CRO Basics: What is Conversion Rate Optimisation and How Can I Get Started?

New to conversion rate optimisation? Looking to brush up on some key terms? Our guide to CRO basics is the perfect place to start. Find out what a conversion actually is, how to calculate conversion rate, where to get started with your very own CRO strategy, and more!

Written By
Hannah Smiddy

As an ecommerce retailer, driving traffic to your website is only half the battle. Once users are on your site, how can you encourage them to click through to a product page, hit that “Add to Cart” button, or seal the deal at checkout?

This is where conversion rate optimisation, or CRO, comes in. By embracing an ongoing process of experimentation, analysis and learning, you can fine-tune your ecommerce website to encourage all these things and more.

In this article, we’re going back to CRO basics. We’ll break down some key terms, explore the process of CRO in more detail, and look at how you can kickstart your optimisation strategy.

Conversion rate optimisation: a definition

Fundamentally, conversion rate optimisation is the practice of increasing the percentage of users who perform a desired action, like buying a product or completing a form.

It’s all about making improvements on your website, based on user behaviour, to try and get more out of your existing traffic. CRO involves developing a rich understanding of your users – what brings them to your website, what makes them tick (and click) once they get there, what stops them in their purchasing tracks – so that you can deliver the optimal customer experience and encourage as many conversions as possible.

CRO is an iterative process of testing that should be embraced as a continuous journey of learning and improving – it’s not a process with an “endpoint”.

The benefits of conversion rate optimisation include things like:

  • Richer insights into your customers and their behaviours (which extend far beyond your website – learnings from CRO can inform wider business decisions, including things like new product development).
  • Better return on your customer acquisition costs – getting more value from your existing users.
  • Greater understanding of your online store’s usability, which leads to an improved user experience.
  • Increased revenue per user.
  • Sustainable business growth!

What is a conversion?

Ok, so we know what CRO is as a practice and why it’s important. Let’s break it down a bit further, starting with what a conversion actually is.

The term conversion refers to the completion of a desired action or goal.

Conversions can happen across your ecommerce website, and come in all shapes and sizes.

As an online retailer, your main goal is likely to be a user purchasing a product on your site – you want to convert them from a browser into a buyer. This is an example of a macro-conversion.

On a smaller scale, micro-conversions might include things like a customer subscribing to your brand’s email newsletter, adding a product to cart, adding something to their wishlist, or creating a customer account.

What is conversion rate and how is it calculated?

It follows, then, that conversion rate is the percentage of users who complete a desired action.

To calculate conversion rate, you divide the number of conversions by the total number of visitors, then multiply this by 100.

For example, let’s say there were 100 purchases and 2,000 visitors on your online store last month. Simply divide 100 by 2,000 (which makes 0.05) and then multiply by 100 (which comes to 5). Your conversion rate would be 5% in this case.

When it comes to defining a “good” conversion rate, this can vary significantly depending on factors like your industry, location, product type, product cost, traffic source and more – so don’t get bogged down with trying to reach average ecommerce conversion rates. On the other hand, don’t let general benchmarks limit your goals either by acting as “endpoints” – CRO is all about making ongoing incremental improvements.

As Swanky’s Lead Digital Strategist, Samantha Fraser, says:

“The exciting thing about CRO is that, ultimately, there’s potential to grow any website’s conversion rate. No website is ever ‘perfect’ – you can always keep experimenting to fine-tune your ecommerce experience!”

The CRO process

The CRO process we use here at Swanky is robust, methodical and ensures we continually learn.

#1 Analyse data and gather insights

First comes a period of data analysis and insights curation. We spend time collecting and analysing data in order to develop relevant, meaningful hypotheses based on valid insights – it’s not enough to rely on intuition when it comes to a successful CRO strategy.

By analysing data points from a variety of sources, conducting customer surveys and running heat maps across your site, we curate a 360° understanding of your customers’ behaviour throughout their digital experience. This allows us to understand users’ intentions, pinpoint opportunities, identify areas of friction, and ultimately support data-led decision making.

We’ll also define top-line, commercially-focused goals, unique to your business. It’s also important to outline how we’ll measure success once experimentation begins.

#2 Hypothesise and prioritise

Next, our strategists get to work forming hypotheses based on the results of their analysis, as well as learnings from their industry experience.

We record our ideas for experimentation in a priority matrix, prioritising them based on commercial potential, as well as the ability to quickly see results.

Finally, the chosen tests are placed in a roadmap ready to implement.

#3 Experiment

Backed by the best optimisation solutions in the business, including Webtrends Optimize and Kameleoon, it’s time to start experimenting! Our digital strategists are experts when it comes to data-led A/B testing, recommendation and personalisation programs, and have an above-average success rate of tests where the challenging variant wins.

#4 Review

Once a test is complete, we analyse the results and present our recommendations. Learnings feed back into our customer insights, further strengthening our understanding of your users and their behaviour.

#5 Repeat

Iterations follow, and the CRO cycle continues.

Getting started with a CRO strategy

Key terms defined and processes explored, let’s look at how you can kickstart your CRO strategy. Remember that CRO efforts will look different for every website and business – whilst these are some general tips to consider, you should be led by your unique data and what it tells you about your customers.

Typically, you’ll want to kick things off in the parts of your conversion funnel that receive the largest amount of traffic or produce the most conversions. These are the places where you’ll see the biggest and quickest impact.

Similarly, focusing on your highest value pages or those that are underperforming on conversions can deliver large and speedy results.

For us, early experiments focus on “low hanging fruit”. They’re typically smaller in scale and spread across the funnel on key pages. We use the results to strengthen our insights and identify where further testing can get traction.

As our CRO journey with you matures, so will our testing strategies. We use a mixture of approaches to drive commercial uplift and improve insights, working towards the deployment of novel, complex strategies based on commercial innovation.

Work with an award-winning conversion rate optimisation agency

Here at Swanky, our data-led application of creative CRO techniques drives exceptional outcomes for ambitious ecommerce brands across the globe. We combine our extensive experience providing digital consultancy to established market leaders with detailed site analysis, technical innovation and the latest experimentation tools to turn traffic into happy, converting customers – and we do all of this in-house!

Our robust, commercially-focused approach to CRO led to us being crowned Conversion Rate Optimisation Agency of the Year at the 2021 Digital Growth Awards! If you’d like to find out how our award-winning CRO specialists can unlock your brand’s ecommerce potential with their wealth of experience and expertise, get in touch today.

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