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Stephen Pavlovich is a Director at Conversion Factory, and has worked with a range of clients on CRO.
I've been asking Stephen about the challenges of improving conversion rates and the tools he finds most useful for the job...
Is there such a thing as a typical client for you?
Been working in this area for 5/6 years, and my clients are about as varied as you can get – from websites for investment products to online retailers and gaming sites.
The products and services sold range from low value purchases to very expensive items.
What are the common themes / issues across all of these different clients?
I’m always surprised at how similar different sites can be. The structure and process of my job is similar on investment sites where people are spending large sums, to sites where people buy a toilet for £200.
How do you approach each website?
The first step is always the research and analysis phase, looking for the main areas where site can be improved, looking at usability issues to work out areas where people can’t buy, and why they won’t.
The next phase is to look the solutions we can put in place, and order them in terms of importance. Which are the most important areas? Which would provide the biggest wins? Do we need different wording for example?
It can be as simple as changing the copy on the site. On one travel site we worked on, a change in the wording was enough to enough to increases sales by £1m.
It’s often about placing solutions in order of priority. It doesn’t necessarily need a huge overhaul to produce an uplift in conversions.
The third phase is to run surveys, and test the website to find the barriers to conversions. When you get the results, this then feeds back into the first phase.
It’s a cyclical process, we test, implement solutions, then test again to see how they worked and what else could be improved, and then start again.
How long do you typically spend working on clients’ sites?
Normally, we start off for around six months, but we’ll often be asked to go beyond that.
Often, we’ll take a pause for six months, and then come back to a site later to assess the effect of the original changes.
It can also be the case that some websites aren’t ready to increase their conversion rates too quickly. Some may not be able to scale up rapidly enough to meet the extra demand for instance.
One client had to invest in extra warehousing space, as they needed to triple the amount of stock they held. Before any other changes are made that push conversion rates up higher, the structure to scale up needs to be in place.
What are the most useful tools for your job?
The backbone of any CRO process is split testing, and my favourite tool for this is Visual Website Optimizer. If I could use only one tool, this would be it.
Other useful tools include whatusersdo.com, which I find very useful for finding the areas that actual users find difficult. It’s also useful as you can filter users by gender, age etc so you can replicate the audience of the site you are testing. Another service I often use is www.usertesting.com.
For example, we could ask testers if they have ever invested in an ISA, so they are more suitable to test out a finance site.
There are other tools, and often onsite and offsite surveys asking users themselves can be incredibly valuable. Survey Gizmo and Survey Monkey are useful for this.
One of the best questions to ask is: ‘if there’s one thing that would have stopped you buying from us, what would it be? ‘
One client was selling bathroom furniture and products online, and we tried to work out possible objections from users.
The website owner did consider the quality and size of photos – were they seeing products in full? Was it worth investing in 3D imagery or higher resolution product photos?
This seems plausible, and may well improve conversion rates, but on asking customers, the biggest issue we found was around delivery.
There were concerned about whether products would arrive on time, the handling of items, as well as charges. The majority of concerns we found were around this issue.
In response, the language around delivery information was changed to make it as clear as possible for shoppers. This was an easier, and far more cost-effective change to make than commissioning new product photos.
Is it becoming harder to find areas for improvement in CRO? Are websites becoming more usable?
No, there’s still a massive opportunity to improve most websites, and now we have the tools available to do the job properly.
I don’t think the need for improvement will ever go away, and there will always be a demand for CRO. You have to make sure you can out-convert your competition, and to keep customers returning to your site. It’s an ongoing process.
Is it a challenge to persuade clients that they need to make changes?
Some clients just trust you to get on with the job, but others want to become heavily involved. They have invested their time and money in a website over the years, and can be reluctant to change things.
My approach is to start out with the most daring test I can get away with, and one which can show a strong increase in the conversion rate, and this can help to build trust and show the client the potential improvements we can make.
Do you look at CRO beyond just the website?
Yes, we have to look at the entire sales funnel, and the business model as a whole. There are normally opportunities to develop other areas of the business.
This may mean looking at email, design, and how well customers are being directed to landing pages on the website.
Also, for some sites, such as those selling large bathroom or financial products, the gap between visits could be a matter of weeks. We have to try and bridge that gap, and email is crucial in achieving this.