What we're talking about

So, thanks to your marketing efforts, you've managed to get some visitors to your site. But getting them to take action on your website is a whole new challenge. Website conversion is all about increasing the number of customers who complete a desired action. That could be purchasing a product, signing up to your newsletter or completing a web form. How successful your website is at converting visitors is shown through your conversion rate – the percentage of your total visitors who take the desired action. 

Why it's important

On their first visit to a retail website, 17 out of 100 people intend to make a purchase. However, the global average conversion rate as of July 2022 was only 2.2% – and, for many sites, that number was considerably lower. The gap between intent and conversion highlights the missed opportunity – many people have the intention of buying something but are dropping off. 

While pumping more resources into increasing site traffic is always an option, it's more cost-effective to focus on improving the sales rate from people already visiting your site. Research by Harvard Business Review magazine shows that when making a decision that involves risk, such as purchasing something online, people tend to rely on intuition over deliberation. So, focusing on the little details – page layouts, images and colors – can have a significant impact.

Things to note 

There are plenty of options. The ways you can try to improve your conversion rates are almost limitless. For example, adding testimonials and reviews to your site tends to have a positive impact on conversion rate. That's because 89% of people check online reviews as a part of their buying journey, according to review platform Trustpilot. Other options, like pop-up windows, discounts at the point of purchase and money-back guarantees, are all worth exploring. 

Know what your customer wants. Understanding exactly what your customer needs and wants to achieve on your website is a pretty important first step. Once you've defined your target audience, outline the ideal customer journey and outcome – in other words, the specific action that you'd like them to take on your site. Do you want to direct them toward products, or get them to sign up to an email newsletter, for example? Make it as easy and frictionless as possible for them to get to that outcome. 

Keep it simple – and fast. We tend to be pretty impatient online, with 40% of us abandoning a website that takes more than three seconds to load.Particularly for mobile websites – where loading times tend to be slower – page speed is a big obstacle. A clunky setup will slow down the time a website takes to load, which will result in fewer conversions. So, remove as many barriers as possible for the customer. To improve page speed, optimize your site for mobile: images will need to be smaller or compressed – and get rid of any pop-up video content. Google has plenty of information on page speeds that'll help you analyze and improve your loading times.

Focus on the checkout process. If you're selling a product or getting people to sign up for your service, the final checkout process is probably the most important. You're aiming to keep customers' attention so that you can reduce the number of people abandoning their carts. Condensing your checkout process to a single page is best practice. Support as many payment methods as possible (eg, Apple Pay, Google Pay, American Express and PayPal). If customers get distracted from completing an order, follow-up strategies such as an abandoned cart email can be really effective – the average abandoned cart email results in $5.81 of recuperated revenue.

How to improve web conversion

1. Get clear on your aims. Once you've defined your target audience and their needs, outline exactly which action you'd like them to take on your website. Set yourself some clear aims that you're hoping to achieve (for example, to increase conversion rate by 1%). Familiarize yourself with the key terms related to website conversion, like bounce rate (when someone exits your site after visiting only one page), customer lifetime value (the profit an individual customer brings to your business) and A/B testing (where you test two different versions of the same page). Here's a pretty exhaustive list of terms to know

2. Audit your existing website. Do a deep-dive into the current state of your website, as well as how customers typically navigate through it, so that you can identify any bottlenecks in your customers' journey. Note down any potential red flags that could take away from the user-friendliness of your site (for instance, a cluttered layout, hidden pricing or any unnecessary checkout steps). There's no point spending marketing dollars on driving people to your site if they're not completing a desired action.

3. Do some research. There's no better way of finding out what issues your visitors are having than by getting some customer feedback. This can be done over the phone or via a questionnaire – you could use a user-friendly tool like Typeform or Google Forms. You don't have to listen to every complaint, but the exercise should highlight what your top priorities are.

4. Map out your site architecture. To help you visualize how people typically navigate your website, you can use a site-mapping tool. That way, you can see what a user journey typically looks like from every page of your website. Using a site map, you can identify if any parts of your site are hidden away – or are difficult to navigate to from your homepage.

5. Prioritize the homepage. The homepage of your website is the first thing that any new customer will see, so it needs to be visually appealing and simple to understand. A strong call to action will let visitors know exactly what you do and what you want from them. Ideally, visitors should be able to access everything they want within a few clicks of your homepage. 

6. Don't forget FAQs. If you're selling a product, customers will want to know about things like ​​pricing, shipping and returns. A dedicated FAQs section can also increase customer trust. Consider adding an interactive element to your FAQs or clearly state expected response times. Make sure that your design and copy allows customers to not only find the information they're looking for, but also redirects them back to the original action they were trying to take. 

7. Come up with a timeline. Set up some short-term and long-term goals for this project. Try to identify any quick wins that won't take too much effort. Then, note down more complex fixes that might require more time – or input from a web designer.Make sure that someone in your team is responsible for this project and for hitting certain milestones at specific times.

8. Get going. Start working through the findings of your research. This might be a good time to call in some external help from a web designer or a copywriter. You should start by eliminating issues like slow loading times, broken forms and confusing customer journeys. Then focus on the aesthetics – adding more blank space, improving web copy and including logos alongside brand testimonials.

9. Measure what matters – and iterate. Go back to your original goal: what was the action you wanted to drive customers towards, and which metrics will you need to measure over time to gauge improvement? With the help of analytics provided by your website-hosting platform, continue to learn and improve your site.You could conduct some A/B tests – for example, try comparing two checkout page layouts to see which one has a higher conversion rate. Tools like Crazy Egg can help you see where exactly customers are clicking. 

Key takeaways 

• Define your target audience and what action you want them to take on your website. That'll drive the metrics you want to track over time as you're redesigning, testing and iterating your site. 

• Once you've defined the desired action, lower the barriers for customers to get there as much as possible. For example, keeping your loading times short will reduce the number of people bouncing off your site.

• The homepage is the key to any website. Plus, it needs to be easy to navigate through the site using the homepage as a central hub. 

Learn more 

Perspective. The team behind Crazy Egg share their tips for the best things you can do to increase your conversion rate. These won't all work for your site, but they should get you thinking.

Example. Design platform Figma has this site-mapping template, which can help you visualize your website architecture and plan out customer journeys.

Tool. Google's mobile-friendly test can show how optimized your website is for mobile, while its mobile-speed test will tell you how long it takes for your site to load on a phone.

A version of this article was published in the Courier Workshop newsletter. For more deep dives into essential business concepts, sign up here.

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