Increase your web sales in 5 proven steps

The average conversion rate for online retailers in the UK, however, stands at less than 5 per cent, yet surprisingly for every £92 spent on attracting visitors, just £1 is spent on converting that initial interest into a sale.

The harsh reality is that you’re working hard and spending money on bringing people to your website, yet 95 per cent of those visitors fail to buy. Smart businesses are now waking up to the fact that it is more cost-effective to improve their website’s performance rather than just drive more people to it, and there are some simple things you can do too.

  1. Get the foundations right

If you are serious about introducing conversion rate optimisation (CRO) to your organisation you are going to need the right team in place. It can be as small as one person aided by ad hoc access to additional resources, but you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of a project champion.

Access to information is your best friend in CRO, so install research tools on your website to gather information to help you get inside the mind of your customers. For example, heatmapping software that shows you where users clicked and how far they scroll down on each page. On-site polling lets you ask direct questions to your visitors at key points in their journey. Most of these tools are inexpensive and easy to implement via a tag manager such as GTM, which means a non-technical person can do it without the help of a web developer.

  1. Understand your customers

Your task as an optimiser is to influence behaviour, but before you can do that you need a basic understanding of relevant behavioural psychology. Many people view buying as a simple yes/no decision, but in fact it is much more complex than that. About 95 per cent of all decisions happen subconsciously, which means we tend to purchase with emotion more than rational deliberation, so you must identify the core needs and motivations of your target customers so that you can align your approach with that.

You can use a number of different data sources to get a full picture of your users, as well as the barriers and frustrations they experience on your site. Quantitative data tells you what is happening, whereas qualitative research can tell you why it is happening. Creating customer personas and scenarios can help you to focus on what’s important from a user’s perspective, and ensure the entire process is centred on them.

Create a segmented user journey map using clickstream data to get a good behavioural overview. Usability testing is arguably the best method for uncovering usability issues, working with real people recruited live from your site. Identifying conversion blockers in this way can have a big impact on your site’s performance. Email surveys are easy to launch and can help facilitate larger scale quantitative analysis.

  1. Analyse your merchandising

Merchandizing analytics can give you useful insights into the interaction between your visitors, the merchandise you offer and the actions your visitors take. It can help you to understand the impact on sales of a new product introduction, predict how a fall in revenue from bestsellers will damage your business and identify the reasons for poor performing product categories.

The navigation is a fundamental part of your website, and this analysis allows you to optimise your navigation for higher sales. Look-to-book analysis is a simple and easy way to develop a strategy for each of your products based on the number of views they receive and how likely it is they are added to your basket, while price-point analysis enables you to pinpoint where you can sell more products in this price band, and those that could be culled without damaging sales. This research is worth repeating on a regular basis.

  1. Test your interventions

Once you have understood your customer and their journey through your site, you can make hypotheses on how to improve your site. The hypothesis should be tested in a controlled experiment, usually an A/B test running a “challenger” against what you already have. Split testing platforms like VWO and Optimizely let you make changes to the webpages without having to touch the code of the site.

This new experience is then split tested by showing some visitors the new page and some the old, and then measuring and comparing the behaviour of the two alternatives. A positive uplift, in which the new experience performs better than the existing one, validates the hypothesis. When the opposite happens and there is a negative uplift, it is an opportunity to learn more about what customers really need, and develop alternative hypotheses to get the desired behavioural change.

  1. Get personal

Personalisation is an increasingly important part of your website optimisation strategy. By making the web experience more relevant to segments of your visitors, or even individual users, your website will convert visitors into customers more effectively.

Personalization relies on what you know about who your website visitor is and how they behave on your site. This is where personas, firmly grounded in research, can play a big role. Many companies have seen healthy uplift from running simple personalisation experiments based on anonymous variables, like new and returning visitors, user location and visits to particular product categories.

Johann Van Tonder is COO of AWA Digital and the co-author of new book, E-commerce Website Optimisation, published by Kogan Page, priced £19.99. For more information go to