User Conversion & Conversion Rate Optimisation

by Ryan Jordan

posted on: November 20th 2015

The term 'Conversion Rate Optimisation' is actually quite a poor one, it suggests that the role of a Conversion Rate Optimisation Consultant is to focus solely on 'optimising conversion rates', when actually, it's much more than that.

As consultants we work with our partners to understand their website and overall business objectives, learn about their users behaviours and motivations, and marry these together to create (and test!) a tailored online experience bespoke to our learnings. Our overall goal? An increased number of transactions, with a higher basket revenue, resulting in a lower cost per acquisition and ultimately increased business revenues profit.

It's true that every business is looking to increase their revenue and profit. But ask yourself this, is setting your business goal as 'we need to increase Conversion Rate', the best way to think about this? As a goal, it's really simple to increase your Conversion Rate, but whether that aligns with your business strategy is a totally different matter. Look at your results from Black Friday and I'm sure the majority will see an increased conversion rate. So why not try and maintain this higher than average conversion rate by keeping your products discounted by 25%/50%/70%? Problem solved. You’ve increased your conversion rate and ticked that box... Objective complete and everyone's getting their Christmas bonus! But is this really what your business wants to do?

Conversion Rate is quite a fluffy metric because SO many things can affect it and so many things feed into it. Yes your conversion rate might be 3%, but how does this look for mobile, desktop, tablet, PPC traffic, SEO traffic, new sessions, returning customers etc. This one single figure isn't a good benchmark

Now let's take a minute to think about that term ‘Conversion Rate’...

I'm guessing the majority of people are using Google Analytics to report on this figure? Why wouldn't you? It's a free, powerful tool that provides you with a wealth of data. But do you know how your Conversion Rate is calculated?

Google Analytics takes the number of Transactions and divides this by the number of Sessions to calculate your conversion rate. (Or where 'Goals' are concerned, they take the number of successful goal completions and again divide this by the number of Sessions).

Do you think this calculation is right? Should Conversion Rate really be calculated this way? Maybe for some businesses... But I'd say not for the majority. Think about your website, there's seldom a website where the users visiting the site will convert on their first session or interaction. The buying mentality of the UK public is changing. Whereas previously convenience was key, habits are changing to become more price conscious and savvy. We need to appreciate that actually this behaviour is probably here to stay, and as your competition increases online this is only going to become more prominent.

Example 1

Let's say for arguments sake that you're an electronics retailer and I'm looking for a new digital camera (NB. In this example I'm the only person on your site – lucky you!)...

I've done my research and narrowed down a few cameras I'm interested in. I visit your site and I see if you have these in stock. OK great you have these in stock and I can see the prices. Realistically I'm going to go to a competitor and see what price they have. I've shopped around now and I'm happy that you have the best price, but before I buy I want to show my friend (who is a photographer). So we jump online, I show him the product and he agrees it's what I should buy, so tonight I'm going to buy the camera. Evening comes, I visit your site and buy the camera. Great, you've converted me!! But wait, your conversion rate is 33.3%... Is that right? Well you’ve had 1 transaction in 3 sessions (by one user…). Is your business goal to convert me at every visit? Or is your business goal to ensure that you convert as many users as possible that visit your site regardless of how many visits it takes? If it's the former, then good luck to you...

Example 2

So I'm heading out this weekend and need some new clothes. I'm on the train and I have a look around your site (again, I’m the only visitor to your site), there are a few things I'm interested in, but the signal on the train isn't great so I can’t buy. I get home pick up my iPad and show my girlfriend what I'm going to buy. She (obviously) disagrees and proceeds to load up the site on her laptop and decides what I should buy instead. She's found the perfect outfit and I daren't argue with her, so I buy the products on her laptop. Hooray, you’ve got my money!! But wait... Your conversion rate is 33.3% again. But even worse, your mobile conversion is 0%, tablet conversion 0% and desktop 100%. Which leads me to ask the same question again. Is your business goal to convert me at every visit? Or is your business goal to ensure that all users that visit your site convert?

Think about it... Would I (as a user) have bought these products without the previous stages in the journey? Maybe... Maybe not. If I was a betting man I'd put my money on the latter. Isn't the real goal here to facilitate user throughout EVERY stage in the journey to ensure that their money is landing in your business account and not a competitors?

Therefore, shouldn’t the focus be on User Conversion rather than Conversion Rate Optimisation?

Start to think about your users and the limitations in your data. Optimise your site for the different stages of the customer journey – Research, Comparison, Affirmation, Purchase and Order Tracking. Now, more than ever, is the time to think about personalisation. How can you, as a business, help users on your site and give them an experience that means that eventually they will buy from you?

Feel free to help us with this revolution and get #userconversion trending, half as a shameless self-promotion, and half as a genuine belief to reinvent and mould our industry more away from an inherently flawed terminology.

avatar for author

Ryan Jordan

User Conversion & Conversion Rate Optimisatio…

by Ryan Jordan Time to read: 4 min