How to Increase Conversion Rate 1,000 Percent

  |  February 28, 2003   |  Comments

A systematic approach to the multitude of variables that impact your bottom line.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to last week's challenge. About 85 percent of you did not correctly identify the offending variable in the case study. Seventy percent thought it was one of the many variables they noticed between Test A and Test B. Here's a list of all the variables visible on the page:

  1. Closed space between top "Proceed to Checkout" button line and next line.
  2. Removed top "Continue Shopping" button.
  3. Removed "Update" button underneath the quantity box.
  4. Moved "Total" box down a line. Text and amount appear in different boxes.
  5. Above the "Total" box is a "Discount" box, with amount in a box next to it.
  6. Above "Shipping Method" line is "Enter Coupon Code" with a box to enter it.
  7. New "Recalculate" button left of "Continue Shopping."
  8. Bottom tool bar now on two lines.
  9. Shopping cart icon one space closer to the words "Shopping Cart."
Which of the above was the offending variable?

Remember, the goal was to bring the conversion rate back to where it was before the "improvements" started. When nine variables change at once, how can you determine which were effective? Only one? A combination? Did some of changes improve the conversion rate, only to be overwhelmed by others that made a negative impact? This is hardly a systematic method to measure, test and optimize.

The bigger question is, how do you get the conversion rate back over 4.6 percent -- fast? Should time be spent testing each of the nine variables? That would work -- if we had nine weeks.

Should they watch users and hope they articulate what hampered their motivation to buy? Users are rarely this insightful.

This is when customer psychology insight and experience pay off. The following test increased the conversion rate back to 4.9 percent. The offending variable was Number 6, the "Enter Coupon Code" field on Test A.

One of last week's respondents, Jill Whalen, got it right. As she expressed, "When I've seen these on sites, I wonder how I can get that discount too. I don't like having to pay full price knowing there's some way for me to get a discount I don't know about."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Don't jump to the conclusion couponing on a site is a bad thing. It depends what sort of site you have and what business you're in. On this site, this one small change accounted for a 1,000 percent increase in volume.

There are thousands of such variables on your site. Some have a major impact; some are only incremental. Ones that work for your widget business may not work for your brother's whatzit business. This applies whether your site targets consumers (B2C) or businesses (B2B).

Identify these variables. Systematically measure, test and optimize. Have a system in place to categorize and account for each test and its result. Sometimes, a change will move your conversion rate only a bit. That doesn't mean your choice of variable had no impact. It could mean your choice of solution had no impact. Test, test, test!

To approach this methodically, have someone around whose sole responsibility is conversion. According to a Wall Street Journal special report, only 53 percent of online retailers use conversion rate to gauge the success of their sites. With so much of the bottom line dependent on the conversion rate, it's amazing less than half of online companies take the time and effort to measure it. It's the exception, not the rule, to devote trained personnel to the task.

Dell Computer Corp. is one of those exceptions. Sam Decker, senior manager of Dell's Consumer eBusiness (you may remember I mentioned him last week), created such a role, appointing a point person for a product line's success on the Web. Sam spoke last year at the eTail conference. "The Web producer is the champion for metrics like conversion rates, and the hub for cross-functional projects to improve that measure," he said. "That person coordinates metric analysis, content developers and product marketers. The idea of giving someone ownership of that measure is powerful."

InterVideo's Ron Mayer elaborates:

"It's interesting how a few words changed or a few sentences moved can make a big difference on what products people look at and choose on a Web site. Unless that messaging is in control of the people with sales responsibility, it's all too easy to have messaging that focuses people's attention away from whatever you want them to buy.

"It's amazing to me how many times you'll get marketing groups responsible for attracting unique users to a Web site; corporate communication people writing copy for the Web site; and an e-commerce store that's put up as an afterthought."

For over two years, I've been asking readers if they knew any companies with one person directly responsible for the sales effectiveness of the company Web site. Obviously, Dell is one and this is part of their winning formula.

Does your company have that employee yet?

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Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is co-founder and chief marketing officer (CMO) of IdealSpot. He is co-author of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times best-selling books Call to Action, Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?, and Always Be Testing, and Buyer Legends. Bryan is a keynote speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as Gultaggen,, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others for the past 10 years. Bryan was named a winner of the Marketing Edge's Rising Stars Awards, recognized by eConsultancy members as one of the top 10 User Experience Gurus, selected as one of the inaugural iMedia Top 25 Marketers, and has been recognized as most influential in PPC, Social Selling, OmniChannel Retail. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of several venture capital backed companies such as Sightly, UserTesting, Monetate, ChatID, Nomi, and BazaarVoice. He works with his co-author and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at

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