Let me tell you this right away. This case study will serve to reveal a number of little things that can make a world of difference to your website conversions and sales. And it will be tempting to A/B test these changes without a second thought.
The lure of conversion rate optimization lies in the possibility of gaining disproportionately huge dividends. Sure, implementing best practices may get you gold. But we all have different farms to work on, and the same plough won’t work on every soil. Like Stan Lee taught us, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. In CRO circles, that translates to “do your research before you A/B test changes.”
If you’ve only just started out with CRO and A/B testing in particular, checkout this wonderfully detailed post on creating strong hypothesis for testing.
Now, on to the case.
The Client – Susty Party
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Susty Party creates disposable tableware that is compostable yet colorful, highly-functional, party-ready, and responsibly made in partnership with non-profit factories who employ and empower the visually impaired community. In their own words, they ‘respect the earth and party on’. It is only fitting then that the ‘susty’ in the brand’s name stands for ‘sustainable’.
Having got featured in a number of influential circles, Susty Party was already doing well in terms of visitor traffic. But it was not converting into enough sales. To get more engagement and sales out of this traffic, they reached out to Uplift ROI, the conversion rate optimization experts.
The Case Situation and Research
From website data and analytics, it emerged that Susty Party was suffering from a high bounce rate on its home page and poor conversion along the sales funnel. Visitors to the site were leaving without engaging with the site. Furthermore, the users who did engage, were leaving the site before a sale could result. This gave the agency a direction to work on. (Remember what I said about doing research before A/B testing?)
Reading this in conjunction with the state of the home page, a couple of things were obvious: there were at least a few best practices widely followed in eCommerce circles that Susty Party could use, and benefit from.
It was time to construct some solid hypotheses.
On the Home Page
A clear USP: The susty party home page at the time lacked a clear USP. The agency hypothesized that adding a clear selling proposition will help visitors understand the benefits of Susty Party instantly, and prod them towards more engagement on the site.
Testimonials: Another staple among eCommerce best practices, it was hypothesized that adding real customer testimonials will help lift conversions on the home page.
CTA on Banner: Duh.
Removing Videos: The older version of Susty Party website contained product videos right at the page fold. It was hypothesized that the videos were a distraction, driving visitors away from the desired action on the page – a click-through to the product page.
On the Checkout Page
Adding Security Affirmation: The eCommerce checkout page lacked any security affirmations. Adding one, the agency hypothesized, would encourage visitors to click on ‘checkout’.
The primary goal was conversion on the homepage through clicks on the banner. And the secondary goal was the clicks received on checkout page CTA.
The A/B Test
A mammoth 250% increase in conversions from the homepage at 99.99% confidence level. That’s like saying there is almost ‘0’ chance for this to have happened by fluke. The changes made to the home page indeed caused visitors to convert more.
Do not be misled here: the older version contained no CTA and therefore clicks on the home page banner were bound to be low. But that still doesn’t take away from the fact that the Variation engaged visitors much better, enticing them to click the CTA through to the product page.
The checkout page also benefited from the change. With the variation, the checkouts saw a 98.4% spike at 97% confidence level.
All in all, a super super result.
Why Did The Variation Win?
On The Home Page
A Clear USP
Operating in a niche of their own, the client had reason to believe the images on the homepage were self explanatory. The oversight was that users have a million distractions, and quite literally they give you 5 milliseconds to make a good impression. If you do not give the visitor a good reason for them to be on your site, and get it across to them in the few seconds they will afford, it’s going to result in a bounce.
It establishes both points of parity and points of difference. The visitor immediately understands what susty party is about— it sells party-ware. The visitor is also told exactly what differentiates Susty Party from other shops that sell party-ware— it’s non-toxic and compostable. Then with the sub-heading it is made amply clear that the business is North America based and will directly be contributing to the region’s economy. The CSR angle also kicks in, telling the visitors that should they decide to purchase, they would indirectly be helping the disadvantaged.
Most importantly, the visitor is not inconvenienced to find this all out by themselves. The marketing message in the Header line is now overwhelmingly clear, like the skies over Atacama.
Genuine customer testimonials let you say this,
See, we are awesome,but you don’t have to take our word for it. Listen to what these guys, who are just like you and have already used our product, say about us.
Using testimonials on eCommerce pages has become so prevalent that users more or less expect it. This is what the visitor thinks.
If your product is as good as you claim it to be, you must have lots of customers. And if they liked it, they would’ve said something good about you. Ergo, if you don’t have real customer testimonials, I don’t see how I can trust your product.
Check out this post on Yoast about how to increase perceived trust using customer testimonials.
CTA on Home Page Banner
Alright. Think of your eCommerce website as a maze, at the end of which you have placed some goodies. Your visitors are wanderers who have deliberately walked into the maze, hoping to find something they like and are willing to pay for. You need them to navigate through the maze and find exactly what they need.
(Okay, it’s a maze they can walk right out of, any time they so wish)
But for now, they are disoriented and directionless. They will look to you for guidance. Every twist and turn inside the maze is a decision they need to make. And they won’t know what to do unless you tell them exactly where to turn and what they can expect around the corner.
CTAs are those signboards, to guide and direct. They need to be put up generously, at every turn you need visitors to take. Call-to-Action buttons tell the visitor what they are supposed to do, and what they can expect upon doing it.
Okay, so perhaps the maze metaphor is a little weak. But you get the drift.
In the mood for some extra learning? Munch on this delightfully comprehensive post on CTA buttons, what works and why.
Also, how about some awesome flat-design CTA freebies you can start using right away? Click the button below to download, no landing pages, no nothing. Just some awesome free goodies.. It’s a zip file with .ai, .psd and .eps files included. If you like what you get here, you can thank Shawn Rubel at Vecteezy and check out what else they’ve got there.
I love this part. Because removing videos is not a best practice by any means. In fact there are dozens of case studies that extol the use of videos as a means to effect greater conversions. This one for instance . Or this.
Why then, didn’t the videos work for Susty Party?
Not as Relevant as Testimonials
The videos took up precious real estate on the home page and were not as relevant for its customers as were the testimonials. Think about this: if you were to land on Susty Party looking for party-ware, would you be more interested in understanding how the party cups looked like in a video, or would you be more interested to find out what other customers who used the product felt about it? I’d put my money on the latter.
Products like party-ware would typically require low involvement from the customer: they don’t cost much and they don’t last long enough for a customer to put too much thought into the buying decision. More than a comprehensive understanding of the product, consumers of such products look to understand if they are good for the money. Would the cups leak? Can they be disposed off easily? Are they microwave friendly?
Hardly questions you would need to watch videos to figure out. An FAQ section might help make quicker decisions.
Let me say it again. Don’t trust best practices blindly. Do your research before testing.
The Checkout Page
Adding Security Affirmation
You just became a father and you are throwing a party to your dear ones. Scouting for some good party-ware, you come across susty party and find the product to be refreshingly new.
So you click, click and click some more till you get to the product page. You are a seasoned online buyer so you realize that this is the point of no return.
Money is going to be shed.
Suddenly, there are doubts, apprehensions, mistrust.
You don’t see anything — no trust badges, no guarantee badges, no affirmations. Nothing that tells you that you can trust.
So you do what you do. You leave.
In another universe, you see this on the checkout page.
Yes, even simply saying you are trustworthy can make people trust you.
Like I’ve already said before, do not test for the sake of testing. Identify your concerns first, understand what the data says about it, and construct hypotheses based on what the data tells you; not on the basis of what best practices tell you. Sure, best practices could act as references, and you might even be able to reverse engineer your way to find what could be improved on the site. But, do not consider best practices to be shortcuts to a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Because, A/B testing isn’t that rainbow.
Your website is.
It is up to you to decide what colors and shapes your rainbow should hold. A/B testing simply reveals what rainbows attract people better.