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Google Analytics Spam – Don’t Be Fooled: Filter Bogus Traffic in Google Analytics

Google Analytics Spam: Filtering Bogus Traffic
This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Fake traffic is Google Analytics spam traffic that creates sessions on your website that artificially increases traffic, creates traffic spikes and avalanches, that don’t represent what’s really happening with your customers at all. Ridding Google Analytics of Spam traffic is essential to ensuring the data you receive and act upon is real. So let’s look at how Spam affects your GA reports, and how to get rid of it.

Google Analytics Spam: Filtering Bogus Traffic
This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Fake traffic is Google Analytics spam traffic that creates sessions on your website that artificially increases traffic, creates traffic spikes and avalanches, that don’t represent what’s really happening with your customers at all. Ridding Google Analytics of Spam traffic is essential to ensuring the data you receive and act upon is real. So let’s look at how Spam affects your GA reports, and how to get rid of it.

Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnel

Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnel
This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Google Analytics multi-channel funnels help us to accurately attribute conversions to each channel and put values on them. From this, we can determine how long it took from the user’s first visit to their eventual conversion and what steps they took in between. It’s the most valuable information a conversion optimizer can have.

Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnel
This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Google Analytics multi-channel funnels help us to accurately attribute conversions to each channel and put values on them. From this, we can determine how long it took from the user’s first visit to their eventual conversion and what steps they took in between. It’s the most valuable information a conversion optimizer can have.

What The Matrix Can Teach You About Evoking Emotion in Your e-Commerce Copy

e-Commerce copywriting

What if I told you…

The entire world was nothing but a lie that had been pulled over your eyes to blind you?

That you were a slave? And that I had the truth?

Do you want to know?

Well, you’d break into a cold sweat, and you’d keep listening…

And once I mentioned that life as you knew it was actually bondage, prison — and that the Matrix was Wonderland, a deep rabbit hole ripe for exploration…

Well, you’d probably decide to take the red pill and stick around.

e-Commerce copy

But if I told you…

“Hey, I’ve got a brand-new, high-quality, reality-based solution to replace your substandard day-to-day experience!”

You’d have no f***ing idea what I was talking about.

And you’d probably grab your windbreaker and hightail it out of my weirdly dark apartment.

The first phrasing works better than the second because “bondage,” “prison,” “rabbit hole,” “blind,” and “slave,” are all specific, highly evocative phrases.

They imbue what I’m selling you (escape from the Matrix) with emotion (in this case, probably a mix of fear, dread, and a teensy bit of curiosity).

Think Neo would have bought into the Matrix if Morpheus had described it as a “high-quality reality-based solution”?

Nah, son.

When they’re considering buying, your prospective customers are highly emotionally engaged.

And the more money you’re asking them to spend, the more they’ll have that weird feeling where their heart is in their throat and they’re kind of sweaty and they finally click through and make the purchase and they’re excited, but also worried, but also excited…

Neo e-commerce copy
Kinda like this.

You can’t bring customers to that heart-pounding, palm-sweating fever pitch by describing your store or your products in generic terms.

No matter what’s being sold, buying is inherently emotional

Getting people to buy without an emotional connection just doesn’t work very often, much like Keanu Reeves these days.

Buying is emotional. People get invested in their purchases, both literally and figuratively.

When we come face-to-face with a decision — whether it’s something as momentous as buying a house or something as small as whether or not to grab that pack of peanut-butter M&Ms at the drugstore checkout — we automatically draw on our feelings, past experiences, and positive or negative associations.

Talia Wolf puts it simply and starkly:

Emotions affect decisions
Decisions affect conversions
Conversions affect revenues.

Making your customer feel good can encourage them to buy

Since emotions affect purchasing decisions, it stands to reason that you might want to make your buyers feel good (AKA confident, or happy, or validated, or fulfilled, or another positive emotion) so they associate that good feeling with you and your product.

And making potential buyers feel good can make them like you, which can make them buy from you.

Yes, come a little closer. Now click “Add to Cart”...
Yes, come a little closer. Now click “Add to Cart”…

Cialdini’s principle of Liking is based on the anecdotally obvious truth that we like doing business with people we like. We look for common ground between us and the people with whom we’re considering spending our money.

Think about it. It’s just common sense.

Not convinced? Here are some examples from the wild:

  • Roger Dooley unpacks PetRelocation.com’s About page and explains how it uses the principle of Liking in several concrete ways.
  • Recently, Kellogg scored big on likeability in their online video ads—which converted at a high rate. According to Nielsen Catalina Solutions,
    “[A]ds deemed “likable” by panelists for copy testing firm Ace Metrix had the strongest sales lift of all – a 172 index where 100 is the average for people exposed to ads in the study.”

So how can you make your customers like you? Brian Ahearn offers three suggestions from Cialdini’s research:

  1. Focus on similarities – What do you and your customer have in common?
  2. Give compliments – It may sound like a cheap trick, but paying a sincere compliment works
  3. Look for cooperative efforts – Where can you work together with your customer toward a common goal?

Negative emotions have a proven place, too

It makes sense to make your buyers feel good, so they’ll buy from you.

But stereotypically bad emotions like anxiety, fear, and guilt can be effective conversion motivators, too.

There’s nothing like watching the clock tick down on an online SaaS product sale or launch (anxiety), worrying you might miss out (fear), and feeling like you haven’t been investing enough time in your business development (guilt). And this product could help…

Proceed with caution when playing on negative emotions, though: Kunle Campbell suggests that to effectively use negative emotions, the buyer’s ultimate emotional outcome should be positive.

So don’t overdo it on the guilt, k? Reassure your buyers that they’re making a smart purchase.

The worst emotion your customer can feel is apathy

It’s all too easy to emotionally check out when you’re writing your e-commerce copy.

And you end up with copy that zooms past “concise yet still descriptive” and lands right at “vague, confusing, and boring”.

Emotional Scale
Emotional Scale

Ever been to a movie and come out thinking, “Well, I GUESS there was a plot, but it sure didn’t stick with me?” Guessing you didn’t feel that way about “The Matrix”.

As Morpheus says to Neo, “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.”

Preferably through some sweet-ass shades.
Preferably through some sweet-ass shades.

The same goes for your e-commerce customers. You can’t just TELL them what your product is. They have to see it in their mind’s eye and feel emotionally connected to it.

Part of the way you help customers connect with your product (along with presenting a solid value proposition, featuring high-def, zoomable product photography, and including buyer reviews) is by writing emotionally evocative copy.

There are lots of copywriting techniques to make your customers feel something

The most copy-popular way to evoke emotion? Tell a story.

Give yourself a hand if you saw that coming, because telling a story in your e-commerce copy isn’t a new idea. In fact, it’s been covered ad nauseum.

‘Bout a million times, actually.
‘Bout a million times, actually.

The key, however, is making sure the story stars not your company —

not your product —

but your reader.

Giving your reader a starring role can be as simple and subtle as positioning the product at a time in your prospect’s life, like Target does with this car seat:

Car Seat

e-Commerce item

Start your baby off safely with the Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat in Legend. This infant car seat is very easy to install correctly so you have no worries about how to fit it in place. Using a LATCH system, it’s a quick fit; for vehicles without LATCH the base has a built-in belt locking system. The removable newborn insert is designed to gently cradle your precious cargo and give them a comfortable ride with all the support they need. As your child grows, remove the insert and you can continue to use this car seat as it is rated up to 30 pounds and 30”. Meets ASTM Standards, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and is JPMA Certified.

Boom. “Start your baby off safely” → “As your child grows”. Story firmly implanted.

OR, you can get as involved as J. Peterman does with its famous micro-short stories about clothing:

e-Commerce copy clothing

e-commerce copy story

Mind you, telling a story is about more than just using customer-centric language.

This is about building a world where your prospects can immerse themselves: a world where they feel better, happier, prettier, more energetic, smarter, more satisfied, or more productive.

I know. That’s a lot of pressure to lay on a lil’ ol’ online store.

Calm down, Elrond.
Calm down, Elrond.

But the fact is that we can’t help but project ourselves into the stories we watch, read, and hear.

We identify with stories, and when we do, we feel empathy for the people experiencing them.

In fact, research shows that our brains’ mirror neurons may be partly responsible for the reason we cringe when we see someone trip and fall, or why we salivate when we watch Mary Berry delicately spoon tiramisu cake into her mouth. (Just me?)

Want to write Oscar-worthy emotional e-commerce copy?

No matter what you’re selling, you, too, can write e-commerce copy that tugs the heartstrings of your readers, prospects, and prior buyers.

Here’s how to get started in 4 easy steps:

1. Give your reader TIME to feel

You might remember the totally boss scene in “The Matrix” where multiple Agent Smiths are shooting at Neo, and he’s just like, “Hold up, wait a minute, not right now, bullets.”

What a G.
What a G.

Now let’s imagine that you’re Agent Smith, and your customer is Neo. (Sorry for making you Agent Smith, but bear with me.)

You don’t want your customer to feel like you’re shooting him with meaningless words.

You want to give him the ability to slow down time while he’s reading your copy.

You want to get his attention, then let him react — all within a split second.

Step 2 helps you buy time.

2. Use unexpected language

Because our brains are constantly predicting what will happen next, we have a tendency to get stuck on unusual words or pay more attention to them when we’re reading.

Dan Gilbert calls this phenomenon “nexting”. He explains in a passage from his excellent book, Stumbling on Happiness:

“As long as your brain’s guess about the next word turns out to be right, you cruise along happily, left to right, left to right, turning black squiggles into ideas, characters, blissfully unaware that your nexting brain is predicting the future of the sentence at a fantastic rate. It is only when your brain predicts badly that you suddenly feel avocado.

That is, surprised. See?”

When you use an unusual word, your readers will pay more attention. They’ll pause for a second. They might not believe their eyes.

“Lemme get a better look at that,” says your customer.
“Lemme get a better look at that,” says your customer.

And while you don’t want to distract them from your ultimate goal (conversion!), more time spent on the page correlates with a higher conversion rate, according to Moz. So take it slow, Joe.

3. Make sure you’re being specific

Using specific, descriptive phrases is another idea right out of the Copywriting 101 playbook. We’re not breaking any new ground here.

But too often, e-commerce marketers worry that specificity will alienate their target (possibly because they’re thinking of their target customer no more specifically than as “everyone and their mom”). So they err on the side of inoffensively vague copy.

For example, here’s a mouthful of copy mush I came across recently:

Oh, good, I’m so glad they engineered those cutouts.
Oh, good, I’m so glad they engineered those cutouts.

Why doesn’t this copy make me feel anything??

Because phrases like “decidedly forward” and “high-quality” are too vague. Their direct benefits to the reader aren’t immediately apparent or applicable. They’re nothing-words.

More specific phrasing here could actually evoke what it feels like to wear the Wanderer Long Sleeve top. Maybe something like, “Enjoy the breeze on your skin through this soft, snug top’s airy cutouts, even if you’re clearly a Cylon.”

If you look closely, this kind of bland, unevocative language is all over e-commerce:

In case you can’t read the screenshot, these Columbia hiking boots are described like this on Amazon:

Rich, all-over leather gives a premium outdoor feel to this supportive, waterproof hiking boot. The newton ridge™ plus waterproof seals out wet weather while also breathing and features a shank under the arch, delivering stability and support where you need it and flexibility where you don’t. The Omni grip® rubber outsole features rugged, grippy traction specifically designed to evacuate mud ← what happened to the end?

At first glance, it seems all right. The leather is rich, the boot is waterproof…

But if I dig a little deeper, parts of the copy start to erode my trust.

What’s a “premium outdoor feel”? And what exactly is “rugged, grippy traction” when you really think about it? And what horrific fate befell this description writer before he could finish his sentence?

The truth is that you don’t have to worry about alienating people through specificity.

Using specific language, especially when it comes right from your customer research (you’re doing research, right?), sends out a “dog whistle” to the exact right kind of buyer.

As Alex Birkett notes on CXL, “Everyone is not your customer.” And you don’t want everyone. You want the right customer.

Brooklyn boutique Catbird definitely kept its audience in mind when it wrote this lush, nostalgic copy for its Kitten Solid Perfume:

Speaking of perfume, another excellent way to evoke emotion is to…

4. Appeal to the senses

Think about your favorite family dish from childhood. For me, that’s my dad’s chicken cacciatore: smothered in tangy tomato sauce, with thick, tender slices of green bell pepper and onions.

How does thinking about that dish make you feel? Mouth watering a little bit?

Sensory words work on restaurant menus, and they also work in e-commerce copy — whether or not you’re selling food.

The brain processes “tangible” words that evoke sensory or perceptual experiences, like “creamy” or “bumpy,” faster than it processes other words. So using sensory words might just fast-track your message into your prospect’s brain.

And if you ARE selling food, well, sensory language is your best friend.

See’s Candy has it figured out:

I would like to be folded in the sweet, crunchy embrace of this can of Toffee-ettes.
I would like to be folded in the sweet, crunchy embrace of this can of Toffee-ettes.

Don’t forget: emotional copy works everywhere, not just in product descriptions

All right, I have just one last piece of advice for you:

If you’re saving up all your emotional appeal just for your product descriptions, STOP DOING THAT RIGHT NOW.

I SAID STOP, GREG.
I SAID STOP, GREG.

Ultra-specific, sensory language works everywhere. Not just in product copy.

Think website copy, social media posts, emails, PPC ads, and even meta descriptions. Don’t believe me? Here’s Everlane making the most of its meta descriptions:

I can see this comfy dress in my mind. I can feel it in my fingers. And now I want it. (I’m a size medium btw)
I can see this comfy dress in my mind. I can feel it in my fingers. And now I want it. (I’m a size medium btw)

Will you take the red pill, or the blue pill?

Hopefully by now I’ve done my job as Morpheus, and convinced you to take the red pill.

Go forth and stop time. Be specific. Be unexpected. Use tangible, sensory language. Make your reader FEEL something.

If Keanu of all people can evoke emotion, you can too.
If Keanu of all people can evoke emotion, you can too.

PS. If you run a copy test, make sure you’re not changing anything else on the page. You can read more about testing best practices here, or hire Objeqt to run your next test.

e-Commerce copywriting

No matter what’s being sold, buying is inherently emotional. Getting people to buy without an emotional connection just doesn’t work very often, much like Keanu Reeves these days. Buying is emotional. People get invested in their purchases, both literally and figuratively.

Google Analytics Event Tracking

Google Analytics Event Tracking
This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Google Analytics event tracking is a piece of JavaScript that is inserted in interactive content on website pages. JavaScript is a programming language used mostly to create dynamic content on websites - content that moves, reacts, changes and does things. In this case, we’re using the JavaScript code to initiate the report from the web page to Google Analytics when an event has taken place on the website page.

Google Analytics Event Tracking
This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Google Analytics event tracking is a piece of JavaScript that is inserted in interactive content on website pages. JavaScript is a programming language used mostly to create dynamic content on websites - content that moves, reacts, changes and does things. In this case, we’re using the JavaScript code to initiate the report from the web page to Google Analytics when an event has taken place on the website page.

How to Build a High Converting e-Commerce Checkout Flow

How to Build a High Converting e-Commerce Checkout Flow

Optimizing the e-commerce checkout flow – everything that happens between “add to cart” and the purchase confirmation page – is a science. A science that requires research, study, and of course, testing.

But you’ve got a credit card payment system. Isn’t that enough?

Not if your customers are abandoning their shopping carts. That means you’re hemorrhaging sales from already-motivated customers, often unnecessarily.

Even small gains in optimizing checkout flows can have a big impact:

“An Ecommerce site that I analyzed recently had a payment page where 84.71% of the traffic proceeded to buy. I calculated that if we can increase that to 90%, that would result in 461 more orders and additional $87,175/month. That would be 23.94% growth in revenue. So yes – “small” gains here can be very big.” – Peep Laja, ConversionXL

What is shopping cart / checkout flow?

Shopping cart, e-commerce checkout flow, checkout funnel – whatever term you use, we’re talking about the moment your customer views their cart all the way until they see the “thank you” page at the end of their purchase process. Don’t confuse this with the “sales funnel,” that can begin long before the customer even lands on your website. Checkout flow is the final step.

The customer knows what they want.

They’ve added the product to the cart.

Then, they have two choices: Abandon the cart, or complete the purchase.

You’d be amazed how many motivated customers abandon the cart – or maybe you wouldn’t be. Maybe they’re abandoning your shopping cart and you’re wondering why.

Sample e-Commerce Shopping Cart Flow
Sample e-Commerce Shopping Cart Flow

Typical conversion issues

The object of the game is to get more people to complete the purchase process. To do that, we have to look at what could be causing cart abandonment, and the possible causes are legion.

Some CROs explain the core issue using the Fogg behavior model, an equation that looks like this:

Behavior = Motivation x Ability x Trigger

Essentially, the more motivated the buyer is, and the easier it is to complete the action, the more likely the buyer is to complete the action. Makes sense, right? Conversely, as motivation decreases and difficulty increases (ie. something prevents them from being able to complete the steps), the fewer conversions you’ll see.

In practice, I’ll tell you what this looks like at my house.

I see the thing I want on a website. I add it to cart. I don’t see PayPal *anywhere* which means I need to run across the house, dig around in my purse for my wallet, pry out my credit card, run back, enter the long string of numbers, and finally complete the purchase process.

You don’t want to know how many carts I’ve abandoned because of that long hallway between me and my credit card. Yes, I’m that lazy. And yes, your customers are too.

All friction can basically be traced back to the Fogg behavior equation, but let’s look at the specific causes of friction commonly found in e-commerce checkout processes.

Friction Points

  • Price is different/higher than expected once shipping and tax is added in. This is a nasty surprise for the would-be purchaser, causing them to exit the cart.
  • The “sale” you promoted, that seemed like it applied store-wide, doesn’t apply to everything, which feels like a bait and switch.
Friction Point issue for e-Commerce Checkout Flow
Friction Point issue for e-Commerce Checkout Flow
  • The website doesn’t look professional, or hasn’t been updated in 20 years. This makes people nervous.
  • Images don’t look professional, or look like general stock images.
  • There are no user reviews or testimonials – ie. no social proof that the product is any good, or that your service is good. This makes people very nervous.
  • You have no trust badges – no security seals, no Better Business Bureau badge, etc. According to ConversionXL research, the Paypal badge is more trusted than McAfee, Norton, SiteLock, BBB or Google (though those are all good to have).
    You don’t state your privacy policy – how are you using their information exactly? Are you sharing it with third parties? Are you selling it? No? Say so!
  • Your return policy is absent or unclear. People want to know what happens if the product doesn’t work out, or arrives after having been trampled by elephantine FedEx employees.
  • You don’t display contact information – nothing that tells customers “this is a real business, you can hunt us down if we don’t deliver on our promises.”

All of these are serious credibility issues that kill conversions. They’re also very easy to fix.

However, there’s another class of conversion killers that have more to do with usability.

UX Friction

  • You don’t have a “wishlist” feature on your site, so if customers want to save a product to buy later, they put it in their cart instead – which looks like they’re “abandoning,” when they’re really just saving it for later.
  • It’s not clear what’s in the cart, how many of each item is in the cart, or how much products will cost with shopping and taxes.
  • It’s not clear how to make changes, like updating quantity or removing products.
  • It’s not clear how or when the user should input their discount/sale code. The more pages it takes to find the discount code box, the more nervous your user will be, and the more likely to bail.
  • The “Continue Checkout” button gets lost in the rest of the page. Again, the issue is clarity.You don’t clearly list the forms of payment you accept.
  • You don’t offer the user’s preferred way to pay, like Paypal, Visa, or American Express, etc.

If it’s still not clear – CLARITY is the key to conversion. People like to know what to expect, and they really like it when what they expect actually happens. Do that and you’ve cracked the code. But, as they say, if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.

Let’s look at how one of my favorite e-commerce stores does it. Modcloth.

A Pictorial Case Study of a Fun – and Functional – e-Commerce Checkout Flow

e-Commerce Checkout Flow
e-Commerce Checkout Flow
e-Commerce Checkout Flow
e-Commerce Checkout Flow
e-Commerce Checkout Flow
e-Commerce Checkout Flow
e-Commerce Checkout Flow
e-Commerce Checkout Flow
e-Commerce Checkout Flow
e-Commerce Checkout Flow
e-Commerce Checkout Flow
e-Commerce Checkout Flow
e-Commerce Checkout Flow
e-Commerce Checkout Flow

I’m not saying Modcloth does *everything* right. In fact, I’d recommend they make their “Apply a Discount” CTA larger and clearer on their first cart page. But for the most part, they go above and beyond to deliver a purchasing experience that answers all the questions, feels secure, and is as frictionless as possible.

Shortlist of best practices for a successful shopping experience

  • No surprises. Don’t even take the customer to another page once they’ve added a product to their cart, because that’s not what the ‘add to cart’ button is for. No. Surprises.
  • Make your checkout process as short as possible. Every second, every page, and every click counts.
  • Clarity is your first goal, from the moment they add an item to the cart to the can’t-miss confirmation page that includes simple next steps for what to expect.
  • Include trust-builders on your product pages and your cart pages, like user reviews, number of people also currently viewing the product (social proof), security seals, privacy policies, return policies, warranty information, and contact information for your business – including address.
  • Tell shoppers an approximate shipping time, and offer to send a tracking number when one becomes available.
  • Include a shipping and tax calculator on your product pages, not just cart pages. Often, people only add a product to the cart so they can see the actual price once shipping and tax is included. This will weed out the lookie-loos.

Optimizing for a frictionless process (or as close to it as possible)

Conversion rate optimization for the shopping cart process is all about making it clear, and making it fast. Begin by testing how long each step of the buying experience takes, from the time a customer lands on your website to when the purchase confirmation page. Your conversion issue might not be in the cart – it might be that it takes too long to get to the cart. You’ll want to eliminate the possibility first (and uncover other possible points of friction along the way).

From there, make a list of hypotheses about what might be creating friction throughout your checkout flow, page by page, item by item, button by button. These hypotheses shouldn’t just come from your CRO, CEO, or web design team – ask your customers. Ask your friends. Ask strangers if everything is clear, and if there is any part of the process that is harder than it should be.

Then you can A/B test and create a shopping cart that doesn’t get abandoned – at least, not by your target customers.

How to Build a High Converting e-Commerce Checkout Flow

Optimizing the e-commerce checkout flow – everything that happens between “add to cart” and the purchase confirmation page – is a science. A science that requires research, study, and of course, testing.

Google Tag Manager for e-Commerce Stores

Google Tag Manager for e-Commerce Stores
This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Google Tag Manager is Google’s solution for efficiently dealing with tags. Adding individual tags for tracking user interactions within the page (like tracking when users download PDFs or play videos) or e-commerce tags for Google Analytics e-commerce and Enhanced e-commerce reporting leads to cluttering the site code.
Google Tag Manager for e-Commerce Stores
This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Google Tag Manager is Google’s solution for efficiently dealing with tags. Adding individual tags for tracking user interactions within the page (like tracking when users download PDFs or play videos) or e-commerce tags for Google Analytics e-commerce and Enhanced e-commerce reporting leads to cluttering the site code.

5 Easy Upgrades to Increase Landing Page Conversions

5 Easy Upgrades to Increase Landing Page Conversions

Writing and designing a conversion-powerhouse of a landing page is a science – a shifty, constantly evolving science that is, frankly, hard to pin down. While trends in landing page design may change (and they do), there are a few basic tenets that the most successful ones share that can increase landing page conversions. And they’re not difficult to implement. 

You can boost your conversion rates right now, just by putting these 5 basic techniques into place.

Don’t believe me?

We can test it.

Where Landing Pages Go Wrong

Landing pages go wrong primarily because people treat them like:

  • They’re product descriptions (they aren’t)
  • They’re blog posts (they aren’t)
  • They’re white papers (they aren’t)
  • They’re a diner waitress, whose personal motto is “Here’s your lunch. You’ll eat it and you’ll like it.” (they really aren’t)

A landing page is specifically designed for a marketing campaign. Its purpose is to convert leads – that’s it. One purpose, one message. Lets repeat again the purpose – increase landing page conversions.

Think I’m kidding? Landing pages with multiple offers get 266% fewer leads than single offer pages.

When to use a Landing Page

You’ll want to use a landing page (rather than a product page) for each marketing campaign you do – it’s all about getting the customer to engage with your brand.

Three Types of Landing Pages

  1. Lead capturing landing page: On this type of landing page, customer engagement happens as a result of collecting email addresses of potential leads, in return for something valuable.

Think:

  • Free video tutorial on something related to your product. For example, if you sell orchid pots, your video could be how to get an orchid to re-bloom (a major pain point for orchid lovers)
  • Promotional offer
  • Event signup, like a free webinar
  • Newsletter signup
  • Entry into a contest
  1. Click-through landing page: This landing page is a page between your ad and your shopping cart, directing the visitor straight to purchase. Unlike a product page, which can have a few options, like “save for later” and “move to wish list,” this landing page has one job: To make the sale.
  2. Thank you landing page: This is the landing page users find when they submit a form, opt-in, or buy. Don’t think of this page as the “end” of the process – it can be a great conversion tool.

Upgrade #1: Simplify

This is true for every landing page: It has one message, and one specific purpose.

But that’s not all that should be simple about your landing page. Your landing page will convert best when what you’re asking of users is simple too.

Think about the simplest, smallest, easiest step you can ask them to take (towards becoming a customer). Which step that is depends on how you typically reach customers best. That might be through:

  • Your email list (see Upgrade #2) – ask them to join
  • Your social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest) – ask them to follow
  • Your video channel – ask them to watch
  • Your sales and deals – ask them to sign up for notifications

Why this works: People love doing something easy to get something they want. The lower your bar for opting in, the more conversions you’ll get.

Upgrade #2: Get that email

Did you know that e-mail is 40 times more effective at acquiring customers than Facebook and Twitter combined? Each email address you collect is a lead to whom you can now send targeted email campaigns. It’s well worth the price of a giveaway, like BrilliantEarth has done.

BrilliantEarth
BrilliantEarth

Why this works: Just like with the first upgrade, this works because it’s so easy to do. That will get you that first conversion. But why this *really* works is that it allows you to start planning lead-nurturing email campaigns, like announcing sales, specials, and limited-time offers.

Upgrade #3: Have your customers segment themselves

Simplicity is always a winner, but if your offer is strong enough, you can ask for a little more information from your visitors. The rule of thumb is: The more you offer, the more you can ask for.

What should you ask for?

Information that lets you automatically segment your customers into groups.

In the BrilliantEarth example above, that would mean adding on a drop-down menu question, like:

I’m interested in jewelry for…

  • Presents for myself
  • Presents for my significant other
  • Presents for my bridesmaids
  • Popping the question!

Using that information, you can then send emails targeted specifically at those groups. Those emails will be more specific, more relevant, and far more effective than mass mailings.

Upgrade #4: Develop the very best header (Clickthrough landing page type)

The Clickthrough landing page type is the hardest to pull off, because you are asking a lot. You’re asking them to decide now to invest their time and/or money into your product. This is where we can bring pain and pleasure.

No, this isn’t 50 Shades of Landing Pages.

The argument for painful copy: Pain pushes us to act and react. That’s its purpose. Put your hand on a hot burner, and you’ll act very fast, because it hurts very much. The more something hurts, the faster we move to remedy the situation. This totally works on landing pages.

Did you know that focusing on pain actually makes it feel worse? We can use that. Joanna Wiebe uses this principle frequently in her copy, starting with a lengthy description of the primary pain point, and digging in to how bad it feels.

You’ll need to provide sufficient copy to tap into the visitors’ motivation for coming, and amplify that motivation so they take your desired action.” – Joanna Wiebe, CopyHackers

What this looks like in practice:

Terminix - Focusing on the Pain
Terminix – Focusing on the Pain

The very worst thing you can imagine, short of this bug landing on your head in the shower, is it nibbling at your children’s cookies. What is the very worst thing your customers can imagine?

Why this works: You’re “twisting the knife” so to speak, before offering them a way to make that pain go away. It’s very persuasive.

The argument for pleasure-promising copy: From Epicurus’ “People make choices based on what will make them happy,” to Freud’s “Pleasure principle” (pleasure is the driving force behind the id) – mankind has figured out that pleasure is a key component to driving action. Just as key as avoiding or stopping pain.

For many e-commerce businesses, your product isn’t a pain-killer; it’s a life enhancer. Your product is all that stands between your customer and their ideal life (or so we’d like them to think!). And we can use this on our landing pages to produce persuasive copy that converts.

Let’s dissect this landing page from Dean Street Society:

Dean Street Society
Dean Street Society

The beautiful desktop, artfully littered with creative tools, immediately sets up the promise we see front and center: Make a Living Being Creative. This headline is supported by the second line which further sells the dream.

Then it tells you what you need to do to achieve the dream – just join the free workshop.

This lead-generating landing page is for a free workshop – and it only asks for name and email. But notice what it does from the beginning – it pre-segments. This offer is only for her ideal customer – the maker, freelancer, blogger, creative, etc.

The recipe?

  • Start with your BIGGEST benefit – the dream you’re promising.
  • Reinforce it with the second line.
  • Show them how to get it.
  • CTA button.
  • Say who your offer is for – or, alternately, place some social proof, like a testimonial or user review, to let leads know that this is worth their time/effort/money.

Upgrade #5: Your secret weapon – the Thank You page

The art of using your Thank You page – the page your new subscriber/customer/lead is directed to after they opt-in – starts with using the momentum of their “yes” and building on it. That first “yes” is the hardest to get, but when your prospect is fresh from giving their affirmative, they are the most receptive to doing just one more thing.

You get to decide the thing.

Of course, you have to say Thank You on your Thank You page. But from there, you have some options.

  • You can ask them to do a short survey about why they came and what they hope to find (valuable insights for marketing and product development).
  • You can ask them to tell you about themselves (ie. self-segmenting, which you can use in targeted emails later).
  • You can ask them…well… pretty much anything.

Or, you can nurture the lead further by:

  • Adding links to your top-performing posts, resources, and tutorials.
  • Giving a special offer to new subscribers.
  • Asking them to follow you on social media.
  • Asking them to share your landing page (maybe in return for 15% off their first purchase).
Thank You Pages Increase Landing Page Conversions
Thank You Pages Increase Landing Page Conversions

This Thank You page asks the viewer to do several things – which isn’t best practice (landing page = 1 action only!), but they get this part right: The most important CTA is also the biggest.

For post purchase Thank You landing pages:

You can suggest additional products frequently bought with the one they’ve chosen. Amazon uses this to great effect in their 2-stage checkout process.

Once you hit “Add to cart” on Amazon, you’re directed to a page like this.

Amazon Post Purchase Thank You Landing Page
Amazon Post Purchase Thank You Landing Page

It shows you what you’ve added, then presents you with offers.

You can “get a $70 Amazon.com Gift Card Instantly” with their Visa card.

You can buy related products.

Or you can peruse “Frequently bough with” items.

Once you proceed to check out, you see this page:

Amazon - Recommendations Based on Your Order
Amazon – Recommendations Based on Your Order

This page shows you recommendations based on your order. A subtle difference, but a powerful one.

They don’t let their Thank You page go to waste – that’s for sure.

One final tip – the best landing pages are those that are tested

The best landing pages don’t convert by chance – variations have been tested until the clear winner emerges. A/B testing is integral to landing page conversion optimization. So try one or all of the above suggestions, one at a time, and see which ones work best for your audience.

For more information on A/B testing, check out this free resource.

5 Easy Upgrades to Increase Landing Page Conversions

Writing and designing a conversion-powerhouse of a landing page is a science – a shifty, constantly evolving science that is, frankly, hard to pin down. While trends in landing page design may change (and they do), there are a few basic tenets that the most successful ones share that can increase landing page conversions. And they’re not difficult to implement.

Advanced Google Analytics Features

Advanced Google Analytics Features
This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Without advanced customization, Google Analytics is useful, but very limited. To fully use its potential, you must dig a bit deeper than the default settings. This is especially true of events, and only once you implement some custom event tracking will Google Analytics be able to truly shine. We will cover multiple advanced Google Analytics posts in this series.

Advanced Google Analytics Features
This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Advanced Google Analytics for e-Commerce

Without advanced customization, Google Analytics is useful, but very limited. To fully use its potential, you must dig a bit deeper than the default settings. This is especially true of events, and only once you implement some custom event tracking will Google Analytics be able to truly shine. We will cover multiple advanced Google Analytics posts in this series.

e-Commerce Value Proposition – How to Stand Out

e-Commerce Value Proposition

e-Commerce value proposition is more or less the same as any value proposition. I guarantee that you’ve seen and read far more value propositions than you’re aware of – because they’re everywhere. They’re on home pages and landing pages. They’re on Facebook ads and sales pages. They’re on freeway billboards and curbside restaurant menus.

“Eat at Joe’s – Home of the Foot-long Corndog”

And they pop up in the most unexpected places.

When the voluptuous Italian movie star Sophia Loren said the Hotel Ritz Paris was “the most romantic hotel in the world,” that was a value proposition.

But, for how prolific value propositions are, confusion surrounds them. You’ll find a number of variations on this 4-point list of what a value proposition does.

A value proposition:

  1. Defines who your customer is
  2. States what your product does
  3. Establishes why you’re unique
  4. Shows the end benefit
What is a Value Proposition
What is a Value Proposition

Sophia Loren’s “The most romantic hotel in the world” statement does all of these things. The Hotel Ritz Paris is for lovers; they will find romance there; more romance than anywhere else in the world. Place that sentence next to a photo featuring Sophia’s generous endowments – and you have your benefits. *Photos are used in value propositions a lot, either as supporting players or integral parts.

Value propositions look deceptively simple, don’t they? But they are one of the most important statements you’ll ever make for your e-commerce products. They require thought, consideration, substantial research, and ongoing testing. Furthermore, they’re worth the effort.

When they work, value propositions make the difference between getting the sale – and boosting your bounce rate.

What is a value proposition?

A value proposition expresses what is unique and desirable about your product – but they aren’t a list of features. It answers the question: What differentiates your product from the competition? And the answer must be grounded in something your target audience desperately wants.

However, this approach presupposes that the product is already designed, already built, and just needs the right words to tell people why they want it (because you know they will want it if you just explain it correctly).

And that isn’t a safe assumption to make. In fact, the authors of the book Value Proposition Design take the opposite approach.

e-Commerce value proposition before product?

Value Proposition Design authors Alex Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Greg Bernarda and Alan Smith contend that a value proposition is one of the first steps to creating a product customers want.

For e-commerce stores just starting out, this may be an especially useful way to think about value propositions – as not separate from, but integral to product design. It’s certainly a way to differentiate from Amazon and other e-commerce giants and build something uniquely suited to your ideal clients.

This approach actually has much in common with the Lean Startup methodology. It begins with identifying your ideal customer and mapping what they value, then seeing if and how your idea fits.

In fact, problem-solution fit takes up much of the book, beginning with a multi-page, step-by-step exploration of the ideal customer – their desired outcomes and benefits they seek, the pains they experience, and their “jobs” (what they’re trying to get done). Using that list as a foundation, you can then describe how our product/service can create those desired outcomes and how it can alleviate pains.

From there, you would not only be able to build your value proposition, but have the information required to build the product prototype itself (or a minimum viable product, if you’re Lean).

But let’s be real here: most businesses, and certainly most copywriters, only think about creating a value proposition once the product is in motion.

You’re asked to assume that problem-solution fit has been found, and maybe it has.

I would argue that it’s in your best interest to check – because without that core problem-solution fit, your value proposition won’t work.

Check your fit (and find the raw materials for your value prop)

To check your problem-solution fit, you don’t have to interview a hundred ideal customers – thank goodness. There are a number of methods you can use to gather qualitative and quantitative data, like using NPS scores to identify your brand advocates and selecting a few to interview about why they use your product, what their pain points were before the product, and how, specifically, your product/service helps them achieve their ideal outcomes.

That’s a really good way to check your fit, while also gathering first-hand information and quotes you can use later when constructing your value proposition.

Once you have a few options for value propositions, you’ll want to ensure fit by testing them, as Jamie W did for ZapFlash (as shared on CopyHackers). Jamie found that the wording in Option B resonated with the college student segment of her audience:

Value Propositions Can Be Tested
Value Propositions Can Be Tested

Copywriter Lauren Van Mullem uses qualitative data to inform her value proposition copy in a slightly different way that is also very effective, and a little faster and easier. She uses testimonials.

“When I need to very quickly understand a product or service’s value, I ask my client to send me all the testimonials they’ve received from their ideal clients – and only their ideal clients. The ones who pay the most and are happiest with what they receive. Then I read through all of the testimonials and categorize them based on the benefits and pain points they state. Patterns emerge very quickly, so sorting them into just a few categories is easy. These categories very clearly show the value people get from the product or service, and the core needs that drove them to buy. Out of that foundation, I can write every other piece of marketing, including a value proposition.”

She also has another hack – taking excerpts of the actual words and phrases used within the testimonials.

“Using the exact same words and phrases as the ideal client is a psychological trigger that makes you sound familiar to other similar people. Cialdini, in a nutshell, tells us that people buy from people they like – and people like what’s familiar. What is more familiar than reading the same language you would use? The way we speak and write marks us culturally, socioeconomically and geographically, and as marketers, we can use that to create a feeling of kinship.”

So, compile your testimonials. Sort them into themes and categories, and highlight words and phrases that perfectly encapsulate common pain points and benefits. From that pool of material, you’ll find where your solution fits, and how to sell it. Then, as always, test.

How to write your value proposition

Writing a value proposition is a little like making pumpkin pie – everyone has their own favorite recipe. And, if you want a great recipe, you’d do well to ask the best pie bakers you know. Here’s how three of the savviest copywriters and marketers approach value propositions.

Joanna Wiebe, Conversion Copywriter, Founder of Copy Hackers

A value prop expresses what your prospect strongly desires 1) that only you offer or 2) that you offer best / most interestingly / most beautifully / most affordably / etc. A quick formula for your value prop is this:

Our customers are loyal to us because they want {highly desired X}, and we offer them that {in Y way}.

Amazon can say, “Our customers are loyal to us because they want a huge selection of brands they love at prices they love, and we offer them that with fast, free shipping.” Even Walmart can’t say that. Alibaba may be able to say the same, though, which is perhaps where the convo shifts from value prop to brand – is it a coincidence that Amazon is now running highly emotional ads, like the dog-and-baby or man-walking-dog commercials, to make us feel something for their brand?

Brand is the ultimate differentiator.  

And that brings us to the real question: What do your customers really care about? Yes, the whole world wants the best stuff for zero dollars delivered instantly. But what do YOUR customers care about? And does what they actually care about highlight a chink in the giant’s armour? For example, might your customers really want to know the people behind the business? They can’t get that from Amazon. Do they love a great personality? Amazon doesn’t have that. Do they go batsh*t crazy for killer design? Amazon definitely doesn’t have that.

Punjammies couldn’t be more different than Amazon, and their value proposition works exceptionally well for their audience, making these pajamas unlike any other sleepwear online.

PUNJAMMIES Value Proposition
PUNJAMMIES Value Proposition

Their homepage reads:

PUNJAMMIES(R) are loungepants made with hope by women in India who have escaped human trafficking. Whenever you purchase PUNJAMMIES(R), you invest in the freedom and dignity of these women and girls who are working to forge a new life for themselves and their children.

Now that is a powerful differentatior.

Angie Schottmuller, Growth Marketing Advisor & Keynote Speaker

Ask a client for their value proposition, and you’ll likely hear their latest sales promotion (e.g. 2-for-1) or get a deer-in-the-headlights reaction. It’s a misunderstood, outdated, fluff phrase. Just referencing the word “proposition” misdirects our desired thought process. (We’re targeting simple, meaningful facts — not opinions, schemes, or sexual suggestions.)

Instead, ask clients to describe their DIFFERENTIATOR.

  • How does your product/service differ from status quo? (i.e. Describe the contrast of current and future state.)
  • How does your product/service differ from the competition?

Descriptive responses to these questions identify key features from which we can derive benefits/value. If you’re stuck on features, ask, “Which means?” Repeat this process until you reveal the feature’s meaningful benefit, impact, or usefulness for the customer.  

Example Product: HP Spectre Laptop.

Differentiator: Solid-State Drive (SSD) [feature] >> No moving parts [feature] >> Runs silently and loads faster [benefit]

We have no idea what makes us unique unless we compare ourselves to others. Identify your differentiator to discover your value.

Differentiator is the new value proposition.  – @aschottmuller

The Purple Mattress company cleverly places their value proposition in the blurb you see on the search engine results page. In fact, not only do they declare themselves to be “the world’s first” and “the biggest mattress-tech advancement” – they even made up their own differentiating test, essentially creating a value proposition out of thin air.

Purple Mattress Value Proposition
Purple Mattress Value Proposition

The “Raw Egg Test”? No other mattress company has ever claimed that.

Talia Wolf, Conversion Optimization Consultant & Trainer

When asked “What is your value proposition?”, most companies reply with a long list of features, pricing and benefits that makes them different. However, there are many brands in the world targeting the same customer as your own; and some have better products, better features and better pricing than your own.

So, how do you really stand out? By emphasizing the customer’s value.  

This isn’t to do with the amount of features you have or how many years you’ve been in business; it’s to do with the customer’s emotional value.

Marketers tend to forget that there are people behind those screens, not just devices and geographical locations. People buy on emotion. They face different challenges and are searching for the one to solve it for them. In order for you to stand out, you will need to highlight what’s in it for your customer – how does your solution make them smarter, safer, happier or even loved?

Once you identify those key emotions and values your customers are looking for, you will be able to translate them into your design using color psychology, persuasive copy, the right images, fonts and many more.

So next time you’re crafting your value proposition, remember: what customers really care about isn’t the what, it’s the why.

Purple Carrot, an ingredient + recipe delivery service (like Blue Apron, only vegan), perfectly leverages the key emotions of their target audience in their value proposition.

Purple Carrot e-Commerce Value Proposition
Purple Carrot e-Commerce Value Proposition

Who wouldn’t want a mouth-watering vegan meal that makes them feel great?

Value proposition design

Successful value propositions aren’t just about the words – they’re about effectively conveying an idea. And ideas are communicated as much through images, psychology, color choice and design decisions as by the text on the page.

Shanelle Mullin, Content & Growth at ConversionXL, shares a recent study the ConversionXL Institute conducted of how value propositions are displayed.

ConversionXL Institute recently studied (via eye-tracking and a questionnaire) a few common ways sites display value propositions: 3 simple bullets, 3 bullets with descriptions, 5 bullets, and a short paragraph.

We found that you should limit other elements on the site or, at least, other elements near the value proposition. All elements on the page should be super relevant to the value proposition.

Ambiguous imagery was found to be a major source of confusion and misunderstanding.

In our study, the headline was “Get A Complete View Of Your Personal Finances” and the imagery was three different devices displaying the same financial dashboard. We found that an overwhelming amount of participants then focused on just one element of the value proposition, “connecting all devices.” For some, the imagery even made them think about “selling computers.” Yikes!

Frilly wording wasn’t found to influence perceived understanding, but it was found to influence recall. Test explicit descriptions of features and benefits for yourself.

Lastly, don’t worry about your value proposition being too long. We found that users noticed the value proposition more quickly when it included more text (i.e. took up more real estate) and they spent longer on it when there was more to read. Instead, worry about communicating clearly.

Of course, value propositions aren’t relegated to the “Hero” or header section – you can also put them on Facebook ads that lead to landing pages, like Vinley Market.

Vinley Market’s Value Proposition
Vinley Market’s Value Proposition

Vinley Market’s value proposition is consistent between their Facebook ad and their landing page, but not identical (due to character count constraints, no doubt):

Ad copy: “We are obsessed with uncovering the best boutique wines at amazing prices.”

Landing page copy: “We are obsessed with uncovering the best boutique wines that majorly over deliver for the price.”

Notice that the copy on the landing page sounds much more like a value proposition because of the “the best X” “that [differentiator]” construction. Design-wise, their landing page is clear, with minimal distractions, and they have a rather lengthy value proposition statement that covers what they do, what a primary fear of their target audience is (avoid the trap of pretty labels), and a promise that they’ll make it easy.

They also do one very important thing: They offer social proof that the wines will, in fact, be good (another psychological trigger from Robert Cialdini) by promising to send only “the bottles our buyers are most excited about.”

It’s great e-commerce copywriting because it makes the value you can expect so very clear, while covering common objections and addressing common fears.

So you’ve got your value proposition – now what?

Hurray! You’ve written your value proposition, your designers have crafted a simple, yet powerful image to go with it, and you’ve got your call-to-action button primed and ready.

Now what?

Pop the bubbly and relax?

Hah! No.

The most important part of the value proposition process is the one that’s talked about least – testing. Even if you think you did everything right, even if you consulted your customers, triple checked fit, used their language, and honed your benefits – the only way to ensure your message resonates with your audience enough to measurably increase conversions and sales is… to measure. You have to track what happens.

You’ll need to measure and understand the traffic reaching your page, including what they’re reading most (or least), how long they’re on the page, and how many click your CTA button and convert into customers.

Then, you can begin to A/B test variations on your value proposition wording and delivery to optimize it and win more conversions.

Then you can pop the bubbly.

Has an e-commerce value proposition recently caught your eye (or earned your dollar)? Share it with us on Twitter @Objeqt.

e-Commerce Value Proposition

A value proposition expresses what is unique and desirable about your product – but they aren’t a list of features. It answers the question: What differentiates your product from the competition? And the answer must be grounded in something your target audience desperately wants.

How to Run a Test to Optimize Conversions

How to Run a Test to Optimize Conversions

Testing is what makes the conversion optimization process tick – it’s the heart and soul, the raison d’etre, the very foundation upon which optimization is built.Testing will optimize conversions = wins! And it’s not hard to do. 

Every online store can and should test to improve their conversion rate optimization. But not every store does. Some are woefully behind the times, giving stores who are actively optimizing the advantage.

But don’t expect that advantage to last for long. CRO is the future. We’ve written this post to help you get there a little faster, so you can get the edge on your competition.

Why you need to test to optimize conversions

Testing is essential to identifying and implementing optimal solutions to amorphous problems (as well as clear-cut problems) like, “Why isn’t my landing page converting as much as I think it should?”

Even if you haven’t done so formally, when you have a problem like a landing page that isn’t performing well, you form a guess – a hypothesis – as to why. Maybe you think it’s taking too long to load, or the “buy” button color or placement isn’t attention-grabbing enough. Maybe your web analytics holds a clue, or the qualitative surveys you’ve sent out hint that the reason could be a lackluster product photo.

Guesses – hypotheses – are often flawed, weak, or plain wrong, but we mostly realize that only in retrospect. The only way to know for sure is to test your theory.

Testing enables you to avoid costly mistakes, like deploying a ‘solution’ that causes new or exacerbates existing problems (instead of improving conversion). Testing also allows you to select the top-performing solution out of multiple available alternatives, thus avoiding suboptimal results, that are nonetheless improvements over the original content.

All the preliminary research and hypotheses creation you’ve done has lead to this point in the process: Creating the test. Here are the basic principles involved, so you can begin testing to optimize your conversion rates.

A/B Basics: A Testing Plan

Like embarking on any campaign (in warfare or marketing), you first need a plan of attack. If you read our post on Hypothesis Creation, you already have a foundation that is easy to build upon. (If you haven’t read it yet, read it now – we’ll wait).

Planning begins by choosing your criteria for which hypothesis you test first. There are number of methodologies CROs use to do this, four of the best known being:

  1. The PIE model
  2. The PXL model
  3. The TIR model
  4. The ICE model

PIE model

PIE stands for Potential Importance Ease. It was developed by WiderFunnel agency as a means to prioritize tests and create testing plans. This model prioritizes hypotheses based on which have the highest potential for improvement, and the greatest possible impact (or importance), AND which require the least amount of effort to implement. Big improvement, big impact, little effort – with these three criteria scored from 1-10 (with 10 being the best score).

One variation is to penalize solutions that require great effort, or grading effort on a scale of 10 to 1 (with 1 denoting the most effort). The result: You’ll have a list of hypotheses to test that go from easiest to hardest, most impactful to least.

PXL method

This model was developed and is used by ConversionXL. It represents an answer to problems inherent in the PIE method, namely the considerable subjectivity involved in making assumptions about Importance and Effort. It introduces a system of grading based upon multiple individual elements, such as position of the content on the page, developer effort required to implement change, length of time and amount of traffic necessary to test effectively, etc.

The strength of this method is that it is customizable. The only problem is that you may omit some important factors. Use with caution.

TIR model

TIR model stands for Time Impact Resources. It advocates prioritizing tests according to time needed to complete the test, impact of the change on the conversion rate, and the resources necessary to implement the change (most often in terms of man/hours or number of people involved). This model uses a 1 to 5 grading scale.

ICE model

Impact Confidence Effort model was developed by Sean Ellis, founder of the GrowthHackers. It prioritizes hypotheses to test by:

  • Impact on conversion
  • Confidence that the test will actually be successful
  • Effort needed to implement the change

ICE seems like an ideal model – aren’t we all after impact on conversion? But, it also has the drawback that the second element, confidence, is subjective. When it comes to testing, subjectivity isn’t good – it’s where mistakes happen.

Once you choose a way to prioritize your testing order, the next step is to form a plan. Ideally, your plan will include all the hypotheses to be tested, and a deadline by which you’ll be finished. Each test should have a definite time limit, which is typically included as part of your hypothesis.

Your plan will also include which type of test to use for each hypothesis.

Finding the Right Test for the Job

For every hypothesis you must select the most appropriate test type to use.

A/B tests

A/B testing (or split testing) is the most straightforward variant of the test. It compares just two versions of a page: The existing version and the proposed variation.

AB Testing to Optimize Conversions
AB Testing to Optimize Conversions

The variation can have one major element changed, and possibly one or two minor ones changed. The two pages are set up in parallel, with A appearing to one audience at the same time B appears to another group of viewers, and are tracked through the testing tool (such as Optimizely or VWO or Google Optimize). The traffic reaching the page URL is split in predetermined proportions between the two variations, typically 50/50. The test is allowed to run until it reaches statistical significance.

Statistical significance is the percentage at which the test results are considered valid, and not the result of pure chance. In CRO, 95% is often used to validate significance.

Once the test has reached statistical significance, we can be reasonably confident that its results are valid. That is the moment when we call a winner between A and B and conclude the test.

But, we’re not quite done.

To increase our confidence in the result, we can shift a larger proportion of the traffic to the winning variation to ensure the result holds with larger samples. Or, if we are confident enough, we can transfer the entire traffic to the new web page, eliminating the losing variation altogether.

(When A/B Testing Goes Wrong) A/A testing

If you strongly suspect that your A/B tests return a false positive, you can use the A/A test to ensure external pollution (aka. “noise”) isn’t rendering your results inconclusive. This type of experiment is conducted by splitting the traffic in equal parts between the two identical pages. If there is no sample pollution and everything is normal, your A/A test should be inconclusive. However if you can call a clear winner with some statistical significance, something’s not right.

The Good & Bad of A & B

The A/B test has certain advantages and limitations. On one hand, it’s relatively simple to set up and can be run effectively with relatively little website traffic. We can also be reasonably sure that the proposed change is actually what is causing better performance of the page, since the variations are strictly limited. It’s fast to run, results come quickly, and you can be confident that you’ll see an improvement.

However, this type of tests suffers from some limitations that severely narrow its field of use. The most critical limitation is the most obvious: You have to identify a single alternative you want to test.

In the real world, it’s far more likely to have multiple variations that can be proposed with equal validity. The more variations we add to the page submitted to A/B testing, the less we understand how much each individual change affects the result. We may end up with a better performing page, but we will never know which change was responsible.

The solution to this is to run multiple A/B tests in sequence to see the effect of each change. This, of course, requires more time.

A/B tests work best when we have two clear alternatives that we want to test. We may also be forced to use A/B tests when the website doesn’t have enough traffic to conduct any other type of test.

In most other circumstances, running a multivariate test is more appropriate.

How Multivariate (A/B/C…/n) Tests Work

Multivariate Testing
Multivariate Testing

Multivariate tests allow us to overcome the main limitation of the straightforward A/B test – that we can only test two variants at a time (and one of those is the control). Multivariate testing lets us identify every possible combination of variations and put each to the test.This will allow us to determine the combination of variations that impact the conversion rate most and implement it.

Like the A/B test, website traffic is also proportionally allocated to every variation, preferably in equal proportions.

Multivariate Limitations

The main limitation of the multivariate test is that a properly conducted test requires significant amounts of traffic. In fact, the amount of traffic required to reach the statistical significance increases exponentially for every additional variation we include. This poses a serious challenge for websites that have relatively low traffic, as the sample size for each test quickly becomes too low to give a decisive conclusion.

The limitation of the multivariate tests can be overcome by testing over extended periods of time, but that introduces new variables into the experiment that we may not be able to account for, thus polluting our results. For example, if you began your testing in Spring, and extended it into the holidays, you’d likely get vastly different results that had nothing to do with what was on your website (and everything to do with the season).

Which brings us to another possible solution, the Bandit algorithm test.

Bandit Algorithm Tests

A/B Testing vs Bandit Testing to Optimize Conversions
A/B Testing vs Bandit Testing to Optimize Conversions

Bandit Algorithm Tests (or multi-armed bandit tests – an even more intriguing name) let you set up a multivariate test experiment and observe it over limited amount of time. This test works by progressively excluding obvious underperformers until it’s possible to determine the optimal variation with statistical significance.

Bandit tests aren’t perfect. While a bandit algorithm test helps to overcome the basic limitation of the multivariate test, it introduces the risk of terminating some variations prematurely.

Multi-arm bandit tests must be used judiciously and with the number of variations limited to the traffic numbers you know you can count on. The more traffic the website has, the more variations you can safely introduce.

Split Path Testing

Split Path Testing comes into play when we need to see which way works best to complete a task. For example, a typical conversion funnel on an e-commerce website looks like this:

Product page → Cart → Shipping info → Billing info → Confirmation page → Thank you

Using split path testing, you could test whether single-page checkout would work better.

Split Path Testing
Split Path Testing

Essentially, you’ll create two different paths to the conversion page (the product page, in this case) and split visitors between them equally. The top-performer wins.

The Catch

Split path tests tend to be resource intensive. You may need to develop an entirely different design and code to support the different experience you want to offer to your visitors, and the result may not offer a return that outweighs the effort invested.

However, if the website has hit the local maxima, the plateau at which there are no obvious variations that will result in significant lift, this may be the one remaining thing left to test.

Testing Done? Great! You’re Not Finished Yet

I know, I know. You’ve hypothesized, you’ve tested, you’ve spent time, money and resources optimizing your site, and by golly, you’re ready for a beer.

But optimization is a journey. A long, rewarding journey, with total optimization as the ever-retreating goal. There will always be ‘one more thing’ to test. Even when you’ve gone through your entire site and optimized to the local maxima, it’s probably just time to consider a site redesign.

Don’t let this discourage you – this is exciting! It means there’s practically no limit to how much you can improve, grow, and profit.

With that in mind, remember a few key things when you’re testing:

  1. Never end the experiment when it reaches statistical significance. Be sure the experiment has been running for at least a week (or the length of your purchase -> delivery cycle) so that the results will cover all possible sample variations due to days of the week. Pay attention to the holidays or other periods of low (or increased) activity and take them into account when calling the experiment winners.
  2. When you create a test plan, always be aware of opportunity costs. Make an effort to identify all possible variations and judge the effort needed to implement them in order to avoid making suboptimal choices.
  3. Avoid testing for small-scale changes that have limited potential impact. These will most likely result in inconclusive tests and waste your time.
  4. Failed tests (tests in which the original variation wins) are still valuable learning moments. That said, you should aim to keep proportion of winning tests as high as possible.
  5. In observing test results and calling a winner, you should always check to make sure website performance has not been negatively affected in the testing process. For example, you might increase the performance of the desktop version of the site, but your mobile visitors suffer (and the mobile version of the site becomes unusable).

Unintended consequences and unforeseen results are why we test. And, they’re why we have to keep such tight control over our tests, so we can see the cause/effect relationship and continue on our optimization journeys a little smarter and a little wiser than when we began.

How to Run a Test to Optimize Conversions

Every online store can and should test to improve their conversion rate optimization. But not every store does. Some are woefully behind the times, giving stores who are actively optimizing the advantage. But don’t expect that advantage to last for long. CRO is the future. We’ve written this post to help you get there a little faster, so you can get the edge on your competition.