“What you or the designer likes most doesn’t matter, if it does not generate conversions,”—Naomi Niles.
In the online business, it is all about generating traffic. But on average 97% of all visitors of online shops do not buy. This is why conversion optimization is so important: It is the execution of a conversion on a landing page, for example, the purchase of a product, which provides the measurable worth of a company. Conversion Rate means the percentage of visitors who generate a certain action on a homepage.
There are a multitude of methodologies and frameworks about conversion optimization, but the probably most extensive and comprehensive one is the “seven-level model of conversion” by André Morys:
This model is based on the user’s perception and aims at identifying possible weak points on websites. Several factors may have an impact on the conversion rate. These factors are subdivided into seven levels. The following section illustrates the main actions of all the levels.
1) Relevance: Will I find the requested content?
On the first level the user is concerned with the relevance of the displayed content. The visitor immediately tries to filter the important elements of the website and find conformance with his expectations and the displayed content. It is important that the user finds the required information as quickly as possible; otherwise, he may leave the website. Important for the creation of relevance is visual conformity; for instance, the search term of the user should be displayed on the title of the result page. Efficiency factors need to be communicated, for online shopping this includes information like price, delivery time or forwarding expenses. Another important factor for relevance is a short loading time. If a website’s loading process is too long, many users would at once leave the landing page (bounce rate).
2.) Trust: Can I trust this website?
If the user feels he will find the content he is looking for, the next step would be to build the necessary trust in the website. In order to persuade the user to a conversion, it is important to communicate credibility and reliability. The user gathers within a few seconds if the website makes a reliable impression. In order to create trust, the aesthetics of the website should provide an overall professional and reliable impression (concerning layout, usability, typography or color selection). The website should provide customer opinions and positive reviews, as ratings of other customers can allay the visitors’ doubts. An introduction of the employees with images, profiles and portraits of the employees show the visitors that there are sincere people behind the offer. The use of advertising media should be reduced to a minimum.
3.) Orientation: Where do I find my content?
After a visitor finds the requested information and the website makes a reliable impression, he will try to get an overview. This process should be facilitated. The easier and faster the user finds the requested content, the higher is the conversion rate. In order to facilitate this trend, it is important to concentrate on the essentials and to pay attention to the clarity of the website—“less is mostly more”. The search box should be optimized, as the online shop search field is the first contact point for most visitors. A suggestion box with relevant recommendations additionally facilitates the entry. The navigation menu should provide deeper levels: a so‐called “mega dropdown menu” may be help to reduce the user’s effort and search time. As for mobile optimization, one suitable approach to increase the number of mobile internet users is Responsive Design. This means the website gets flexibly adapted at different display resolutions.
4.) Stimulation: Does it look interesting?
After the orientation, it is essential to stimulate the user to a conversion action. The buying decision is often subconscious and affected by emotional signals. Visual content such as the so-called “Hero Shot” can help to stimulate the user’s emotions. Persuasive copywriting with interesting and authentic content (e.g. storytelling) is crucial for a successful website. It is also useful to provide a teaser for customers, e.g. incentives like the freemium model or metered paywalls are popular ways to attract users. Another possibility is to offer free content (e.g. e‐books or tutorials) if the user enters, for example, his email address in return. Gamification is a way to increase the user’s motivation, for instance, via rankings, awards, feedback or a progress bar.
5.) Safety: Is the shop safe?
If the user has found the desired products and is at the end of the purchase decision process, safety is relevant for the conversion. To make sure that the purchase process is completed, it is important to eradicate doubts. Customer Service helps to create feelings of safety—before purchasing, the user needs to know that he can reach the service hotline, and at what time and what cost. The user puts emphasis on the security of the data and the encrypted transfer of data via TLS/SSL. Warranties and test reporting, such as a well-laced quality seal, for example, from “Trusted Shops,” increase trust and a sense of safety.
6.) Comfort: How much effort will it take?
Since our brain has learned to avoid efforts, it is important that the user can purchase comfortably in an online store. Too much effort can reduce a customer’s motivation to buy. So, it is sensible to ask for as little information as possible in the registration process. Optimal terms of payment and delivery help to increase the comfort of an online shop includes, for example, shipment to the closest package station. Overall consistency and transparency of websites increase the comfort level.
7.) Evaluation: Was this the right decision?
Even if a customer has converted it does not mean the person is free of doubts and sure of having taken the right decision. Therefore, the user should be given positive feedback after the purchase. A positive impression can be created, if the social media is used to get into a dialogue with customers and build up trust. When communicating with the customer, it is important to gain the person’s sympathy.
Testing—was the change effective?
The choice of the right testing tool is crucial for conversion optimization. The most well-known and the easiest method is the A/B Test, in which two variants of a website are tested against each other and the better one identified. Interdependence between factors cannot be found out but with multivariate testing the combinations of factors can also be analyzed. For both testing tools, a sufficient number of participants is necessary in order to achieve reliable results. Further testing methods to improve usability are Eye-Tracking and Mouse-Tracking studies with test participants (heat maps). How to apply these methods? There are various testing tools to efficiently identify weak points of websites. The free tool Google Analytics offers the scope to track user behavior, measure conversions, and do the mentioned A/B-Tests. Optimizely is another popular optimization tool that enables the user to carry out very easy A/B and multivariate tests. With the aid of a WYSIWYG-editor (what you see is what you get), one can build different variants of the examined website completely without programming skills.
To sum up one can say that conversion optimization is a key factor for a website’s success. The seven-levels of conversion can serve as a guideline and the different layers of the decision process of the user should be incorporated. At the same time, conversion optimization is a complex field with many possibilities and measures. The implementation of the illustrated factors is no guarantee of success, but offers enormous potentials to increase the conversion rate. Long-term success depends on the selection of the right tools and constant testing. The conversion optimization process is, thus, a suitable and important instrument to identify website weaknesses and increase efficiency.