Increasing Web Profits Through User Experience Improvement
By Craig Smith, Founder & CEO
As a web marketing or technology professional, you already know the impact of website design and functionality. These areas are the building blocks of your user experience and ultimately play the most prominent role in determining the success of your website. Because of this, it is paramount that enterprises look to be proactive in experimenting with alternative designs, layouts, and promotions in order to maximize visitor efficiency. Executing these experiments is the process of conversion rate optimization and this methodology is a key component to growing an eCommerce or internet business without the generation of incremental traffic.
This brief discusses this process and defines approaches and milestones that are vital for success. Within a five step model, we present a framework that not only identifies where to improve your site, but also distinguishes key factors to consider when conceptualizing HOW to improve your site. Increasing your conversion rate will have a tremendous impact on your bottom line. In most eCommerce or lead generation businesses, improvements to conversion equal direct improvements to overall profitability.
Getting Conversion Optimization Right 3 Key Success Factors
As you embark down this journey of improving your conversion rate, a few factors are going to determine your success or failure. We have gained this experience in working with numerous companies’ optimization initiatives and keeping these “front and center” as you structure your efforts will help you drive gains more effectively.
Success Factor #1: Eliminate Friction
The key aspect of conversion optimization is eliminating usability barriers for users to complete key tasks. Too often website “noise” creates analysis overload situations in which users do not complete tasks or goals due to the amount of varied pathways and messaging that is presented on the site. As the business reduces this overload through more simplistic design, page progression rates frequently increase and conversion rates rise in parallel.
Success Factor #2: Reduce IT
Nothing derails conversion optimization initiatives faster than IT projects that are more mission critical than page optimization. Because of this, it is vital to implement a solution that allows testing to be done in a manner that puts page control in the hands of a marketer not a programmer. By doing so, your site management will be more focused on customer and product needs instead of technical hurdles or limitations. Many 3rd party solutions, including the solution that we at Trinity leverage for our testing projects, provide this type of flexibility.
Success Factor #3: One Step at a Time
Too many times companies look to run before they know how to walk with conversion rate optimization. It is vital to focus on one step of your user experience at a time. If a business looks to test or experiment with multiple page templates all at the same time, it can lead to data which is skewed and produces results that may be skewed.
Imagine a test on an eCommerce website that tests the product page layout, category page layout, and cart page all at one time. It presents too many unique page level variables that can cause complexities with the underlining data and findings.
Ready to Begin? Start with Your Data
No matter what the business or industry, if you are looking to drive page level improvement you need to start in your analytics. Your web analytics will tell the story of the focal points that you need to concentrate on. Essentially your analytics will tell you the “squeaky” parts of the wheel that need to be fixed. Before reviewing data it is vital that you are completely sure that your web analytics installation is correct. Without correct data, the practice of conversion optimization is pointless. Ask your analytics vendor or internal IT staff for an updated diagnostic test of all your page tagging. All of your associated website goals should be incorporated into the analytics so business intelligence can be derived prior to executing the test. These conversion points will serve as key milestones to gauge success or failure within your new designs.
As you look at the analytics data, use segmentation to isolate progression ratios for your site. For example:
- How many users came to the homepage and progressed to the offer or category page?
- How many users landed on category or sub-category pages and progressed to the product page?
- How many users from the product page progressed to the cart?
- How many sessions that included a cart actually turned into an order?
These datapoints serve as your primary benchmarks in conjunction with your conversion rate data. Be sure to document this at the start of your efforts and segment your incoming traffic to see how these metrics vary for different traffic sources.
Identifying User Personas
At this stage you have a clear idea of what pages are causing issues. The follow up action item is to define the needs of your customers, and how your primary pages are meeting the needs of your visitors.
Too often, little time gets put into this step. Understanding alternative motives, expectations, and desires of both customers who are familiar with your business, as well as prospects exposed to your business for the first time, is a fundamental piece of structuring your site as effectively as possible. The time tested approach of creating user personas is an effective way to properly document your user needs. Much more of an art than a science, this process helps your team or yourself in crafting the prospective questions that users may have when they come to your site.
Define personas which come to your site. Give pseudo names and ages to provide team members an idea of these fictional users, while mapping out differences in what they expect, how they interact, and how they can help or hurt your brand within their online interactions.
Time to experiment
After identifying your target pages and conceptualizing the needs of varied users to your site, now is the time to start conceptualizing and constructing alternative versions. Your efforts to this point should have generated ideas into what pages to test and also provided insights into the variables that will be tested versus the control version.
Ideas now need to come to life in a visual design. Mockups, or better known in the Internet industry as wireframes, need to be constructed for the alternative versions you are looking to test. Mockups are essentially visual prototypes of new page layouts and calls to action. Best practice is to create these versions within HTML format so that they are viewable within a browser and are easily distributed to key stakeholders within your business. At this point, all stakeholders review your wireframes and provide feedback into the proposed alternative designs. Depending on the personalities within your business you may receive a plethora of changes to the mock ups or none at all. Be sure to have a clear sign off process with executive members and decision makers so that no confusion exists as the tests get pushed live.After the prototypes are signed off on, the new pages or modules must be created within HTML for publishing. Strict quality assurance processes should be set in place to review the test content before “flipping the switch” and making the test live.
Interpretation and Kaizen
Now that your test is running, you will start to receive interesting data relating to the outcome. Be patient, as too often marketers get excited on initial results, only to see those results swing rapidly into other directions over time. A key element to consider is the traffic distribution that is going to be exposed to the test. If possible, test to a small segment of your traffic base (less than 20%).
If your website gets significant traffic this is not a problem, but remember that the more sophisticated your test becomes with alternative modules (within a multivariate test) the more traffic will be needed to reach statistical validity. A key practice to review when identifying trends within your experiment is to see how varied segments perform. For example, did the new checkout page work as well for “branded” search visits as it did for “non-branded” search visitors. This type of intelligence is critical to your follow up efforts.
Your goal is getting your web development and marketing to a level of “Kaizen”. “Kaizen” is a Japanese term that indicates a process of never ending improvement and this state is what you should strive for within your online optimization efforts.
Within every test there is a learning to be understood. Many times these insights drive conversion improvements. Sometimes they do not. Regardless of the impact, by taking the intelligence gained by previous tests and leveraging this information within future design and marketing efforts, the business is closer to achieving the “kaizen” state which all online marketers should strive for.
Now you know where to begin and the framework for conversion optimization, it is now time to get your business aligned with this effective web optimization tactic. If possible, get some other individuals within the organization to be on a optimization committee to discuss plans and results but be sure to have no more than one agency or individual steering the testing ship.By incorporating the above methodologies into your business, the effectiveness of your website will increase and your overall conversion rate will likely rise equaling greater profits to your bottom line.
If you would like to discuss ecommerce optimization and multivariate testing and learn how it can increase the revenue and performance of your business, please email us Trinity Insight at [email protected]
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