If you've ever had a curious conversion rate drop on your website, you know that it can be difficult to identify the issue. Is this just a random seasonality thing or is there something more insidious at play here?
We've found it can be helpful to have a checklist we ask our clients when investigating a Conversion Rate (CVR) drop, and I'd like to share that with you. Rule these things out and your well on your way to figuring out what the actual issue is... or at least you've successfully ruled out what is not the cause!
Oh, and one more brief caveat, I think it's really helpful to understand the difference conceptually between Click-Through-Rate (CTR) and Conversion Rate (CVR)drops. Simplistically (things are always more complex than this), CTR measures the efficacy that a marketing or advertising message resonates with an audience when that involves a call to action to proceed to the website. If CTR drops, it's good to look at your ad or audience or placement itself.
CVR is a different animal, because it reveals to you the percentage of people who visit your website, who then do, or do not, complete the checkout process and purchase from you. While it is possible for CVR to be impacted by marketing, we find that the problem most likely does not come from your advertising channel, unless something crucial changed in your targeting within that channel.
1) Did a Sale Recently End or Begin?
Promotional events change user behavior, and you will likely see CVR rise during a promotional event (margin is a different story, so be careful about that). This means if a promotional event has just ended, you may simply be seeing a natural decrease in Conversion Rate on your site and in your campaigns.
2) Is This Just Normal Seasonal Behavior?
It's important to analyze previous year(s) performance to determine whether you are simply entering a seasonally lower time of your business. Are fewer customers shopping for your products than before simply because of normal search behavior? Another way to investigate search interest changes is by utilizing Google Trends to monitor changes over time.
3) Was There a Recent Price Change?
I have a love/hate relationship with price changes in client accounts. I know, I know. They can create magical profit, which we all love! They can also harm conversion rate by causing fewer people to purchase. This rides on a number of factors such as % of price change vs consumer interest or desire in the product and what price change most significantly harms CVR. I'll let smarter maths people figure that out in your Finance team, but for the sake of analysis in this post: be aware that price changes can impact CVR changes so have that in mind during your analysis.
4) Were There Any Changes to the Website of ANY Sort?
This is one of the questions we ask pretty quickly when digging into a change in consumer buying behavior on the website. Changes on a website can have two key effects:
- They can impact user behavior by changing the UI.
- They can accidentally disrupt conversion code or analytics code tracking.
How do you know which is why? Well, this is why it's helpful to literally ask the open-ended question "were there any changes to the website, front or backend?" and then determine what could have happened with the reply. No change is too small, either. We've had situations where a client noted "well nothing changed... except this one carousel" or whatever it may be, and our suspicions lead us to believe that element that was moved or removed was actually influential.
5) Is Your Conversion Code Still Tracking Correctly?
Sometimes CVR changes in an advertising channel or analytics are not actual consumer buying changes, they're literally just a conversion reporting issue. One of the things you can do is to first verify that your sales are still matching based on Analytics data and in your actual store tracked data. If your store data and analytics data are both reflecting a drop in sales, then something bigger than tracking is likely the culprit. If your store data shows sales are as strong as ever, but your analytics platform has seen an overnight drop... then a conversion tracking issue is almost defintely the culprit (see Question 4!).
6) Is This Change Replicated Across All Channels, or Only One?
This is another one we look at pretty quickly. You can identify channel behavior quickly in your Analytics platform, and what I like to do is look at a very simplistic pre/post event timeframe. Let's say the CVR drop happened 6 days ago, so set your timeframe to the past 6 days and compare that with a previous period of 6 days. What you are looking for is a strong variation in CVR change between channels. Is the CVR drop obviously limited to a single channel such as Google Ads or Facebook? Those are good indications that the specific conversion tag for those channels may have been dropped somehow from your checkout pages. Or, at the very least you can dig in to determine if targeting in your ad campaigns caused a shift... or something. But it's very helpful in determining whether this is a bigger issue, or just something to limited to a specific channel.
7) Did Other "Hidden" Costs Such as Shipping Rates Change?
This is a tricky one because you really have to start digging, however a customer often evaluates all costs as part of their purchase decision (especially for more impulse-buy products), and if your carrier rates have recently increased for shipping, it could be it is discouraging some people from purchasing. After all, why would you want to buy a $12 hand lotion that costs $12 to ship when a similar "looking" hand lotion on Amazon is $14 with free shipping? Don't @ me cause I know your hand lotion is so much better, but I'm talking about the mind of the consumer here.
8) Does The Site Speed Load Slowly, Or Has the Speed Changed Recently?
Site speed is an increasingly important factor, again, especially with more impulse-buy products. Consumers may have seen your Instagram ad, thought "what the heck I'll give this a try" while they're looking through reels for hour #2 in bed... but if they can't access your site, they might not purchase. Do consumers have that short of an attention span?? Are they that fickle? Yes. Yes they are. According to Shopify, just shortening your load time by 1 second can result in a 27% increase in mobile conversions. Yowza.
9) Have Competitor Prices Changed Recently?
This is another one you have to dig for, but can impact your conversion rates in a big way. Competitors lowering prices can cause unfortunate CVR dips because we have found this behavior often doesn't actually reduce traffic and clicks from ads, but does lower CVR. This has the unfortunate result of costing you money to continue to send curious people to the site, who then bounce and head to your competition. Ouch! You're in charge of your own pricing of course, but it's helpful to at least know if this is the cause so you can have a difficult margin conversation if that is the case. One more thought on this one, a retailer breaking MAP on a specific product can really damage your CVR since they might be trying to sneak in a lot of sales quickly before they get the cease and desist from the manufacturer, so be aware of that (and your MAP agreements!).
10) Is there a Difference in Conversion Rates Between New and Returning?
11) Bonus: Is A Key Product(s) Out of Stock?
Thanks to Matinique on LinkedIn for this reminder! Make sure to ensure all of your core products are actually still in stock, or that there are no issues with them. Checking into which SKUs have actually decreased can even help lead you to other insights with more digging, such as whether competitor pricing changed in the same auctions as your core products.