conversion rate

By Johann van Tonder

Unless your website is in a league of its own, you’ll find that only a small portion of people who visit your site actually converts. In e-commerce, this means the majority of visitors leave your site without buying anything.

A common “solution” is to buy more traffic. Surely more visitors should translate into more sales?

Unfortunately, that’s flawed logic. Even if all other things remained equal, the ability of your site to turn visitors into buyers hasn’t changed. You’re merely throwing good money after bad. In fact, you may find the additional traffic converting at an even lower rate. One reason for this is the risk of diluting traffic quality as the pool grows.

A better way to deal with this is to fix your conversion rate. Applying the principles of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), use data to determine where and how to tune your site. Here are three things you can do right now.

Use analytics wisely

One of the main advantages of analytics is also a key problem – there is too much of it. Insights that can potentially transform your business are buried in tables and graphs, if you happen to be looking in the right place. Here’s how to make sense of it:

Identify the biggest opportunities

Where do you start? The homepage, because it’s the window into the site? The checkout, because those users are warm? Both are just hunches. Look at the pages your visitors go to the most. Identify pages or templates with high bounce- and exit rates. This is where your site may be leaking money. If you haven’t yet, configure e-commerce tracking in order to see how various areas of the site compare in terms of conversion rate.

Segment data

Google Analytics (GA) aggregates all data, but real nuggets are hidden in segments, or subsets of your audience. For example, comparing converters to non-converters may reveal insightful differences that would be missed by looking at the aggregate. How do mobile visitors behave differently, and what can you read into that? Social traffic versus organic search traffic? Think about the segments that matter in your business, and apply them to your GA reporting.

Usability testing

It’s amazing how much you can learn by observing users interacting with your site. Known as usability testing, it’s one of the best ways to identify opportunities to improve revenue.

Simply give someone a task to perform on your web- or mobile site and then watch them go through the process. Leave it reasonably vague so as to not shoehorn them into a particular behaviour. For example, ask them to find a particular item they may be genuinely interested in and add it to their cart.

Ask them to verbalise their thoughts as they go through the process. Resist the temptation to guide them if they get stuck. Instead, regard their difficulties as spun gold – a conversion blocker to remove! You’re testing the site, not the user. Keep quiet, observe and take notes.

You need no more than five people to do diagnostic usability testing, although even one is better than nothing. Choose people representative of your audience, rather than family or co-workers. A few online service providers facilitate easy usability testing at affordable rates. Try or

Email surveys

Remember what drives your site’s conversion rate: real people who buy or leave without buying. Optimization of your site therefore starts with knowing your visitors and customers. Get under the skin and into the minds of those people who make your conversion rate move up or down.

Email surveys are great for this purpose, because it’s inexpensive and you can get access to a reasonable amount of data. Include open-ended questions and allow for open text responses. Probe their buying decision. What made them buy? Which competitors did they consider? Why did they choose / not choose your business? What almost got in the way? What would have made them buy more often? How would they describe your product or brand?

Popular survey tools are the free Google Forms, Surveymonkey and Typeform. Consider offering respondents an incentive, like a gift voucher to encourage them to fill in the survey. Their answers will give you a wealth of information.

These three simple, low-cost methods will give you a good understanding of where your site is leaking money and why it’s happening. Now you can come up with interventions to fix it. Start with the most important improvement, usually the one that will have the biggest impact for the least amount of effort, and work your way down the list. Don’t expect big jumps in conversion rate from one change. Optimization is all about incremental improvement. Keep on doing it, and your accountants will love you.

Johann Van Tonder is COO at AWA digital, and co-author, with Dan Croxen-John, of E-COMMERCE WEBSITE OPTIMIZATION:  Why 95% Of Your Website Visitors Don’t Buy, And What You Can Do About It. He has used the principles and techniques in this book to deliver massive sale improvements for big and small e-commerce businesses alike.  Having trained and coached optimization teams around the world, he makes complex concepts easy to understand.  For more information, please visit