Because there is nothing as frustrating as an unpredicted change in sales volume.
For an enterprise sized business there are several reasons why you would want to stabilize your conversion rate - it could help you forecast sales, better manage inventory levels, coordinate staff and make more confident decisions about your advertising budget. It would, fundamentally, help you establish a strategy for your online store.
So how can you find out why your sales volumes are in flux? And is conversion rate really a fair indicator of your success? It is time to investigate the term ‘conversion rate’ and learn some simple tools to solve that mysterious flux.
Before we get going, let’s establish the difference between sales and conversion rate, because you would never want to risk improving your conversion rate at the cost of your sales. For example, if you arrange a sales event and sell all of your products with a 70% discount, your conversion rate will fly through the roof - leaving you broke.
A high conversion rate is therefore not the single metric to consider when evaluating your eCommerce performance. Another useful metric is average order value; a higher value on your average order in combination with a high conversion rate leads to a higher revenue per user, which indicates good sales.
If you understand these metrics you are halfway to controlling your flux with greater accuracy. If they still feel a bit blurry, keep reading for the 5 best ways to improve and stabilize your sales and conversion rate.
1. Set up a sales funnel and keep a change-log
The first step towards stabilizing your sales is to analyze why they are in flux. This can be done by ensuring you have got the analytics in place to check at which stage of the ‘customer journey’ visitors are dropping off your site. You can use ecommerce analytics tools to set up a sales funnel and get a visual and statistical representation of your customer's journey, from the homepage down to collection, product and cart pages. Taking monthly screenshots of these funnels will let you evaluate if there are any major changes affecting the flow of customers, all the way from social media interactions to your website’s cart page.
Alongside funnels, it’s a good idea to keep a change-log for your eCommerce website. If you have made changes to the layout of your site and discover changes in your customer's buying pattern, you can cross-reference your change-log with your funnel to determine whether the changes you have made are responsible for the variation. Without a change-log or funnel, you will quickly lose track on what design choices work best for your site and customers.
2. Keep all desired customer actions ‘above the fold’
One of the most common mistakes leading to low conversion rates, underperforming products, and unsuccessful websites relates to "above the fold" content. If your key selling points, call-to-action buttons, price and product information are not immediately visible when on landing on a page, you are probably reducing its effectiveness.
This is true for both desktop and mobile devices, and there are a vast array of on-page analytic tools to help you check what percentage of your audience scrolls to the bottom of your page (a hint - it tends to be a very small number).
When speaking of actions, it is commonly known that users will engage with clear and well defined call-to-action buttons on your page, but if your product information isn’t visible to validate the click, why would the customer take action?
3. Ensure your unique selling points are clearly communicated
With emphasis on unique, it is important that you highlight what customers get out of buying from you rather than your competitor. For example, you may have a 2 year warranty period whilst other resellers stick to 1 year. This needs to be communicated both verbally and visually, as you will have some visitors who read through all product information in detail, whilst others are visual ‘browsers’ who will give text a cursory glance but are more engaged by iconography and imagery to guide them.
A good designer can ensure you get the right icons to complement your text and hence clearly communicate why your store is the best choice. This, again, should be communicated ‘above the fold’, so that customers discover your unique selling points without needing to look for them.
Further, if you are struggling to prioritize which information should be displayed above the fold, take a visitors perspective and consider what is crucial for motivating the visitor to scroll further. However, the safest way of deciding which information to display is by either surveying your customer or conducting A/B-testing.
4.Implement a customer survey on your site
As you have potential customers coming through to your site, why not take advantage? It is worth considering implementing a web-based survey to capture your visitor's opinions of the features on your site. The best questions to ask depends on what you have identified as key issues when analyzing data from your analytics setup, but a good start would be to ask for reasons to why the visitor came to your site, if they completed the intended task, and why or why not that happened.
Perhaps you can offer a discount code as a thanks for replying to your survey (this will also increase the likelihood of your customer going through with their purchase, as they are now more committed to your brand). However, it is worth keeping in mind that although responses may pour in quicker thanks to this carrot, the overall quality of replies can decrease due to customers who are only looking for a quick discount.
Even if you feel put off by qualitative responses taking longer to read through and analyze, open-ended questions will teach you a lot about the language your customer is using when speaking about your products (which can be beneficial in your promotional material). Your list of follow-ups will probably also be more straightforward than if you ask quantifiable questions. If you have a lot of qualitative responses to get through, try to ensure you have more than one analyst looking at the results in order to minimize bias and misreadings.
5. Create hypotheses and conduct A/B testing
A/B testing allows you to appreciate what impact your layout changes have on your webshop and can massively affect its performance. To conduct effective testing campaigns, you first need to identify which key issues you want to resolve (these issues can be found through your analytics and customer surveying). You then need to prioritize issues based on commercial value, and finally develop hypotheses to test.
For accurate testing you need a substantial number of visitors. Above 100,000 monthly visitors is considered industry standard, with fewer visitors meaning it takes longer for your test to demonstrate statistical significance. For instance, having a statistical significance of 90% means you are 90% confident in your result being accurate. Without high enough traffic, your test may also present a ‘false positive’ and show a winning result based on statistical anomaly. Therefore, having a higher number of traffic irons out any ‘false positives’ and improves the statistical significance of your test.
Before you get too excited and start testing, make sure you develop proper hypotheses and prioritize your testing programme based on commercial value, not “guesstimation”. The reason for this is to have a logic behind your testing, which ultimately justifies time and money spent. Even if your hypothesis is wrong, you can learn a lot. It’s ultimately about setting a clear target for your testing and ensuring you are staying organized with your changes.
What to look for if you decide to work with an e-commerce agency
If these concepts still seem blurry, or you just lack the time to follow the above steps, consider working with a consultant who specializes in conversion rate optimization. You will get the most out of your money by doing the following preparation work:
- Ensure you have clear goals to discuss with your consultant (e.g. improving conversion or reducing bounce rate).
- If you haven’t got high enough traffic, don’t go with an “expert” who promises that they can give you quality results. Typically between the costs of the consultant, the testing platform and basic overheads, a low traffic number will make your testing programme less cost effective. Remember, less than 50% of tests across the industry are winning tests. If you test slowly due to low traffic, it is only going to take longer and hence costs more to achieve winning results.
- Only hire a consultant who can explain their process and underpinning logic in a clear and easy-to-understand way. Basically, don’t pay for anything that you don’t understand - that should give you a good enough standard to base your choice of agency on.
If you are looking for an experienced agency to work with in this regard, throw a glance at SwankyApple. They specialize in Shopify (regular and plus), app development, design, branding, marketing and conversion rate optimization for growing eCommerce businesses.
The authors of this blog work for SwankyApple, a Shopify accredited web design agency. Jennifer Caust has several years of marketing experience with roles varying from Commercial Marcom Manager at Microsoft, digital consulting for retail clients and continuous work with Exeter’s local startup community. Sean Clanchy is an entrepreneur and eCommerce expert with experience across procurement and inventory management, digital marketing, conversion rate optimization consulting and experimentation.