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6 Tips to improve conversion on your website forms

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 21 Dec, 2016
Essential Essential topic

How to boost CRO for non-ecommerce sites

When you think of Conversion Rate Optimisation and AB testing, what comes to mind first is probably ecommerce websites, product pages, baskets and checkouts.

But the scope of optimisation programs is much wider than this. We work with several brands, from car dealership groups to home improvement to charities, where the objective is to create a lead, usually via a form – the sale or activity happens in a branch, over the phone or in a customer’s home, rather than on the website.

The challenges when optimising these lead generation sites can be quite different to e-commerce. Here are some of the things we’ve learned over the years.

1. There is no such thing as ‘best practice’ in a lead generation websites

Arguably, there’s no such thing as best practice on any website, but, still, there are some conventions and expectations around checkouts and product pages that can give you a head start in optimising e-commerce sites. No such luck in lead generation – you really are designing for a specific business model and specific audiences with specific needs, and specific barriers to conversion. There is no best practice – you need to find the right conventions for your specific case.

2. You need to think about full journeys, not just websites

E-commerce websites tend to have relatively simple customer journeys – visitors tend to arrive from search, may consider multiple products, purchase, and then receive their product through the post a day or two later.


Lead generation sites play a different role in a customer’s purchase journey, higher up in the sales funnel. Users are still exploring possibilities, thinking about options. They won’t make their decision to purchase or act until something else has happened in the real world, days or even weeks after their visit to the website.

It’s crucial to understand the part the website plays in the wider customer journey, and the part it will play in ultimately converting a prospect to a customer. You need to understand website objective and wider business objectives. Spending time with stakeholders to understand this is critical, and building clear website KPIs is critical.

3. You need to get to know your customers, not just your users

Equally importantly, you really need to understand your users as potential customers – what content and information do they need from the website before they will be willing to take the next step in their journey?

So it’s important to understand what drives their overall purchase (and what might block it), as well as their relationship with the brand and sector. We do this through user research methods like interviews, surveys and ethnographic research, as well as user testing in the lab. We use all this research to create personas and customer journey maps.

4. Persuasion levers are different

Because users are at a different stage of their customer journey on lead generation sites, the persuasion levers you need to pull tend to be different.

On e-commerce sites, persuasion is quite mechanical: visitors need to trust that their purchase will arrive and that their credit card details won’t be stolen; and they need to be nudged into converting before they get distracted and go elsewhere.

On lead generation sites, however, you will need to tap into emotional triggers and blockers. User trust is built primarily at a brand experiential level. Conversion triggers in the interface should be spread differently through the user journey – pushing users to conversion points too early can sometimes confuse them and cause them to drop out in a way that you’re less likely to see in e-commerce.

5. Getting insights from Analytics can be more difficult

Building a funnel (i.e. reporting how users move through the stages of your website and where they drop out) is usually relatively simple in ecommerce sites, because the user journeys are simple – landing page to product to basket to checkout, for example. But in lead generation sites, particularly those with multiple forms of contact, can be more of a challenge. User journeys tend to be less direct and predictable, and users are more likely to make multiple return visits before converting.

This means it’s very important to track the right micro-actions in your web analytics, and that you understand and segment your visitors in the right way. Unlike some simple e-commerce sites, with lead generation sites you really need a highly skilled Analytics expert to set up tracking properly and then mine the data for insights. There’s no short cut.

6. Make sure you understand the value of your optimisation activities

Finally, the big one: if you can’t show the value of your CRO activities, then you won’t get buy-in from senior stakeholders, and you risk them losing interest (and cutting investment) in the whole programme.

With an e-commerce site, return on investment (ROI) is relatively easy to calculate, because you can actually see the extra sales your AB tests are creating. But for lead generation sites, it’s often more difficult to see how on-site changes translate into commercial gain.

Some businesses have all of this joined up in their CRM and reporting systems, with a single customer view across online and offline actions. But not all business have this level of data sophistication, it’s not uncommon at all for businesses to have no clear visibility of how their website connects up to ultimate sales.

And sometimes tracking a customer just isn’t possible. For example, there’s no way to track a website visitor who closes their laptop and drives to a real world outlet (showroom, car dealership, etc) – but the website has clearly played a part in that sale, and should be credited.

It’s important in these cases to agree an attribution model up front with your stakeholders. Even when a single customer view doesn’t exist, you can usually agree a commercial value on website actions, based on known metrics (prospect-to-sale conversion rate, for example) and through running surveys and other user research to quantify and benchmark different offline journeys.

In some ways, optimising a lead generation website is the same as any other site – you look for opportunities in the data, research your users, and run A/B tests. But the way you do this on lead generation sites is more subtle, and more complex. Hopefully these tips will help set you on the way to making a success of your lead generation CRO programme.

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