This year, worldwide e-commerce sales are expected to exceed $5 trillion for the first time, accounting for more than 20% of overall retail sales. Record-breaking online sales don’t just happen by chance. Behind every successful e-commerce brand, you’ll find a solid conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategy.

What is conversion rate optimization (CRO)?

Conversion rate optimization, or CRO, is the process of enhancing your website to increase the number of leads you generate. CRO is achieved through content enhancements, split testing, and workflow improvements. Businesses that take the right approach to CRO benefit from highly qualified leads, increased revenue, and lower acquisition costs.

What impacts conversion?

Several factors can affect conversion. These include a customer’s purchase intention, your site’s UX, and customers simply browsing with no intention of buying anything. Other reasons may include a lack of customer reviews on your site, or data privacy concerns, which make visitors lose trust in your brand.

5 steps to conversion rate optimization

A step-by-step approach allows you to identify pain points, test enhancements, and measure results:

1. Start with the why

Before you carry out any research, you need to determine your conversion goals. These should be closely linked with the type of business you’re in, whether it’s doubling sales of a product, improving campaign leads, or increasing the number of new subscribers who sign up to your service.

Zero in on micro-conversions

Alongside your main conversion goals, you’ll also need to look at micro-conversions. These are the actions that signal consumers are likely to convert – category page views, email newsletter sign-ups, views of product pages – and they also indicate the effectiveness of your funnel.

Using a range of quantitative data analysis tools such as web analytics, heatmaps, scroll maps, and session recordings, you can study these micro-conversions, spot weaknesses in your sales funnel, and identify drop-off points.

While quantitative data analysis will show you what’s not working, qualitative data analysis – research carried out through polls, on-site surveys, and satisfaction surveys will tell you the reason why visitors are abandoning their carts, bouncing from your site, or not completing lead forms.

2. Hypothesize

Based on insights from quantitative and qualitative data analysis, you will be ready to build a hypothesis that can be tested and measured. A hypothesis could be something along the lines of “If I remove an address field from a form, it will increase signups.”

3. Prioritize

It’s likely you’ll have a laundry list of hypotheses that you will want to test. But how do you decide which one should take precedence? This is where the PIE framework comes into play. First look at the potential: how much improvement can be made, then weigh up the importance (how valuable is the page or experience), and then look at the ease – how easy it is test. As a rule of thumb, most brands will usually look at first optimizing high traffic pages, or pages with the most revenue potential.

4. Test and experiment

Based on your hypothesis, you can now test different versions of your page or process. Basic A/B testing means traffic is split between two variations. The control version includes the original content and design, while the other is a new variation. The new variation might include different headlines, different colors, different call-to-action messaging, or a different layout or design.

5. Learn, test, and repeat

With each A/B test conducted, you’ll likely uncover new insights into user behavior. These discoveries, however small, will require further testing to verify before changes are implemented. Conversion optimization is an iterative process, but its learnings not only lead to improved conversion, but also better UX.

Site search and its impact on UX

Because you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, good UX is everything. And intuitive site search is key. Some of your visitors will already know exactly what they’re looking for, while others will require a gentle nudge in the right direction. The sooner customers find what they need, the higher the likelihood of conversion.

According to Forrester, 43% of users on retail websites head straight to the search bar. Statistics also show that 39% of visitors who complete a purchase are influenced by relevant search. When it comes to delivering individualized experiences and relevant recommendations, customer-centric solutions such as AI-driven search can help you determine each visitor’s intent and present them with the most relevant search results.

How Sitecore can help

Sitecore Discover provides real-time individualized product search results and recommendations tailored to each individual shopper. The AI-driven search technology helps customers make faster and better buying decisions, resulting in improved conversion rates, and increased loyalty.

Find out more about Sitecore Discover in our Sitecore Discover technology manifesto or check out these 10 tactics for optimizing commerce experience.

Fiona Hilliard is a Content Marketing Manager at Sitecore. Connect with her on LinkedIn