At the most fundamental level, conversation rate optimization (CRO) and user experience design (UX) are about understanding your customers and consistently delivering what they want and need via your website experience. The CRO world is filled with tactical advice that can lead to a hundred tests and potential improvements; but until you take a deep dive into who your customers are and what they’re trying to accomplish when they visit your site, generic CRO advice is virtually meaningless.
Every site is unique. Every business, customer base and product forms a unique ecosystem that orbits around your customers and what they need from you. When you make important decisions about copy, design, or information architecture, those choices need to be informed by real market data and user feedback.
Employing CRO testing tools such as A/B tests, heatmaps, and session playbacks is the first step to understanding where usability and conversion issues occur. Surveys can help companies subsequently bridge the gap in customer communication to get deeper feedback into what’s not working and what solutions would effectively solve the problem. Let’s take a closer look at why customer research is an essential part of your CRO agenda.
Qualitative, Quantitative: Two Types of Data And What They Tell You.
Companies mine two primary types of data insights during the CRO process. The first is quantitative: A/B testing, heatmaps, and session playbacks, for example. By closely monitoring what your site visitors are doing – while they’re doing it – it’s easy to form an impression of where the conversion funnels break down on your site. Quantitative tools like those described above help you create a clear list of friction points in the user experience that need to be addressed.
Quantitative insights into the conversion funnel can reveal things like:
- Cart abandonments are happening during the checkout process
- Site visitors are failing to fill out and submit a form
- Your “About” page has a high bounce rate
- Landing pages aren’t converting
- Barriers to getting site visitors to register for a free product trial
Of course, the essential question to solving these problems is understanding the “why.” Why are cart abandonments happening, for example? Is your checkout process too complex, does it feature too many screens and clicks, or is it impossible to navigate on a mobile device? Quantitative data can help you form hypotheses for further exploration and testing. Qualitative data – from surveys and Voice of the Customer research – can help you understand in your customer’s own words what improvements would solve the problem.
Establishing a conversation with the market – by simply asking customers what they think and what’s happening when they’re visiting your site – is the quickest way to definitively get into your customer’s mindsets. Deeper psychological insights are the key to major conversion improvements.
How Surveys Help You Understand the Why: A Case Study
In a terrific case study, one conversion agency explored how surveys helped uncover a friction point for one of their customers. Photoshelter is an app that’s geared toward helping photographers create websites to market and sell their work. The company offered users a free trial of their product, with limited functionality. Photoshelter struggled with the issue that free users weren’t buying after the trial period. Surveys revealed that a limited feature trial didn’t give users enough information to buy; instead, they were anxious to explore the full product before converting.
These insights led to the development of a new conversion funnel. Instead of a free trial with limited features, Photoshelter migrated to a no-risk $1 trial of the full product. Feedback from customers allowed the company to rethink its funnel and make changes that led to a lift in conversions.
Photoshelter case study
Applying Customer Research to Your Own CRO Process
The first step in any CRO or UX improvement process is using analytical tools to get an objective, clear view of what’s happening when people visit your website. Once you’ve established a quantitative program, your analysis will lead to a list of places where friction is getting in the way of conversions. Conversions range from smaller actions – such as filling out a form or downloading a white paper – to larger actions like making a purchase. Voice of the customer initiatives, which is another term for surveys, let your company dig deeper to find out what’s really going on.
Surveys can help you:
- Learn who your customers are, from demographic information to deeper psychological insights
- Determine true intent: why were customers visiting your website?
- Understand whether customers accomplished their goal once they were on your site
- Gather detailed feedback on specific aspects of the user experience
- Figure out which product features and user benefits are most compelling to your audience
- Understand what language customers use to describe themselves, their interests or problems, and your brand or product
- Clarify the exact trigger or persuasive asset that convinced a customer to convert
- Definitively capture feedback on roadblocks and what’s not working
- Gain insights into brand, product and positioning issues – and track changing sentiments over time
Different Approaches for Implementing Surveys on Your Website
Numerous tools on the market allow brands to launch customer surveys. It’s important to think about how to integrate surveys into your CRO testing program. Timing and context matter to gathering quality data. Some common options include:
- Intercept surveys that pop up on your site or app while people are browsing
- Surveys that pop up when a user is about to exit a webpage or app
- A feedback tab that’s ever present and users can click on to take a survey
- An email survey to customers or prospects on your mailing list
- A survey that appears on the thank you page after a form has been submitted or a purchase made
How to Write an Effective Survey
Writing an effective survey for CRO purposes relies on three fundamental factors:
Have a clear and targeted objective: Attention spans are short. Make the most of your opportunity to communicate with customers by targeting a specific focus. Ideally, each survey should have one specific goal. Examples might include optimizing your checkout process or gathering profiling data on your customers. Don’t muddy the waters by trying to cover too much ground in a single survey. A laser-like focus on your most important CRO or customer research priority will ensure that you’re gathering the right insights that you need to turn data into action.
Keep it short: One of the best ways to get high quality and consistent customer feedback is by keeping your surveys as short as possible. Research varies on how short is short enough. The shortest that gives you the information you need is best. Ask yourself whether every question you’re considering is essential. Try to keep your surveys to a maximum of seven or eight questions; fewer is better.
Optimize your question type choices: It’s important to optimize your question types along two different dimensions. The first is for functional reasons. Remember that a significant percentage of your survey takers may be on mobile devices. Complex questions are hard to answer on small touch screens. Open-ended and multiple-choice questions are easier from a usability standpoint. The second factor is gathering insights. Surveys are qualitative. The more open-ended questions that you ask, the richer the level of detail that you’ll collect.
The Key to a Great CRO Survey: Be Very Specific
One of the biggest blunders that brands make with surveys is that they’re too generic when writing their questions. For example, imagine implementing a pop up survey for people leaving your website during the checkout process. The focus of the survey is to find out what went wrong. Think about the two different approaches:
Option 1: Rate our checkout process on a scale 1 – 10.
Option 2: Why are you leaving during the checkout process? (An open-ended question)
In the first instance, the user will probably leave a low rating. You’ll have further confirmation that something isn’t working – but you’ll be no closer to determining how to fix it. By framing your question in the second way, you’ll be given specific details about what frustrated the user. When you ask specific questions, you’re given details that can help you make very important strategic changes that ultimately improve conversions.
Bringing It All Together: Integrating Analytics and Customer Research
Companies need real market data in order to improve their website’s conversion rates and user experience. Quantitative and qualitative tools are complementary. The most effective plans develop a strategy that integrate analytical insights and customer research. By combining the insights from heatmaps, user sessions and remote usability tests with detailed feedback on the user experience, companies can develop hypotheses on what changes are needed to their website. By feeding these changes into an ongoing testing program, it’s possible to continuously improve your website and develop feedback loops that drive ongoing higher levels of conversions.
Market research and voice of the customer initiatives have the potential to transform your website. Surveys can help you understand your customers at a much deeper level. Successful CRO requires understanding user psychology well enough to make smart choices about design, information architecture, and copy. Using market research to have strategic, ongoing conversations with your customers can be the key to getting the insights you need to build a high conversion website for your business.