The Ecommerce Executive’s Guide to Increasing Purchase Conversions

When it comes to growing an ecommerce business, increasing conversions is one of your largest and most impactful opportunities. Depending on the size of your business, increasing your website’s conversion rate by even half of a percentage point could mean a major revenue increase for your business. However, the path to reducing customer friction and maximizing the number of customers that purchase is specialized and can be highly complex.

So how do you lead your team in increasing your website conversion rate in a safe, scientific way?

If you run a large (or mid-sized) ecommerce brand, you’re relying on different members of your team to provide informative input to guide your decision making. The issue is, your team is providing this input based on their specialty, not based on the whole picture. It’s great to have feedback from different departments. But as a business leader, you will need to be able to translate all of that information into decision-making that will achieve goals for the business as a whole.

In this post, we’re going to lay out the metrics that you should hold highly as a leader in your business. We’ll also provide a simple 4-step process for implementing a conversion rate program that produces results.

This post is meant to be a guide for helping you lead a conversion rate optimization program in your business. If you want a plan for exactly how to implement this program (from soup to nuts), consider buying our CRO (conversion rate optimization) guide. This is a valuable tool for either yourself or the person you put in charge of building this program.

Note: In case you’re worried about it being boring, we’ve illustrated it as if Dr. Seuss would have written it. This is likely the most approachable yet valuable guide to CRO you’ll find. Metacake has run successful CRO programs for high-volume ecommerce brands for quite some time, and we’ve documented our systematic approach in this guide. When done right, a CRO program will make its money back in multiples.

Who are you listening to?

When you’re weighing the best way to increase your ecommerce conversion rate, you will have several options. You could go with the easiest route. Or you could choose the idea that your marketing director, IT director, customer service director, or other director is pushing. You could also follow your own gut feeling. The problem with each of these is that they aren’t really measuring what the customer is telling you.

If you want to increase conversion rate, you need to listen to the customer first.

So, you will need a way to:

1) Listen to the customer
2) Gather ideas from your team members
3) Test those ideas
4) Interpret the results.

If you do this, you can systematically improve your conversion rate and directly impact revenue and the efficiency of EVERY marketing activity.

4 Areas Critical to Increasing Conversion Rate

1. Identify Metrics that Matter

Before anything, you must decide what metrics matter to you (in addition to your conversion rate).

Prior to making a purchase, there are other smaller actions a customer will take. These are important to identify, define, and improve if you want to increase purchases overall. You don’t need to get wrapped up in the technical here. Simply think about the relational milestones a customer must go through on their way to purchase.

For example, they may sign up for your email newsletter, read the About page on your site, view a product, and then add it to their cart, all prior to purchasing. Think about these as potential holes in a funnel. Some holes are bigger than others and using this method, we want to patch those holes. All of these actions contribute to metrics you should dig into in Analytics. Any weaknesses you find could shed light on what needs to be fixed in order to improve your conversion rate.


Here are the top metrics we assess in ecommerce stores:

  • Conversion rate: Defined as the percentage of visitors who make a purchase out of the total traffic that visits the site.
  • Total traffic, with spam removed: Measuring all site visits reveals how much opportunity you have to grow your conversion rate.
  • Engagement: This may feel vague, but we typically measure visitor engagement by looking at average time on site and average pages per session. These metrics show how interested a customer is in your store. Low engagement means you’re bringing the wrong users or your messaging is off.
  • The conversion path: The specific steps visitors take which lead to a purchase. You may need to hire an analyst to outline this for you and then identify holes or weak spots in the path. These holes will indicate what needs to be fixed in order to reduce customer friction and increase conversions.
  • Ratio of “add to cart” to purchases: This is the percentage of people who complete a purchase out of the total customers who add something to their cart. If this percentage is low, this could mean that customers are waiting too long to make a buying decision. Maybe you aren’t selling the product well enough, it’s priced too high, or there isn’t enough urgency (motivation to buy quickly).
  • Cost Per Acquisition: This measures how much it costs to acquire a new customer. This obviously needs to be less than the price of your product if you actually want to make a profit. For example, if you sell baseball caps for $29.95 but you spent $300 in Facebook advertising to acquire 10 new customers, your CPA is too high ($30/customer). This would be the time to reassess not only your marketing but your site experience to encourage more people to convert.

Bonus: These metrics are not always directly related to your conversion rate, but are important because they are representative of your ecommerce store’s health overall.

  • Average Order Value: The average value of an order placed in your store. In most businesses, you should always be looking for ways to increase AOV. There will be times that you need to raise prices, but more often than not, you should look at pushing customers to bundle products or buy more than one item at a time. Rewards programs are a great way to encourage this.
  • Lifetime Value: The average amount of revenue acquired from a single customer over their lifetime journey with your brand. You should always be looking for ways to engage with customers so that they are not just one-time buyers, but lifelong buyers and raving fans (therefore increasing lifetime value).
  • Revenue per Email Send: Total revenue attributed to an email campaign, divided by the number of names that received it. It’s easy to misinterpret the health of your email program when you see thousands of dollars in revenue attached to one email. Divide that amount by the number of recipients to see if the revenue coming from email is actually significant for the size of your list. As a benchmark, we typically shoot for at least $0.10 in revenue per send.

2. Use Good Data

Once you decide on which metrics are most important to you, it’s time to measure— accurately. We can’t stress the importance of this enough. Utilizing good data means 1) your data is being tracked accurately and 2) you’re measuring the right things.

You’ll likely need a specialist to do this who is highly knowledgeable in the analytics platform you use (usually Google Analytics). Encourage him or her to set up a dashboard that contains ONLY the metrics you determined are most important for your store (listed above). With all other metrics and noise removed, this will be your guide that you can refer to frequently on your own.

3. Make Decisions Based on Data (Not Opinions)

Here’s where a great CRO program comes in. If you need a guide for one, take a look at the one we’ve written. This is easier said than done. None of us like to admit that our opinions don’t matter, but in this case, they don’t. Even your gut feeling on what will increase conversion rate is a gamble at best. You may not realize this, but customers speak to you through data. The good data that we discussed in step two is actually your customers telling you what is working and what is not.

With that in mind, you just need someone who knows how to interpret the data before you make a decision. Again, this is where a specialist (an analyst) comes in. An ecommerce data analyst will know not only how to read the data accurately, but draw the correct conclusions about what to do next. This know-how comes with experience and perspective. Without this, you (or a young analyst) won’t be able to tell if your bounce rate is good or bad or if your conversion rate is high or low. You need someone with plenty of experience to help you draw the right conclusions.

4. Implement Tests on Your Site

Once you have an idea of what needs to be fixed in order to improve your conversion rate, it’s time to test. Whether it’s adding a search bar to your site navigation or adjusting the layout of your store’s shopping cart, A/B testing is key. Again, hire an expert to help with this. An expert will be able to use platforms and technologies out there to test these website enhancements and monitor their impact using a data-driven method.

Another method for testing is simply asking your customers directly through a survey. The most efficient way to do this is to survey your top customers (your raving fans) because they are the most likely to give honest feedback about their experience. If you don’t know who your top customers are or how to identify them, be sure to read our take on the importance of raving fans. This group is crucial in every area of business.

When Conflict Strikes…

… Keep going! Here’s our fair warning: Making decisions based on data has the potential to get messy at times, but you can’t let that hinder your testing process.

As we mentioned earlier, each of your team members will look at site performance based on their respective specialties and their own perspectives. Marketers may be afraid to hear the story that customer data is telling. Others may get their egos bent out of shape if they find out their opinion about what would work actually didn’t. Testing new features and conversion paths on your site may be a headache for your IT department. All of this is OKAY. The important thing is to hurdle these barriers and determine what is right for the customer. Once some light is shed on this, you will be able to scale the ideas that work.

Need additional resources?

As we’ve mentioned throughout this article, conversion rate optimization is a highly technical process. But a healthy CRO program is a crucial part of a successful ecommerce business. It’s like the GPS in your car. You may be able to get around without it, but using it saves a TON of time.

If you want to get started on improving your conversion rate TODAY (and make sure you’re focusing on the right things), we have a valuable yet approachable guide that will walk you through the important steps in further detail. If you’re interested you can order your copy of our guide “Oh the Places You’ll Go (Conversion Rate Optimization)” in our store.

If you think you need more than this article or a guide, we also offer coaching and consulting services on conversion rate optimization (as well as other key business areas). Reach out for a free advisory call if you’d like to learn more.


Need more than a guide? Our team can help you create a profitable CRO program.

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