A conversion is nothing more than a transition from one state of being to another. You can convert from one religion to another. You can convert from one career to another. You can convert a cold call into a hot lead. You can convert a lead into a sale. It’s a change from one thing to another. The goal is to transition anonymous people (your web traffic) into something more useful to you (leads, customers, or raving fans).
This idea is nothing new. Technically, conversion rates have been around for a long time. Think back 50 years to the days when door-to-door salesmen were common. They carefully monitored how many people they talked to (their traffic) and how many of those people bought an encyclopedia set or vacuum cleaner (their conversion). The ratio of how many people bought versus how many people they spoke to was their conversion rate.
Most successful business people are continually optimizing for better conversions, whether they know it or not. It’s how they improve and grow. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) brings the same idea of improving conversions into the modern world of the online marketplace. But unlike the old days when everything relied on trial and error, we now have the technology to run tests and know for sure whether one sales pitch is working better than another. Sometimes we can have a winner in real time or a matter of minutes.
They do have overlap, but it’s a dangerous notion to think they are the same. It’s easy to get tripped up by this and miss out on major opportunities.
The goal for usability is to make things easier for the visitor. The goal for CRO is to get more conversions and therefore more money. They sound the same, but they’re not. When you make things easier for the user, you can sometimes hurt your bottom line. We’ve tested strategies where we made things harder for the user and conversion rates went way up.
About 80 percent of CRO overlaps with usability. But that 20 percent on either side of the overlap makes a huge difference. When people approach CRO like usability, they spend all their time focused on smoothing out the obstacles in the visitor experience. They try to make it as easy as possible for the visitor to buy.
Although that might lead to higher conversions, it may not lead to the most profitable conversions.