Conversion Rate Optimization: How to get your Sales to Take Off

Most companies spend a lot of resources on driving traffic to their site, and relatively few on optimizing the conversion of that traffic into customers. Everyone knows that the right thing to do is to use A/B testing to try different variations of your site, but what do you change? In this article we outline a six point framework for improving your conversion rates by applying industry best practices to purchase flow design.

A couple of weeks ago I posted an article which surveyed the purchase flows of 15 different cloud storage providers. In this article we outline six the six core conversion principles defined by 2x Conversion who specialize in optimizing purchase flows for their clients. It is critically important to A/B test any changes that you make to your site but what should you change to improve conversion?

Principle 1: Improve value proposition

Make sure that your value proposition is clearly articulated. Are there value added aspects of your product or supporting services that you are not capturing in your sales copy? For example, in the cloud storage business the ability to sync a filestore across multiple machines is a different (and more valuable) capability than a simple back up. Several of the companies we looked at offered both, but very few explained the difference.

Principle 2: Increase relevance

The key here is to provide a marketing message that explains your product(s) in terms of language and use-cases that are relevant to the customer. This can be difficult to do on a generic site.

When a prospective customer arrives at your site you already have quite a lot of information about who they are including:

  • Where they were referred from, be it an advertising campaign, a search engine, a partner reference etc.
  • Where they are located (using geo-IP look up)
  • What operating system and browser they are using
  • Which of your marketing pages they spent most time on

Based on this data you can segment your prospects into groups and present them with different experiences that are specifically relevant to their segment.

37signals are masters of purchase flow optimization. Their ads are use-case focused and show pictures of people supposedly using their product. If you click on an ad about their collaboration tool showing a young chinese woman then you will enter there site on a page the emphasizes that tool and shows images of that person and, in fact, the person and use-case will follow you through the whole flow. they know, because you clicked on that ad that the product image it portrays is relevant to you and so they maintain that throughout the flow.

You can also segment your customers by providing simple surveys or letting them choose the products that they are interested in.

Principle 3: Build trust

If you are going to ask people to open their wallets, they need to feel that they can trust the organization they are buying from. There are different aspects to trust:

  • Trust that they are not going to be defrauded
  • Trust in the quality of the product

To help customers with the first of these, you can sign up to and display seals of security compliance such as TRUSTe, Norton Secured and BBB business accreditation.

To help build confidence in your product, there are various things you can do:

  • Show how many people use your product. Giving specific numbers is compelling. 37Signals has this to say about their product Basecamp: “Last week 7,389 companies signed up for Basecamp to manage their projects. Today it’s your turn.”
  • Name high profile clients
  • Provide customer testimonials, quotes or even videos are great.

Testimonials are strongest if they are relevant to the customers needs or self-image, (see previous principal: increase relevancy).

Principle 4: Amplify Desire

This principle is about the presentation of your value proposition. It speaks to the old adidge “selling the sizzle not the steak”. Are you clearly articulating the benefits rather than the features. Consider what your prospective customers want. Do they want the programs on their computer to run faster? Don’t tell them about processors or ram. Tell them how quickly their web pages will load.

Perhaps the most critical part of your message is the call to action. the call to action needs to express the value of the action in a way that is relevant to the user.  For example instead of “DOWNLOAD” try “Get your free e-book”. There are many great resources out there (such as this one) on how to write calls to action.

Principle 5: Eliminate Friction

Any time your prospects become confused, have to think or are delayed you risk loosing them. You should do what you can to reduce any friction points in the product decision.

For example:

  • Keep the purchase flow as short, and as simple as possible. Every time you add another page to the flow you add delays and may loose customers.
  • If your customers need to choose between different versions of a product make it as easy as possible for them to make the decision. If they have to refer back to a different page  to compare features you are adding friction.
  • Emphasis important information with color or typefaces so that its easy to scan and make quick comparisons without reading the details.
  • Minimise the number of fields that a user needs to fill in to complete the flow

Principle 6: Add ethical urgency

So, the user likes your product, the price is right, but why should they buy now – if they don’t they may never come back, or may stumble upon a competitor site and choose them.

Time bounded promotions are one way to do this “35% off if you buy in the next 24 hours”, although you need to be careful not to overuse these. If customers see the same promotion every time they visit your site, not only will it reduce urgency but it will undermine their trust in you.


In this article we reviewed six core principles for conversion rate optimization. Its important to always test changes as you go – you can never tell for sure what customers will like.