Practical Ecommerce

How to increase conversions: two conversion specialists have very different ideas

How long do you let poor conversions hamper your sales?

After the needle hadn’t moved on my unit sales after the holiday period, and my conversion rate was sinking, I hired a conversion specialist from Odesk. (No, I didn’t have much money to spend.)

My conversion specialist 1, whom I’ll call Carol, had a range of improvements that I could make.

  1. Remove the complete horoscope forecast and replace with a teaser paragraph of copy – what motivation was there otherwise to subscribe to the monthly newsletter?
  2. Use fresh colours and a simple grid layout
  3. Put my phone number at the top right of the home page to give people peace of mind
  4. Keep the sliders to show different products and services
  5. Remove the vertical menu to simplify navigation
  6. List the “nitty-gritty” information down the bottom in column lists
  7. Put my addresses on the home page
  8. Simplify the order process
  9. Divide the gift baskets – which feature a company gift certificate – into two parts so people order the gift certificate, the product I want to sell, and for a few dollars more, can add the gift baskets

Carol suggested improvement 1 on our first phone call to see what could be done. In the six months since I implemented it in November 2012, my subscriptions have tripled what they were for the six months from May to November 2012. Then again, I naturally attract a lot of sign-ups at the end of the year so people can get their annual forecast for the following year.

For a variety of reasons, my website redesign relaunch was delayed until 1 April (yes, very funny) and then many areas failed to work during the month, with customers telling me checkout wasn’t working.

But if I compare this month’s conversion rate of 0.962% to date, which looks pretty bad, I know compared to yours, I am ecstatic. Because it has increased ten-fold over my absolutely abysmal March conversion rate of 0.097% – no, that is not a mistake.

Google’s Penguin and Panda updates have been pounding my site, cutting my traffic this month to a quarter of what it had been in March 2013. So I had the traffic, but not the sales.

Still, there’s room for improvement. So I consulted a behavioural psychologist who specialises in how visitors behave when they visit a website.

I’ll call her Bridie. She offered a top-line review which was very detailed with 67 suggestions and notes. She is all about removing obstacles to purchase which is something I’m completely on-board with.

She liked my product introductory copy but thought I could reduce customer anxiety and clarify my luxury positioning even more.
Of the dozens of fixes she suggested, here are her top ten:

  1. I’m missing a value proposition on the home page telling visitors why I can instantly solve their problem for them and clarifying my luxury positoning
  2. The sliders require effort for the visitor to sit and watch but in her opinion are constructed for the company’s benefit. If most of your visitors are first-time, make it clear what you do with one banner only
  3. My top bar navigation categories (since changed) were not apparently obvious enough ie “Global Astrologers” changed to “Meet the astrologers”, and “Astrology Reports was changed to “Get your stars done”
  4. My free horoscope forecast offer is below the fold. On that page, I need to move the email address field people are expecting to fill out to the top and the birth date (about which people are most sensitive) down to the bottom, plus mention they’d get a birthday email if they provide it
  5. I need to remove the cross-sell product suggestions from all pages but checkout to eliminate distraction
  6. I need to add friendly, guidance language to the rather stark order pages
  7. They need to know how they can pay with Paypal and credit card icons throughout the order process (some people don’t scroll to the bottom of the home page to see what payment options you offer)
  8. I need to provide confidentiality information and privacy assurances throughout: astrology reports are one type of gift you DO need their birth details for
  9. I need to provide clear verb-oriented directions on my buttons, ie change Confirm to Confirm your birth details
  10. Remove social media counters – while I have plenty of testimonials, I am no social media whiz unfortunately so most of my products have low, or no likes, pins etc. Bridie suggests I should remove them as they lower visitor confidence.

I have gone back to Carol with Bridie’s suggestions and will be interested to see what a difference they make. Watch this space.


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  1. Cristina Sierra May 30, 2013 Reply

    Elizabeth – this is a very timely topic as I’m in the process of an optimization exercise. Of course my developers want me to do a complete redesign of my home page but I think there are some quick fixes that can improve things dramatically (trust factors, testimonials, bread crumbs).

    Curious – I get the comment about the stronger value proposition – do you write it yourself or did Bridie help with that?

    Also, can you show before / after pictures in your next post? It would be great to see! Good luck!

  2. Elizabeth Ball June 2, 2013 Reply

    Hi Cristina, Thanks for your comments!
    I actually haven’t done the stronger value proposition design yet, it’s still to be done; "Carol" is back this week from holidays.
    I will definitely look at a before-and-after post!

  3. Bob October 25, 2013 Reply

    Strange – your #5 suggestion: I need to remove the cross-sell product suggestions from all pages but checkout to eliminate distraction- I just read an article by a conversion expert stated make sure you elimiate cross sell at checkout because the last thing you want to do is disrupt the checkout process. Meaning – now that they’re ready to buy, don’t distract them! My gut tells me do it as they add each product to the cart, because they’re mindset is into that one product at that time – so do suggest it then. So – have you already changed your upsell process? What did you do and how did the conversion change? Thanks! Bob

  4. Bob November 27, 2013 Reply

    Hi! Great article. I posted a question here on Oct 25 2013 – more than a month back. Could you reply as I’m finishing my new website and could use your insight. Thanks! Bob

  5. Elizabeth Ball November 27, 2013 Reply

    Hi Bob, Thanks for your follow-up. I was on my honeymoon when you posted your question. No, we haven’t eliminated the cross-sell yet, we are currently designing for a new cart and so that element is not at the top of the to-do list right now…