Luisana Cartay
Luisana Cartay 1 December 2016

5 Lessons And 5 Mistakes In ECommerce From 12 CRO Experts

At Photoslurp we are constantly thinking of new ways to increase conversion rates (who isn’t, right?). How to improve conversion rates for our clients, for our company, for our blog… We are always reading about the latest findings in the field and joining AMAs with the biggest conversion rate optimization experts around. But the thing is, there’s a lot of noise out there.

Everywhere you look you’ll find people telling you to change the color of a button, run an A/B test, add more CTAs, then less CTAs, change the color again, and so on.

That’s why we decided to contact some of our favorite conversion rate optimization experts personally, and ask them what they think are the most important aspects of CRO, and what are the most common CRO mistakes in the business of eCommerce.



Lesson #1: CRO Is A Process

The first thing we all need to understand is that conversion rate optimization is not about trends, it’s about dedicating resources to hypothesis driven experiments, which help us to understand our audience and achieve our goals.

When we asked Shanelle Mullin (Content & Growth at ConversionXL), what is the top CRO trend in 2016 that you think more brands should be adopting and why? Her response was accurate and well documented:

“Earlier this year, we asked 722 CRO practitioners to answer 48 questions to help us better understand the optimization industry. 41% of respondents said there is no one directly accountable for conversion optimization at their company and 26% of respondents meet with their optimization team to discuss CRO ’only when necessary’.

Along with the fact that 65.7% of respondents do not have a documented, structured conversion optimization process, this is a major problem. Why? Because those with a documented, structured process are seeing bigger returns, which is why they are both more likely to increase their CRO budgets next year and to have plans to focus more on CRO.

I don’t think companies should be adopting a trend in 2016… I think they should be adopting a structured optimization process.”

Shanelle Mullin

Content & Growth at ConversionXL


This sentiment was echoed at the CRO day 2016, hosted by Unbounce.  At an event called “A Look Into The Minds Of Top Conversion Rate Optimization Experts”, participants Talia Wolf (Founder Conversioner), Peep Laja (CEOConversion XL), Karl Gilis (Co-Founder & Managing Partner AG Consult), and Ben Ratner (Growth Marketer Hubspot) went deep into explaining why CRO is not about ninja growth hacks.  You can read some hilarious comments about ithere.

Accordingly, when we asked our experts about the most common CRO mistakes made by eCommerce retailers, we received similar answers:

“I think there are some common strategic mistakes and tactical mistakes. From a strategic perspective, CRO is an iterative process and needs to be thought of as such. From heuristic research, to data analysis, to design, to user testing, to conversion copywriting and more; CRO encompasses a lot of activities that need to be thought of as a process. From a tactical perspective, there are all sorts of common mistakes: from not appreciating what the data is saying about conversion rate by device type, to not understanding how site speed impacts conversion, to ending tests too soon, or making incorrect conclusions about the statistical measures and their meaningfulness/applicability, and so on.” 

Judah Phillips

Founder and Principal at SmartCurrent


“The biggest mistakes I see are not building the right team and getting the resources in place to have a solid CRO process. Often there’s a blockage with development or design as this resource is usually shared and often over-stretched. This leads to a slow CRO process and that can cause a loss in confidence. If a retailer believes in CRO then build the right team and processes, consider where the blockages will be (often they’re the same blockages that the business has now). Look at the rest of the market and see how other companies deal with these issues, spend time with stakeholders and the team to come up with solutions.”

Al Mackin

Co-Founder and CEO at Formisimo


Takeaway: Companies should not adopt CRO trends at all. They should be adopting a structured optimization process.


Lesson #2: Segmentation And Personalization Are Key -When Done Right

According to Ometria “In eCommerce marketing, customer segmentation (sometimes known as ‘marketing segmentation’) refers to the process of using customer data to enable a clustering of customers with shared attributes so that communication can be customised to say different things in different ways.”

Why do you need to segment your target audience and deliver different messages to different types of customers? Because “people will tend to respond better and be greater value to your business when they feel their needs and interests are being specifically addressed in that customised communication.”

But this process needs to be well implemented or it might not deliver the desired results.

“I say if you can do anything this year it should be website personalization. Currently only around 1/3 of companies are actually investing in it and yet CMO magazine this year reported that 90% of users love personalization. Moreover, companies can expect at least a 15% lift in conversion rates as a result. 

Think about the last time you were on Amazon, or your Kindle and you were not only recommended something based on your interests but you were cross sold something that was relevant to your purchase (even if it’s just batteries to go with a toy you bought for your nephew). We seem to think that personalization is evasive to our customers, but we forget the most important thing about it – we’re customers… and we love it.”

Tiffany daSilva

Growth Marketer & Digital Marketing Consultant at DaSilva Consulting


Some experts pointed out that, while segmentation and personalization are not new concepts in CRO, eCommerce brands are either not doing it, or more often, not doing it properly.

While segmentation and personalization have been around for some time, I rarely see them being implemented properly. Companies often fail to validate their segments and/or their personalization strategies with a structured approach. But we’re beginning to see more personalization tools that include A/B testing; this should encourage brands to test and gain insights from their segments and personalized experiences, leading to more effective segmentation and personalization.”

Claire Vignon Keser

Director of Optimization Strategy at Wider Funnel


Takeaway: Implement segmentation and personalization with well structured tests, and gain insights by analyzing the results carefully.  An effective segmentation and personalization system will drive CRO and customer appreciation.


Lesson #3: Don’t Forget True Human-To-Human Connection

When we approached Steve Daar from Conversion for Good, he came back with a different, yet vital, aspect of CRO: Engage in true human-to-human connection and personalization.

“This may be a bit ‘counter’ what most people are saying is a top trend. Many experts are talking a ton about Marketing Automation as well as (automatic, algorithm generated) Personalization.

Those are certainly valuable and become more valuable the greater the size of your business. As more companies begin participating in those activities, it will open up a new opportunity for businesses to engage in true human-to-human connection and personalization. By having a team that cares deeply about the customer and is available (via any or all of phone, fast response email, or live chat) to help the customer make the best choice for themselves can differentiate themselves (and boost conversion rate significantly) from all the other businesses looking for ways to substitute humans with technology.”

Steve Daar

Chief Profit Hacker at Conversion for Good


Takeaway: As more companies begin to practice marketing automation and personalization, new opportunities will arise for businesses to engage in true human-to-human connection, which should not be undervalued.


Lesson #4: Look Beyond The Tool

This human approach extends to our interpretation of the results from CRO experimentation.  Karl Gilis form AGConsultadvised not to rely on the tools alone, but to use our brains to analyze the data. Real optimisation comes from an authentic understanding of what the the results mean. Then we can do it all again, except better.

“We all love tools such as Google Analytics, Hotjar, Formisimo, VWO… But these tools will seldom give you the answer. They show you where the problem is, but not the why. So you have to dig deeper with targeted surveys or moderated user testing.

Once you know the why, it’s much easier to create an alternative that will really make a difference. But to come up with that alternative, you need two things that are the most important assets for every optimizer: your brain and your experience. No tool can replace those.”

Karl Gilis

Co-Founder & Managing Partner at AG Consult


Takeaway: No tool can replace your brain or experience, so use them to understand the ‘how and why’ in order to maximise CRO.


Lesson #5: Implement A Strategy For Mobile Visitors

Brian Massey (Conversion Sciences) is loud and clear about how important mobile visitors are for your ecommerce, and why you need to take care of them with the right strategy:

“In 2016, the top trend is already shaking out: It’s mobile. I caught up with an executive at a company we’ve known for over a year. He said that his mobile traffic went from 15% of visits to 55% of visits as they optimized for searchers. The two strategies that businesses have taken are:

1) To ignore the mobile visitors since they convert at low rates and 

2) Redesign everything for responsive experience. 

Neither is a solid strategy for mobile visitors. In 2016, businesses are realizing that their mobile traffic is different. Mobile visitors do not want a smaller version of the desktop site, and they won’t buy on desktop if they can’t do research on their phones.

We AB test mobile visitors now for every client, whether they want us to or not. It’s where we get some of our biggest wins.”

Brian Massey

Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences


Takeaway: A smaller version of your desktop site is not enough. You need to provide a specific mobile experience for your mobile visitors, which facilitates conversion with an appropriate level of detail and navigability.


As we received the answers, we wanted to get more insights about the experience of the CRO experts with eCommerce brands. So we asked them what they see as the most common CRO mistakes made by eCommerce retailers, and what could they do to improve in these areas.


Mistake #1: Not Doing CRO At All

What can be worse than not having a CRO process in place? Not doing anything at all.

“The biggest mistake is actually NOT doing CRO. Think of CRO as optimizing the super-coolest high speed train to run at the most vicious speed possible. Well, too many E-tailers are still busy just laying down the tracks – the payments, the logistics, the customer service etc. Nothing wrong with that, BUT: the problem is that they can’t break out of the track-laying and make it onto speeding up the train. They are under-invested. The go through the motions of some basic AB-testing, but they lack the power of a full, consistent, all-on Optimization program.“

John Ekman

Chief Conversionista at Conversionista


Takeaway: The biggest mistake is NOT doing CRO.


Mistake #2: Having Too Many CTAs

We have all been there: You want to close the sale, but you also want to offer the buyer more products that he/she might be interested in and, while we are there, let’s ask them to share their purchase on social media to get more buzz.

These are all valid techniques, but in fact they might interfere with your main goal, to convert more!

“The most common mistake I see when I consult with eCommerce retailers is that they have far too many competing CTAs on product pages. On a product page you need to pick one primary action that you want the user to take, in 99% of cases this should be the ‘Add To Cart’/’Buy’ button. 

eCommerce retailers have often been swayed by many online case studies about how amazing it is to add social sharing icons to boost tracking, similar products to boost average basket and review forms to capture user feedback… Most of which then get implemented in a way that competes with the primary Call To Action rather than being implemented as secondary calls to action.”

David Shaw 

Author of How To Use Psychology To Boost Conversion Rates


Takeway: On a product page you need to pick one primary action that you want the user to take, in 99% of cases this should be the ‘Add To Cart’/’Buy’ button.


Mistake #3: Not Providing Guest Checkout

I know, you want to have the details of your buyer so you can apply segmentation, personalization, upselling and retargeting. But you can take care of that later, after the purchase.

“Not providing a guest checkout is a major barrier. I know we all want to have the logged in experience to get better data and to make ordering easier, but that isn’t inherently beneficial to the consumer. If you don’t provide guest checkout you might as well kiss your conversion rate goodbye. No one wakes up saying ‘'Oh I want a new account on some ecommerce site’ they say ‘'Oh I want ‘x’ product.’ If you create hurdles to getting the desired end result, you’re going to have a bad time.”

Justin Rondeau

Director of Optimization at Digitalmarketer


Takeaway: Minimize the barriers to purchase. Do not require users to create an account, do it for them.


Mistake #4: Poor Product Photos

We have said it before, and Richard Lazazzera, from A Better Lemonade Stand, thinks the same way: Product pictures are crucial for any eCommerce store, and they are anything but a barrier for the buyer. You can add as many as you want.

“When it comes to ecommerce, poor product photos, lack of photos, or photos that just don’t show the visitor what they’re looking for (detail, stitching, etc.) is still a huge contributor to poor conversion rates. It seems so many merchants still don’t understand that without being able to physically pick up the product and inspect it, all the visitor has is photos, a description, and hopefully some honest testimonials to make a purchase decision.” 

Richard Lazazzera

Founder of A Better Lemonade Stand


Takeaway: Without being able to physically touch the product, good product photos and visual UGC are vital to closing a sale.


Mistake #5: Don’t Forget The Long Term Effect

As a process, CRO can be frustrating when the results are not as expect. That’s why it’s always important to remember the long-term effects and stay cool during the journey.

“Many optimizers only focus on the short term effect. How can I get more email addresses? How can I get my visitors to buy more? There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you don’t forget about the long-term effects of your conversion efforts. 

For example, an aggressive overlay that can’t be closed will result in more mail addresses, but those people will probably never buy from you because their first contact was so negative. Likewise, it’s easy to lure visitors into buying something, but when they feel tricked they will not buy from you again.

So please don’t forget about long term customer satisfaction and customer retention.”

Karl Gilis

Co-Founder & Managing Partner at AG Consult


Takeaway: Don’t chase after short term results. Your goal should be a well implemented process that focuses on customer satisfaction and retention, to give  best long term results.


What About Integrating UGC To Drive Conversion?

We also asked John Ekman (Conversionista), Richard Lazazzera (A Better Lemonade Stand) and  Justin Rondeau (Digital Marketer), what they think about integrating User Generated Content (UGC), in the form of text and photos, to drive conversion for online retailers. Here’s what they said:

“It’s a no-brainer of course. Do it. But be smart. Many retailers use content and social marketing like we’ve always used marketing – to catch eyeballs, and then hope that traffic will somehow convert into sales by some black magic later on. Be sure to integrate your content with your shoppers’ journeys. And obsess about following up what content drives what results.”

John Ekman


“Any kind of user generated content helps build trust and as we know increased trust will lead to increased conversions. The use of stock photos and unauthentic imagery is a huge problem on sites. So I believe that using genuine photography that is user generated would be a great way to increase trust and aid conversions.”

 Justin Rondeau


“User generated content can be huge for brands for two reasons. It gives visitors images that the merchant might not have thought to take or been able to take, while at the same time providing powerful and legitimate social proof. ”

Richard Lazazzera

A Better Lemonade Stand

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