Five steps to improve your conversion funnel

Dear Readers,

I apologize for the hiatus.  I almost forgot about my dear blog after having a baby (Sept. 2011) and starting a new job (May 2012). I’m back and want to update you on all the wonderful things that I’ve learned over the last 2 years.

Let’s start with some best practices to improve your conversion funnel. A conversion funnel is a series of steps that users need to get through to get what they wanted on a website. For example, if users want to print coupons from your site some of the steps they would go through would be sign up (optional), select coupons, download and install software to print coupons (only for new users and not returning) and finally, print coupons.

Step 1: Define the “steps” or stages in your funnel and track it. Some funnels are complex but it is critical to define them. Some steps could run in parallel while others could be sequential. Some are optional while others are mandatory. Some steps are not required for certain segments (new vs. returning visitors example above) of your site traffic. In all these cases having a visual flow will help tremendously. Tracking these steps and how many get through each step is also very critical. For many sites it may be easy to turn Google Analytics on and get this data but in some cases such as the coupon printing one above it can be difficult to track activities that are not on the site. It was easy to track how many clicked on the print download button but difficult to track what steps took place after the click when the plugin was downloading on a user’s laptop.

Step 2: The next step is to monitor the funnel to get a baseline while accounting for highs and lows due to seasonality, day of week or time of day. It is important to get a predictable baseline to make sure improvements to the funnel can be attributed to your efforts and not external causes.

Step 3: Prioritize and understand the drop offs in your funnel. Now that you have a baseline and know how many are dropping off at each point you can prioritize which one to tackle first. For example, we looked at users that added coupons to their credit card so they could use the coupon if they swiped their card at the store. We prioritized on the last step and targeted those that added the coupon to the card but did not use it. If we increased conversions at that point we would have maximum impact as we would increase our revenue if they used the coupons on the card.

Step 4: Understand why users are not converting. There are many ways to understand why users are leaving your site. The most simple and effective way is through a survey but you could also do some usability tests. To understand why users were not redeeming we sent an email to the users who added the coupons to the card but didn’t use them with 3 simple questions. Why have you not used the offer? How likely are you to return to the site and use other offers (rate us)? Why did you rate us this way? Insights from our survey indicated that users had forgotten about the offer or didn’t shop at that store recently. Thus to improve conversion we are considering alerts as a way to remind users to use the offer and them check conversion. In this case it was easy as we had email addresses to send a survey but if you don’t you could pop a survey when a user is leaving your site to understand why. You could also follow up with some interviews to get more insight after you conduct a survey.

Step 5: Make changes and repeat steps 3 and 4. We will soon be testing if alerts will have higher conversions that no alerts (or the control group). There is lots of literature and best practices on A/B tests (see a presentation from KISSmetrics) specifically how many to test, what significance level to accept and how long to test. After you decide on making the change or rejecting the change you would go back and optimize on another step (assuming you have done everything for this step) and repeat steps 3 and 4.

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