Joris Bryon, founder of Dexter Agency, sees a lot of ecommerce entrepreneurs taking the wrong approach to designing their online presence.
They base the design on personal preference instead of data, so instead of being able to make changes that continually boost response – and profits – they spin their wheels.
Another issue: too much money and effort is spent on generating traffic without a solid plan for what to do with potential customers once they get to your site. Again, most lost opportunity for sales and revenue.
Joris focuses on converting more of the traffic you already have, which is an untapped goldmine for many ecommerce businesses.
Tune in to find out…
- What to do with cold traffic
- How to reduce your conversion percentage… and increase profit
- The four ways you can increase your revenue
- Avoiding the web traffic plateau
- And many more valuable pointers that will help you turn your prospects into paying customers
Mentioned in this episode:
Steffen Horst: Welcome to The Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success Podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. Today we’re going to talk about conversion rate optimization.
Here to speak with me about the topic is Joris Bryon is the co-founder of Dexter Agency, a remote team of conversion optimization specialists. Dexter serves high-revenue ecommerce stores and helps them generate continuous growth. Joris is also the author of Kill Your Conversion Killers, an extensive guide to ecommerce conversion optimization. Joris, great to have you on the show.
Joris Bryon: Hey, Steffen, thank you very much. Happy to be here.
Steffen: Joris before we dive deep into what conversion rate optimization is and talk about specific ways ecommerce store owners can grow their revenue, how did you get started in advertising? What led you to this point in your career?
Joris: Yeah, it’s actually, well, it’s a short question but it’s a long answer. I’ve been in marketing since I graduated, which was so long ago, I don’t even remember. What it was 2001 or 2002. But anyway, I started working first in classical advertising agencies, right? Conversion optimization didn’t even exist when I graduated. So I worked a couple of years and in the traditional advertising industry. Worked for a couple of agencies, made a career there as well. And I kind of had it at one point.
I was fed up with the typical agency discussions with clients about make this blue, make this red, put this left, put this right, make it bigger, make it smaller. All those pointless and endless discussions where, that never really ended and was all, they were all about, you know, personal preferences and taste and nothing was really data-driven. Now I kind of had a very early midlife crisis, I’d say when I was 29. I was like really questioning everything and thinking okay, is this what I really want to do? And it turned out it wasn’t. I traveled for a couple of months after that, tried to sell the house.
Anyway, long story. I tell about that in my book as well and I don’t want this entire episode to talk just about my career and, but at some point, I went back to advertising and I quit again because I was really fed up with it. Anyway, at one point I started a video production company. A crazy move in hindsight. Not a really good move. I failed. But at the same time, I was looking for another way to make an income. And I discovered affiliate marketing, I set up a website. And then I was like, oh, now what? That led me to SEO because I had no idea how to drive traffic. So I learned everything I could about SEO, grew that blog as well.
And I discovered by doing that, and I really enjoyed this digital marketing thing. So I went to work for a digital marketing agency in Belgium, because I am from Belgium, originally. And yeah, I learned a lot about digital marketing there. And it’s also there that I discovered conversion optimization. That agency wasn’t really doing any conversion optimization at that time, but I discovered it reading a book and seeing pipeline in the conference.
And it Yeah, I was so enthusiastic about it that I was like, Okay, this is what I want to do. This is what I need to go for. And I read a bunch of books about conversion optimization, took an extensive course and then tried to work on a couple of those clients with the agency on their sites. But basically that is, just was pretty much focused on generating traffic. And I noticed that well that would be a dead end.
So I decided to venture out on my own. And that was about five years ago now, took on of a couple of projects, just for free to get Yeah, to get started and get some experience. And that basically grew into an agency and specialized in conversion optimization for ecommerce. So it’s been a hell of a ride now and been doing this for five years. And time has flown. That’s what led me to conversion optimization. Yeah,
Steffen: I see. Kind of, we’re obviously talking about conversion rate optimization and the name kind of gives it away. Digital marketing to me, that kind of aims at improving your conversion rate. But is that really all that conversion optimization is Joris? What is it for you?
How Joris Defines Conversion Optimization
Joris: Yeah, for me, it’s a shit term to start with. I hate the term conversion rate optimization. And I usually when I want to say something that people will recognize it’s going to be, I’m gonna say conversion optimization and not conversion rate optimization, because it people get the wrong idea of the term zero. The problem is, I think we’re stuck with the term CRO and we just have to live with it. But there’s a lot of misconceptions that go along with the term and I think it comes from, we had SEO, we had SEA, all those three-letter words.
And I guess at some point, people had to go like, okay, we have to give it to term what we do and say, oh, CRO, and so conversion rate optimization, but the problem is that people get too hung up on the conversion rate, whereas conversion rate isn’t the most important metric. What is the most important metric is your revenue and your profit and especially for us because we work for ecommerce stores. And so for them, it’s about revenue and profit. It’s a conversion rate is a means to an end. But it shouldn’t be the end in itself. And there’s a lot of misunderstanding about it.
And even, I mean, even stuff that we do. So optimizing for conversions can actually lower your conversion rate. Let me illustrate that a little bit with an example because this might sound weird. So let’s say you grow your conversion rate from 1% to 1.5%. All of a sudden, you may have had a Google Ads campaign that you had to switch off because it wasn’t profitable. Now, because your site is performing better, all of a sudden, you can switch that campaign back on and yes, it’s going to convert not as good as the other campaigns that you have running.
But if it’s still profitable, it makes sense to run that campaign and it will lower your overall conversion rate. But that’s not really a problem. If at the end of the day, you’re making more money and another profit. So conversion rate in itself is just a number. But the problem is people forget to see it in the entire context of their digital marketing. So that’s why I’m not a fan of the term conversion rate optimization. And when Well, I typically call CRO continuous revenue optimization, because I think it explains a lot better what we do, then the term conversion rate optimization. So yeah, that’s my take on it.
Steffen: But what you just said continuous revenue optimization, that kind of leads to other areas. So it’s more focused on how can you improve revenue and improving revenue as an ecommerce store, from my perspective, there are several areas you could do that, right? You could try to increase the rebuy rate and increase the average order value. Just to mention two things. What other things are there that can impact that continuous or increased revenue from your perspective?
The Four Levers to Pull to Increase Your Revenue
Joris: So yeah, that’s a great question. And the thing is if you really think about it, and let’s say you run an online store, there’s only four things you can work on to increase your revenue. There’s traffic, there’s average order value, there’s your conversion rate, and there’s your frequency. So your purchase frequency, so making sure people come back to buy more from you. There is no other way to grow. And of course, there are several tactics to grow.
But those are the four levers and what I see is that most people focus on just traffic and forget about the other three levers, even though they have a vague concept, an idea of, yeah, I know I should be doing something about it. Most of them are addicted to traffic because that’s how they grew in the beginning. Usually, they had some quick wins by let’s say setting up Google Shopping campaign, and then some Google search campaigns and whatnot and they grow quickly.
And at some point that becomes very difficult to scale up because you kind of tapped out on all the potential channels there are that can bring you some relevant traffic, and relevant traffic is traffic that is ready to buy from you. So then you have to find and work on the other ways. And when it comes down to it, by the time people think of those other ways, they’re so addicted to the traffic part that if they are very hesitant to work on those areas, they always think like oh, more traffic is going to solve my problem.
But at the end of the day, what I typically ask clients and prospects is like, Okay, do you want more traffic or do you want more revenue? And everyone is going to see more revenue, of course. But somehow in their minds, its revenue equals traffic and it’s not true. Revenue equals traffic times average order value times conversion rates times frequency. That’s how, that’s the only formula to grow your revenue.
Steffen: I mean, you know, from my point of view, once you’ve kind of optimized your websites, once you have optimized your processes, your user experience and everything that has an impact and altered off traffic on your revenue, then increasing traffic will just generate more to the bottom line. So I mean for people, what I can see there’s kind of two scenarios. You either are VC funded or funded in general and have, you have a lot of money that you can spend. But at some point, you kind of hitting a plateau, right?
There’s not much more traffic you can buy before your campaigns kind of go downhill. On the other hand, you have someone who is limited by funds, and they basically are able to spend a certain amount but they want to, they want that money to work harder. So therefore, you know, they should be looking for ways to increase the effectiveness of their activities. So probably what I want to say is, money doesn’t solve the problem. You can actually spend less and get more out of your activities if you look into conversion optimization not to put a great word in there.
Joris: Yeah, absolutely. We have clients we work for and still work for, where, when we can compare year over year, sometimes they have like 20 to 30% less traffic, but they have 50 to 60% more revenue, which means that they are spending less on traffic, but they’re still making a lot more money. You just, every dollar you put in you have to make sure that you get the most out of it. And you don’t do that by dumping traffic on the site. You have to work with it. And I think one of the mistakes a lot of people make is they think that all traffic is created equal.
They think that anyone that lands on the site will convert equally well, which is absolutely not true because it really depends on the intent that people have when they land on the site. I mean, a Google Shopping can be people will have a lot higher intent to buy properly. A brand name campaign on Google Ads as well, people have a higher purchase intent. But on the other hand, if you run some prospecting campaign on Facebook, those people are probably not going to buy right away.
That’s cold traffic that you have to warm up and you have to have systems in place to make the most out of that traffic as well but it’s a totally different approach. It’s not a one on one. It’s not they land on a site and they convert. No, they land on the site. Well they convert, that might be another conversion and conversion could be that you can add them on your email list and then warm them up to welcome series for instance. So yeah, you kind of have to have those systems in place to make the most out of every visit.
Steffen: I mean, there’s so many activities that an ecommerce owner can do to improve the digital marketing outcome. Why should they pay a lot of attention to conversion optimization in addition to what we just talked about?
Joris: Yes, it really depends on where they’re at in their growth, I guess. I think in the beginning, if you don’t have that much traffic, you just need to, well, you need some traffic at first, I totally get that, but doesn’t hurt to have someone look at your side and try to make it a little bit better with some shortcuts. It’s not always perfect, but it can help. So in the beginning, it’s just about, okay, let’s make sure we have the basics in place. When you get further and further, it becomes really important to do conversion optimization also in order not to lose any money. And I think that’s one of the misconceptions as well. A lot of people think like okay, conversion optimization equals AB testing and AB testing is all about finding winners.
Now, first off conversion optimization does not equal AB testing. AB testing is part of conversion optimization but you can do conversion optimization without AB testing. But the point I want to make here is, when you do AB testing, it’s not just about winners. It’s also about preventing losers. It’s about making good business decisions, because typically a lot of site owners, they will just go ahead and make some changes to the site. Now, if you don’t have traffic to test, there’s no other way. You have to do some research maybe, and try to make sure you, make sure that you have some foundation to base your decision on.
But if you’re bigger than seemingly small changes can have a big impact on your revenue. And it can be for the better but it could also be for the worse. And so you cannot afford not to test at that point and not to do conversion optimization. Let me give you one example. One of our clients who started working with us, I believe it’s been, I don’t know, a year, two years ago, they were talking to several agencies, they decided to work with us. And one of the very first things that client mentioned in the meeting was, Okay, so we talked to that other agency. We don’t have a USP bar on our side now.
Some people call it USP bar, other people call it benefits bar. That’s what you typically see on an ecommerce site. A white bar that says like free shipping, free returns, that kind of stuff. It’s what they call a best practice. And so that agency had told them like, just go ahead. Implement it. It’s a no brainer, just do it. So the client signs up with us and he mentioned that, and he’s like, okay, let’s just implement that because our agency told us to. I was like no, we’re not going to do that. Let’s test it because I’m not sure it’s going to win.
Yes, there’s, it’s likely it’s going to win, but I’m not sure. So we tested it. And turned out that was a gigantic loser on their site. So even so what we do when we do an AB test, we look at what the potential impact on your yearly revenue. Now, if they had gone ahead and implemented the USP bar or a benefits bar on their site without testing, it would have cost him a million dollars a year, which is an insane amount of money. So that’s why I say you can actually not afford not to test, because you will be implementing stuff on your site that might hurt your revenue, and you’re probably not even aware of it.
So you if you want to make the right decisions, you have to do conversion optimization, you have to do AB testing because otherwise, you might end up like a client of ours, who, well, fortunately enough, we tested it and we prevented him from making that mistake, but it would have been a very costly mistake. That’s what I would say is a very good reason to do conversion optimization. To make the really right business decisions and not to lose any money.
Steffen: I mean, in order to make changes to decide to improve the process, it sounds like it will take a lot of time for the web dev team of an ecommerce store to do all that, to implement the test. What tools can they use to make it easy on them and more painless?
Great Tools For Painless, User Friendly AB Testing
Joris: Yeah, so if we’re talking about AB testing, it depends a bit on what kind of test you want to set up. But we use an AB testing tool called Convert, and what it does, we put a typical snippet on the site of our clients and then we can without any interference of the development team of a client, we can set up the AB test within the tool.
Sometimes we need them to add some kind of attribute or an event just to make that particular test work. But like a 70 or 80% of the cases, we can just go ahead without the development team of the client, which is an important thing because usually, that’s where the bottleneck is. So I would definitely, if you want to start AB testing, use one of those specialized tools. If you’re just starting out, you could start Google Optimize for free. But if you want something a little bit better than I think Convert. I’m a big fan of Convert. We’ve been working with them for a long time now.
We used visual website optimizers before but we had an issue with flickering or blinking as they call it as well which means that you see the A variation for a second before the B variation is loaded. So it throws people off because of their goal. What’s happening here? And so that was a big issue. We’ve never had an issue with Convert. And Convert is really affordable. And I should probably ask them a commission to mention that so many times. But there are other tools out there that do AB testing as well. There’s Optimizely if you have way too much money to spend. So yeah, here is one of the tools if you want to get started, absolutely.
Steffen: With a tool like Convert, how does it work? Are there manual changes required outside of the tool? Or is the tool the interface that enables to set up the AB tests?
Steffen: A second ago, you said that AB tests are just one part of conversion optimization. What are the other parts that can help to improve revenue and conversions?
Joris: Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s a question that I get a lot of people are like, okay, I cannot do conversion optimization because I don’t have the traffic to do AB testing. And actually, that’s not true. You don’t even need a single visitor if you want to do conversion optimization, because you can do some forms of research, conversion research. And there are several ways to do conversion research. And I talk about all of them in the book, well most of them in the book as well. But there’s, even if you don’t have much traffic, you could do some forms of research. There’s a lot of people think like, okay, research is just looking at Google Analytics.
And yes, Google Analytics is an interesting tool. But what Google Analytics does is it will give you the answer to the question like, okay, where do I have problems on my site? Or where am I losing money on the site? But as soon as you start asking the question why, it’s very hard to say that with Analytics. And that’s where qualitative tools can come in. So there’s, you have to make a distinction between quantitative research and qualitative research, and qualitative research could actually give you good results as well if you don’t have much traffic.
So the qualitative research like Google Analytics, but also like form analysis, or click maps, or scroll maps, you need traffic for that. You need data for that. Now, if you have, let’s say, 100 visitors a week, you will not be able to do that quantitative analysis, but you can do qualitative analysis, like doing an expert review, which basically means going through the site and try to uncover a potential problem. But you can also do one of the things that I think it’s essential that anyone does, is user testing.
So what you do is you select a couple of testers and you ask them to fulfill some assignments on your site. And they have to comment out loud and you watch them, well, basically struggle sometimes through your site. And that will, yeah, that will reveal a lot of possible problems on your site. So user testing is one of the things that even I mean, even if you have no traffic on your site you can do user testing, and it will give you a lot of information. So if you circling back to what can you do, while conversion optimization doesn’t equal AB testing.
Conversion optimization for me, it always starts with the data. And if you have enough traffic then you can move on to AB testing. If you don’t then just do good research and implement stuff and so that works for, it’s not going to be as perfect as AB testing. But hey, it’s all you have, and it’s better than not doing anything at all. So then do good research, and that could be quantitative or qualitative. And that will get you a lot of insights.
Steffen: How much data does an ecommerce store have to have in order to start AB testing before they can move from the other approach to AB testing?
Practical Data Amounts Needed to Begin AB Testing
Joris: Yeah, that’s an excellent question. We typically are cut off is we say like, Okay, if you don’t have 1000 transactions a month, then you probably shouldn’t be doing AB testing, because it will take too long before your tests are finished and you will not move the needle quickly enough. So 1000 transactions a month, that’s typically the moment where Yeah, we say like, okay, now it’s interesting to start AB.
Steffen: So you mentioned that if you do not have 1000 transactions a month, that It might take too long to get a result out of your AB tests or to make a decision on whether A or B is better. How long should conversion rate, or conversion optimization experiments run in general? What do you recommend?
Joris: Yeah, we recommend to first of all, look at the number of transactions. So an absolute minimum should be around 250 transactions per variation. If we can, we prefer shooting for 350 or even 400 transactions per variation. So that’s one indication. Another indication is how long the cycle is. So typically, let’s say like a Thursday night. A Thursday night conversion rate is going to be different than on a Sunday night. If you run a test, you want to make sure you cover all the, Yeah, all the ups and downs of an entire week.
So if after one week, you don’t have let’s say, you have tonight 200 transactions, so you need maybe one or two more days to get to 250 transactions, well then don’t cut off after nine or 10 days. Cut off after 14 days. So always try to take an entire cycle because one variation might appeal more or be more relevant to people on Thursday night and people on a Sunday night because they have different intent.
They have, Yeah, a different mindset, a different urgency, maybe it really depends on the site, of course. And so yeah, that those I mean, there are more rules of thumb, but I would say go for at least 250. If you can, 350 or 400 transactions per variation, and always do with any cycles of one week. Now if you need to run a test a lot longer than six weeks, yeah, five to six weeks, usually that’s our cutoff point, then it’s probably not a good idea to set up a test because that takes too long. So most of our tests run between two to four weeks.
Steffen: How many elements do you test in one test? And can you run several tests parallel? Or do you have to focus on one specific task at a time?
Joris: Yeah. So there are a lot of things that you can test at the same time if they are in different page types. So the example of an online store, you can run a test on category pages. And then I’m not talking about just one category page. But what you do is you test on a template level, so you have a template level for the category pages. So a test will run on all category pages. Same thing for product page, you don’t run a test on just one product page, but on all product pages at the same time. So typically could have a test running on each page type at the same time.
So which easily adds up to say, like five to seven tests that you can have running at the same time. Now, what’s important is that when you run a test on one, but you have a test, let’s say on a product page, you can make too many changes at the same time. And then your tests, while the result may not be moving the needle, but maybe one of the elements that you changed if you had just tested at separately, it may have moved the needle and the other one may have done that effect of that positive effect.
But because the other element that you changed had a negative impact on the conversation. So it’s really to isolate elements, or at least isolate a hypothesis. If you say like, Okay, this page is not clear at all, there’s several clarity issues, then you can work around that one hypothesis and make a few changes but don’t mix a lot of things up. Try to stick with that same hypothesis, and that’s going to be a lot more trustworthy, those results.
Steffen: So we talked about tests, so what elements can be tested or what can be tested in order to move the needle when it comes to revenue for your ecommerce store?
Joris: it could be anything. I think that the most important thing is that try to I mean, you can have good ideas by just looking at a site and, but typically, if you want to have good results in the long run with AB testing, it’s better to base it on research. So start with good research, and then you will have a lot better tests. And that research is basically going to review what you should be testing. So that could be anything. Sometimes it’s some microcopy. Microcopy is a short copy that is within context, and that makes something really clear.
Or sometimes something really unclear. So let’s imagine a checkout form, where you get an error message and the error message is very confusing and you don’t really know what’s happening here. Well, if you change that error message and make it a lot clearer, that’s a small test. It’s just the microcopy. Sometimes it’s not going to be needed to test. Of course, if it’s an obvious problem, then you can just fix it. But what I mean is, it could be something very small could be something big. It could be something functional. It could be copy, it could be images, but start with the research and the research is going to reveal what you need to be testing.
And that is really important to keep in mind to not just start testing, but start with the research because even if you have 1000 transactions, and you’re like, oh, let’s set up a few AB tests, well, let’s do a spaghetti against the wall method that’s just throwing spaghetti against a wall and hoping that it sticks. And you may have a lucky shot in the beginning, but you’re, a good test side is will run up or dry up really quickly.
Now, if you did a bit of research about it, and the research revealed that if you do the spaghetti against the wall method, what happens is that only one out of seven AB tests will actually get you a significant result. Now we’re talking about setting up seven AB tests, which takes time. Six out of those seven don’t even move the needle.
I mean A version B version, exactly the same result. The seventh test is a significant result. Now that means that there’s a significant difference between A and B and it’s about difference. It doesn’t even say that it’s going to be a significant winner. So it could also be a significant loser. Now, what we see when we follow our method, which is based on data, we have one out of every three tests that we set up is actually a significant winner.
So I think that makes it clear why the data is so important because yes, you will spend some time upfront doing the research, but you will make up for that really quickly because you will set up three tests. You will have a significant winner and the other method is just not really a method is just setting up some random AB tests. Well, it will take you seven tests to just have a significant result and can be a significant loser as well.
Steffen: I guess, I mean, the testing, or to the research better, is really important because every site is different, right? Every site faces different challenges. So you cannot just apply kind of a standard general approach. It’s like this test and this test and this test worked for the last client, let’s just use that one and see what it does for this new client, right? So therefore, the research is really there to identify what can be improved for a specific client or for a specific website in order to move the needle?
Every Site Requires an Individualized Approach
Joris: Yeah, absolutely. I’m really happy you bring that up because a lot of people think that, or don’t understand that every site is different and every site has its own conversion killers, and you have to understand and know what those conversion killers are before you go ahead and try to kill them. And that’s something that’s a concept that I know a lot of people have a hard time wrapping their heads around.
But let me illustrate you with the illustrators with an example. And so a while ago, one of our clients came to us, and he said, like, Hey, I read this case study, and it’s a case study where they ran an AB test and they removed the currency symbol on the category pages and product pages. Now, fortunately enough that client understood that he shouldn’t just go ahead and implement that because he read the case study and that it would work for them as well. He knew that it might be a chance that it wouldn’t work on his site. So we’re like, Okay, interesting.
Let’s test it. Okay, it wasn’t really based on research, but it was an easy test, and the client wanted to test it. So we tested it. Now what turned out is that the result was that there was a 94% probability, small, very, very small change would make an impact of 680,000 euros per year on their revenue which is an insane amount of money for such a small team. But so, he had read the case study, we tested it, it worked for them. Now, we could have gone ahead and called all our clients and say like, hey, this thing works, let’s just implement it.
But we didn’t. We tested it on a couple more sites. And we tested on a second site there was a 60 40% probability. So there was not really a significant difference between A and B. So there it didn’t really work, but it wouldn’t have, well, costed them money to implement it. We did another, tried it on a third site and there was a 98.2% probability of almost losing half a million euros per year. And so we had a client had a very high probability of making a lot more money. This client had a very high probability of losing a lot of money with the exact same test. And we tried it again on another site and there they had a 98% probability of also losing a lot of money.
So the exact same test, exact same kind of sites because it’s all about ecommerce, its exact same pages where we tested it on still very different results. So that’s also why I warn a lot of people like okay, stay away from case studies if you don’t know what you’re doing because a case study often triggers a reaction from the readers like oh, let’s just implement it. But you can, might be implementing stuff that is actually costing your money and it’s hurting your revenue. So yeah, just keep in mind that every site is different. And you really have to understand, you know what the conversion killers are on your site before you try and kill them.
Steffen: Joris, thank you for joining me on the Performance Delivered Podcast and sharing your knowledge about conversion optimization. Joris, if people want to find out more about you and/or your company, how can they get in touch?
Joris: Yeah, so our site is dexter.agency. If you are interested in reading the book, I suggest you go to dexter.agency/book. And yeah, on LinkedIn, find me on LinkedIn. Just put in Joris Bryon and then yeah, just I think there’s one other guy called like me, but he doesn’t work for Dexter Agency so it should be an easy pick.
Steffen: Thanks, everyone for listening. If you liked The Performance Delivered Podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. In our next episode, which will be released next week, you and I will dive deeper into conversion rate optimization and provide hands-on suggestions and ideas on how to develop tests that grow the bottom line without necessarily having to spend a single additional dollar.