What is CRO?
CRO, or conversion rate optimization, is the process of designing your website in such a way that it’s easy for the users who come to your site to “convert,” or perform a desired action. That desired action could be filling out a contact form, purchasing a product, viewing a video, or any other action that aligns with your business goals. The path to conversion is often termed as a “conversion funnel,” but unlike funneling water into a bottle, users can’t be forcibly poured into it and they can jump out anytime they like. The way to get users into and through the funnel is by reducing friction both in terms of information and effort. Below are some best practices for optimizing your sales funnel for conversions.
Make a Strong Call to Action the Focus of the Landing Page
Many companies spend so much money and effort getting users to their website and then shoot themselves in the foot by distracting the user away from the call to action (CTA) or hiding that CTA below the fold. Everything about the design and layout of the landing page should lead the user to the CTA. Consider the example below from CrazyBaby.com. The headline and call to action are the main focus of the page. There’s almost nothing else on the page that could distract you from it. The vertical layout of the text guides your eye down to the calls to action, “Learn More” and “Buy Now.” If you end up getting distracted by the model on the right side of the page, his gaze directs you right back to the CTA.
Contrast that with the Marshalls.com homepage which has so much going on that I have no idea where I’m supposed to go or what I’m supposed to do.
Only Have One CTA Per Page
Ideally, each page of your website should only have one call to action. Two is permissible if that second CTA is something like “Learn More,” and your product or service is such that not being able to find more information may be a barrier to purchasing. More than that, and the user ends up getting confused and overwhelmed and bounces from the site.
Place Any Auxiliary Information Below the Fold
Ideally, everything the user needs to complete their purchase should be above the fold. They shouldn’t have to scroll to find anything. If you have detailed product information or customer reviews that you want on the page, have that content placed below the fold so it doesn’t distract the user from converting, but is available if they need it.
Tell the User Exactly Where They are and What to Do
Entering the conversion funnel should be like entering an automatic car wash; I know exactly when to put the car in neutral; I know exactly when it’s being soaped, scrubbed, and rinsed; I know exactly when to drive away. Online sales funnels should be the same way. Users should know exactly where they are in the funnel, exactly what they need to do, and exactly when they’re done. Let’s go back to our friends at CrazyBaby.com. In the example below, the page heading indicates where the user is in the funnel. Above that header, the user can see all the steps they will need to complete (i.e. Cart, Shipping, Payment, and Confirmation). Everything the user needs to do is clearly laid out and they know exactly how to move on to the next step because of the bright red “Continue” button. When they’re done, they’re brought to a thank you page that confirms to the user that they’ve successfully completed the process.
Ask as Little as Possible from the User
The longer it takes to complete the buying process, the more likely the user is to bounce. Only ask for information that is absolutely necessary, and streamline the process whenever possible. If your product or service is such that it requires a lot of information from the user, be sure to indicate to them how far along they are in the process. You — like most people — have probably abandoned an online survey that went on way longer than anticipated and gave no indication of when it would end. Give the user a light at the end of the tunnel. See the example from WarbyParker.com below:
Test and Constantly Seek to Improve Conversion Rate
I’ve given you some basic principles and best practices for optimizing your conversion funnel, but the specifics of what may help your particular website in your particular industry are laced with nuance. Use these best practices to form hypotheses about why your conversion rate might not be where you want it, then test those hypotheses to find what moves the needle.