What do Conversions Mean to You?

When I talk to people about maximizing conversions, it always surprises me how many think that it’s only applies e-commerce sales. Conversions are actually a way of measuring the outcome of a clearly stated goal – it could be anything. From the first day working on a project, I am considering those goals in every design choice for the website or app. I want the users to feel so comfortable in their experience that clicking that ‘add to cart’ button or signing up for your newsletter is a natural next step.

Let’s take a minute to look at how conversion work for e-commerce solutions when the goal is measured in successful checkouts or purchases:

Unique visitors / Successful Checkouts = Conversion Rate, meaning a website with 100 unique visitors and one checkout has a conversion rate of 1%.

Now, these numbers can mean very different things in different industries. Expected conversion rates can vary based on how users end up on your site, your product, and its price tag. Tesla Motors is a great example of this. Even though you can buy – or reserve – a new Tesla through their site, their conversion rate is probably well below 0.5%. Most people will visit their site to learn more about the cars and if they decide to purchase one, they will probably feel far more comfortable placing a call to a person or visiting a location. On the other hand, a company like Frank is perfect for e-commerce. They’re a trusted product in a price segment where people feel comfortable buying online AND shipping globally is easy. In fact, I have their Body Cream sitting on my desk right now! Their conversion rate is much higher than Tesla’s, that doesn’t say that Tesla is any less successful than Frank – just that the goals are different due to very different products.

As I said earlier, conversions aren’t limited to just purchases. A SaaS looking to promote its new application will likely measure e-mail signups. A social media service like Twitter would rely on the metric of ‘new user growth’. You can even measure if people understand how to use a hamburger menu. Almost EVERYTHING is measurable. *Hint: People really don’t get hamburger menus. Discoverability is cut almost in half by hiding your website’s main navigation and users report that task time is longer and more difficult.

If you don’t know how much you need, the default easily becomes ‘more.’
Ryan Holiday

Ryan may be talking about money and personal finances, but one could easily argue the same for conversions. This is all too common in the world today, no matter how much we have, we want more. Working with hundreds of different websites has taught me that it’s pretty common to set goals in terms of actions (capture e-mail leads, sell more products), but it’s pretty rare for clients to have a clear picture of what those results will mean.

When I re-launched my book, User Experiences that Matter, I had a very clear image of how to market the book, I measured social media traffic and had chosen Gumroad because their conversion driven checkout form. But how many sales was I hoping to get? What conversion rate would satisfy me? Turns out, I was no different than clients I’m talking about here. I set my goals shortly after the product had launched which is the safe thing to do because you have a better idea of how the product will perform. The thing about setting your goals after the product has launched is that you adjust them to succeed regardless of the actual outcome.

So, for your next project (and mine!) make sure to not only set the action goals but also quantify the results.

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