Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is one of the unsung heroes of on-line marketing.
For those unfamiliar with the term its easy to equate it back to offline thinking: Supermarkets position impulse purchases by the cashier’s – as an opportunistic way of making an extra sale (think of it as cross selling). Supermarkets are also known to play calming music, and position certain products at specific heights depending on the target market – all of this is optimising the likelihood of them selling a product.
On-line this is something that we haven’t as an industry really cottoned onto enough yet. The practice of CRO is massively under-discussed, with very few real experts in the field out there. Also, far too often (as is the way with any nascent industry) people assume that all CRO involves is split testing of slightly different colours and messaging. If people don’t trust your website, then changing the colour of your buttons is like waiting for your cat to bark (src: SEOgadget). A lot of people still assume that SEO is all about spamming though, so I guess we shouldn’t hold our collective breaths waiting for that to improve.
Real CRO involves looking at every action and interaction that visitors have with your site, and identifying the reasons why each and every one of them didn’t convert into a sale. Its fairly typical for a website to have (for instance) a 1% conversion rate – or to make 1 sale per hundred visitors that arrive at the site. Now lets imagine you could increase that number to 2 sales per hundred visits. Guess what, your marketing costs just got halved. So did most other fixed costs per sale. Your business just became 2x more profitable.
In order to make this kind of paradigm shift to your business though, you need to do more than just change font sizes and colour shades. You need to identify all of the potential objections that people may have to buying a product on your site. You need to answer those questions before they are asked. You also need to introduce an element of urgency to increase sales further (ie. only two rooms left at this price, or, last sale of this room type 23 minutes ago).
Before you can do any of this though, you need to set-up your analytics correctly with goals, paths and funnels – we can’t analyse where people are dropping out of your sales path if we don’t already have the data! Once you’ve done that and you know where you are losing sales, you need to identify every part of the page that people are interacting with – and start experimenting with both best practices and “off the wall” ideas if you have any. For instance, at a previous company we decided to remove all navigation from the purchase funnel (the header and sidebar menu’s along with the site footer) to reduce the likelihood that people clicked on it – guess what, they didn’t, and we had
a slight uplift in conversion.
Once you have some idea what to do, and where to do it, the next step is finding some software that can do the measurement for
you – there are plenty of options here from the free (google website optimizer) through to products like Visual Website Optimizer and Monetate which are paid for, but well worth the extra investment.
Once you have got a decent series of tests running, its important to keep this process going continually to squeeze every last bit of marketing efficiency out of your website. This isnt a “set and forget” marketing effort, but once you’ve put some work in you will wonder why you never engaged in CRO sooner!
If you would like some further reading – I highly recommend the CRO flow chart by SEOgadget which not only gives you a great outline as to what to do, but also links to all of the resources and tools needed to perform the work itself.