How to triple your ecommerce sales and leads in the next 6 months

Written by Alex Harris

ecommerce conversion optimization tips


As I’ve been doing Conversion Rate Optimization for 15 years, I learned that there’s a variety of people who do this. You may be an artist, you may be a problem solver, but I surely know that you’re a risk taker. Your interest in Conversion Rate Optimization shows that you’re really on the cutting edge. Risk takers are optimizers; optimizers want results. You want results for your business and for your start-up, and for your clients to get bigger results in a shorter amount of time. Remove all the unnecessary steps.

Today, I will show you how to use my system to triple your e-commerce sales and leads. We’ll use qualitative insight and quantitative data to execute successful conversion testing. We will use that to increase your sales and leads from your existing website traffic because it doesn’t matter how much traffic you’re driving to your website if you really can’t convert that traffic into sales.

I’ll go through how I got started doing Conversion Rate Optimization in detail. I gather a conversion mindset, which means I really start to think differently about my customers and how to generate more conversions from my existing iterative experiments to get bigger results from your actual split testing. We’ll then go into specific case studies where I show you a proven system to optimize your website and actually increase your profit. In the end, I’ll be doing e-commerce website reviews where I go through and show you exactly how to improve your e-commerce.

We’ll be going deep into this presentation. It’s an hour long, so there’s a lot of information. I’m going to show you the tools I use, how you should use them, and how you can get the best results from using those tools. Now, we’re going to go ahead and jump right in to the presentation. Please let me know if you can see the presentation okay as I load it up into full screen.

Doing the slice-and-dice type of testing where you’re getting just enough results is very inconsistent. But the fact was that I didn’t have a system in place; I learned from the greats how to create my own methodology to create a system and learn from the mistakes that I had in the past. I admit I had an ego. I thought I knew everything about Conversion Rate Optimization after doing it for so long. But I’m going to tell you that all of that has changed in the last couple of years as I created a podcast where I interviewed the best in digital marketing and understood their frameworks so I could apply it to my own methodology.

Today, I’ll be telling you about tripling your e-commerce sales and leads. Understanding that conversion mindset, and how to think differently about your customer so you can understand their problem and then create a solution specifically for them. We’ll then go into my marketing optimization system, a system that I built to get a better process, to have more predictable results, and remove all the unnecessary steps to have a bigger impact and go through the research to get the right results.

Then, we’ll be going into specific e-commerce website reviews where I’ll be reviewing all of these 9 sites and then giving them specific tips and ideas that they can test themselves. Starting a little bit about me, I’m a website designer that helps websites increase the amount of money, leads, and conversion rates that they actually make. My website is AlexDesigns.com and I’ve been doing this for 15 long years now. Eleven of those years, I worked at a .com as the e-commerce in customer acquisition director for E-diets.com, a very popular diet and fitness website.

During that time, I created my freelance website business, AlexDesigns.com in the year 2004. In 2005, I met my mentor, Bryan Eisenberg. You probably know who he is. He is the godfather of Conversion Rate Optimization. He basically taught me everything I know today. In 2011, I finally left that job; I was terminated with no severance and I became an entrepreneur. In 2012, I met my beautiful wife and I went out on my entrepreneurial journey and it was all new for me, because I never went to business school. I never went to marketing school. I’ve never really understood how to create a process that really works for me.

marketing optimization mobile tipsIn 2013, I had to start my business over. Like any geek out there, I created a podcast, Marketing Optimization, focused on optimizing and maximizing your ROI through methods from conversion experts. Everybody used to come to me and say, “Oh, I need help with my SEO.” But that’s not the optimization I do, I do Conversion Rate Optimization. I created the podcast called Marketing Optimization and then turned that into a system that I now apply for my clients to get bigger results in a shorter amount of time.

I took all that and I applied it to a new book that I’m releasing this year 2015 called Small Business Big Money Online. If you want to find out how to get that book for free, all you have to do is stick around to the end of the presentation and I’ll be giving away this book for free in May.

Let’s move into the actual system. This is where it’s all going to be focused on and how you can triple your sales and leads. The marketing optimization system is broken down into discovery, hypothesis, execution, review, and scaling process. You discover who your customers and what their problems and pains and desires are, and then create a hypothesis, a specific educated guess so you can help make their lives a lot better. We actually turn that into split testing by creating wireframe designs and actually setting up the split testing. Once we know there’s a winner, we can actually review and scale and grow our bottomline.

Just because a test wins doesn’t mean you make more money. We do this by understanding qualitative and quantitative data. We use the qualitative data to maybe create a hypothesis for a unique value proposition or copy test and then we’ll use that quantitative data that the numbers show, analytics to do user experience and ideal click map tests. From that, we’re all focused on scaling and growing your bottomline, showing real results.

Let me back up and tell you exactly how I got into this because I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. I took a lot of things for granted. But one thing I was sure of was that I needed to produce results. This is where I met Bryan Eisenberg, the godfather of CRO. He became my mentor and he told me specifically, “It’s not about winning awards. It’s about getting results.” As a website designer, I want to make my websites pretty. They had to have a cutting-edge design. But in the end, it was about making results for the clients.

Once I started working with Bryan Eisenberg, I started to learn about their persuasion architecture framework and how they did Conversion Rate Optimization in their early days. I started following their blog, TheGrok.com, and I learned about the conversion trinity, the scientific method, and how to run valid split tests. They gave me an opportunity to work directly with Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg. I redesigned their website, FutureNowInc, and their blog, Grok.com.

This is where I learned everything about marketing optimization because we’re optimizing more than just conversion rates, more than just revenue, more than just leads, it’s all marketing channels. This line really stuck with me because I started designing landing pages for them, lead generation websites for attorneys, and reducing shopping cart abandonment rates for great sites like BackCountry.com. In the end, Bryan said I was one of his secret weapons to help them get great conversion results for their clients as well.

We’ve put in the hours, we understood what has worked and hasn’t in the past. That’s because we built thousands of landing pages, hundreds of different e-commerce sites. Through that, we executed over 5,000 different tests in over 11 years. From 2000 through 2011, I must have run split tests every single day for 11 years. Now since then, it’s been a lot over 5,000 tests but this is a pivotal point in the Conversion Rate Optimization timeline.

cro trends

In 2011, Conversion Rate Optimization exploded and that correlated with the end of the recession in the United States. This is interesting how it’s ironic that at the same time period, the Google Algorithm update called Panda came out, which levelled all the search engine results in 2011.

google panda seo update

While SEO was declining, CRO was becoming extremely popular. This was my time to become an entrepreneur. I finally left that .com job, I was terminated with no severance. Remember, I didn’t go to business school. I didn’t go to marketing school. I had no idea how to become an entrepreneur. I did know that I was a website designer who helped improve conversions, that what I can do was a lot different from what most direct marketers out there were doing. I went out on my own.

I thought that I knew everything about Conversion Rate Optimization. I would set up a test and I would get a winner. But because I really didn’t have a process in place, I needed to learn from my mistakes really quickly, because I would get a winning test and then a loser. Then I’ll get excited again because I’d have a winning test but then I’d have a loser.

I was getting really inconsistent results and about a 50% win rate; that push was not good enough for me. That’s not something that I could really explain to my clients. I really needed to figure out how to take my Conversion Rate Optimization completely to the net level. I needed to start over from scratch to understand that there was a lot more opportunity for me to learn because I was looking in the wrong places. In 2003, I really re-shaped my Conversion Rate Optimization career by creating a podcast. I wanted to know who the best was in the space and how I could interview them to understand what they were doing and apply it to my own methodology so I can get bigger results, too.

The MarketingOptimization.tv platform allowed me to interview people like Bryan Eisenberg. He taught me about the persuasion architecture framework of Brian Massey where I learned about the scientific method and how they applied the scientific strategy to get better experiments and create better hypotheses. I learned the conversion optimization process because if you don’t have a process and you don’t have a system then you’re just an amateur. Don’t you want to become a master of CRO? There is so much more opportunity for you to learn.

Then from Oli Gardner, I learned about conversion center design. He really motivated me to communicate this better as a public speaker. Learning from the greats like this, I was able to get bigger results from the testing I was running. Removing all the unnecessary steps to get bigger profit through my Conversion Rate Optimization practice, I created the system, the marketing optimization system, branded the same as my podcast. Through this, I was able to start getting more consistent results. That’s what I highly recommend you do: create your own system, a pattern you go through so you can have more predictable results and be able to teach your team how to actually do what is going on.

Now, I’m going to take you through how to use the actual system in this case study. I’ll go through using the system in detail, getting the right results, and tripling your sales and leads. EnergyFirst is the site that we’re going to be looking at. It’s all broken down into this 5-step process: the discovery, hypothesis, execution and reviewing, scaling process. We’re discovering who our customers really are, what problems they have, and how we can create better solutions to triple their sales and leads.

marketing-optimization-system-tips

To do this, we need to use data. We need to figure out where people are going in their site. We need to figure out what they’re doing in those pages, and then we need to figure out why. We start by doing that through the persona modeling. Let’s take Amy for example. She’s a 40-year-old working mom and she is interested in losing weight. She goes to Google and she types in a certain query for “web protein shakes for breakfast”. She’s smart enough to know that she’s not going to click on the ads, the paid ads up top. But she does find a natural search link that she’s very interested in, “protein shakes for breakfast, jumpstart your metabolism”. She says this is a query that helped solve the problem that she’s searching answers for.

She arrives at a landing page, EnergyFirst.com, the case study that we’d be going through. We understand by looking at this page—you probably see it as busy—it’s not clear based on the language they’re using. They’re really not sure what they’re selling. We don’t really understand the benefits of the protein and how it could better our lives and what the ingredients are. I’m really concerned about what food I’m putting into my body.

This is where we start to apply the methodology. Starting with the conversion trinity that we learned from Bryan Eisenberg, we understand the relevance and value of the call-to-action. Are you really relevant to my wants, needs, and desires? Is it relevant to the search query I just came from? Do I know why you are the right solution for me? Is it obvious for me what to do next?

Obviously, this page is pretty busy so there’s a lot to improve. We’re going to do that through two different kinds of data: quantitative and qualitative data. Starting with the quantitative, we need to understand our analytics and our metrics, and what’s actually going on with those numbers. We do that by starting with an 80/20 rule. Every e-commerce site usually has an 80/20 rule for their products. They make 80% of their revenue off of 20% of their inventory. But the same thing works exactly with your highest traffic pages. You want to understand your 80/20, 80% of your visits are coming from 20% of your pages. You want to understand the most traffic pages, the most revenue on those pages, and the highest bounce rate potential of these pages. If they’re over 55% bounce rate, you know you can reduce them.

quantitative-data-conversion-optimization-tools
We do this using different types of tools. More likely, you’ve used a lot of these different tools: Visual Website Optimizer, Optimizely, Unbounce, Mail Chimp, Hubspot, Google Analytics. For this case study, we’re going to be using Visual Website Optimizer, Google Analytics, and Adwords.

We look at Google Analytics to ensure that the goals and funnels are actually set up properly to being with, to establish our actual baseline. But the most important report within Google Analytics is your top landing page report. We can see it from this report, this time frame that the whey protein powder page is making up the majority of all the visits on the page in the website. It also has a very high bounce rate and it’s making up a lot of transactions. This is a key indicator to tell you exactly where to start your testing.
We can also see that the page and the home page are right underneath it. But even if you add up all the whey protein powder landing pages, it’s making up more than 50% of the sessions and the transactions, and has the highest opportunity for improvement. We know that the whey protein powder page is the page to actually start testing. We also want to know the keywords that people are using to drive to most clicks and the most conversions.

Here we can see that the whey protein shakes has a lot of sessions and has a lot of goals. It is also picking up a lot of traffic through natural search. We know that the shakes for breakfast page and the whey protein powder pages are two pages that have been high on our radar to increase our conversion and get the best return. Also looking at our segments, we want to ensure that we’re marketing to the right segments. In this case, they have mostly high traffic from their desktop experience. In this case, we’re only going to be testing the actual desktop. Now, using Google Analytics, we went through and found our top traffic landing pages. We know exactly where people are going on our site. Those five pages are probably where we’re going to spend our most time testing.

Now, we need to figure out exactly what they’re doing on that whey protein powder page. We do that through heat maps using something like digital website optimizer or Inspectlet. We could tell exactly where people are clicking. Obviously, people are clicking on the right side towards these radio buttons and the call-to-action areas. But if you look to the far left, people are very interested in the reviews and the ingredients. This helps us add to our hypothesis that people are interested in the reviews. They’re interested in the ingredients and maybe they’re having a little bit of hard time actually checking out.

Now we know where people are going on the site, we know what they’re doing with heatmaps, we need to figure out why. We do that using the qualitative insight, understanding what’s going on in the mind of the customer. We do that by gathering feedback. Understanding what’s going on in the customer’s mind and using the voice of the customer will help you get better research. Doing the right research will help you get better results in your long-term testing. This is the proven strategy to increase your profit by doing the right research.

qualitative data conversion optimization tools

Remember, we’re still in the discovery process here. This is only the first step. If you put the effort into your research, you’ll create a better hypothesis and run better tests to triple your sales. In this toolkit, we’ll be using UserTtesting, Visual Website Optimizer, Inspectlet, and Survey Monkey, among others. We’re trying to gather as much feedback as possible. We do that through tools like Survey Monkey. Here I’ll tell you how to create a survey, get the best insight from it, and then have ideas to actually start split testing.

The secrets to higher conversions live in your customer’s mind. You want to try to get a hundred responses in your Survey Monkey feedback forms and try to really understand what’s going on in the mind of the customer. Remember this and you will start to understand patterns of language that people have to help them make their lives better. You want to use the information that people are telling you and then use that back in your marketing material. These patterns of insight are excellent for your unique value proposition and your copy-writing tests.

You can see here, people were talking about the ingredients or the best protein powder on the market. All we used was that information back to create our unique value proposition. But you can automate this process o collect surveys. You want to add a survey to your thank you page, add a survey to your email footers every time an email goes out. You’re asking for a survey feedback, promote your survey on Facebook and synthesize your email list to fill-out a survey and maybe give them a coupon. You also want to use things like Qualaroo where as people move their mouths to the back banner on like your checkout or cart page, you pop open a survey and ask them why they’re not checking out. Or, on the thank you page, you ask them what made them purchase from today or why not.

We also use tools like UserTesting to watch people go through your site and your competitor’ sites in different Google search queries. This will help you understand the real experience of your site from watching people in their own shoes. We also want to watch the right type of testers. The trick to using UserTesting is to bring in your ideal customers. You do that using screeners. This will help you avoid getting protesters that could be biased.

Here’s cheat sheet that I created. You can screenshot it or you can download it at the link below. This is a cheat sheet that I asked all of my e-commerce experiences questions on how to get the best out of user testing. I ask them their first impressions. I ask them to go through the actual checkout process and ask them if they would purchase and why not. Then I have them go to Google and have them find a competitor to figure out which site they prefer and why.

I also want to know all the questions that the visitor has to eventually buy the product from us. For example, people want to know about the returns. They want to know the privacy, the trust. How can they get a refund? The last question we ask is, “If you had a magic wand, how would you actually improve this experience?” These open-ended questions will help you understand your site a lot better than you ever thought in the past.

Now we know where people are going using something like Google Analytics where you find out what they’re doing on that page using heatmaps like Inspectlet, but now we know why. We watch people go through the site using UserTesting. We now have enough qualitative and quantitative data to start creating our hypothesis, creating tests to copy, and our unique value propositions or the user experience, to scale and grow our bottomline. That’s what it’s all about in the end.

ab split testing tips

We now move on to the hypothesis phase to create a specific educated guess to validate each of our observations to improve that problem, to have a solution to each understanding. We need to understand the user a lot more. We need to gather all their intelligence and actually put it together into our hypothesis. We want to understand the voice of the customer, the actual demographics, and why they actually want to purchase the product in the long run. In the end, they want to get healthier and they want to live longer, and they’re willing to pay for these products to do it along the way.

In our hypothesis, we’re able to gather all the insights. If this is the right information for them, we know that the value proposition needed to be simpler. We know that the text needs to be easier to understand. People also wanted to learn more about the guarantee, to have a risk reversal. They also wanted to know about the reviews and the credibility symbols. Make people feel a lot more comfortable through iconology and easy to understand designs.

Now, we’re able to actually create our hypothesis. You can actually download the cheat sheet that created those hypotheses I’ve created from previous efforts from Bryan Eisenberg. But if you want to use a hypothesis framework to understand the problem people have, create a solution for that observation and ensure that you’re able to track the success for each experiment, each of the goals.

smb business hypothesis process

In our hypothesis phase, we’re also able to prioritize all the different tests that we’re going to run. You don’t want to just shoot in the dark and just try to test anything, you want to have a specific strategy for all of your split testing efforts. You can see here that five out of the six tests are all related around the whey protein powder page, our biggest revenue-generating opportunity page. Only the second test, the shopping cart test, is essential to reducing the cart and checkout abandonment rates.

From that, we’re eventually going to reach a local maximum where we can’t optimize our site any further. That is an indicator where we actually start doing the re-design. In summary of the hypothesis for the whey protein powder page, essentially, we’re just trying to not make people think. We’re trying to have a clear headline, a clear tagline. The overall goal is to increase the conversion and increase the average order value.

smb business execution process

In the cart and checkout tests, we’re trying to increase trust, add more security, improve the user experience and reduce cart abandonment rate. Now, we have enough information to our research and hypothesis to begin executing and creating our tests. We’re going to create wireframes, designs, and split testing to actually run and validate our tests.
The process is pretty simple, to set up an AB split test, you start with your control, the original whey protein powder page that you see here. Yes, it was busy, had a lot going on and we use data to validate that. From that, we’re able to create a new variation, taking the exact same information from one page and then slinging it down and making it easier to understand in a nice layout with the credibility, better unique value proposition, and the risk reversal.

This test resulted in a 65% increase in conversion just by taking the exact same information from one layout and applying it to another one in an easier to understand way. But Conversion Rate Optimization never stops. We always want to take our baseline, make it the new control and then start trying to improve it further. We learn that this page was still very busy. It was missing some elements from our first initial rounds of tests. We knew that we can make the design a lot better.

We’ve created a completely new design, we knew that people didn’t necessarily want to buy the jars of protein; they actually wanted to have the shake. We changed the image and the language to make it a little bit easier to read the value proposition. We also changed the reviews. We also suspected that maybe people didn’t understand how to use the radio buttons appropriately, so we separated out the products.

We were able to move the ingredients above the fold, but unfortunately, this test lost. Even though it was a new design and it was based on hypothesis, we knew that we could learn a lot from this field experiment. We also knew that this was not the right approach for this particular variation, which is why we went back to the drawing board. We went back to our new control, which was our new baseline winner, and we asked people in UserTesting through feedback. However, people were still confused. They said it was too sales-y and that it didn’t directly speak to them. All we really found out is that people want a more cutting-edge design—something simpler, easier to understand, and one that addressed all the questions that people had along the way.

This resulted in a 56% improvement in conversion rate. Take one test and try to improve it as much as you can. You may have some losers but eventually, you will accomplish your goal of having an overall winner, although just because the test wins doesn’t mean you make more revenue. You want to ensure that you’re reviewing all of your tests using a statistician or an analytics person to ensure that this is the right result for your production environment. Breaking down why this particular test won, we can see that it had a very clear unique value proposition that had social proof above the fold with clear-cut actions. It had great customer reviews above the fold and had visual cues at the fold-line to tell people that they can actually scroll down and see more information.

smb business review process

Now we’ll start to look at the data not only from the user experience. How does the data really reflect the test that we just ran. In summary, we’re able to have 150 more sales per month, 3 times the leads per day, with a 50% decrease in CPA. We’re increasing the return on investment by lowering our ad spend, and a 5% decrease in bounce rate. This resulted in doubling our sales and tripling our leads in five months.

This is the average way of walking through the process of doing the discovery, hypothesis, execution, review, and scaling process. But we’re not done because we need to take what has won and be able to really scale and grow our bottomline. Just because you have winning tests doesn’t mean you actually grow your bottomline, or that you actually have an over-all gross conversion rate. In order to do that, you have to take one winning element and then apply that across your site, create additional landing pages with your best performing results, apply that to your mobile and iPad strategy or your paid advertising like your Facebook marketing, your Goggle AdWords, or your affiliate marketing sales.

smb-business-scale-process
I’ll show you exactly how to take one winning landing page and scale it to all of your other products. Now, we have our winning control, it won by 56%. We’re able to clone that page for our other top traffic landing pages. You probably remember going back to that Google Analytics report but the green superfood page was a top traffic page as well. We literally just cloned it with the exact same elements but added a new copy that was easy to understand. Credibility above the fold had an increase of 10% conversion improvement for this particular project.

We were able to do it again by cloning the pre-workout energy drink page, another landing page for their inventory. That had a result of 16% increase in this conversion improvement for this product. It did the exact same thing for the Omega products, Fish oil, Omega, Omega Mix, with 12% improvement.

Now, we have worked all the way through our funnel and our landing pages for our top-selling products, we can then apply what we’ve learned to the homepage. Taking the existing homepage, you know it is decently designed, but we know that we can make it a lot better by adding this new cutting-edge flat design to help and improve it as well. The homepage is tested a little bit differently. We test it mostly focused on reducing bounce rate. This had 7% more clicks, reducing the bounce rate by 7%.

In summary, we’re able to actually go through the site, create a discovery hypothesis execution review and scaling process to understand who our customers really are, what pains, problems, and desires they have, create a hypothesis, execute tests, review and scale, and grow your bottomline. In between all that, there are a lot of steps. You really need to understand your customers’ mindset. What’s that voice of the customer? Gather intelligence and then use qualitative and quantitative data to run successful split tests during the execution and creation process to review and scale and grow your bottomline.

triple ecommerce website sales leads

In the end, the strategy for you to triple your e-commerce sales, especially if you have an unoptimized site if you’ve never done this before, I would tell you today to stop buying additional traffic. For the next few months, focus only on converting your existing traffic. It doesn’t matter how much traffic you’re driving to your website if you can’t convert that traffic into actual sales.

The next few months, focus only on your highest value revenue potential tests. For those five landing pages, we have the most opportunity try to optimize those as much as we possibly can. Initially, you may have some losses but you can leverage those losses to actually make more money. Once you have a proven strategy that’s working for you, you can lower your CPA, remove your bad traffic, make all of those words negative keywords so you’re actually increasing your return on investment by spending more money on quality traffic, then scale your wins to lead generation, social media, and different e-mail marketing channels.

Now, you want to focus on increasing your sales, increasing your budget and doing affiliate marketing. The first six months of your optimization strategy should all be focused on quick wins. You should know more about your user experience than your actual customers do. That completes the initial round of the Triple You E-Commerce Sales and Leads in the next 6 months. If you do have questions about this, simply reach out to me by sending me an e-mail at alex@alexdesigns.com. Also, if you want to get the new book that I have coming out in May, all you have to do is visit this URL and I’d love to send you the book. I’m really excited about it. It has lot of the same information but broken down in an easier to understand fashion.

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