The Noisy Little Monkey Blog

What is Conversion Rate Optimisation?

Posted in UX, Posted in SEO, Posted in Talks by Nicola Payne on 27-Jul-2011 11:04:28

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is maximising your web investment by ensuring your website is designed, developed, search engine optimised and written to deliver either sales or enquiries depending on your type of business. CRO can be summarised into an equation that will be familiar to anyone in sales:

visitors x conversion rate x order value x repeat orders

For ecommerce: more visitors, who are motivated to convert, each with a higher order value, ordering more than once, will make a significant difference to your overall level of profitability. The same is true of service businesses, more visitors, more conversions and more enquiries, makes your website more effective.

A well optimised website and social media will help to drive visitors to your site, and often we get hung up here, without seeing the bigger conversion picture. Together with our friends at SBW Advertising we ran a workshop last week that was designed to look at that bigger picture by analysing examples of websites we know are brilliant at conversions. From our discussion a number of clear themes emerged:

It needs to be easy to buy

There are a couple of aspects to this:

Show me the product: all the websites we discussed had one thing in common – lots of product and only a small logo on the homepage. It turns out we don’t buy logos; we buy products and want to see what a site has to offer. First impressions count!

Finding what you want: the search functionality of a site is really important. There are different points in a buying cycle, sometimes it’s nice to browse, but often we are looking for something very specific and then the search functionality is important, especially on big sites. Amazon was cited as an especially good example of a huge site where it is easy to find what you want.

Know what’s available: there’s nothing worse than getting to the online checkout to find out the thing you wanted was out of stock. We like websites that are clear about availability; which have genuine offers; are clear about discounts and don’t load up prices with extras at the checkout.

Checkout: It’s vital to put a clear call to action on the website. We also like a quick checkout - one which has the option to save payment details, but doesn’t dictate that we must.

It’s obvious really, the likelihood of someone buying from your website is determined firstly by the visual stimulus of ‘this is the kind of product that I’m interested in’; then being able to find what they want; seeing that it’s available or being offered a viable alternative; knowing the cost and then being able to check out quickly. If at any point in this process a customer can’t proceed to the next point easily, then they are more likely to go to a competitor’s website.

It needs to feel safe

Believing that a website is safe is a surprisingly important part of why people choose to buy from one website and not another. With so many scare stories AND so much choice, people are more likely to buy from a site and that looks ‘proper’ and makes it clear that the payment gateway is secure. Reviews help here – a mixture is better than only selecting the good ones.
Some of this is about brand – there are brands we trust so we trust their websites – but often a sense of safety is more subtle: the design of the homepage, the tone of voice on the site, clarity about discounts and delivery prices. If you try to hide costs, it erodes customers’ trust - they may buy once, but they won’t buy again (unless you are a budget airline!).

Safety is also about handling objections and reducing barriers to purchase, this is particularly important for high value sales. We liked the way that Glasses Direct offers a free home trial on glasses frames so that you can try them before committing to an expensive, non-returnable purchase. Having this option gives customers a sense that they are in safe hands.

Traditional sales promotion tactics work on line

Sales promotions work if you want to trigger purchases, increase the average order value or encourage repeat purchases.

  • If you want to tip the purchase decision, tactics like time limited discounts and ‘buy one get one free’ work well. Groupon uses scarcity value and time limits to shift products at a discount, whereas Glasses Direct uses a buy one pair of glasses and get second pair free to tempt you to buy now. Boden sends discounts vouchers by post and email with a time limit for their use.
  • If you want a great example of how to increase the average order value, look no further than Amazon. ‘Usually bought together . . .’ is not simply for your benefit, these are usually tantalising extras that you didn’t know you wanted, designed to increase your order value. It’s a little like Mars Bars at the supermarket checkout.
  • Although we didn’t discuss it at the seminar, it’s possible to incentivise online repeat purchases in a number of ways including great service, discounts off the next purchase or cash back every time you buy.

Great customer service equals repeat purchases

The thing about CRO is that it’s not all about the website. Although a high Google ranking and great web presence may get that first sale, repeat orders often rely on other aspects of customer service. Honourable mentions go to:

  • Amazon for providing lots of different delivery options
  • Not on the High Street for championing personalisation of their products and then packaging them beautifully
  • Expedia for their email reminders of inspirational places to visit

On the other hand being bombarded with reminder emails; badly packed products that arrive damaged or look unloved or products that do not deliver on website promises are unlikely to lead to repeat visits or recommendations.
In other words our top CRO tips are:

  • When it comes to design, make the product the star with a clear call to action
  • Don’t skimp on search functionality or the payment gateway if you want to customers to complete their order and become repeat visitors
  • Check your website’s purchase process and fix any point in the process that is leaking potential customers to other sites
  • Use sales promotion tactics to get visitors to buy now, increase the average order value and repeat purchase
  • Be clear and honest about your pricing, offers and discount
  • Ensure the quality of the accompanying customer service matches the quality of your website.

Take a look at Stephen Pavlovich’s excellent ‘How to Guide for Conversion Rate Optimisation’. We think Stephen is cool.

Tags: UX, SEO, Talks

Nicola Payne

Nicola Payne

Managing Director at Noisy Little Monkey, Nicola posts about Google Analytics and managing marketing teams.