Conversion rate optimisation explained: What it can do for your e-commerce website

Conversion rate optimisation is one of the latest services being offered by a growing number of companies to businesses that rely on their websites to either convert sales or lead to an enquiry.


So what is conversion rate optimisation? I have keenly been reviewing the offers of a variety of different businesses over the past two years and unsurprisingly the scope of service offered is broad and diverse. So broad, in fact, that no two companies offering this service had very similar offerings to compare apples with apples.


Here are some examples of the explanations I got:

  • “When a visitor to your website takes an action that you want them to take.”
  • “Whatever the ultimate point of your website is, a conversion is the successful completion of that action. The ‘conversion rate’ is the percentage of traffic to your website that is completing that specific action.”
  • “Conversion Rate Optimization is the practice of increasing the amount of online sales and leads on a website, without increasing the amount of web visitors.”


Like any young and growing industry, not all companies are equal or offer the same quality service.


Frustrated, I put some questions to Tim Ash of Site Tuners, a US-based conversion agency. Tim will be presenting at the eCommerce Conference and Expo in Melbourne next week and having met and spoken with him before, I was confident he would be able to give me the answers I was seeking!


Tim, what is conversion rate optimisation (CRO) in your eyes?

CRO is the subset of online marketing that has the following goal: get a higher percentage of your visitors to take the desired action on your website or landing page. This could be an e-commerce sale, a form-fill, a video view, an inbound phone-call, or even an in-store purchase. The components of CRO include user experience design, visual design, copywriting, psychology and neuromarketing, as well as a/b split testing of different content. The Conversion Conference event series that I founded five years ago covers all of these topics. I have also written two editions of my bestselling Landing Page Optimization book that covers in painful detail all of the important elements of it.


What’s your background and how did you evolve into conversion rate optimisation?

My academic work spanned a dual major in cognitive science and computer engineering at University of California, San Diego. So you could say that I covered both the “hardware” and the “wetware” of the brain. This is a perfect background for internet marketing, which requires deep qualitative psychological insights, and a very heavy focus on quantifiable measurement and tracking of everything.​


How big does a company need to be – i.e. in terms of hits per month/turnover or whatever the key KPIs are – to be able to (a) afford conversion rate optimisation and (b) benefit from conversion rate optimisation?


All companies can benefit from conversion rate optimisation. Since CRO makes your landing pages or websites more efficient, it should be at the heart of online marketing regardless of the sources of traffic coming to your site. CRO is also a unilateral advantage – you can fix your website independently of having to compete for the traffic with other companies.​ ​We work with large and small companies around the world, across all industry vertical segments. Our diagnostic Express Review of your landing page can bring powerful results for under $US1000 – this should be affordable for anyone.


What has been your most challenging client (no name needed) or industry, whereby you have had to go the distance to actually get results, or alternatively, perhaps not gotten the desired results?


Although we have had outstanding results with apparel consumer brands, many of them have been difficult to work with. In my experience, the branding people within the company are often the conservative guardians. They are so rigid in their focus on flashy presentation of the latest products, that they lose focus on the customer experience and really constrain the growth of the direct e-commerce sales. ​


How do you convince a customer who is performing well (in their eyes) that conversion rate optimisation could actually help them?


We have never seen an e-commerce website that does not have significant problems and could not benefit from our services. We are not in the convincing business. Unless the client already knows that “their baby is ugly”, we are probably not a good fit for working with them. We don’t solicit clients or do any outbound marketing, they come to us because they want to achieve better results and we stand behind our reputation of having helped over 1200 clients worldwide.


Mark Freidin is an experienced chief operating officer, e-commerce pioneer and consultant to fast-growing firms with his company


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