Friday, September 28, 2012

Case Study of Zupper

We have officially posted a case study for

The project is still a work in progress so the case study may get a few updates in the coming months but is still worth a look.  So far, in just 4 months, we have been able to more than double their conversion rate.

Predictions for the next 10 years

These are my predictions of things that will happen within the next 10 years.  

  • Facebook (as we know it) will be the next Myspace (and not in a good way)
  • Bing will do to Google what Google did to Alta Vista in late 90's  (fitting that Bing, Yahoo! and Alta Vista are all sort of one big family)
  • Google will pivot and innovate in a way that we nor Bing saw coming
  • The Apple we know will fall apart in a Yahoo! style crisis.  Not knowing quite how they got where they are or where to go next.
  • Amazon will take over the "ownership" level of the web by supporting the most major sites and APIs in the cloud.

Note:  This post is for entertainment only and not considered to be advice in any way.  All views are the sole opinions of Jared Smith.  I have only posted this as a sort of digital time capsule that I can dig up in 10 years and see how the world panned out.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Too small to split test

Most Conversion Rate Optimization Consultants view split testing as the Holy Grail.  Split testing is when you direct a portion of your traffic to your control, and another portion to one or more variations of the same page.  Split testing is important because the variation that works the best isn't always the most logical or appealing.  If your tests show statistically significant results, you can't go wrong with split testing.

But what if you don't have enough traffic to run a split test in an efficient manner?  If you only have a few hundred visitors each month, a split test where one variation shows twice as much success could take up to 3 months to prove statistically significant.  

The answer is:  There are other ways to measure the success of a variation.  

  1. Usability Tests:  If you run a usability test before the variation and another one after, you can compare the results and see if you have fixed the problem.  
  2. Surveys:  You can also do a short survey before the change and ask if participants would be willing to let you follow up with them.  After you've made your changes, follow up with previous participants and run the same survey again for new visitors.
  3. User Panels:  I suggest forming 2 user panels.  The first one to consist of employees of your company and/or persons close to the company and the second of people who make up your "average" visitor but don't have any relation to the company.  This lets you see your website from both sides of the table.  Asking for a review from each panel before and after the change can help you determine if you've achieved your goal.
Split testing can be the easiest way to measure the results of your changes, but if you don't have a lot of traffic and still want to improve your site, give these other methods a try.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Abandonment starts before the form

Sign up for our Newsletter!  Contact us!  Complete a quick survey!  Fill our your billing information below!

No matter what the form is, it is important to be well designed, user friendly, and encourage the user to fill it out.  But more often then not, abandonment starts before the form.  

How did I get here?  Was I expecting this form?  Was I expecting it to look like this?  Did I come prepared to fill it out?  Was I already convinced to fill it out?

Our expectations are like a bowling ball rolling down a hill.  Once we have expectations, it is hard to change them.  Abandonment starts before the form, and so do conversions.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Let's get personal

With all the data that exists on the web, it is possible to deduce (Sherlock Holmes style) almost everything about one of your visitors, especially if he/she chooses to log in with a social network, such as Facebook.  If you already know everything about someone, why not take them straight to what they need?  If Facebook, Google, and other large social networks succeed in advertising to their customers on a personal level, showing them what they want when they need it, their click through rates would skyrocket.  

The problem isn't that it can't be done.  The data mining is already a thing of the past.  The problem is that when someone you have never met knows your entire life story, its creepy and off putting.  While click through rates and conversions skyrocket, your visitors feel like its an invasion of privacy.  

Even though Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn know everything about me, the problem is that I didn't tell them... I told my friends.  So how does a company make a paradigm shift from "listening in on personal conversations" to "helping you get the most out of the internet"?

Start a conversation with your customers.  Take them out for a digital date and take it slow.  When they are ready to open up about what makes them tick, you won't have to infer anything and they will lust for your recommendations.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Is your website noisy enough?

Too much noise can be a bad thing, but so is not enough noise.  When you make too much noise, people can't keep up, and can't think.  It is easier to stop listening than it is to try to make sense of it all.  But when you don't make enough noise, people feel uncomfortable.  If you're a parent you know that when your toddler stops making noise, they are probably up to no good and you will likely find a new mural in your hallway or suddenly be all out of mascara.  When you're home alone at night and there is no noise, the silence becomes frightening and every sound makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.  

A little bit of noise helps people feel comfortable and stimulates creativity.  Its important that your website have some noise (visual, content, and social) so your visitors don't feel anxious and alone, but be careful not to overdue it to the point that they stop listening.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Statistically Significant

If you're running a split test manually, it can be hard to know when the results are statistically significant.  Some online calculators give you p-values, z-numbers and confidence intervals, none of which mean much without a stats book and a graphing calculator.  Others give you a simple yes/no answer.  To me, the simple yes/no is easy, but it doesn't really tell the story of the data.  

This morning I set out to "fix" this situation.  I wanted a visual representation of the data that was easy on the eyes and brain.  So, after a conjuring up old memories of sleeping in stats class, I came up with the idea of using venn diagrams to represent a 99% confidence level in two samples.  See my visual Confidence Calculator.

If the circles overlap the opposite label, the jury is still out.
If the circles overlap but don't overlap each other's labels, its time to keep the winner and do a new test.
If the circles don't even touch, you've already waited too long to call the winner.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Watched Pot Never Boils

It's tough to watch a split test where one competitor seems to be an outright winner.  Especially if there hasn't been enough traffic to confirm the early results.  Some designs and layouts that you test can cause you to have "bad" days.  The important thing is to not let it get you down.  If you truly want to increase your conversion rate, you can't sacrifice long term growth for short term gains.  You have to let the test run its course and grow from the results.  

If you're having a hard time waiting for the final results to confirm what you already know, get started on the design of your next competitor.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Definitions of the Stairway

Just Browsing:  When you're not actually in the market for anything.  You're just looking around and taking mental notes for later.

Looking for Something:  This is when most people tell the sales associate, "I'm just browsing."  You aren't ready to commit to anything and you don't wan't to be hassled by sales.  You may or may not know exactly what you need, and you're not ready to settle.

Interested:  You're interested when you are actively weighing options in your head.  You may or may not be ready to talk to an associate, but you are already trying to decide which option you'll choose.

Tell me More:  You have narrowed the field down to just a few options.  You're ready to try on a pair of shoes, test drive a car, and get all the details so that you can make your final decision.

Customer:  You know what you want, you've done your research, and you're ready to buy.

Loyal Customer:  Whether you loved the place or you just don't like trying new things, you come back whenever you need something else.

Advocate:  This is when you start telling other people about a product, company, or restaurant.  Your rave reviews will introduce your friends to knew things and push them into taking your advice.

Heaven:  This is the marketer's and business owner's dream.  When each new customer turns into 15.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

When CRO isn't CRO

Conversion rate optimization isn't always about the sales funnel.  On average, 96% of your visitors didn't come to buy.  Your marketing team focuses on getting you more traffic that's ready to buy, and your CRO team focuses on making sure those visitors who are ready or almost ready to buy, buy from you.  

If a customer who is just browsing, enjoys her experience, she is more likely to return to you when she's ready to buy.  But, most websites only have offers for visitors who are already interested in more information and looking to buy, leaving the "Browser" with nothing to do.

Giving something to the other 96% of your visitors will greatly increase your chances of seeing them again.  What can you give your visitors?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Stairway to Heaven

A while back, Michael Straker wrote a blog post about how a funnel is the wrong analogy for the sales flow.  I agree that each step in the sales process requires a bit of a push.  Overcoming the easy route of doing nothing requires effort on the part of the visitor and an intentional push from the marketer.

Continuing with the theme of stairs and the idea of having to climb to the top:  I'm developing the Stairway to Heaven.

ContourThis: Stairway to Heaven

All of your visitors are somewhere on this staircase.  The ultimate goal is not only to get someone to buy, nor merely to be a repeat customer, but to get them to tell their friends about you.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Just F***ing Do It

I have lots of, self-proclaimed, great ideas.  I write them all down and tell myself that I will chip away at them in my free time.  My problem is, when I do have free time and I'm prepared to start working through one of these great ideas, I can't decide what to do first. 

This feeling of being overwhelmed by tasks and options is not unique, especially in conversion rate optimization.  A wise man once told me: 
"If it doesn't get built, it doesn't matter... So, just f***ing do it!"  
The truth is it doesn't matter where you start.  You just have to start.  You can get through almost anything if you take it one task at a time.  It just takes the willpower (and in my case a red bull) to put your head down, trust in your ideas and plans, and get started.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Optimization ADD

No matter how well we plan and prioritize the list of items to be changed and tested, something always comes up.  A new traffic source, promotion, product, market, or even just an idea.  It can even be hard to let a split test or survey run its course, especially when one competitor is out performing the other after just a few visits.

We all run into Optimization ADD at some point.  The trick is to spend as little time as possible quantifying and evaluating the potential and the effort required, so that you can prioritize it into your existing list.

We meet once a week just to address any new ideas that have popped up and put them into the appropriate spot on our list.  How do you deal with Optimization ADD?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Test the big stuff first.

If your just starting out on the path of conversion rate optimization, test the big stuff first.  It is true that changing the color of a button or replacing your call to action can have an impact on your conversion rate, but most of the time, these issues aren't the primary obstacles to conversion.  

Review your analytics reports and do a couple of usability tests to find the biggest issues on your site.  Look for clues like, a higher exit rate on a given page or anytime a user says, "I don't understand..."  

Testing fixes to the primary issues first will give you faster results and has the best chance of greatly increasing your conversion rate.  What will you start with?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Benefits of CRO, Part 3

Conversion Rate Optimization isn't just about getting a new visitor to buy.  CRO is about converting visitors into long-term, enthusiastic customers.  When you address the main obstacles on your website, even if not directly related to your goal funnel, customers and visitors will enjoy their experience more.  Examples, having a search on your site that doesn't return relevant results, and wrong or broken links.  

Happy visitors and customers are more likely to return and share links with their friends.  How do you make your visitors happy?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Benefits of CRO, Part 2

Your profit is extremely sensitive to small changes in your conversion rate.  

On average, a 20% increase in your conversion rate, say from 2.2% to 2.65%, can increase your profit by 225%.

Note: The opposite side of this coin is, sometimes even a 10% decrease in conversion rate would put your company in the red.

This is because once all your fixed costs are paid, profit from the additional conversions goes straight to your bottom line.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Benefits of CRO, Part 1

Everyone understands the importance of getting more traffic, but it seems not everyone understands how important conversion rate optimization is.

Yesterday, Seth Godin posted about the gap between models and supermodels.  The gap exists in compensation and success, not quality.  The recent Olympics is another good example of this.  Races are won by mere fractions of a second.  All of the competitors are at the very top of their field, but the gap between Gold and Silver is the difference between a million dollar endorsement deal and your name in the newspaper.  

To make the leap from silver to gold, you don't have to be twice as good as your competition, you just have to be slightly better.  Conversion rate optimization can give you that edge.  Even small increases over your competitors in profit-per-visitor can have a immense effect on your profitability and success.

Note: Just like athletes, if you pull a Michael Phelps, ie. take it easy after you've reached a pinnacle point (2008), there will be a Ryan Lochte waiting to take your place on top of the podium.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Speed of failure

In a less than scientific study, I took people to a page that showed a loading symbol for between 0.5 seconds and 4 seconds that ended in the message, "The connection to the server was interrupted. Please try again."  On average, people who only had to wait 0.5 seconds each time, clicked the 'try again' button more than 2 times (2.4).  For those that had to wait 3 or more seconds, the average fell to only 28% of the visitors tried again even once.

Of course, a person's persistence is determined by their desire for the end result and their trust of the source.  This experiment only demonstrates that if your site is slow and visitors have to wait to fail, (No search results found.  Please enter a valid email address.  Oops, an error has occurred.), they're probably not going to try again.

How do you make sure your visitors don't have to wait to fail?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Does conversion rate optimization ever end?

While psychology hasn`t changed that much in the last few decades, the web is constantly evolving, fashion and design too.  The moment you stop increasing your conversion rate, your website will start to decline.

Is your conversion rate really the best it can be?  Even if you have an amazing 10% conversion rate, that means out of every 10 visitors only 1 found what they wanted.  You don't think you could make that 2?

What are you doing to increase your conversion rate?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Dichotomy of Consistency

Consistency of quality and service is a requirement.  Consistency of reward is a detriment.  If you reward everyone with the same thing for every purchase, it isn't a reward, it is a part of your offering.  We've come to expect a fortune cookie after a Chinese meal and get upset if the server forgets to give us one.

If slot machines in Vegas always gave out the same jackpot at a consistent interval, the game of winning the jackpot would become the task of earning the jackpot.  All in all, it would be far less interesting and fewer people would have the patience to play.

How do you reward your customers?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Shortcut to a good decision

We are all creatures of habit.  That's why we wear a path in our yard from the house to the shed, and why we keep going back to that restaurant that is only okay.  We took the time to make the informed decision once; the best path to the shed, to try that new burger joint, to order something different from the menu.

As long as the result wasn't a bad one, it was by default a good one.  Some call it "the devil you know", but whatever the name, it is now a shortcut to a good decision.  No matter what the competing options may be, you have a known entity.  Everything else is risky.