Conversion Rate Optimization: How One Overlooked Process Can Bring You $40 000 More Every Day
CRO is one of the most popular acronyms in growth marketing, right after CAC or LTV. But it's a field so broad and complex that it's often reduced simply to A/B testing. Our latest guest in Hypergrowth Talks Luke Carthy will demonstrate the breadth of the conversion rate optimization process and take us through the steps involved in analyzing and optimizing conversions.
Luke has been working with clients like Caterpillar, Renault, and Chemist Direct. He helps his clients identify opportunities to remedy conversion rates — like a campaign delivering a 175% year-on-year sales increase and doubled organic traffic.
Luke has the defining quality that sets apart real professionals, no matter their field: he genuinely likes what he does. He treats every sale as a personal victory: "When you get a sale – be it a personal one or one for a client — that feeling never gets old. That's why I love what I do."
But he's quick to point out that not everyone shares his natural inclination towards conversion optimization. Conversion rate optimization is a bit of an undervalued element of marketing. Getting fresh new traffic often sounds more appealing than something as technical as CRO. "It has this horrible stigma in terms of getting buy-in and resources for it." This is why Luke has had to learn how to navigate not just customer journeys but client politics, as well.
The essence of CRO: how to earn a business 30 000 pounds a day more with a simple error message
We often think about CRO as the process of looking at data, experimenting, A/B testing. But Luke expands the focus of the field way beyond that. It can include making any aspect of the journey easier for the customer. "A lot of it is about fixing problems that no one knew were really there," Luke explains and is quick to illustrate with an example.
A client of Luke's was losing more than 30 000 pounds ($42 000) a day and the business didn't even know it. The culprit was an overly-generic error message at checkout. It turned out that the error was showing up when a customer enters the wrong credit card details — if they mistyped the card number or entered the wrong validity date. The message on the screen urged people to contact customer service which of course very few did. Most just abandoned the purchase right then and there.
In the end, Luke found out the reason for the error message and reworded it in plain English. This simple change resulted in 30 000 pounds per day in recovered abandoned carts.
"CRO doesn't need to be complicated," Luke concludes: "It can be complicated to find the problem, but the solution doesn't have to be difficult."
The step-by-step of CRO
Luke took us through the process of identifying barriers and optimizing conversions.
Make sure data is truthful
We can't fix an issue if we're unable to diagnose it. So you need to first make sure that you have the data that covers the whole customer path. And you also need to check its accuracy. What you'll look at highly depends on your industry, business model, and tracking setup but there are some universal red flags, too:
- a discrepancy between transactions registered in your tracking platform vs what you see in your internal systems;
- a really low or really high bounce rate which usually means incomplete or duplicate tracking;
- traffic data completely missing for some pages on the site.
A good rule of thumb is to review the numbers being reported for your top user actions and compare the data in your tracking platform vs the ones in your database.
Identify key opportunities
This is the moment when you need to become a bit of a detective. Every platform is slightly different so Luke suggests you start jumping around and looking for some of the most common opportunities for conversion.
Conversion audits are often data-heavy, but you also need to leverage the human element. The easiest first step is to just take a fresh look at the user flow. This includes the simple process of creating an account, going through a checkout process, or doing any other key customer action from start to finish. You will be amazed at the number of things you notice if you haven't looked at these conversion points in a while.
Luke is aware of his own limitations, too: "I've been in CRO for a while and of course you become desensitized to certain things. It's just human nature." So he will give a device to someone that's not familiar with the project, his kids, or an older relative, and just ask them to perform the actions. This will give you a great outside perspective.
When it comes to data, the first few things Luke would look for are:
- errors popping up in the standard user flows,
- stock or availability issues,
- pricing issues (too high and equally too low prices than what competitors offer),
- page speed and performance issues,
- checkout issues – these can be both technical (slow load times when an address is added) or commercial (high delivery fees to some regions that become visible at the last checkout step).
Luke will also pay close attention to situations where there's a lot of traffic going to a certain part of the site that doesn't lead to conversions. Of course, that doesn't necessarily constitute a problem – your popular blog posts might not be converting straight away if they are designed to educate only. But it's still something to keep an eye out for.
The next thing Luke would analyze is how users navigate site search. According to research, people who use site search and find what they need are 5-6 times more likely to convert than people who don't. So we need to make sure nothing is stopping these users from finding what they are looking for — and to then convert. The most typical thing to pay attention to is how the website search handles misspellings, brand names, spaces in the wrong places, as well as non-commercial queries like when someone is searching for a refund policy.
Finally, you need to be aware that conversion rates might be low because of a commercial issue. This is especially common with e-commerce stores where a higher price or stock issues can sway results. A customer can't buy something that's not even in stock.
Once you've identified a few opportunities for optimization, you need to prioritize the ones that make the most sense and then present your case to the team. Usually, CRO work needs to involve at least a few other people — a developer, a designer, and so on — so you need to make sure you can get buy-in. This is easier if you "make the case as juicy as possible, to be frank," Luke says.
Usually, you can make your case with data. What's the potential for improvement, what additional revenue can it bring? Luke has proven that presenting the data "gives people a catalyst" — it adds tangibility to both the issue at hand and the potential gain.
Test – or just launch
Hopefully, presenting your case will persuade everyone involved that it's time to act. And oftentimes the first thing that comes to mind is A/B testing the change. But Luke believes this isn't always necessary. Conducting an A/B test requires time and holds an opportunity cost — you will be taking people to your original version that you've already established to have flaws. If the site has too little traffic, it takes a really long time for a test to reach significance.
"There are things that need to be A/B tested and there are things that just need to be done," Luke smiles. This is especially true for businesses where CRO is a new initiative. If the team has just started with CRO, you don't want to "throw another hurdle" by introducing an A/B testing platform that requires integration. In this case, it pays off to just implement a few quick changes that can demonstrate the effect of CRO on the bottom line and move to the complex experiments after that.
There is a sort of compromise — you can roll out the new experience to only a handful of pages or the traffic coming in from one channel only. But if you've just found a problem that needs to be fixed go ahead and fix it.
Look at the data
The last step is obviously the most crucial. It's time to analyze the impact of your change. Luke advises making sure you're tracking both percentage changes and absolute results so that you can see the full picture.
You'll also want to segment your data based on customer types, traffic sources, and so on. Sometimes the average results don't change significantly, but when you look closer you see a big improvement in the conversions for one particular customer segment.
And, just as during your initial analysis, make sure you simply talk to people. This can be done through direct customer interviews, a feedback option on the website, or focused research on a platform like UserTesting.com. This qualitative data is sometimes even more important than the numbers.
Ready, set, optimize
Luke's love of his own work is contagious. And I got a sense that what drives him is a genuine empathy for the customer. So I suggest you take a page off of Luke's book and start improving your conversions by putting yourself in the shoes of your users. Open up your user registration page and see what you can find with fresh eyes now!
And if you need further resources to grow your CRO skills, head over to the video recording of this interview, where Luke shared a few of his recommended resources, too.