In this interview with Dan Weinsoft, Director of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Strategy at The Good, we share the unique perspective of someone using conversion optimization on a daily basis to help brands increase conversions.
And while there are plenty of big picture talking points here about the value of CRO, we wanted to see what conversion optimization looks like from the front lines. Sometimes it’s helpful to drill down and give a glimpse of the mechanics that occur below the surface.
In our interview with Dan, that’s exactly what we aim to do.
Q. What does conversion optimization look like once someone becomes a client?
We start the kickoff process with a new client by intentionally asking them only a few questions. We ask questions like:
- Where do they want to take their site?
- What areas do they want to see it grow?
- Do they have any major objectives they’re seeking to accomplish?
Why so few questions? Because we don’t want to be biased when we’re doing the research.
In fact, we specifically tell them, “Don’t tell us who you think your target customer is. Don’t tell us about your major marketing initiatives.”
Instead, we’ll figure out who these consumers are directly from the data. We’re going to study them and learn about them. We want to see whether or not our research aligns to the expectations of their marketing.
Only after we’ve done our research will we ask the client who they think their target audience is.
This helps us immensely because we can start with a blank slate. For example, we might look at their data and find that their consumer profiles are actually split into four different groups.
Knowing that, we can come back and say, “We’ve been through your site, we talked to these consumers, and we know exactly where and why they’re falling off.”
Then we’ll share the tactics we want to employ to help bring their consumers back.
Q: Are there elements of CRO that surprise clients when you begin to work with them?
Yes. It’s almost always eye-opening for them because they’re seeing things through the perspective of potential customers who are trying to accomplish something (like purchase a product) on their website.
They’ve never looked through that lens before.
Rather, they almost always see things through the lens of what they want to accomplish as business owners or stakeholders. They make the site look like what they want.
We show them the perspective their target audience brings to the site, what they’re trying to accomplish, and then how they’re serving it up to them. This usually blows their mind because, under this perspective, their site is not very effective.
For example, we had one client that sold backpacks. They thought their target audience was someone who just graduated college and was trying to upgrade from a JanSport college bag into something nicer for the business world.
What they didn’t realize was that they actually had a big audience looking for more expensive backpacks designed for technology-focused consumers and loaded with cool features.
The brand thought they needed to go to low cost to make sure they could hit the young market who wanted their stuff.
We showed them that, while there was a market for recent grads on their site, it would be more effective to target the higher price point, less price sensitive, consumers who were looking for these cool tech-focused bags.
We suggested they go after the untapped demographic first, then go after the younger audience, or go after both at the same time.
With the same client, we also identified a huge pattern with mobile devices. There were a lot of consumers trying to shop on their phones, but the mobile experience was really clunky and hard to understand.
Instead of having a big button that said, “For backpacks go here,” prospective buyers were spending a lot of time trying to figure out what the icons on the mobile menu meant.
We showed the brand what their consumers were trying to do and then all the barriers they put in front of them. It was pretty eye-opening for them.
In a way, you’re helping clients have a bit more customer empathy. You’re putting them in their consumers’ shoes in a different way than they previously have.
All of a sudden they can see all the things that have been frustrating the site consumers.
Q: When you create an audit report, are there certain things you look for?
We look at the entire picture, starting with the data first. We make sure we have a good set of clean data coming in so we’re not looking at the wrong things. This gives us a lot of good indications as we start to dissect it.
We go as deep as we need and then try to determine the big patterns, the major problems, and all the things that they possibly don’t know.
We talked to one client who didn’t understand that only 58% of everyone coming to the site were in the United States. They didn’t realize they had such an international presence. This was an eye-opening insight, and it actually changed the game for how we designed the rest of their strategy.
The data gives us the starting point, and our strategic foundation is based on that initial look at the data. From there, we continuously monitor the key metrics to see how they change based on optimizations we make to the site.
When we determine exactly who their consumer groups are, we conduct user tests where we send a targeted group of consumers onto the site to give us direct feedback about what they’re seeing and where they’re having issues.
For example, if we know that one user group is 45-and-older advanced web users who make over $100,000, we can talk to those exact consumers. We can watch how they navigate the website and see exactly where they run into problems.
They’re going to have a different perspective than a young person who is less web-focused and based in a completely different geographic location.
We begin molding the different perspectives together and then start looking at the data. Do the expectations verbalized by our user-testers match the bulk of what the audience is actually doing?
Where are they finding issues? What are they reading? What are they clicking on? Where are they scrolling to? Now we have this mix of insights. We’re actually seeing the whole customer experience.
Then we’ll test the process for ourselves by making a purchase on the site. We’ll have someone from our office go through the entire shopping experience.
We had one team member who was a great fit for a camping technology client because he’s a technology consumer that loves outdoor camping. We had him go through the site, pick a product that he liked, and make a test purchase. We were able to watch the entire experience.
In addition, we pay attention to the delivery of the product and go through the unboxing. Are our expectations met when we see the product compared to when we purchased it on the site?
Ultimately, our strategy is always customer before brand. We have formed a unique roadmap and testing plan that’s based on our conversion philosophy. It takes us through different levels of consumer groups, where they’re getting stuck on the site, and how advanced our customer’s sites are to match those expectations.
Q: Can you walk us through this roadmap in detail?
We do a thorough analysis of all the data so that we understand where consumers are coming from and where they going to. We look at:
- What does their customer acquisition look like?
- What does their content look like?
- How often do consumers come to the site?
- What devices are they using to browse?
- How old are they?
- What gender are they?
- Do any of these variables change throughout the year?
We look at the data through as many lenses as possible.
Then we send consumers to the site so we’re adding more flavor to the raw data. This allows us to say things to the client like:
“Here’s a profile of the consumer going through your site. The reason they’re dropping off is that they don’t understand what you do within seven seconds. They have a different impression of your brand than what you’re trying to communicate. You’re trying to tell them you’re a one-stop shop for everything but all they’re seeing is these seven things.”
We’re able to help them see their site through the lens of the customer by taking them through the entire customer experience.
We help them see how someone goes from initially experiencing their site to actually becoming initiated and branded as a customer, and then we give feedback on all of that.
Then we take it back a step. We have a general philosophy about conversion that the baseline conversion rate – where most sites start before conversion optimization – comes from consumers who trust the brand already, know what they want, and are willing to jump through whatever hoops it takes to make the purchase happen. If a brand says they get calls from consumers all the time who love the site and are super happy, that’s great. That’s the baseline.
But that’s not the end of it. There are many more tiers to go through.
One step up is the pain-free UX tier. If you have consumers coming to your site who want to buy something but are getting frustrated somewhere, they’re experiencing pain.
We call this tier the pain-free UX because if you can make your entire site experience painless, you’re going to raise your conversion rate by at least 10% to 15%.
The next tier up is the consumers who just need more information. They want a content-rich experience. There’s something about the site that leaves them saying, “I don’t have the right information to make a purchase today. I need to go out and find more research.”
This is a group we need to spend a lot of time on to make sure we’re giving them the right content. What does that content look like? Is it visual? Is it animated? Is it written content? Is there just one thing they’re missing, like a simple measurement of a product? We can figure that out.
These consumers have already identified that they want a product, but there’s something holding them back and it’s contained within a piece of information somewhere.
In brick-and-mortar shopping, we have the ability to touch and try things. You lose that in the online space, so we try to bring that in as often as we can. A lot of that falls in this tier, as well as several other tiers up ahead.
The guided path tier is one of those. The guided path tier is the group of consumers who, for example, come into that backpack client’s website and know they need a backpack but they’re overwhelmed by the number of options.
They need somebody to take them through the experience and say, “Here’s exactly where you need to go.” That’s a big part of this process but we can’t talk to this group until we know we have the right mix of content, a totally pain-free UX experience, and have already built the trust and necessity.
Then there’s the high-incentive group. This comes back to the ability to touch and try things. Sometimes we need to provide high incentive through letting consumers try things, rather than through discounting.
We need to be able to provide consumers with a product that they can somehow touch, feel, or experience without any requirements or commitment. When we start to speak to this group we’re already getting much higher returns on conversion rates because we’ve already nailed the other areas.
Then we always reach an untapped group at some point. There’s always some unique untapped opportunity that’s custom and clients will work with, but we can’t get there until we get through all these baseline levels of conversion optimization.
Q: Is there a quick way to summarize what conversion rate optimization is? And what is unique about how The Good approaches it?
CRO involves a huge amount of research. The strength of our team is that we can analyze data and experiments and then come up with new ideas and new things to test that take advantage of the current options and new strategies.
We always have a purpose, intent, and data to back up our choices. If we get results, we can say, “This test won and here’s what else happened along the way. Here are the next set of changes that we’re going to be testing because of those findings. And lastly, here are some new opportunities that just came up because this one test had some unexpected outcome.”
CRO is so much more than the common interpretation and goes beyond a single test performing at a significance level of 95% and achieving a particular result. We look at it from the perspective of the test results and its effects compared to our hypotheses.
We can learn from those effects and then know something about the audience that we didn’t know before. That’s the flavor that we’re bringing to conversion optimization that not everyone else can do.
Q: What are the best things to test?
It’s different for every client. We can test the greatest problem areas, but there are also other opportunities that we see. We identify all the strengths of the current and weaknesses of the current site.
Then we ask, “How can we better play up their strengths and minimize or reduce their weaknesses entirely?” If their weakness is they have a lot of painful spots, or something is clunky, or something takes a long time to get through, or a page is too slow to load, or it’s hard to find specific information, we can test all those things.
At the same time, we want to make sure that if they have a really strong brand value proposition or a really strong commitment to some cause that resonates with their consumers, that we test those things too to help build those strengths up.
It’s greater than just identifying what causes consumers to get stuck and then getting rid of those barriers. It’s more about building on the conversion strengths, minimizing the conversion weaknesses, and looking for areas of opportunity that are going to help them grow conversion rates and online revenue over the long-term.
Thank you Dan for taking the time to go into a little more depth about conversion optimization!
Here are a few things we found particularly insightful and what we recommend you think about as you work to convert more of your existing paid traffic into buyers:
- Takeaway #1: CRO helps brands develop a bit more consumer empathy. It puts you in your consumers’ shoes in a different way than they previously have.
- Takeaway #2: Data provides the starting point and a strategic foundation. From there, watch your key metrics to see how they change based on optimizations being made to the site.
- Takeaway #3: The key to the most effective conversion rate optimization is not just in the data, but even more in the analysis.
What were your takeaways? Leave us a comment!
About the Author
David Hoos is the former Director of Marketing at The Good, conversion rate experts who deliver more revenues, customers, and leads. David and the team at The Good have made a practice of advising brands on how to see online revenue double through their conversion rate optimization services.