provider or IT. With the growth in mobile traffic, it is probably something marketers need to drive themselves. There is a ceiling on your conversion rate. It’s not your price. It’s not your copy. It’s not your form. When I tell […]

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Statistical Methods in Online A/B Testing – the book

The long wait is finally over! “Statistical Methods in Online A/B Testing” can now be found as a paperback and an e-book on your preferred Amazon store. Note that the Kindle edition is available for $2.99 or equivalent if you’ve alrea…

The long wait is finally over! “Statistical Methods in Online A/B Testing” can now be found as a paperback and an e-book on your preferred Amazon store. Note that the Kindle edition is available for $2.99 or equivalent if you’ve already purchased the paperback (through Kindle Matchbook). The book is a comprehensive guide to statistics […] Read More...

eCommerce Upselling Case Study: 4% Increase in Revenue per User by Optimizing Upsell Placement

Steal this actionable eCommerce upselling and cross-selling conversation rate optimization strategy for your online store.

In eCommerce, there are 3 ways upsells and cross-sells are usually presented: on the product page, on the cart/checkout page, and after checkout.

eCommerce marketers often try to guess which page placement upsells and cross-sells work the “best” on or where they are highest converting…

…but in our experience helping hundreds of eCommerce stores to optimize conversion rates, it’s often not as simple as saying “upsells/cross-sells work best on ‘x’ page type.”

Sure, these offer types tend to work on both the product and cart page, but it’s overly simplistic to assume that these offers will always work better on “either one page or the other.”

A “prime” example here is Amazon. Amazon offers customers additional product recommendations on nearly every page. Such as: “people who looked at this product bought these products” and “people who viewed this product also viewed these products.” They show offers constantly to keep their customers shopping before, during, and after a purchase.

While optimizing the general checkout conversion rate is important, improving the conversion rate of upsell and cross-sell offers on each page of the checkout flow where they appear can make a big revenue impact.

We recently optimized an upsell offer of trip protection for a client of ours in the vacation and excursions niche. The upsell offer conversion rate increased by 3.3% and revenue increased by 4% per user as a result of our testing one simple change of the upsell offer’s placement:

eCommerce upsell offer placement

Using this small case study as an example, we’ll show you how to incorporate upsells and cross-sells more effectively so that you can leverage them to increase AOV even more.

We conduct conversion rate optimization tests day-in and day-out until our clients are more profitable. Get in touch to learn more about how our CRO experts can improve your online store’s bottom line.

eCommerce Upselling and Cross-Selling: What’s the Difference?

There is a common misconception that upsell and cross-sell product offers vary in their effectiveness.

This framing leads companies to try to quantify what drives more revenue for them: cross-sells or upsells.

For example, this study conclusively claims that Upselling on eCommerce sites performs 20 times better than cross-selling.” The findings then got cited on other sites such as Oberlo.

The problem is, it’s a somewhat subjective study because it is largely based on a relatively small number of eCommerce stores from one conversion agency’s client roster.

While it’s tempting for marketers to generalize on the effectiveness of cross-sells vs. upsells and their differences, the reality is not as cut and dry. For a couple of reasons:

  • Different industries have different customers, with different buying habits, for different products, at different price points.

These factors make it hard to say equivocally that upselling or cross-selling is more effective than the other as a rule, or if one drives more sales/revenue.

As I mentioned, testing for these offers is usually subjective unless the sample size can represent a somewhat accurate view of the eCommerce store landscape as a whole. 

An effort like this could prove very difficult. It would likely need to involve quantifying the cross-sell and upsell offers of thousands of stores in different industries and of different sizes (not just one agency’s collection of clients).

So, when it comes to measuring which offer type is better, you can only be 100% sure of the test results from the single online store you’re testing on.

  • The difference between cross-selling and upselling gets blurry.

What’s the difference between cross-selling and upselling?

The agreed-upon thinking in our industry is that an upsell is a higher-end product than the one the customer may have originally intended to purchase, while a cross-sell is an offer for a related product.

We can rely on this definition most of the time, but in practice for conducting conversion rate optimization: there’s no meaningful difference between cross-selling and upselling. Why? How the offers take shape depends on the industry. Both result in the customer paying a higher price for their order (what really matters).

A couple of quick examples to illustrate:

(1) A clearcut example of the difference between upsells/cross-sells:

Say a customer has added carry-on luggage from your store to their cart. You can present a higher-end bag that is more expensive (an upsell) or offer them some packing cubes to use in the bag they are buying (cross-sell).

You can certainly test between those two offers and say one converts better than the other or drives more revenue.

(2) Here’s where the difference between upsells/cross-sells gets blurry:

Let’s say your store sells custom ATVs. A customer may decide on the features they want and then on the checkout page you offer them some options, including:

  • Upgraded performance handle grips
  • A chrome exhaust from another brand built into it rather than the standard stainless
  • A trailer to attach to your vehicle to transport the ATV

In this scenario: Are these add-ons upsells, cross-sells, or a combination?

You could argue that this scenario represents a collection of upsells because it’s a better ATV and a trailer.

Or, you could say it’s a cross-sell because you’re giving them additional products of performance grips, a chrome exhaust, and a trailer.

In this scenario, the offers consist of creating a higher-end product THROUGH additional products. So, while the difference in labeling these offer types gets a bit blurry, in practice you’re simply testing one option for the customer to increase cart value vs another.

Both upsells and cross-sells result in the possibility of a higher value cart and a larger average order value (AOV). So clearly, it makes sense to focus on both. Meanwhile, the label of what the offer type is becomes less important.

Now: How should you make upsell and cross-sell offers convert better?

To Increase Upsell and Cross-Sell Conversions: Use Repetition

With upselling and cross-selling, you’re overcoming the customer’s objection of extra cost. It’s easier to overcome this objection through repeating the offers at multiple points in the sale.

The theory in play here is: repetition. Customers don’t want to spend more money, typically. But you keep highlighting a reason to spend more by repeating the offer, and it works.

There’s a classic theory of repetition in advertising that this directly relates to. Showing a product repeatedly keeps that product at the front of a customer’s mind…but it’s a fine line. Show the product too many times and they may get fatigued or even irritated by seeing that product again.

Our Repetition Test

We went along with this principle of repetition to help break down our client’s customer objections when it comes to adding trip protection to their excursions.

We tested our client’s offer of trip protection for their excursions on the cart page and checkout page against only offering it on the cart page:

eCommerce upselling: Trip Protection

Our client’s trip protection offer on the cart page.

If the customer marked “No Thanks” on the cart page, our test showed that placing this upsell again on the checkout page converted better thanks to visitors seeing the offer repeatedly:

Reoffering the upsell offer on the checkout page proved to be lucrative.

The same upsell offer on the checkout page.

Note that the messaging for the repeated instance of the offer on checkout is MUCH more subtle because:

  • We’ve already communicated the details of what trip protection is
  • We don’t want to make the customer fearful about not being able to receive a refund and cause them to abandon the page.

Fear is driving this offer’s purchase. On the product page, we can be more aggressive toward that fear in our messaging by highlighting the potential loss as early as possible Towards the end of checkout, we toned it down to avoid discouraging the purchase.

When the offer was repeated on the checkout page like this, 3% more visitors opted for trip protection and the revenue increased by 4% per user.

The lesson here is: It’s important to present upsell offers at multiple points, and to know how to best present those offers based on the page they are on (the stage in the sales flow the customer is in).

How to Use Repetition to Present Upsells at Different Points in the Checkout Flow

Repeating the offers sounds simple, but we’re not the only ones using this principle to get more conversions.

In terms of the travel industry, big online vacation brands like Expedia, Travelocity, and Booking.com are putting upsells like this in multiple spots too!

The competitive analysis we did for our client showed that these travel companies tend to offer upsells and cross-sells whenever they can: on a product detail page, checkout, and in the cart.

This is where the idea to conduct the test for this client came from in the first place.

For example, when booking hotels with Travelocity, they’ll show you one set of upsell options before you reserve the trip.

You can pay a bit more to get “Free Cancellation” and “Reserve Now Pay Later” and if you pay a bit more there is an additional upsell option that includes continental breakfast:

eCommerce upselling: Customers can pay more to get "Free Cancellation”, “Reserve Now Pay Later”, and even "Continental Breakfast".

Since repeated upsell offers work better: It’s important to know how to best present the upsell or cross-sell based on the page it’s on and stage in the checkout the customer is in.

Travelocity may have concluded that if customers don’t opt-in to those offers on the product page, they should be shown a different offer for hotel protection on the checkout page.

On that checkout page, Travelocity shows customers an offer that is more relevant to the stage in the buying cycle they are in. In this case, it’s to “Protect Your Hotel” once you click “Reserve:”

eCommerce upselling: Protect your hotel with travel protection

Remember how moderating the messaging for fear-based upsells is important? This Protection offer starts with a detailed explanation and the dollar amount at risk.

The offer then gets toned down if you click “No, I’m willing to risk my $2765.85 trip.” In that case, the detailed description of protection collapses into a button with more subtle messaging to “Reconsider”:

eCommerce upselling: Protect your hotel with travel protection

Let’s say your upsell is like trip or hotel protection — it could be device protection, shipping insurance, an equipment guarantee for a fee, etc. With any fear-based upsell like these, you will have better results by adjusting how aggressively you present it depending on the stage of the sale.

Talk about potential loss as early as possible..and towards the end of checkout moderate your tone. E.g. “Do you want to put this $2765.85 at risk?” as in the Travelocity example above.

When they are getting ready to enter the credit card number in checkout, present the option again but without the fear. E.g. “Your trip is not protected.”

Start aggressively, then ease up.

What About Non-Fear-Motivated Upsells?

Admittedly, the test we ran in this case study regarding trip protection may not be directly relevant to your store — but we want to leave you with some more best practices for offers that you can use, too.

For that, a reminder that the offers you present and how you present them depends on multiple factors including your target audience’s tendencies, your store’s user interface, and the products you are selling.

For an example of aggressive upselling that works well, we’ll show you the checkout flow for another one of our clients: Carcovers.com.

This client in the auto accessories niche knows that their audience is there to buy accessories for their cars. If they are willing to buy a car cover, what other car accessories are they willing to buy?

In CarCovers.com’s interface, there are multiple upsell and cross-sell offers on the same page. This box is shown after clicking “add to cart” whether the customer is on a page in the catalog, or on a product detail page:

CarCovers.com upsells on multiple places within their site.

They tone it down with more subtle offers in checkout:

CarCovers.com even adds in over 5 more upselling options at checkout.

Is this too aggressive? Too many different product options? While it is a bit in your face, the offers end up converting better — or they wouldn’t do it.

The bottom line is: Don’t assume you’ll irritate customers by being aggressive with your offers. Test one offer, then add another and see what changes. Again, optimization depends on your store, industry, products, and customers (and the offers themselves).

As a final example, let’s take a quick look at the interface at eBags.com.

Compared to CarCovers.com, there are even more instances of upsells and cross-sells. 

Yet, eBags seems to strike a happy medium in their design. They’re aggressive, but not too aggressive by placing offers below-the-fold in the product page design.

On the product detail on the desktop, you don’t see offers initially:

eCommerce upselling: eBags.com doesn't upsell immediately.

Until you scroll down:

eBags.com waits to upsell until you scroll further down.

Then, you really see them:

eBags provides endless upselling opportunities by showcasing several other bag options that you could purchase.

The more you scroll down the product page, the more additional products you see:

eCommerce upselling: the more you scroll down, the more you see!

The logic here may be that if the user was sold on the luggage, they would have clicked add to cart right away at the top of the page. If they are unsure of the product, they’ll scroll down to read more. Of course, as they read, eBags shows additional products to consider and keep them engaged in the shopping experience.

Of course, eBags doesn’t stop recommending upsells and cross-sells once you DO add a product of theirs to the cart:

eBags.com continues the upselling process through every step -- even in the checkout page.

And in the cart before the checkout process:

eCommerce upselling: eBags.com uses this at every opportunity

Again, is it too much? If it was, then as a member of our Best-In-Class eCommerce stores, they likely wouldn’t be doing it!

eBags, as with many other stores, are likely taking advantage of the fact that customers are used to seeing related products when they shop. The result? More customers bundling in the other products they see with their orders at the click of a button.

The “irritation” factor of repetition has been dulled with the rise of Amazon and “related products” plugins becoming widespread in Shopify and other eCommerce platforms.

The takeaway is: Be aggressive with repeated upsell offers. Rather than being irritated, customers are growing accustomed to seeing them. A significant portion of customers even value these offers enough to add the recommended items to their cart!

Conclusion

Now, you have a more nuanced idea about CRO as it applies to upselling and cross-selling.

We hope you will use this information to increase the AOV for your online store. The upselling and cross-selling principles we’ve covered here in a nutshell are:

Repeat upsell and cross-sell offers throughout your store’s interface

Test the placement of those offers to optimize their conversion (we like to add one offer of additional products at a time, testing at each interval)

Keep adding product upsell and cross-sell offers to your store, both in terms of products and placements as long as it continues to increase your AOV

Add the above to your marketing efforts, and watch your numbers climb.

Or, hire us to use our method of testing to increase conversions for your upsells and across your entire eCommerce business! Get in touch.

Why Calculating Conversion Rate by Channel and Seasonality Is Key to Properly Evaluating Site Changes

We present 2 case studies that show how measuring conversion rate by channel and seasonality are required to properly understand your conversion rate. Includes conversion rate numbers by channel.

We’re often asked by clients to help them understand the impact of a site change or redesign. More often than not, they want to measure impact using conversion rate. This is understandable, but the way most people look at conversion rate leads to incorrect conclusions.

The main issue is this: Conversion rate changes over time are far more influenced by traffic channel mix than by improvements to the site. This means you could redesign (or as we’d suggest, run a continuous conversion optimization program on) your site, only to have it look like the conversion rate dropped — when in reality, you have improved the conversion rate of your website. To avoid this error you need to measure conversion rate by channel, seasonality, device, and more. 

This scenario is separate from the fact that many redesigns (especially those done for aesthetic purposes only) end up making the website worse. In this article, I’ll be discussing changes that make a site better but which are hidden by traffic channel mix changes.

If you’d like our eCommerce conversion rate team to help evaluate your conversion rate by channel, seasonality, and device, or evaluate the impact of a site change on conversion rate, you can learn more or reach out here: Inflow’s Conversion Rate Optimization Service.

Case Study 1: Site Updates That Appear to Have Lowered Conversion

In this example, we did a conversion optimization project for a small startup. After our recommended changes had been implemented, the following chart makes it look like the conversion rate was better before the changes, or at least not affected by them:

Users and eCommerce Conversion Rate

There are a few issues here that make this chart inaccurate in terms of judging the efficacy of the site updates:

  • There’s no seasonality data. Since this is a startup, we have no accurate history to compare against to get year-over-year data. This is particularly problematic because the startup operates in a highly seasonal vertical.
  • This top-level conversion rate chart doesn’t show traffic volume, and changes in that metric can dramatically affect the conversion rate.
  • This chart also doesn’t show the traffic channel mix, which (as already mentioned) is by far the most important factor for time based conversion rate analysis.

Seasonality

Seasonality is key. Most businesses have some degree of seasonality, with some that only operate at certain times of year. For any business, however, conversion rate over time needs to compare seasonally as well as sequentially. 

In this case, without previous year data, there’s no way to tell if the August conversion rate data was good or bad. However, since the product is related to a summertime sport, we can assume there is going to be a fall off as we head toward winter. Since many purchases for summertime activities happen in the spring, it’s reasonable to assume conversions and sales should start declining in the fall — meaning that conversion rate is strong for August.

Traffic Volume

This is related to traffic channel mix but is its own topic as well. If a business increases its traffic dramatically (whether via paid, organic, referral, direct, or other), it always experiences a decrease in conversion rate along with the increase in traffic

Why is this? The main theory is that such dramatic increases are results of increased exposure, but the increased exposure is not as targeted.

Think of it as being ranked for a bunch of new terms in SEO, such as being ranked for “toys” where before you were only ranked for your specific product, i.e. “Slinky.” 

I subscribe to this theory. There may be other theories about why this happens, but regardless of the reason, I can confirm this rule holds for every client we’ve ever had.

Traffic Channel Mix

This is the big one and the focus of this article. In our example, you can see the following shifts over time:

Traffic channel mix: Direct, Instagram, Google, FB

Instagram traffic had been declining prior to the updates as a percentage of total traffic, and it continued to decline after the updates. Instagram had been the best converting channel, and its decline dragged the overall conversion rate down. The other major dynamic is the rise in social CPC, which at its launch converted at only 0.25% (see chart below). This also dragged down the overall conversion rate.

Conversion rate by channel:

Conversion rate by channel: Instagram, direct, Google, FB

Here you can see that Instagram traffic converted at about the same level (if you add “I.instagram” and “instagram,” which should be done via a filter in Google Analytics) before and after the updates — but the mix dynamic discussed above means that its traffic decline would pull down the overall conversion rate. 

The launch of social CPC traffic (fb_ig) was an initial drag on the overall conversion rate, since it converted initially at only ~0.25%. As it ramped up in volume, the conversion rate increased. (An exception to the “as traffic increases, conversion rate decreases” theory is the launch of a new paid program or investments in SEO — where SEO had been neglected previously). 

This pulled the overall conversion toward itself — in this case, in August, it was pulling the overall conversion rate closer to 1%, which is below where it was before the updates.

So what about the site updates — were they good or not? 

To answer that, I’d look for the traffic sources that were stable in terms of volume. In the chart above, you see that those are “direct” and “google.” Direct is a black box — so it’s not the best candidate. However, Google is one of the harder acquisition channels to budge (with the exceptions noted above). 

In this case, Google organic traffic volume stayed about the same throughout the updates. Looking at its conversion rate, we see it go up in the 2 months following the site updates. Therefore, we can say the site improvements worked for Google and probably also worked for the other channels (though that affect is hidden by the changes in that traffic).

Was that a satisfying answer to upper management? Nope, but it is an accurate reflection of how the website is actually doing in terms of converting users. It also shows why not evaluating conversion rate by channel is a serious mistake that can hide valuable information. 

Case Study 2: Seasonality & Traffic Volume Issues

Another one of our clients revamped their mobile smartphone experience prior to engaging with us. They asked for our analysis of the change, since their executives were not impressed with the before-and-after results.

Here is the top-line average conversion rate over time by device — with mobile not showing much improvement after February/March 2017, when the changes were made. One thing to note is that their peak season was usually in November/December, which is most visible on the desktop line:

Top-line average conversion rate over time by device: Desktop, mobile, tablet

For the same time period, we see a huge shift toward mobile, partly due to their now-SEO-friendly site, and partly due to the global shift to mobile devices. (Prior to that, they had an older demographic and were behind the curve in terms of transition to mobile.)

Top-line average conversion rate over time by device: Desktop, mobile, tablet

Since we had strong seasonality, the key analysis needed to be around year-over-year changes. Here you can see year-over-year eCommerce conversion rate by device. 

Note that of the top 6 months’ strongest year-over-year performance for this time period, 4 of them occurred after or during the redesign. This is enough to show that the redesign was a success — but the client was still not satisfied with this explanation.

eCommerce Conversion % Difference from Previous Year (All)

So we dug into conversion rate by channel. Without burdening you with all the different charts we looked at, we found that the key dynamic for mobile was organic. That large increase in mobile traffic volume above was driven by organic. 

That in itself is fantastic — organic traffic increased 2.5x in the period after the redesign. But, as stated before, this followed the rule that as traffic increases dramatically, the conversion rate decreases. In this case, organic conversion rate declined significantly year-over-year. 

eCommerce Conversion % Difference from Previous Year (Organic)

So the redesign wasn’t successful after all, right? 

Not exactly. Since you can’t pay for a trip to Hawaii with conversion rate, we look to revenue, since it includes both volume and conversion. Mobile year-over-year revenue was the best it’s ever been due to the dramatic increase in organic traffic volume, even though the conversion rate went down dramatically:

Revenue Difference Year Over Year

Parting Example: Interference Caused by Display Ad Traffic

Do those examples seem overly complicated? Consider the poster child for conversion rate destruction: Display. 

Here’s the scenario: 

You launch Google’s pay-per-conversion Display traffic program, in which you only pay if Google’s algorithms get you a conversion.

Google sends 100,000 new visitors to your site, and one of them converted.

Your conversion rate tanks!

Are you better or worse off? I’d say you’re better off by one conversion and by the revenue associated with it (unless your bonus depends on conversion rate). This underscores the fact that, while you should track conversion rate, it’s merely an indicator, not a measure of success.

If you’d like our eCommerce conversion rate team to help evaluate your conversion rate by channel, seasonality, and device, or evaluate the impact of a site change on conversion rate, you can learn more or reach out here: Inflow’s Conversion Rate Optimization Service.

21 Field-Tested Strategies to Increase Live Chat eCommerce Conversions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does live chat increase eCommerce conversions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inflow's 2019 Best in Class eCommerce Features

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

How Do I Optimize Live Chat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask the following questions to get insights:

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

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

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

What is a Live Chat Conversion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Use a Portrait to Increase Engagements and Conversions

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

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

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

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

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

5. Tailor Your Language to How Your Audience Speaks

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

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

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

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

6. Use Pre-Written Responses to Increase Answer Speed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20. Catch Dissatisfied Chatters Before They Leave a Bad Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Process to Get Started With Chatbots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Best-in-Class eCommerce Homepages: Conversion Optimization

In this post, we will break down what a best-in-class eCommerce homepage looks like, according to our conversion optimization best practices research. We compared the conversion optimization features and tactics used on over 20 of the top eCommerce sites out there, and put them into a matrix so marketers can easily identify best practices, emerging

In this post, we will break down what a best-in-class eCommerce homepage looks like, according to our conversion optimization best practices research.

Best In Class eCommerce Homepages

We compared the conversion optimization features and tactics used on over 20 of the top eCommerce sites out there, and put them into a matrix so marketers can easily identify best practices, emerging trends and fading tactics. Here’s what we found out about their homepages:

Shop by Category on Mobile (not within the menu)

In 2017 14 merchants do it, 6 don’t = Best Practice

In 2019 21 merchants do it, 4 don’t = Must Have

What it is: Categories offered on the homepage in addition to what may be in the menu or header area.

Below Nordstrom and Room & Board show good examples of exposing shopping categories on a mobile homepage.

What we say: Category navigation from the homepage is becoming convention and has consistently tested well, particularly on mobile. It is ok for this experience on mobile to differ from the standard desktop experience.

Room&Board Mobile Site Screenshot

Nordstrom and Room&Board are good examples of mobile navigation beyond the hamburger menu.

2019 Notes:

This trend has become standard, having selected product categories on the homepage is a must in 2019.

Additionally, we have begun tracking best in class mobile interface approaches as well. In our last update, we see that 15 out of 17 BinC companies are making these category or product elements swipeable on a mobile device, so that’s a must do as well.

Hero Image Auto Slide (aka Carousel)

2017: 4 do it, 16 don’t = Not Conventional (on mobile)

2019: 4 do it, 21 don’t = Don’t Do (on mobile)

What it is: Hero image automatically slides through images.

What we say: Most BinC sites no longer do a slideshow on mobile, but a couple do. On desktop, however, more do. In our extensive A/B Testing of this element we see a static image win about 70% of the time. So while the BinC evidence is strong, if you have a slideshow on mobile, it’s a good idea to test replacing it with a static image.

2017: 6 do it, 14 don’t = Don’t Do This (on desktop)

2019: split! = Test This On Desktop

2019 Notes:

There is a major difference between desktop and mobile slideshows in 2019 with half the list using them on desktop but not on mobile. My opinion is that a slideshow’s efficacy is entirely dependent on the quality and effectiveness of the slides – i.e. if you can communicate your value proposition in 1 image and/or have a great promotional calendar, the single static image will work better than a slideshow.

Patagonia shows a slideshow on desktop but not on mobile:

Patagonia screenshots.

Show Merchandise

Mobile

2017: 8 do it, 10 don’t = Emerging Trend (on mobile)

2019: 17 do it, 8 don’t = Approaching Best Practice (on mobile)

What it is: Products are shown on the homepage so users can see examples.

2019 Notes:

Product widgets as in a ‘best sellers’ widget have gained in usage. This year 2/3 of our BinC sites are showing individual products on the homepage. At this level of usage, we’d suggest testing this as opposed to just implementing it.

eBags product recommendations on mobile:

eBags mobile screenshot.

Desktop

2017: 20 do it, 0 don’t = No Brainer (on desktop)

2019: all 25 do it = You need to match mobile on desktop here (see below)

2019 Notes:

This one is a head scratcher in terms of how all sites are doing it on desktop but not on mobile. With Google’s mobile first indexing and the necessity of mobile/desktop parity, it’s hard to understand the division. Basically, having different content on desktop vs mobile is a very bad idea, and though slideshows may get a pass on this, product content does not.

eBags product level links from homepage:

eBags desktop screenshot.

Responsive Site

2019: 16 do it, 7 don’t = Best Practice

What it is: A responsive site is one that displays the same content on mobile, desktop and devices in between.  It differs from a discreet m. site and from adaptive sites that hide certain content on mobile.

2019 Notes:

With google’s mobile first indexing, I’d say this is a requirement.  Mobile parity (having the same content on mobile as on desktop) is now imperative, and the way to achieve this is a fully responsive site (as opposed to a m. site or other types of adaptive sites we’ve seen in the past).

Ozweego screenshots.

Global Header Elements: Promo Area & Entry & Exit Offer

Entry Offer Mobile 2019: 10 Do, 15 Don’t

Header Promotional Area 2019: 15 Do, 10 Don’t

What it is: A global element is one that appears on all pages of the site and is usually a header, footer or floater element.  Entry and exit offers, however fit this category as they can also be on every page of the site.

2019 Notes:

I like these 2 elements because there is mixed data from our BinC sites.  What I can say, however, is that at Inflow we’ve extensively tested both these elements and found both to improve conversion 90% of the time. In this respect, I believe many of our BinC sites are behind the curve here.

Backcountry does a glocal promotional area and slide down entry offer:

Backcountry screenshots.

Live Chat

2019: 20 Do It, 5 Don’t = Best Practice

2019 Notes:

This is definitely a best practice.  In our testing, adding live chat has never lost, however, it has tied the control quite a bit.  Since manning live chat costs money, unless you have customer service agents already available, the ROI of adding one just for live chat is not a given.  Instead, you should A/B test this and measure any lift against the cost of an agent or service.

eBags screenshot.

Hamburger Menu

2019: 22 Do, 3 Don’t

2019 Notes:

I like this one as well because it seems so minor.  The fact is, the hamburger icon is one of only a few icons (along with shopping cart) that has near universal recognition.  Using this icon makes sense and does improve conversion a tiny bit because it speeds people through their buying process. On the other hand, using random icons on mobile or desktop is guaranteed to slow down a user – it’s a major pet peeve of mine – why would you force a user to learn your unique icons?  The solution of course, is to use an icon with a label, which only 3 of our BinC sites do. Every time I’ve tested adding a label the results have been at least neutral and 30% of the time a tiny bit positive.

JCPenny uses a hamburger with label, and labels their other icons as well (imagine if they didn’t use labels, how irritating would that be?)

JCPenney screenshot.

Search Outside Menu

2019: 21 Do It, 3 Don’t = Best Practice

What it is: Having either a search icon or search field outside of the menu (ie: exposed).

2019 Notes:

We know that users who search should convert at least 2.5x as well as users who don’t search (if they don’t, something is wrong with your search).  Because of this, we want search to be as prominent as possible within reason, so making sure its not buried in the menu is key. If you aren’t doing this right now, check your search stats and if searcher revenue is significant, then expose it on mobile.

LuLuLemon exposing search completely, and ModCloth exposing search icon:

Lululemon and ModCloth screenshots.

Site Speed

2019: 1 Does, 24 Don’t

What it is: There is only 1 absolute rule in conversion optimization: the faster your site, the better it will convert.  Mobile sites are slower than desktop sites for a variety of reasons (bandwidth and hardware primarily), so it’s crucial you optimize your site for mobile display.

One measure of site speed is google pagespeed.  Here we are looking for a score above 85. Recently we’ve adjusted this to add that we need a FCP above 2 seconds as well.

What we say:  Yikes! Google did recently update their page speed tool to factor in computing delays as well, making it *very* hard to score a 85+ score, but our BinC list is behind the curve here.  So while improving site speed (especially on mobile) is hard, my recommendation is to stop *every single other effort* on your site and focus exclusively on site speed to try and achieve a score above 70 and a FCP above 2.5 or so.

Fun fact, amazon can’t even hit these metrics…

Amazon PageSpeed Insights screenshot.



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