Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Basics

Discussing CRO over a whiteboard session.

We understand that for many product-centric business owners, digging into the data and crunching the numbers isn’t the most exciting or appealing activity. That being said, Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is one of the most important and often overlooked aspects of running a successful e-commerce business on Shopify.

Ask any of the fastest-growing brands in e-commerce what their secret is and we’d bet that most of them will tell you “the data” (well maybe not that response exactly but you get the idea).

Now is as good a time as ever to take just a few simple steps to start making CRO a fundamental part of what powers your business. We hope that even the most data-hesitant among us will find at least one action item in every post in this new CRO series that will make a big difference.

Today, we’re starting with the basics of understanding your Shopify store traffic.

Know the Five W’s of Your Traffic

At the core of every CRO strategy is a comprehensive understanding of the who, what, where, when, why, and how of your store’s traffic.

Who is coming to your site?

Having a clear picture of your site visitors’ demographics is probably the most fundamental component of building a CRO strategy.

Every aspect of your site, from the copy to the colors, should resonate with the people who are actually coming to your store. It may sound obvious, but you’d be shocked by how many Shopify stores are designed with a specific audience in mind, when in reality the actual visitors to the site are from a very different demographic.

Demographic information isn’t just valuable for CRO purposes, but it should also play an important role in informing product design and marketing decisions.

On the marketing front, if you’re running any sort of Facebook ads, you have to select the audience that you’re going to run the ads in front of. Knowing the demographic makeup of your site’s existing audience is a great starting place to inform the ad audience creation process.

For example, if the age of your site’s audience is almost entirely made up of visitors in the 24-35 age range, you probably don’t need to include 65+ in your Facebook audience -- aka you don’t need Facebook to spend your hard earned ad budget dollars reaching an audience that won’t convert on your site anyways.

At the most basic level, you should know the breakdown of your site traffic by age-range and gender.

Where do I find this information?

In Google Analytics: Under the Reports Section click AudienceDemographics Overview


Demographic Overview in Google Analytics shows your traffic broken down by age range and gender.

What are they looking at?


This right here is the bread-and-butter of CRO. To give yourself the best chance of making a sale every time someone visits your site, you have to understand how most visitors behave when they come to your site.


In other words, when someone lands on your site, what page do they navigate to (and the page after that, and after that, etc.)?


Where do I find this information?


In Google Analytics: Under the Reports Section click BehaviorBehavior Flow

 The User Flow in Google Analytics shows how users progress through your site. 

Another way of looking at this data is in terms of page popularity. While your homepage is almost always going to be your most popular page, after that it may surprise you to see where most users are going on your site.


In Google Analytics: Under the Reports Section click BehaviorSite Content All Pages


The Site Content breakdown shows which pages on your site are the most popular. 

There are several insights you can glean from this information. If your Shopify store has multiple products, knowing which product pages are receiving the most visits can serve as a rough indicator of product popularity. Pay particular attention to the product pages that are receiving a lot of traffic but aren’t resulting in orders, and visa versa.


If a product page is getting a lot of traffic but is not resulting in conversions, that should signal an opportunity to improve it. We’ll talk more about product page optimization in a later post in the CRO series.


If a product page isn’t getting a ton of traffic but the conversion rate is particularly high, this could signal an opportunity to drive more traffic to that product -- whether it’s making that product more prominent and accessible on the homepage or creating ads that specifically showcase the product and land on that page.


Where are they coming from?


When we talk about understanding your site’s traffic, acquisition is all about knowing how visitors are getting to your site in the first place.


To start, in Google Analytics: Under the Reports Section click Acquisition Overview


This report will show you your site traffic broken down by channel. The primary channels are: Direct, Organic Search, Paid Search, Referral, Social, Email, and Other. Most of these categories are self-explanatory but there are a couple nuances to be aware of.


Direct traffic means that someone either typed in your url directly or got to your site via a bookmark or their browsing history. However, when Google cannot identify the source of traffic it also categorizes the traffic as direct.


If you’re running paid ad campaigns on Facebook for example, the traffic will show up in the Other bucket (unless you’ve configured it to do otherwise).


Referral is the traffic to you site generated by links on other websites. If one of your products was featured in a gift guide on another website for example, the people who clicked that link will show up in the Referral bucket.


Social has its own report in Google Analytics: Under the Reports Section click Acquisition Social Overview


Your acquisition data should be representative of the ways that you’re attempting to bring people to your site. If your focus is your popular company Instagram account, you should see traffic coming into your site via the Social bucket. If you’re prioritizing SEO, the Organic Traffic bucket should reflect that.


One of the most powerful ways to look at your traffic data is by looking at the e-commerce conversion rate by source. 


In Shopify, if you selected the Use Enhanced Ecommerce feature, Google Analytics will automatically track your site’s e-commerce conversion rate. By selecting eCommerce as the conversion in the same Acquisition report we began this section with, Google Analytics will generate a report breaking down each traffic channel by conversion rate.


This report is a great place to assess the effectiveness of the different traffic sources when it comes to generating sales.


When are they visiting your site?


On the Home report in Google Analytics there is a tile for When do your users visit? This report shows visits by time of day. 


Knowing when your users tend to visit your site can be helpful in informing marketing decisions such as what time to send promotional emails or SMS alerts.


Why are they coming to your site?


While intention may not be an actual category in Google Analytics, it is surely something that can be extrapolated by looking at the data.


When we say intention, we’re getting at understanding how different users interact with your site. Are they a returning customer coming back to buy the same product again? Are they a first-time visitor trying to learn more about your brand?


Being able to identify different user behaviors can play a crucial role in both CRO and marketing. For example, if your site has a high returning customer rate and those customers visit the same product page every time, you might consider introducing (and marketing) a subscription option on the product page.


Making CRO Simple


Our goal with our new CRO series is to empower Shopfiy merchants of all sizes to take control of their incredibly valuable data and leverage it to drive more sales. As the series continues, we’re going to dive into more complicated topics and techniques and really get into the nitty gritty of CRO.


We understand that this stuff isn’t for everyone and that’s why at Simplistic we provide CRO services for many of our amazing clients. If you’re interested in learning more about what we can do, shoot us an email.

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