What is Conversion Rate Optimisation and How Can You Use It To Improve Your Online Sales?

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is a simple yet extremely effective set of measures to get website visitors to convert into new sales. Here our Creative Copywriter Ryan breaks down CRO, and offers straightforward and powerful ways to put it to use.

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In the world of e-commerce, we use the term ‘conversions’ to describe visits to your site that lead to sales. These sales are tracked as a percentage: the percentage of people who convert all the way from adding an item to their basket, through to making a purchase. The more effective your site is at driving sales? The higher your conversion rate will be.

That’s all well and good, but what can you do about it? How can you optimise your website to get more of those all important conversions?

Fortunately, there’s a practice known as CRO, or Conversion Rate Optimisation, which offers strategies, tools and techniques to increase your conversion rate.

In this article we’ll take a deep dive into CRO, exploring your conversion rate and the steps you can take to increase it. You’ll discover exactly why even the smallest increase in conversion rate can have the biggest impact upon your bottom line and your overall growth as a business.

Uncovering Your Conversion Rate.

If you’re a CRO beginner, you might be asking, where can I find my conversion rate? And, more importantly, how do I understand it? If you’re using Shopify for your online store, the platform thankfully provides a handy place to find your conversion rate. Under the Analytics section, you’ll find an “online store conversion rate” section expressed as a percentage, alongside another percentage which shows how much your conversion rate has increased or decreased during a particular period.

You’ll also see the term “conversion funnel”. This isn’t a funnel used for pouring a gloopy substance, but rather it describes the phases site visitors go through as they progress towards that all-important purchase. You’ll see a percentage of how many visitors added items to cart, how many reached the checkout, and finally how many of those customers ‘converted’ into a purchase. You can click through to a larger report which displays a graph showing a visual representation of your conversion rate over time. Shopify also features a ‘live view’ where you can view conversions in real time as they happen on a graphical map of the world. You can sit back and watch as visitors light up the map with blue pulses, turning into green as they convert into sales.

Understanding Your Conversion Rate.

There’s a basic formula for calculating conversion rate - your conversion rate equals your number of conversions divided by your number of visitors, multiplied by 100. If you’re using a platform such as Shopify, it’s less important for you to know the formula, as your platform will keep track of the data and calculate it for you, but it’s still a useful way of breaking down the figures.

What is more important to you however is to know exactly what makes a good or bad conversion rate. Conversion rates are all about context. A seemingly small percentage might seem bad, but when put into the wider context of your business, or your industry as a whole, that percentage may actually be pretty good. For example, in 2020, the average conversion rate of e-commerce globally was 2.17%. Think about that - only 2.17% of all site visitors converted into sales, and that’s the average across all businesses around the world!

Depending on your industry, the average conversion rate may be lower or higher, and it’s useful to place your business within this context. For example, the average conversion rate for the food and beverage industry is 5.5%, while the average for the hair care industry is 3.5%. Many factors can influence a conversion rate, but one overwhelming factor is that of price. Generally, retailers with lower priced products will have higher conversion rates than those with higher priced products. A supermarket selling thousands of low priced items will see more conversions compared to a luxury car company selling only a few very expensive items. Millions of people will be interested in the latest Ferrari, but only a select few will ever buy one.

But as a general rule of thumb, a good conversion rate for most industries usually sits between 2% and 5%.

So don’t stress over small numbers - it’s impossible to get absolutely everyone who visits your store to convert into a purchase. Haven’t we all just wandered around a store (physical or virtual) just to have a browse? Or to compare what the competition has to offer? Many of the people visiting your store will be there for browsing, and may not have even had the intention of purchasing anything. But that doesn’t mean they won’t return to make a purchase in the future.

Understanding Your Drivers And Barriers.

With data in hand, it’s now important to recognise two key elements behind conversions. Drivers and barriers. Let’s break them down.

For drivers, it’s necessary to consider what brings people to your site. Examine your communications, your ads, your paid and organic social content, SEO, and pretty much anything else you use to get people to visit your site. Are these drivers all enticing your customers to convert? Are you offering new and existing customers special deals? Of course, all of these elements fall under the umbrella of marketing communications, and we could write a book on that! So let’s focus on the next key element of CRO, as most likely you’ll already have people visiting your site and you need to find ways to get them to convert into sales.

Barriers are vital to understand, as these are exactly what gets in the way and prevents customers from converting. Sometimes barriers can be simple and trivial, yet they could still be having a detrimental impact upon your conversions. Is your website a barrier in itself? Basic things such as the layout of your site, your CTAs, buttons, forms and your overall navigation can have an enormous impact upon your CRO. If your site is tricky to navigate, or has confusing buttons, customers can easily get lost, and miss links to pages, information or products they’re seeking.

Another seemingly trivial issue is that of page loading time. If your site is poorly optimised, causing it to load slowly, you’ll be testing the patience of your visitors. With ever faster devices, consumers expect things almost instantly, and anything short of speedy will put them off. In fact, research suggests that a load time of 1 to 3 seconds increases bounce rate (people who visit one page and leave) by 32%, while a load time of up to 10 seconds increases bounce rate by an eye watering 123%. Not exactly conducive to record-breaking sales.

Other barriers that may affect your conversion rate revolve around issues that aren’t always directly to do with your site, such as delivery and customer service. If delivery is expensive and slow, visitors may be put off from making a purchase, and look elsewhere for a store that does offer fast and free delivery. If a customer has a question, and they struggle to get it answered either via live chat, email or a phone call, they may also not follow through on a purchase. Analyse your customer service against your competitors and see if there's anything you can offer that they can't. Sometimes even offering a free delivery service can mean the difference between landing a sale or letting it slip away.

Tools To Help You Understand Where Issues Exist.

If you think you’re doing everything right, or maybe you’re struggling to see exactly where you’re going wrong, thankfully there are innovative CRO tools that enable you to get insights into the way users browse and interact with your site.

Heat mapping tools, such as those offered by Hotjar, provide incredible insights into the way users interact with and use your site. With just a small piece of code inserted into the pages of your site, you can track exactly where the user’s cursor goes as they browse, including which elements they interact with most, and which elements they avoid. Using this information, you can then adjust your site’s design according to the results, ensuring ‘hot’ content is placed front and centre.

You can take this analysis further with the use of eye tracking technology. Although more expensive, eye tracking tools such as those by Gazepoint and Teknicks, track the gaze of a user as they browse your site. Of course this requires a more complex implementation compared to inserting code into your site, and necessitates an in-person study to be conducted, where an eye tracking tool is connected to a dedicated computer that actively tracks the movement of the user’s eyes. This allows you to drill down into exactly what your site’s users are reading and looking at, and in the order they’re doing it.

When it comes to combating slow page loading times, there are a litany of tools available to track and measure page load times. Services such as Uptrends and GTMetrix will easily allow you to measure a variety of metrics concerning your website’s performance and responsiveness, with detailed reports outlining exactly in which scenarios your site is too slow, and which pages are causing the most problems.

How To Use This Information To Optimise Your Site.

Using the information derived from these apps & integrations, you can take steps to supercharge your site for peak CRO performance. If customers visiting your site seem confused in your heat maps, ensure pages are clear and easy to understand, with a navigation bar that emphasises only the most important pages. Make sure it isn’t overburdened with unnecessary links to pages that aren’t key to driving sales.  

Ensure your products are sorted into orderly collections, so customers aren’t presented with a large jumble of products they need to sort through to find what they want. Divide products up clearly into specific and relevant categories, making the process of discovering items fast and frictionless. Check out competitors who have a similar size inventory to yours. Find those best in class, and examine closely how they lay out their stores.

If your page load times are slow, optimise by keeping data heavy content to a minimum. Ensure your images aren’t unnecessarily large, and uploaded only at a sufficient resolution to make images display correctly. Reduce products to a minimum on individual collections pages, and divide product listings into multiple pages so visitor’s browsers aren’t burdened by having to load too many products on one page at once. Make sure there aren’t too many unnecessary plugins or apps injecting complicated code into pages, causing errors or conflicts with other page elements.

Ensure your copy is clear and tells customers what they want and need to know. Copy should be creative and well suited to your tone of voice, but don’t waffle or pontificate about your products; too much text on a page could easily cause visitors to become bored and frustrated when they really just want you to get to the point. It’s also important to ensure your CTAs, buttons and links are clear and specific, utilising features such as pop-ups and banners on your landing pages to grab the attention of your site visitors.


Conversion Rate Optimisation can seem complicated on the surface, but it’s clear that making a few simple considerations, and implementing a variety of easy to use tools can make all the difference in driving clicks into conversions. Ultimately, CRO is a relatively simple measure to help you increase sales and your profits. It’s a must for any e-commerce business seeking to ensure their customers go the whole distance from click, to cart, to order page and beyond.  

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