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Customer conversion optimization: Where you should start and what you should do when you already have an established website

by J Toral
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At one point in your digital marketing journey – as you move past social media, SEO, content management, and all other affiliate activities – you will undoubtedly encounter something known as Conversion Rate Optimization (“CRO”). Among the digital marketing portfolio, CRO is arguably one of the more critical tasks, especially to those looking to streamline their activities and maximize their results. While traditional digital marketing focuses on raising brand awareness (and thereby driving website traffic), it provides little-to-no positive results without proper CRO management. After all, just because someone knows where to find your website doesn’t mean they will engage with it or even make that purchase (or do that one thing you want them to do). This is where conversion rate optimization is useful, which, when done right, raises the frequency at which your website visitors do those online things you want them to do – make purchases, sign up for newsletters, email you, and whatever else you deem essential.

“So, when should I start doing Conversion Rate Optimization?” 

Conversion Rate Optimization can be divided into two strategies. The first strategy deals with tactics for businesses who are just starting their online journey. These businesses are either in the process of still developing their website or are at the start of growing their website traffic. Planning and executing CRO at this point of the journey should be integrated with the general web development and digital marketing activities, which you can learn more about here. In this article, however, we focus on the second strategy: for businesses that have been operating online for at least one year. And what do you know, January is the perfect time to start!

With the new year come new perspectives, resolutions, goal setting, and doubly so for businesses. Consider that you now have a full year of analytics that can help pivot you and position you to grow and improve your success rate. To do so, you need to look at your current conversion narrative analytics and start improving your weakest performers first.

“So, how do I identify which analytics matter most?”

There are a lot of data points available to you, but for this process to work well, you will need to focus on the “big picture” first. Think of how your customer journey works.

  • First, a person finds you and visits your website – this is the part where you work to win the person’s attention and direct them to your digital real estate where the magic can happen.
  • Then the person converts into a “lead” – they are now open to more marketing and so this is where you start engaging with them and building trust that will lead to a sale.
  • Finally, the lead converts into a “sale” – and now your focus turns on making them a repeat customer and possibly a brand advocate, leading to move visitors and leads. 

What these three journey pitstops translate into are the three overarching metrics that you will want to work on improving: (1) website traffic; (2) lead generation; and (3) creating customers.

I. Improving Website Traffic

Website traffic is an integral part of any CRO journey. There are no customers to optimize for if there are no website visitors, so if you are struggling with getting visitors, start here. Online traffic is generated by one of three methods, including organic means (search engines and yellow pages), paid traffic (online advertisements), and social traffic (also called advocacy traffic). Take a look at which activities you are already engaging in (if any) and consider how much time, effort, and money you are already investing into these practices – are they getting any results whatsoever? If you’re already doing these things and the results are stagnant, then re-evaluate your approach, do some experimentation and amend your practices in the direction which generates better outcomes. For example, try different Calls to Action, work on your copywriting, apply different targeting, use other hashtags, and so on. If you are not already doing any of these activities, now is the time to start. Of course, there are tradeoffs to each approach. There are practical differences in how much time and money you can potentially spend. If your business is still in its revenue building stage, consider using social media and improving your SEO – both can be done practically free but will require more intensive time investments. However, if you are comfortable spending money, using online advertising can generate results faster, but you need to be prepared to spend money, and it is not cheap. Whichever way you go about improving your traffic flow is solely dependent on your preferences, but you must take an active lead in this part of your CRO strategy.

II. Increasing Leads

Another problem that often bogs down your conversion rate is lead generation. You may have ample website traffic, but little of that traffic stays on your page or does anything. It’s almost as if visitors are passing through, which is a problem you do not want to have. Of course, there still may be some website visitors that funnel through into the final sales activity. Nevertheless, you want to consider lead generation as an essential step, which creates long-term quality clients rather than one-time customers. A website visitor becoming a lead means they are open to more marketing but are still on the fence about doing that sales activity you want them to do. Unlike one-time customers, these leads are more likely to re-engage with you and continue to follow up when appropriately managed. Not putting effort into lead generating activities exposes you to problems further down the line and makes the conversion process less efficient, more expensive, and less fruitful. Without lead generation, you likely will not have repeat visitors – after all, why would a person revisit your page if they were not interested in engaging with it in the first place. This also means that it will be harder for you to pry your customers back, away from better-performing competitors, especially if they already felt you were not a fit. 

There are a couple of reasons why this may be happening, but they all lean into how you tap into your visitor’s emotions. For example, visitors are more likely to trust a website that has a sleek and appealing design, that is intuitive and looks like it’s constantly being updated. Good design communicates to your visitors that you care and are attentive. Take a close look at your page and ask your social network to give feedback – you’ll be surprised what you can uncover. And don’t be defensive; take criticism as an opportunity where you can improve! Another emotionally driven conversion variable is how quickly your visitors can find the information that caters to their specific needs. If a customer clicks an ad for a particular product but is then taken to the general homepage, they will be put off from searching the entire website and will leave. It may be easy for you to find everything on your website, but you also have bias and experience given that you developed it. Visitors are less patient, so make it easy for them and be transparent. Giving your website visitors transparent visual, informative, and navigational cues sells them on the idea of continuing to engage with your site, provide personal information and receive more digital marketing materials from you. Tap into this trust and use it to your advantage!

III. Creating Customers

You may have your website traffic and lead generation down but still, struggle with “closing the sale.” This means there is a disconnect between what is appealing to your customer and what you are providing. Just like lead generation, there is a heavy emotional component that drives this conversion rate. You’ve got a person to visit your site, you’ve convinced them to listen to you and engage with your materials, but that person is (yet) not convinced you can give them what they think they need. You may feel that you know what they need, but that needs to align with what they think and feel they need.

Approaching this step from understanding your customers’ point of view is the next step in increasing your conversion optimization. To bridge this gap, consider how your customer makes a purchasing decision. Are they coming from a place of frustration that your product can alleviate? Are they making an impulse purchasing decision that aligns with the holiday season? Are they making a planned decision that took months of consideration and budget balancing? Whatever their purchasing drive is, make sure that your website is designed to acknowledge and tap into their motives. Website copy and layout make the final push in the sales process of converting leads into customers.

Going through these steps several times will allow you to continually improve and optimize your customer conversion, leading to more effective use of your business resources and thus higher ROI between your marketing and sales.

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