Conversion means nothing without context

June 18, 2018

If you work on a product team as a designer, chances are part of your job involves improving a metric of some sort. It might be landing page conversion rates, the signup funnel, or adoption rate on a new feature.

Naturally, we turn to our toolkit to tweak, test and iterate on the design of the product until it moves the needle in the right direction. These days, tools like Hotjar, Fullstory, GA, Mixpanel, Optimizely give us a lot of power to look at the metrics and measure our progress.

So what’s the problem? If we do a bunch of A/B tests and manage to bump up the signup rate by 5%, we’ve done our jobs, right?

Well, maybe.

The bigger picture

Whilst increasing signup rates is great, consider that your job as a designer is to also make sure that your customers make their whole way through the product journey. Increasing conversion rates up the front is ultimately meaningless if those users are going to abandon the product moments later. And while I’m not suggesting that CRO is entirely meaningless, I am saying that it needs to take into consideration your end-game. Two designers may achieve the same conversion rate improvement of 5% but have dramatically different impacts on the bottom line.

So how should we approach conversion rate optimisation?

Firstly you need to consider if you’re being too myopic with your optimisation. Are you focused on only improving conversion rate without looking at the resulting user behaviour?

Say you work for a B2B product company. If your page converts 15% better than it did before, what percentage of those customers did you retain in comparison? Is your newly converted cohort of users equally or moreengaged in the product than previous cohorts? Are they bringing in more revenue?

If you work in a freemium environment, the similar questions apply. Did your freshly converted cohort engage as well or better? What percentage went on to upgrade to a paid tier?

A lot of these questions require you to take a more long term approach in terms of measurement (it might be 12 months in some cases) but they areimportant questions to ask. Instead of thinking about Conversion Rate Optimisation, I encourage you to think about the entire customer journey. The customer journey starts at when they hear about you product, all the way through to the hundredth time they’ve logged in and used it.

The power of context

So, in order for us to think about customer journey optimisation, we need to look at context. We need to more deeply understand some key contextual pieces of information around their journey. Once we do that, we can then begin to optimise more effectively each step along the way.

Let’s say you work for a HR Software startup. Your product is like aimed at SME businesses.

One of your responsibilities is to improve the signup rate on the website. As designers our brains probably jump immediately to thinking about the page itself. What’s the current layout? What information does it have? Does it have a clear call to action button? How does it look on mobile?

But before you do any of that, you actually need to stop and think — What is the context in which the user has arrived on this page? Did they come here from a specific keyword search? Did they get to this page from a blog post? Did a friend tell them to check it out? Did they see a bus shelter ad and then google it?

Which context is the highest priority to optimise for? Does a particular context require a more specific landing page with a tailored message?

Other contextual aspects to consider are:

  • Who is this person?
  • What do they need?
  • What are they afraid of?
  • Who do they report to?
  • What decisions are they responsible for?
  • What is the problem they’re trying to solve?

Once you’re equipped with this information, then you can start optimising for conversion. (Shameless plug: Askable can help you talk to your potential customers). And not just on the signup page, but all the steps that lead them to the signup page, and the steps that they see afterwards.

If we think about our HR software as an example, the visitors on your page might be a mix of:

  • A HR manager searching for a specific feature
  • A HR manager who’s interested in new tech and heard about the product from a friend
  • A returning existing user
  • A tech startup founder who’s read an article about your startup on a tech blog

Which group is the highest priority for you? What contextual questions do you need answered before you can begin optimising for their entire product journey?

So not only do you need to design and optimise their experience on the page in which they actually sign up, but you need to consider the design of every step leading up to that, and every step thereafter.

But if you can do that, you can start to move the needle in a meaningful way. You will no longer be optimising for the sake of optimising, but actually improving the entire customer journey and witnessing conversion rate improvement as a result of a better, more coherent product experience.

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