“I’m exiled, you can’t convert me, I’m lost in the haze of your delicate ways…” From “We Better Talk This Over” by Bob Dylan 1978.
Your website has a purpose, it might be to get your visitors to purchase products, complete a form, download a file, register for a newsletter or some other action. The number of visitors to your website who perform the required action as a percentage of the total number of visitors is called the conversion rate or conversion ratio.
The vast majority of website owners do not know their conversion ratio even though for most sites it can easily be improved. You can use Google Analytics which is free and allows you to set up goals (for example the ‘Thank You’ page you show after a purchase) and Google will calculate the goal conversion metrics for your site. So now there is no excuse for not knowing your conversion ratio!
Once you know what your conversion ratio is you can set about improving it. When you make site changes to improve your conversion ratio it is very important to measure the effects of these changes because they could be positive or negative. The way this is done is to have two pages, one is the original page and the other is the one where you have made changes. You then randomly allocate visitors to these two pages and after a suitable period you can, with appropriate software, analyze which page gives the higher conversion ratio. This procedure is called A/B split testing.
In practice you will want to conduct a number of A/B split tests simultaneously and to do this you will require a third party service that provides Multivariate Testing or Taguchi Optimization as it is sometimes called. You can learn more about this procedure from the websites of these providers; Offermatica, Vertster and SiteSpect.
April 12, 2007
Google has made available a tool that enables non-technical users to set-up and run multivariate landing page experiments. Website Optimizer (integrated into AdWords) works alongside Google Analytics and all third party site analytics packages.
Your conversion ratio will be influenced by many factors but one of the most important for site owners, particularly ecommerce site owners, is how the user perceives your site in terms of credibility and trust. This is not surprising given that users read daily of credit card fraud, scams and credit card data being stolen.
Improving Trust and Credibility.
There are many things you can do to improve the credibility and trust of your site in the eyes of users.
- Show that there is a real organization behind your site. If you have a physical office or store show a picture of it and show pictures of your staff with friendly captions underneath. Your site should clearly disclose its purpose, its mission and its ownership.
- Make it easy for users to contact you. Have a Freephone telephone number in addition to publishing your address, telephone number and email address. Install live chat software which allows your company representatives to engage in one to one chat with your web site visitors in real-time. There are many options for this but LivePerson have a good system with a free trial period and good support.
- Clearly disclose all fees charged before the ordering process begins. Make sure you include all service, transaction, handling fees and shipping costs.
- You should state clearly policies for returning unwanted items or canceling transactions.
- You should openly declare your policy on a consumer’s rights if a purchase is made based on inaccurate information on your site.
- Your privacy policies should be easy to find and be clearly and simply stated.
- You should disclose how personal data from your site visitors and customers will be used.
I have seen large increases in conversion ratios arising from the inclusion of an Online “Trust” Certificate like these : (Click on the certificates to find out more about them.)
There is an interesting dichotomy as far as trust certificates are concerned. Although if prominently displayed they will increase conversion ratios it seems that sites that use them are significantly less trustworthy than those that don’t!
The reason for this is ‘adverse selection’ in that many untrustworthy sites will use certification to mask their untrustworthiness and hope to fool the users. There is a recent study by Benjamin Edelman of Harvard University titled Adverse Selection in Online Trust Certifications which explains this in detail, particularly with reference to TRUSTe and the Better Business Bureau Privacy Program. It’s something to be aware of but definitely should not stop you using them to improve your conversion rate.