Conversion Rate Optimization: The grand-slam of website design
Every single element on a webpage impacts what visitors ultimately do, from the wording to the fonts to the color and position of all elements, as well as how easy it is to complete a form or transaction. To maximize conversion rates, companies need to combine creativity with a holistic, results-based analytical approach.
Landing page optimization, results-tracking, testing of new ideas, user-friendly forms, and learning from experience are all part of good website design, and all contribute to higher conversion rates. However, all the website traffic in the world doesn’t mean much for e-Commerce companies unless those website visitors are actually buying. Awareness that your company exists is nice, since you won’t sell anything if people don’t know you’re out there. Traffic is important, but even a well-trafficked website of a well-known company can fail if the design doesn’t convert visitors into buyers and generate sales. Companies who neglect any of these will lose visitors, and therefore, revenue, to those who dedicate resources to conversion optimization.
What Conversion Rate Should You Expect?
The average online conversion rate for e-Commerce stores across all industries is 2%– yes, that’s right, an AVERAGE of just 2% of website visitors to e-Commerce stores actually purchase. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? An industry-specific breakdown of average conversion rates tells a little more of the story:
|Type of site||
|Fashion and Apparel||
|Outdoor and Sports||
Catalog sites have a clear advantage, with a 5.8% conversion rate, because most visitors come to their sites to shop. But even though their visitors are more likely to have the intent to buy, only 5 or 6 of every hundred visitors actually do. It may not seem like much, but when you consider that websites can generate tens or even hundreds of thousands of visits per month, and even more if you’re a very big player, it all adds up. If landing page optimization didn’t make a difference, no one would be doing it.
Steps to Improve e-Commerce Website Conversion Rates
The first step is to gather information on the results you are getting from your website– you can’t fix problems you don’t know exist, and you can’t judge improvement if you don’t know where you’re starting from. There are many tools now available to track how people find your website, how many visitors you have, how long they spend on each page, and where they go as they navigate from one page to another. Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools are free and easy for any webmaster to set up, and will give you the basic information you need to know about who’s visiting your site and what they’re doing once they’re there.
Once you have benchmarked the data on what’s currently happening on your site, you can start making small changes and testing the impact those changes have on visitor behavior. Google Website Optimizer enables you to create multiple versions of the same page, each with one or more elements slightly different, and to compare the differences in visitor behavior generated by each page. For best results, follow Google’s guidelines to effective A/B split or multivariate testing, so you’re not misattributing changes in results to an elemental change that didn’t actually cause the difference.
As you see improvements in visitor behavior and conversion rates on your site through testing, implement those changes that increase your conversion rates, and then choose the next element you’re going to test. Never change more than one element at a time so you can appropriately assign responsibility (or hopefully, credit) for improvements. Monitor the response over time because there are many factors that influence conversion rate, including the calendar, sentiment and payroll cycles, and you don’t want to overemphasize the impact of any one factor. Each change will improve upon the previous version of your site, and will bring you one step closer to maximizing your conversion rate.
The process of testing and then tweaking your site in response to your results should be an always-ongoing process, because visitor behavior is always evolving. The effectiveness of some elements decreases as people become accustomed to them– banner ads, for example, were once a major advertising draw, but are now far less effective because many consumers have developed “banner blindness“ and no longer “see” banner ads.
There is both an art and a science to landing page optimization and e-Commerce website design, and when all the elements come together the right way, magic happens and conversion rates can far exceed industry averages.