While all traditional digital marketing agencies are unique in their own way, as a whole they face a similar set of challenges, a major one being the ongoing struggle with conversion rates. When running digital media, many agencies tend to operate in a silo from their client’s merchandising teams. When conversion rates are down in paid programs, we have been conditioned to stop, drop, and ask ourselves, “how can we improve this?” The truth is, while advanced or automated strategies and methods can have a limited effect on site conversion rate, much of the performance for this key KPI is out of the marketer’s direct control. Yes, you read correctly - tons of other factors contribute to the path to conversion besides a marketer's optimizations! The primary factor that affects site conversion rate, at a baseline, is truly site experience.  No matter how amazing our campaigns are, if the customer can’t easily find and purchase what they are looking for, the potential acquisition is lost (and there's no turning back from that). Most of us are familiar with Einstein's definition of insanity: expecting a different result from the same course of action. Similarly, we as marketers must realize that making the same changes over and over again to campaigns, strategies, etc. will not yield new results. Since we, as agency partners, can’t change the client’s site ourselves, we must integrate our team with the client’s merchandising experts so they may provide the necessary insight on how to improve customer experience. Collectively, we can utilize this insight to improve the customer experience and strengthen total business performance.  So, how do we know what to focus on? Based on experience, we have identified four key site characteristics to look at when conducting an initial diagnosis. 
  1.     Site Speed: Google research shows that over 50% of internet users will allow no more than 3 seconds for a site to load before they give up and move on. Improving site speed will decrease bounce rate and ensure that consumers do not end up buying from a competitor or a wholesale partner out of sheer frustration. Google’s PageSpeed insights is a good way to quickly assess the strength of your client’s mobile and desktop experience and identify next steps for the development team to improve.
  2.     Site Navigation: The best way to find out if your clients’ website search functions are effectively guiding consumers to their desired products? Test them out! If you search “blue blanket” are you seeing red pillows? How granular do the filtering options get? How many clicks does it take to finally get to your desired page? Asking each of these questions will help to identify if there is friction in the current site experience. The less friction, the smoother the experience, and the higher the conversion rate.
  3.     Product Page Attributes: A smart consumer does research before making a purchase. Providing detailed product descriptions, alternate images, videos, and reviews are key factors that increase conversion rate on product pages. If the marketing provides this information, the user is less likely to seek that information and convert elsewhere. 
  4.     Checkout Process: We all know that cart abandonment = loss of sale and, potentially, loss of the customer forever. To avoid this, creating a simple and easy-to-follow path to purchase is crucial. We have found the following methods to be successful in reducing cart abandonment rates: 
  •       Ensure people can check out using a guest account. Requiring account creation tends to be a deterrent, due to the time involved and the distrust many customers have with registering their email addresses on websites.
  •       Have easy payment methods available like Apple pay. Technology is evolving, and so must we! If the user doesn’t have their credit card on hand, they may save the purchase for later and find a more convenient option, potentially on a different site. 
  •     If there are promotions or free shipping available, make sure the user is notified if they meet the eligibility requirements
This is a really easy way to raise average order value and avoid possible frustration, due to a promotion not being applied if the user thought that they had met the threshold. 
  •     Make cart adjustment easy throughout the shopping process. Often times, customers will review their total orders once they have finished shopping, and then decide to remove or replace items. This process should be set up in such a way that customers do not have to go through the payment method all over again, as this can often result in abandoning a purchase entirely. 
The reality is, we all live busy and inundated lives. Online shopping should not feel like a laborious task that is added to one’s never-ending To Do list. As marketers, the easier and smoother we can make the online shopping experience for our customers, the better our conversion rates will be. Remember to consider every aspect of the overall site experience, from the initial click and load time, to how easy it is for your customer to replace an item in their virtual shopping cart. A happy user experience creates a happy customer. So, while marketing is structure needed to build your brand, the website experience is the foundation that continues to support that structure.

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