Attempting to solve website usability problems based on assumptions rather than data is like trying to read the label from inside the jar. For a business that’s built their own ecommerce website–and know it backward to forward–it’s almost impossible to understand what the user experience is like for a new-to-file customer. 

The process of conversion rate optimization (CRO) requires a deep understanding of how visitors navigate and experience your site. Conducting a comprehensive conversion audit is an essential step in identifying the larger issues present on your site and how you should go about properly fixing them. 

Defined: Conversion Audit 

A conversion audit (sometimes referred to as a CRO audit) is a 360-degree assessment of the customer journey on your website. The purpose of an audit is to identify the technical and/or usability-related problems that may be hindering your website’s conversion rate. 

A typical conversion audit focuses on analyzing the end to end customer experience while also digging deeper into a website’s analytics and reporting. 

Why Should you Conduct a Conversion Audit? 

A proper conversion audit is the foundation of the conversion rate optimization process. The goal of an audit isn’t to provide an immediate increase in conversions, but instead illuminate the latent problems that could potentially be costing you sales. 

The single most important requirement for a successful conversion optimization program is data. Conducting a conversion audit will help you collect the data you need to identify and prioritize what needs to be fixed on your website to improve the customer experience and ultimately the conversion rate. 

Steps for Completing a Conversion Audit 

A comprehensive conversion audit is key to understand what’s sabotaging your conversion rate. In this five step guide, we’ll outline the optimal approach to conducting a conversion audit of your website: 

Step 1: Clearly define objectives. 

To set a testing program off to a good start, teams and individuals should make sure they are aligned on a clear understanding of what they hope to achieve with a conversion audit. The objectives you select may depend on a number of factors including the maturity of your brand, your current website performance, and the long-term business goals you’ve set.

Examples of appropriate objectives you might set include: 

  • Improving conversion rate to purchase.
  • Increasing average order value.
  • Reducing shopping cart abandonment.

Start by focusing on only 1-3 primary objectives and ranking those in order of priority. Increasing conversion rates might be more important to your team than improving email signups, so knowing where to put your time and attention and aligning across your team (and other stakeholders) is a non-negotiable first step. 

Step 2: Define your target audience.

Clearly defining your target audience is a critical step in conducting a successful conversion audit because you build your website experience with their interests and needs in mind. 

Despite how you previously defined your ideal customer, it’s likely that since creating those customer personas, your target audience has changed. It’s also very possible that your “ideal” customer isn’t who’s actually shopping on your website. 

Take the time to look into your website analytics and identify the key demographic information that defines who your customers are, where they’re coming from, and what they’re most interested in on your website.

Step 3: Conduct quantitative research.

Next, you’ll want to focus on conducting quantitative research to help identify where in their journey customers are experiencing problems so you can prioritize those areas as part of the optimization process. 

A technical review should start by digging into your analytics tools (Whether that be Google Analytics or any number of other reporting applications) to uncover drop-off points in your path to purchase. What are the specific web pages that have a high bounce rate? Most major analytics make it easy to visualize the steps in your conversion funnel and pinpoint where website visitors are most likely to drop off. 

After a thorough data analysis, you should have a good understanding of two things: optimization areas and baseline metrics.

  • Optimization Areas are the pages or areas of the site that can be optimised to improve the customer experience and influence your established goals.
  • Baseline Metrics are numbers that represent how your product or website is performing today in areas that are important to you. (Advanced reports will include how those metrics change based on traffic channel, device type, landing page, or seasonal fluctuation.)
Step 4: Conduct qualitative research.

When it comes to telling a story using the analytics data you collected, you’ll want to rely on qualitative research. Qualitative methodologies like conducting user testing, cataloging session recordings, analyzing eye-tracking heatmaps, and designing open format surveys are all important aspects of conducting thorough qualitative research. While the data can show you where your potential customers are dropping off, qualitative methods will tell you why that’s happening. 

Step 5: Begin developing test hypotheses.

Based on the pain points you identified in your quantitative and qualitative research, it’s time to begin ideating what you might want to start testing on your site to optimise the customer journey. After looking through the data you’ve compiled, you’ll begin to spot patterns and trends in user behavior. 

Your research will illuminate the specific points on your site that are hindering your conversion rate. Choose one of them to investigate further. What could you do to free up the flow of visitors at that point in the customer journey? Where would the metrics you’re observing need to be before you consider the effort successful? How can you achieve those metrics? 

These test hypotheses will become the basis for future A/B testing you’ll conduct on your site.

The First Step in the Conversion Optimization Process

A genuine conversion rate optimization audit is well worth the time and investment. It can uncover friction points on your website that you may otherwise never would’ve realized, and is the first step in the larger process of conversion rate optimization.  For ecommerce companies looking to do a 360-degree analysis of site-wide conversions, you might consider investing in a comprehensive conversion audit of your website by a conversion optimization specialist.

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