How to assess the health and increase the conversion rate of your website
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” - Bill Gates
Conversion Rate Optimisation is a process which encompasses everything that your website is connected to. From the way your customers find your site, to their on-site interaction, purchase and after-sales care, conversion optimisation is improving your business to better cater for your existing and potential customers.
The raison d’etre of a website is to cater to the needs of a particular market and enable them to perform a particular function, that could be to interact with a business, engage with communities online or purchase a product.
With the exponential advance in technology over the past 20 years, websites have become more capable, powerful and interactive than perhaps many ever thought possible. With the introduction of smartphones, tablets, powerful desktops and smart watches, access has never been easier and user demands have never been greater.
Mix that with the number of services online; banking, shopping, social media, blogging, video-sharing, television/movie streaming, users no longer visit the internet, they live on it. In the UK alone in 2016, 87.9% of adults had, in the last three months, used the internet (ONS, gov) and almost all adults aged 16 to 24 were recent internet users (99.2%).
For business owners, the clear takeaway from trends released over the past few years was that trading online wasn’t optional, it was a must. High-street retailers have seen footfall decrease significantly; analysts in 2016 reported declines of as much as 10% in major shopping centres around the country (source: the Guardian).
The ONS also reported in 2016 that YoY growth for online retailing was an increase of 21.3%. Despite costs of clothing increasing, clothing and footwear saw a 5.5% increase and department stores saw an 8.6% increase. This will come as good news to retailers but interesting to analysts as statistics were also released in 2016 to suggest real wages had declined -10.4% from 2007 and 2015. Consumers appear to have less money but are still spending more.
Cross-Device engagement to increase conversion optimisation
Before we take a structured look at assessing the health of your website, it’s important to look at the way major retailers are interacting with customers across devices. E-Commerce is seeing a shift in which device consumers are using to purchase with mobile greatly surpassing both desktop and tablet.
With this is mind, major retailers are developing bespoke applications, utilising social media, paid search channels (search, display, video and remarketing) to not only sell online, but to interact with existing and potential customers, driving traffic to their website, driving footfall in-store and also gaining email data to increase each consumer’s lifetime value (ltv).
Understand the market and your customers
The first step to beginning a conversion rate optimisation programme is to look holistically at your target audience and your market. Are your customers technically knowledgeable? Do they have a lot of disposable income? Why are they purchasing from you, what is your USP?
More often than not a website is created without the fundamentals in mind so already there are clear objectives that can be put in place to align your site with your target audience.
Top tip: It’s important to make changes incrementally and measuring the success/failure of each one so you can better isolate where your big wins are.
Look at how your customers are finding your site
Discovery (or channel acquisition) is an extremely important element to conversion rate optimisation. Users will find your site from different destinations and by understanding your valuable channels you can become more intelligent with your marketing spend. For example, you might analyse the data and find that the conversion rate of users through a certain referrer is 10% higher than the average for the site, if you are paying for exposure it will give you a greater understanding of which website is sending you valuable users and which ones are worth removing from your next budget plan.
Two of the key traffic drivers to most websites is organic search and paid search. Looking at the conversion rate of both channels can give you an idea on the health of your brand and the success of your paid advertising.
Top Tip - If you bid on your own brand term you can measure how this is impacting upon your SEO
What pages are users visiting and leaving on?
Another key trend to look for early on in your optimisation process is to find any pages which hold potential to increase value. For example, you might find that users most commonly land on a certain page and struggle to navigate to the product or category they’re looking for. Drop-offs can be rectified by understanding the user journey and why it is they haven’t been compelled to take further action on your site.
Are users managing to checkout successfully?
The final stage to the “four-step health check” is determining whether users are able to successfully purchase on the website. One of the biggest drop-offs of users on a website is at the basket stage, which could be for a number of reasons:
- Delivery charge
- Customer was just browsing
- Delivery time
- Additional costs
- Security of the site
- Trustworthiness of the brand
It’s imperative to ensure the checkout is as easy and smooth as possible to prevent users getting frustrated and going elsewhere. It is even worse for site owners when they have got every other step correct and the customer falls at the final hurdle.
Google analytics offer a fantastic funnel visualisation which can show at what stage users most commonly left the checkout which will more often than not offer the glaring reason as to why conversion rate is being affected.
Deciding the right metrics and dimensions to focus on
When you are analyzing the data gathered from users interacting with your website, there are hundreds, if not thousands of different metric and dimension combinations you can create into reports and comb through. One of the most important things to do is identify early on the metrics you want to focus on and also how you want to split that data. Perhaps to start off with you might split by device, then when you have enough data to work with you might switch the focus to the age of your customer, or what browser they’re viewing the site on.
For different parts of the journey and different goal targets, the metrics that you want to focus on will shift. From a landing page perspective, the metrics that you measure may be more interaction based, looking at bounce rate, page depth, time on page etc. whereas at a product level it will be directly conversion rate and revenue focused.
Making all the information you have gathered translate into sales
With analytics you can take a methodical approach to understanding the overall health of your site. Alongside the quick four step plan to understanding your conversion rate pitfalls, you can devise a bespoke approach based on the structure and make up of your own site.
Whether your site is below 50 pages or there are thousands of pages, the goal is always the same - make your website easier for the user to complete the end goal.
Conversion Rate Optimisation is a process that stems from data, but is led by the knowledge of how the site works, who your customers are and how the market behaves. Your website can be affected by external factors and in turn you can safeguard, combat and even shield yourself from external factors by spotting the opportunities to become the innovator.
CRO is an ongoing process that leads your website and your business to bigger heights, if you’re not already doing it the question is not should you, it’s why not?
Written by Matthew Howman, Search & Analytics Manager