Table of contents
WHERE SHOULD YOU SPEND YOUR MARKETING BUDGET?
It’s a question marketing managers across the globe ponder on an almost daily basis. And if we’re being honest, the answer to this question relies heavily on what’s perceived to bring the highest possible gains.
The question often leads to a quality vs quantity debate. Do you focus on:
Increasing traffic to your website thus increasing the number of sales opportunities you have
Focus on quality and increase the efficiency of your marketing spend to convert more of your current visitors into paying customers
Generally speaking, marketing managers take approach A – but they shouldn’t.
Marketers are overconfident in their optimisation campaigns. They focus on quantity and fall prey to terrible vanity metrics like traffic levels and social shares. Whilst these look great on paper and may even help marginally increase revenue, the results are often negligible when placed next to the new campaign’s marketing spend.
Whereas option B – a focus on quality – is by far the better approach. Unlike traffic driving, social shares or other vanity focused campaigns you’re not measuring and optimising for valueless clicks or shares, but for conversions and sales. With a little hard work and diligence, an optimisation campaign will pay for itself multiple times over.
However, optimisation campaigns are complicated. It’s all too easy to take a wrong turn and see your conversions decrease – this guide is here to provide smart and simple strategies to help you avoid that fate.
In part one we’ll explain some of the essential practices and approaches you need to ensure your eCommerce campaigns get off to a flying start.
A/B tests (also referred to as split tests) are the backbone of any good optimisation campaign.
Conversion optimisation doesn’t rely on guesswork or gut instincts, but on a scientific approach of iterative testing and improvement.
eCommerce sites can achieve huge increases in conversion with seemingly simple changes, backed by the results of A/B tests.
By making their search bar more prominent Wall Monkeys
achieved a 550% increase in eCommerce revenue1 (Experiment Engine)
To understand the elements that best resonate with your audience you need to test different variants against one another.
A basic A/B test uses the current page you have published as your control. You’ll be measuring the success of your tests against this page to see what works better.
You then change an on page element in a way you think will improve its effectiveness to create your first variant.
Changes could include something small like headline copy or something large like the whole design and flow of your page.
Once you’ve got your control and variant you split your traffic equally among them and measure the metrics you believe to be important.
When the test has reached statistical significance you compare the data to see which page is the most effective at increasing conversions and revenue. This more effective page becomes the new control for your next set of tests.
The process itself is very straight forward. It’s an iterative approach to improving and optimising a chosen page. However, there’s plenty of pitfalls that can quickly derail your campaign. To avoid falling into such pitfalls, be sure to follow the below best practices.
The Golden Rules of A/B Testing
NEVER TEST MORE THAN ONE ELEMENT AT A TIME
Test success hinges on the ability to gather accurate results. If you change several elements for one test you won’t know which change brought about the results you experience.
Testing too many changes at once gives you no way to extract actionable insights. What caused the conversion increase? Was it the headline change, the CTA placement or perhaps even the inclusion of an urgency element?
With too many simultaneous tests you don’t know what’s causing conversions to increase or decrease.
For actionable insights that lead to continued growth, only ever test one element at a time.
ALWAYS HAVE A HYPOTHESIS
Conversion optimisation is an experiment, and just like a scientist you should have a hypothesis. A hypothesis keeps you on target for a specific goal and helps you to better analyse your results.
A good hypothesis is detailed and takes everything into consideration. First determine your goal and then identify a problem and formulate a potential solution testing to eradicate the potential for falling behind the curve. For example
"By changing my headline copy to be more benefit focused I can motivate more people to click through to the page from the search engine results pages"
ALWAYS MONITOR THE MACRO
The purchase journey consists of both micro and macro conversions. Micro conversions are the clicking through from stage one to stage two, or from a home page to a dedicated product page. Macro conversions are your end goals such as sales, list sign ups or forms filled in.
Many marketers focus too intently on the micro. They see an increase in stage one to stage two and deem the test a success. But if your overall sales drop, was it really a success? No
Always monitor your macro conversions. They’re what affect your bottom line.
EVERY INCREASE MATTERS
Some marketers are quick to write off tests that produce small or single digit increases. This is a mistake.You need to make every interaction count.
This is an iterative process. All those small increases eventually add up to something far more significant. If you’re optimising for a large business or lots of traffic, a 1% increase could equal tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of revenue.
ALWAYS TEST TO STATISTICAL SIGNIFICANCE
Accuracy of results is key. You can’t say your test was a success if you’re experiencing an increase after 50 visitors.
It’s too small a sample to generalise from.
Tests need huge exposure to ensure their wider success. Each test needs a minimum 95% statistical significance which you can achieve through:
- Ignoring optimisation service recommendations
- Running tests for 3 – 4 weeks
- Statistical significance level of at least 95%
- Don’t believe any test results with conversion numbers below 300
TESTING NEVER ENDS
You want your business to grow, right? So why would you stop your tests after the first success?
Testing never ends. Today’s successful tests might bring an increase for six months, but then user behaviour changes and you see conversions start to drop. You need to continue to eradicate the potential for falling behind the curve
Smart and Simple Optimisation Tips
Now that the basic test tips are out of the way, let’s look at a few general optimisation tips to get your campaign off to the best start.
ONE PAGE, ONE PURPOSE
Pages that have extraneous links are confusing. They give the user too many options to exit the page and not convert.
With every page you create, be it a product page, landing page or even blog post, ensure that there’s only one purpose and one CTA.
IGNORE THE “IDEAL NUMBER OF STEPS”
Marketers are quick to offer advice on the ‘ideal number of steps’ in a purchase journey. Ignore them.
Purchase journeys are unique to each product and cannot be generalised
Would a mobile phone case require the same purchase journey as a brand new BMW? No. The BMW is a larger purchase and will require a longer, more involved purchase journey.
Your purchase journey should be as long as it needs to be, no longer and no shorter. Run split tests with different journeys to find your optimum length.
ALWAYS IMPLEMENT AND TEST A UVP
You have less than 10 seconds to convince your user to stay on your site.2 (Nielsen Norman Group)
A good UVP (unique value proposition) is a key part in persuading them to do so.
It tells customers exactly what they’ll be getting should they purchase. A good UVP consists a headline, sub headline, bullet points focusing on benefits and often features an image.
These elements work in concert to explain the benefit and value of the product and, when used well, can skyrocket conversions. Just be sure to test different focuses and formats for your UVP.
BORROW COPY IDEAS
If you’re stuck and don’t know where to begin with your copywriting, don’t hesitate to check out what your prospects are saying.
Analyse what they’ve got to say about you and competitors on review sites and social media to identify the key points they like and don’t like. Use these to hone your copy so it better resonates with their needs.
CUT DOWN ON FORM FIELDS
When collecting details only ask for the most basic of data.
Modern attention spans are short, and users won’t spend five minutes filling in forms with their full history.
Only ask for what you need to properly segment your audience, any more and you’ll deter more than you attract. If you’ve already collected some of your user’s details, autofill forms will enhance the customer experience and reduce abandonment.
UTILISE TESTIMONIALS AND TRUST SEALS
Trust is a major issue in eCommerce.
Consumers buy from brands they trust, but they won’t listen to your claims of being trustworthy – you need to prove it.
Reevoo found that 70% of consumers trust peer testimonials and reviews over professionally written content.3 (Econsultancy) Make it easy for happy customers to give leave feedback and prominently display trust seals from respected third parties to bolster trust and confirm that you really are the best at what you do.
HIGH QUALITY PRODUCT IMAGES
A picture speaks a thousand words and large, high quality images of your products have been proven to dramatically increase conversions.
67% of consumers consider clear, detailed images to be very important – even more so than product information, full descriptions and customer ratings.4 (mdg advertising)
Making your images as interactive as possible – enabling customers to alternate angles, zoom and view different colours will all increase the likelihood of a sale.
BENEFIT FOCUSED CTAS
CTAs are the last element of your sales pitch. They have the power to push your prospect over the edge and into purchasing, or turn them away from that product forever.
When optimising your CTAs remember that consumers aren’t looking for a product, they’re looking for a solution.
Avoid the generic “submit”, “buy” or “order” CTAs in favour of something more benefit focused
Optimising for Mobile
Mobile use is on the rise and it shows no signs of slowing down – in fact in 2015 we saw the first instance of mobile use exceeding desktop.5 (Smart Insights)
Mobile is no longer just a vehicle for product research. While conversions still lag (at around 2.5% compared to 4.4% on desktop6(Criteo)), shoppers are now more likely to utilise mobile devices at every stage of their path to purchase – right from from discovery through to payment.
And it’s not just mobile usage that’s growing, but also the number of devices used throughout the purchase journey
“67% of mobile shoppers start to shop on one device and continue on another.”7 (Think with Google)
This behaviour means that facilitating cross-channel and cross-device conversion is growing in importance.
And with mobile devices often used as initiating devices, meaning they’re your first customer touch point, they need to provide a coherent link with the rest of your eCommerce offering.
As your customers begin to habitually shop across devices and channels, mobile is clearly becoming an intrinsic aspect of eCommerce. But to make the most out of these changing user behaviours you need to have a fully optimised mobile campaign.
Smart Mobile Optimisations
Mobile devices are relatively small. You can’t have the complicated pages and navigation you do on desktop. You need to simplify everything from your copy to your links on mobile to make it as easy as possible from a UX standpoint.
FORGET THE FOLD
Having everything above the fold is dubious advice at the best of times. With mobile, it’s completely ridiculous. You can’t try to fit everything on the initial screen because it all becomes too crowded. Thankfully this isn’t a huge concern as studies have shown that on mobile, half of users start scrolling within 10 seconds and 90% within 14 seconds.8 (UX Myths)
Responsive design has long been the go to design method for mobile devices, but it’s not great for conversion optimisation. It loads all elements on a page slowing loading times, causing unsightly design issues and lowering conversions.
Adaptive is seeing better performance in many of these areas and should be where your focus is going forward.
Apps place the content users want at their fingertips, this easy access means that 82% of mobile media time is spent in apps.9 (Smart Insights) If feasible, it’s time to start implementing an app for your store.
As mentioned above, mobile users react differently to desktop users. You need to measure their behaviour and actions separately to understand not only their behaviour, but how best to optimise for them
One of the big trends tipped for 2016 is the use of beacon technology. This is tech using a combination of mobile devices and stored analytics data to augment and improve in store experiences with the likes of store maps and product recommendations.
The Power of Automation
Brands live and die by their reputation and the relationship they build with their users.
You need to go beyond optimising just your site and focus on how to optimise your relationships with your customers.
Of course you can’t take the time to foster a relationship with each and every single potential customer, you need to automate key processes to handle the day to day outreach so you can focus on the revenue driving aspects of your business.
Types of Automation Campaign
Welcome series are the most common form of automation campaigns. They’re often viewed as simple vehicles that introduce your brand to new prospects, however, you can also use them to gather customer feedback, push extra sales opportunities or even gather new business by encouraging referrals.
Cart abandonment is a huge problem within eCommerce, costing around 4 trillion dollars in lost revenue every year.10 (Tech Insider) Chasing every customer who leaves your site is a near impossible task. You need a good cart abandonment campaign in place to follow up on the customers who showed intent to buy, but changed their mind at the last minute.
One of the biggest sources of new business will always be referrals. People always talk about the brands and products they like to their friends.
An easy way to get into your customers good books is with a good after-sale automation campaign. Post-conversion campaigns can take place on-site or via email but are great for encouraging future purchases and loyalty.
An automated campaign could take the form of a simple thank you or be more involved and include a series on how to get the most out of the product.
AUTOMATED CROSS / UPSELL CAMPAIGN
Amazon attributes up to 35% of its revenue to cross-selling.11 (Forbes)
While they’ve got it down to a fine art, if you can emulate even some of their cross-selling success, your revenues will be on the up.
You don’t have to cross or upsell at the checkout. Based on a person’s purchase history or interests you could follow up with an automated email that offers products they might be interested in purchasing.
NACTIVE ACCOUNT FOLLOW UP
You’ll always have inactive accounts on your list. Leaving them there can skew your results and thus your optimisation campaign for email.
You need to either remove or re engage them. Implement an inactive account campaign with a view to re engaging users with something like a money back offer.
Social proof is a powerful convincer when it comes to making a sale.
In fact, 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision.12 (Econsultancy)
With consumers almost 12x more likely to trust a consumer review than your own copy 13 (Econsultancy) – products with zero or poor reviews won’t sell nearly as well.
To increase your number of reviews, follow up any sales with an email asking the customer for a product review with a handy link included.
Automation Best Practices
Earlier we advised that you reduce the form fields when offering list sign ups to only what’s necessary. This is incredibly important for email personalisation.
Personalised emails have a far higher open and conversion rate, with studies showing them to have up to 6 times higher transaction rates.14 (Marketing Land)
Ensure you collect the right kind of data and use it to properly personalise your campaigns.Timing is Important
The timing of your campaign really makes a difference. Test different days, times and delays after triggers to find the optimal time to send different campaigns
SUBJECT LINES AND CTAs ARE A PRIORITY
Your customers will judge you on your subject lines. A poor subject line leads to a poor open rate which damages conversions.
Your CTAs are just as important. Make sure they’re clear, concise and leave the reader in no doubt as to what you want them to do.
Ignore these two and you’ll have guaranteed your campaign fails before it even gets started
We all know eCommerce sites need traffic to thrive.
But you need to place the same emphasis on optimising the traffic that does visit your site as you do pursuing visitors in the first place.
At the heart of it, on-site optimisation creates loyal customers, rather than just visitors.
Put smart optimisation at the forefront of your strategy and you’ll be on the way to creating a brand your customers trust – one they’ll come back to again and again.
Now that we’ve looked at an overview of the essentials for optimising your on-site experience, it’s time to consider more specifically how you can optimise your customer experience.
The eCommerce On-Site Optimisation Guide (Part 2) will focus on smart and simple ways you can boost your revenue by making every interaction count – including:
- Upselling and cross-selling
- Creating personalised experiences
- Engaging abandoning users
Keep a lookout in your inbox for the second part of your guide, it will be with you shortly.