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Ecommerce optimization: the value of an ongoing CRO strategy

So you launched a new website… now what? 

Now it’s time to make sure all that hard work pays off with continued optimization.

In an increasingly competitive digital world, today’s online store owners can’t just launch a new site, set up paid ads, walk away, and expect amazing results. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is more important than ever, and it’s a neverending game. 

The only constant in ecommerce is that it’s always changing and evolving. Standard practices change, new technologies are released, and customer expectations change. Basically, what I’m saying is a website design can’t be stagnant. 

And I’m not talking about general CRO in this article—that’s an entirely different beast on its own. Here, I’m talking about building an ongoing CRO strategy after you’ve just launched a brand new website design. 

What does ongoing CRO really mean? 

The truth is, ecommerce conversion rate optimization is a never-ending battle.

When you launch a brand new website, you’re working with new data and features that customers weren’t interacting with before. So it’s important to monitor that data and see what feature(s) and design elements your customers love, and where there might be friction in the shopping experience.  

A solid ongoing web strategy is holistic—it takes into account how users are behaving on your site, but also considers external factors like your marketing strategy, product assortment plans, and merchandising and promotional campaigns. 

Keep in mind, even the strongest, most data-driven redesign won’t get 100% of things right on the first try. 

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How should you approach CRO after a new ecommerce website launch? 

A good web CRO strategy should start with a high-level view of what your business goals are, and then determine what the site needs to do to support those goals. For example, your goals may look like… 

  • Improve UX on certain pages
  • Optimize your site for search engines
  • Increase the page speed of your product pages
  • Increase conversions of a specific product or category

Whether it's your homepage, a category page, or one product, these goals will become obvious after you see patterns on your new website, including which pages potential customers bounce off of, where customers abandon their cart in the purchase decision, or which pages show the highest conversions and why.

Based on this information, build a roadmap and figure out the tactics and strategies you plan to use to meet those goals. 

For example, Peepers, a DTC eyewear company, already had a strong homepage conversion rate. After launching a new site, continuous CRO work boosted that conversion rate an additional 9%.

Screenshot of Peeper's homepage, which has a banner saying "new arrivals."

Think of ongoing CRO this way: each goal will have its own set of tactics and strategies. Let’s dive into a few general best practices next.

9 ways to continue improving your site and conversion rate

Consumer and behavior data are both important when optimizing your new ecommerce website. These best practices are focused on using those two sets of data to make continuous improvements to your site.

1. Set up Google Analytics

Step one is to set up Google Analytics and make sure it’s properly tracking your pages, conversion funnels, and traffic. This is essential to beginning any CRO analysis or roadmap.

Google Analytics will give you detailed information about which pages customers are entering your site on, where they’re exiting, your bounce rate, where they’re spending the most time, and what journeys they took to convert. 

See why you need it? You’ll thank me later.

2. Choose key performance indicators

After you set up your tracking tools, find your key performance indicators (KPIs). These should support your broader business goals. Once you establish a baseline set of KPIs, regularly monitor those metrics to see how they change over time.

What metrics should ecommerce stores pay attention to? 

Conversion rate is important, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s also key to look at indicators like traffic (both the number of sessions as well as where that traffic is coming from), average order value, return rate, and revenue per session. 

Looking at all these metrics holistically helps paint a picture of how your new site is performing. You should also pay attention to the following metrics on important pages on your website to understand 

  • Bounce rate: a single-page session on your site. It happens when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without viewing any other pages. This could be an indicator that your landing pages need a stronger call to action to continue funneling customers through your website. 
  • Exit rate: The percentage of website visitors that viewed a page on your site as the last page of their visit before leaving. If you have high exit rates on some of your product pages or throughout the checkout process, you may need to reconsider how you’re funneling customers from the decision stage to the purchase stage. Perhaps your product descriptions need stronger product values, or the checkout page needs to be easier to use. 
  • Click-through rate (CTR): The number of people visiting a web page who click a link. If your goal is to have a high CTR but you aren’t seeing high engagement, reconsider your CTA placement, design, and copy. 
  • Pages per session: The average number of website pages visited during a session. This number can be a double-edged sword: if customers are visiting more pages during their session, they’re taking more time to interact with your site and explore your content. However, if your pages per session are too high, that may be an indicator there are findability issues on your site. 
  • Session duration: The average length of time someone stays on your website. Similar to pages per session, this number can be a double-edged sword; more time spent during their session can be a good indicator that customers are exploring what you have to offer and learning about your brand, but too much time spent in a session may indicate that users are experiencing friction or having trouble finding what they’re looking for on your site. It’s important to look at both of these KPIs in the context of other engagement metrics, like exit rate and conversions.

While it can look good to have a high CTR, more pages per session, a lower bounce rate, and a high session duration, numbers never tell the whole story and don’t always paint the right picture. 

For example, you may have a high exit rate on a certain page because customers already got all the information they need—like your order confirmation page. After customers make a purchase, it’s expected that they’ll exit your website, meaning the exit rate on that page will be high.

So keep this in mind as you monitor your KPIs and understand what user experiences your customers may have had that led to the numbers you’re seeing in your analytics. 

3. Understand your audience

Understand who your target audience is, what they want, how they’re finding your site, and cater your site experience to those visitors.  

One way to do this is by gathering data through sources like site analytics, heatmaps, and qualitative user surveys. 

Survey responses can be hard to capture, but they’re a great way to learn how you can improve your customer experience. Build post-purchase surveys and add them to your post-purchase email flow, or simply reach out to customers via email or SMS to ask for feedback on something specific.

Take Three Ships, for example, and the feedback survey they sent customers when redesigning the website. 

Screenshot of a plain text email from Lillie at Three Ships, asking customers to take a few minutes to fill out a survey and give feedback on their website.4. Test new features

If you’re about to make any big changes, test them first before rolling them out to all users. Why? You want to understand the impact any changes could have (or not have) on your site performance metrics. 

This is why A/B testing or selecting a sub-group of visitors that can see certain changes on your site can tell you a lot about whether or not a new feature is going to help you hit your goals. 

For example, we tested two different pop-up offers with Satechi. One offered customers 10% off their first order by signing up for Satechi’s newsletter: 

Pop-up from Satechi asking customers for their email in exchange for 10% off their first order.

And the second offered customers a free cable for signing up for their newsletter: 

Pop-up from Satechi offering customers a free cable in exchange for their email address.

After testing for a month-long period, we discovered the free cable offer captured 3x more emails, converted 1.3x more visitors during the same session, and converted 1.3x more visitors via the welcome email.

So run tests, iterate, test again, and roll out improvements as you learn your best course of action. Oh, and this testing can oftentimes be ongoing—just like the rest of your CRO strategy! 

Getting regular updates about what’s going on in the industry and engaging with experts is one of the best ways to help yourself and your customers. 

Just knowing the industry landscape, how ecommerce is changing, what trends are evolving, emerging technology, and consumer expectations is key for continuing to serve a great shopping experience. 

Aside from signing up for our newsletter (wink-wink), here are a few resources to help you stay on top of ecommerce trends:

If you're finding yourself strapped for time and don't want another email in your inbox, you can always lean on a team of CRO experts in your field to discover the best opportunities for you. 

6. Review your mobile experience

Your initial website relaunch should include a mobile-first approach, but just like the rest of your ecommerce site, the work doesn’t end once you launch your new design. When running tests and reviewing analytics, don’t forget the importance of looking at device-level metrics. 

In fact, 75% of online shoppers carry out purchases on their mobile phones because it saves time, according to Oberlo. Simply put, if you’re not optimizing for a mobile shopping experience, you’re probably leaving a lot of money on the table.  

It’s not uncommon for features that work great on a desktop to not translate as well to mobile, so when optimizing your site, make sure you’re looking at both desktop and mobile experiences—and viewing the correlating data that way as well. 

If you find something works really well on desktop but doesn’t perform on mobile, it’s probably worth continuing to iterate on that feature to find something that works better on smaller devices (since that’s probably what most of your audience is shopping on).

Screenshots of Peeper's product pages on mobile devices.7. Set up email capture

Ongoing CRO requires engaging with customers on your site and off of it. Why? Because growing your marketing lists will give you a group of customers where you can 

  • Ask for feedback
  • Experiment with new website features to a select group
  • Continuously remarket your new products to a relevant audience

New traffic is important to test, but so are your repeat customers. Prioritizing email and SMS capture can help you learn more about your more loyal customers, which can change your CRO strategy if you’re focusing more on retention than acquisition. 

If you need some inspiration, we have a list of 12 ways to grow your email list here

Pop-up from Braxley Bands

 

Pop-up from Office Oasis

 

Pop-up from American Tall
Pop-up from Cocokind
Pop-up from Satchel & Page
Pop-up from SASnola
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8. Build a roadmap 

Build a detailed CRO roadmap with your goals and strategies. I suggest doing these in 6-12 month chunks, depending on the growth stage your business is in.

For your roadmap, focus 80% of your efforts on supporting your goals. The other 20% should be “reserved” for reactive efforts like sudden changes in the market and business dynamics.

But keeping most of your efforts focused on your high-level goals will help you avoid falling into the trap of “keeping up with the joneses” or chasing low-ROI initiatives.

9. Don’t get complacent

The last thing you want to do is become complacent after launching a new website. You wouldn’t buy a house and not fix the roof or windows when they’re not working anymore, right? 

New website launches require tons of work, effort, and money to build a beautiful, brand new ecommerce experience, so don’t get complacent with it afterward. 

Your site is a living format and should be updated regularly with fresh content and features as your business and customers grow.

Helpful tools for Shopify brands to improve conversions 

Heatmaps:

A/B testing:

Answering a common question: when is it time to build a new website? 

It’s important to continuously update your site to stay up-to-date with changes in customer needs, industry trends, and new technologies. 

That said, when is it time for a major overhaul? This is often determined by two key indicators:

1. The codebase you’re working on: If your codebase has become increasingly difficult to update and it’s blocking you from rolling out site changes or features you know are needed, it may be time for a full rebuild. 

2. The growth stage your business is in: If you’re making a major shift to your business—whether it be branding, assortment, or marketing strategy—it may make sense to tie that in with a major site redesign, rather than trying to tackle the updates once at a time over an extended period.

Your ecommerce strategy is an ongoing game

Ongoing optimization is a blanket term that includes A/B testing, conversion rate optimization, and ongoing ecommerce strategy work. 

It’s building a roadmap and then executing against it in a series of oftentimes small, iterative changes that, on their own, result in relatively small improvements. But over time, these improvements add up to a significant win and can help build trust with your audience.

That’s not to say that some individual changes won’t have outsized results; overall, keep in mind that ongoing optimization can require patience, so if it isn’t showing “instant results,” don’t get discouraged!

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Erin DeCesaris

Erin DeCesaris

Erin is Fuel Made's expert growth strategist and has helped ecommerce companies grow for the past 10 years. She's got a deep love for the outdoors and loves exploring the mountains near Golden, Colorado with her two large, hairy pups.

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