This is part one of a four-part series.
Improving your store’s conversion rate isn’t just about installing the latest, greatest app, or hacking your checkout with some script you found on a forum or Facebook Group. These shoot-from-the-hip approaches will only get you so far.
Often these “remedies” lead to cluttered pages, that distract visitors and the store owner is left wondering why their store doesn’t convert any better—or even worse—than before. This is because their visitors actually had specific sales-objections, but instead of overcoming those objections, the store owners stuffed their pages with irrelevant distractions that promised to be a “conversion magic bullet.”
Your visitors’ attention spans are extremely limited, which means you have to treat them preciously.
So, the real key to unlocking your store’s full profit potential is in gaining a deep understanding of your visitors and customers. This way, you’ll know what makes them tick, what their desires are and how far wide of the mark you are when it comes to persuading more of them to buy.
In other words, understanding (and fixing) your store’s conversion killers is pivotal to whether your store merely bumps along, only ever achieving a smidgen of its potential or whether it takes off on a trajectory for the moon.
Here’s the thing, your conversion killers boil down to just one of two things:
- A usability problem that’s restricting users from effortlessly making it all the way through your sales funnel.
- A persuasion issue (sales-objection) that prevents users from being convinced to buy.
But unless you know specifically what the issues are, any other fix you apply is just a shot in the dark.
So first, you must gather “visitor intelligence.” And this is the crucial step that most store owners miss entirely. Usually, because they want to believe that they don’t need to do what, on face value, it seems like work and instead they install the latest whizz-bang conversion app in the hope that it doubles their conversion rate.
If you’re feeling slightly uncomfortable reading this because you’ve fallen victim to all the misdirection that’s out there, it’s not your fault. But let today be the first day of doing things the right way…
Visitor Intelligence Tool #1 – Google Analytics (Or Equivalent)
Essentially, Google Analytics (GA) tells you where your store’s visitors came from and which links they clicked on once they arrived. You can’t improve your conversion rate without it because, amongst other things, it will tell you where to prioritize your optimization efforts by revealing which pages in your funnel have the most visitors and the highest drop-off rate.
But here’s the thing, GA only tells you a snippet of the full story. It only tells you what users did, not why.
And it’s the “why” that usually contains the hidden gems that will often be the inspiration for split-tests that result in double-digit improvements in your conversion rate.
If the thought of losing yourself in GA for hours on end fills you with utter dread, you’re not alone. A lot of Shopify store owners avoid delving into GA because it simply sends them into overwhelm or they get paralysis by analysis.
Because of this fact, I created a simple tool to extract the most important insights from your store’s GA account without you having to ever even log in to GA. It shows you where your store is underperforming and where you need to urgently focus your optimization efforts to plug the leaks. It’s called Analytics X-ray because it does exactly that.
Analytics X-Ray also tells you the pages on which you should implement the tools listed in the rest of this article.
Visitor Intelligence Tool #2 – Heatmaps
Like I said before, Google Analytics tells you what links your visitors click on but heat-mapping tools, on the other hand, show you which page elements your visitors click on.
This is useful because the elements they click on aren’t always clickable. This is often incredibly revealing because you may be missing out on a ton of clicks that would have led to a sale but instead just led to frustration. It may be just a simple case of linking a heavily clicked image on your homepage to your product page.
Here are the top reasons to install a heatmap on your store today:
- It will reveal all the page elements that your visitors assume are clickable but, in fact, aren’t. As a result, you might decide to make those elements clickable to improve the user experience. For example, if you discover visitors are clicking on a product photo on your homepage that isn’t currently clickable, you may choose to make it clickable and send that traffic to the relevant product page.
- It will give you a snapshot of which parts of the page are getting the most attention, highlighting the content that visitors are most interested in. Conversely, it will also reveal page elements that you want them to notice but they’re missing or skimming over.
- If your store has more than one link on the same page that all lead to the same URL—for example, the Cart Page on The Shoptimized Theme has two checkout buttons—a heatmap will show, at a glance, you which of the buttons your visitors clicked on the most. (This is technically possible with Google Analytics but requires a more advanced set-up.)
- It will show you how far your visitors scroll down your pages. This can often reveal that your most persuasive content is only being viewed by less than half of your visitors. Not only that but it can often identify “false bottoms”. This is where a poorly placed gap in your design leads visitors to assume they’ve reached the bottom of the page so they don’t bother to scroll any further.
It’s a good idea to create heatmaps for your key pages; Homepage, collection pages, product pages and cart page. And if you’re using Shopify Plus, your checkout pages too. You don’t need to create heatmaps for every single product and collection page, just pick one of each since they’re templated.
When you study your store’s heatmaps, a lot of what you find will be predictable, for example, the Add-to-Cart button will be a hotspot. But you’re looking for the anomalies, not the obvious.
Hotjar is my favorite tool for heatmapping (and visitor intelligence gathering, in general) which leads me on to…
Visitor Intelligence Tool #3 – Visitor Session Recordings
This is the internet equivalent of staring over your visitors’ shoulders as they browse your store. The recordings can be tedious to go through but, fortunately, Hotjar lets you filter by pages visited if you’re trying to identify a particular issue. It also lets you playback at high-speed and eliminate pauses where a user stops moving their mouse for a period of time.
The recordings are useful for:
- Identifying issues with particular browsers or user groups. You can playback recordings of visitors from certain locations or who use Safari, for example. You can also filter for users that remained on your site for a specified period of time or visited a minimum number of pages.
- Getting a flavor of how people interact with your store. How you think users navigate your pages is often not how it in reality. You may find that they don’t read your product pages from top to bottom but scroll up and down, sometimes several times. This can be an indication that they’re looking for something like your returns policy, for example, but are struggling to find it.
- Spotting bugs and page errors. If your upsell pop-up isn’t triggering properly on a particular browser and the breaks the page, how would you ever know without watching session recordings?
- Honing in on the parts of your sales funnel that are losing the most visitors. The handy filter in Hotjar lets you just view sessions where the user visited your cart page if, for example, you believe there’s an issue on that page.
Visitor Intelligence Tool #4 – Form Analytics
Unless you’re on Shopify Plus, using an alternative checkout like Funnel Buildr or have customizable products, this tool may not be relevant as it can’t be installed on your regular Shopify Checkout.
But for any of the above cases, it’s an extremely insightful tool.
It’s no secret that people who interact with your web forms are showing a higher intention to convert. That’s why using a form-analytics tool can unlock hidden profits because it can reveal at which form field, users are abandoning your form.
Once you understand what’s causing the issue, you can fix it, just like a travel retailer, Expedia.com did to the tune of a $12m increase in annual revenue by deleting an unnecessary field.
Form-analytics tools can help identify numerous issues, including:
- The percentage of visitors who abandoned the form at each field input. Just like the Expedia case study above, knowing this information allows you to fix or remove the fields that are problematic.
- The micro-conversion rate of the form as a whole: i.e. how many visitors saw it, and what percentage of them interacted with it, and whether they submitted successfully.
- Which fields regularly get left blank. A blank response usually suggests that a field is confusing or intimidating. Too many fields like this will reduce a visitor’s commitment to completing the form.
- The amount of time spent by visitors on each field. If cumulatively fields take too long to complete, fatigue or impatience may set in on longer forms. This is particularly relevant to customizable products that may ask for the long-winded text to be inputted.
- Which fields routinely trigger error messages, which the visitors then need to edit before they can continue. Failure to notice error messages is often a huge conversion killer in itself.
- Which browsers and devices are underperforming. Perhaps your form is fiddly to use on small-screened mobile devices.