What Is a Conversion Audit? Crucial Data for E-Commerce CRO

Even the most successful e-commerce sites have issues causing some people not to buy – and fixing those issues is directly tied to increased revenue. A conversion audit is an essential first step towards fixing those problems with actionable data.

What is a Conversion Audit?

A conversion audit, also called a CRO audit, is a wide-ranging examination of the customer’s journey on your website. The purpose of a conversion audit is to identify UX or technical issues that could be dragging down your conversion rate.

At the end of your audit, you’ll have a laser-focused list of improvements you can make to optimize your e-commerce conversion rate. In this article, we’ll talk about what happens during a conversion audit, why you should consider conducting one, and the steps for auditing your site.

What Happens During a Conversion Audit?

During a conversion audit, you collect data that helps identify problems and prioritize what needs to be fixed on your site. Although the audit itself won’t lead to an increase in sales, it allows you to make a “to-do” list with short- and long-term prioritized tasks that can help you improve conversions.

There is a strong correlation between UX performance and conversion rates, meaning most conversion issues are related to bad UX design. Incrementally improving user experience is one of the best ways to improve conversion rate, so take that into consideration when performing your audit.

A comprehensive conversion audit should analyze the entire customer experience, look at UX best practices, and compare with benchmarking from similar sites.

What Are the Benefits of a Conversion Audit?

The main benefit of performing a CRO audit is knowing what’s “broken” before attempting to “fix” conversions with a focused strategy.

Although improving conversions and increasing sales are the primary goals, there are many other reasons to consider performing an audit.

Conducting a conversion rate optimization audit can also help you:

  • Increase customer satisfaction by improving user experience
  • Increase CLV (customer lifetime value) and retention
  • Empower data-driven design changes
  • Lower your customer acquisition and handling costs
  • Reduce development costs by having a clear strategy for improvement

How to Perform a Conversion Audit

Because there’s no “one-size-fits-all” conversion optimization strategy, it's crucial to create a customized CRO plan based on what will work for your site and your customers.

We’ve created this step-by-step guide for analyzing your e-commerce site for conversion leaks, and identifying the areas on your site to prioritize for CRO.

Step 1: Establish Goals and Parameters

Before you begin your audit, make sure you have a clear understanding of what you hope to achieve. Your objectives will be unique, based on your current website performance, business goals, and resources.

Appropriate goals for a conversion audit might be:

  • Reducing shopping cart abandonment
  • Increasing opt-ins on a landing page for a lead magnet
  • Increasing click-throughs from certain pages on your site (like category pages)
  • Reducing bounce rate from the home page
  • Increasing average order value

Your UX analysis and assessment should cover your website's desktop and mobile versions. The audit might include evaluation of the:

  • Homepage
  • Category navigation
  • On-site search
  • Product detail pages
  • Product lists and filtering
  • Checkout process
  • “My account” section

Before you begin gathering data, establish your baseline metrics. Make a note of how your website is performing today, so you can evaluate whether the changes you make based on the audit improve your conversions.

Step 2: Gather Data

In this step, you will compile a list of the potential conversion problems on your site.

To gather data, conduct usability testing to help identify where customers experience problems when using your site. “Speak aloud” testing — where you watch a user complete assigned tasks and talk through what they’re thinking as they do it — can help identify many UX and conversion problems on your site.

Existing UX research is another ideal resource for e-commerce conversion audits. Evaluating your site against a distinct set of UX and conversion guidelines can be highly effective, particularly if you compare it to similar sites in your market.

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In addition, dig into your analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, to uncover drop-off points in the customer journey. Are there particular pages that have a high bounce rate? Is there a specific product page type that leads to more conversions? Use the quantitative data you discover to help pinpoint any additional issues and add them to your list.

Step 3: Prioritize Findings

Now it’s time to analyze your findings and determine the biggest opportunities for conversion improvements.

Based on your list of pain points and potential problems from Step 2, make a prioritized list of the things you want to test on your site.

Again, this is where UX and conversion guidelines are enormously helpful.

For example, if you know people are abandoning your checkout page at a certain spot, you can look at research-backed checkout UX recommendations for potential solutions. This allows you to turn your testing data into hypotheses that you can split-test on your site.

Step 4: Implement Changes to Improve Conversion Rates

Once you’ve identified a hypothesis, decide on the metrics you will observe to evaluate success. Then decide what change to make to your site based on your hypothesis. Watch visitor behavior — whether in person, during usability testing, or by evaluating your analytics to see if conversions improve.

Choose one area at a time to investigate further, and don’t make too many changes at once. If you try to change everything in a scattershot approach, it will be difficult to tell what’s making a difference in your conversion rate and what’s not.

Conversion rate optimization isn’t a random process — it’s a repeatable, systematic set of steps that will get you results.

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What to Look For During an E-Commerce Conversion Audit

A better user experience (UX) leads to better conversions, so here are a few examples of things to look for during your audit, based on best practices from Baymard’s extensive usability research.

Homepage

The customer journey begins on the homepage for many users, and it’s an important navigational anchor. During a conversion audit, look for elements of the homepage that may be influencing visitors away from exploring your site and looking for products.

Our latest benchmarking data shows a few common pitfalls that get in the way of customers navigating further into the site and looking for products.

Here are a few examples of homepage UX to consider during your audit:

  • **Does your homepage feature enough product types? **With an overly narrow selection of products displayed on the homepage, users may misinterpret the type of site or underestimate the range of available products.
  • Does the design of your homepage create a good first impression? Sites with high-quality design and inspiring custom photography perform better than sites with bland design and stock photography.
  • **Are the ads overly flashy? **Users dislike distracting ads, pop-ups, and overlay dialogs, especially ones located in a prime content area on the homepage. This is particularly true on mobile devices.
  • **Is the image carousel implemented poorly? **Using a carousel on the homepage can be a powerful way to promote offers, and users generally like the large imagery. But poor implementations that harm conversions are common.

Categories

Issues with categorization are a direct cause of site abandonment and an important area to consider in a conversion audit. Here are examples of specific issues uncovered in our usability studies:

  • **Are your products overcategorized? **One of the most severe issues we observed in our testing of e-commerce sites was over-categorization. Overcategorization can “silo” users into overly narrow category scopes, which will potentially cause them to overlook the entire selection of a broader product type.
  • **Does your site have intermediary category pages? **When users navigate your site via categories, there are two main types of pages to display: The traditional product list pages, or more custom intermediary category pages that encourage further navigation. For most users, intermediary category pages provide a better user experience (and, therefore, a better conversion rate).

On-Site Search

Understanding how users search for products on your site is another key area to include in your conversion audit. Here are a few examples of search issues that can prevent users from finding products on your site:

  • **Is the search field prominently placed and highly visible? **The search field should be prominently presented on the homepage, so users can start quickly and easily when they land on your site. Every customer should be able to find the search field with ease from the start of their browsing session on your site.
  • Are the essential query types supported? During our usability studies, we noted that participants relied heavily on search queries that included a product type, theme, or feature. Many e-commerce sites provide weak support for several essential e-commerce search query types, like exact, product type, symptoms, and non-product searches.

Product Lists and Filtering

Filters can turn an overwhelming and unmanageable product list into a more focused one, increasing the likelihood of a user finding a suitable product to purchase. Here are some examples of how your product list design and filtering options may be negatively affecting conversions:

  • **Do users understand the filtering options? **When filters are confusing, it diminishes the user experience and lowers conversions. Reduce filter ambiguity by:
    • Avoiding industry jargon and instead using common terms users are more likely to understand (e.g., “temperature” instead of “season rating”)
    • Offering an explanation in a tooltip for industry-specific or ambiguous filters that are unavoidable
    • Providing thumbnail image depictions of filters, so users can visually locate their preferred product type
  • **Is the right information included in your product lists? **Users select or reject products based on the information available about those items in the product list. But in our e-commerce UX benchmark of 93 top e-commerce websites, we found that 46% of the sites we evaluated displayed too little or poorly chosen content in product lists. A successful product list design must fulfill two requirements: 1) Present the user with sufficient product information to adequately assess its suitability 2) Enable the user to get an overview of the product list as a whole (i.e., the options available to them) and compare products to one another.

Product Pages

Product pages are a key area of focus for a conversion audit since customers at this stage are almost ready to make a purchasing decision. These are examples we’ve uncovered in UX testing that can affect product page performance:

  • Is your size selector causing errors or abandonment? Instead of using a drop-down with the size options hidden by default, use button selectors for sizing on your product pages to make it easy for users to see all the available options at a glance. This helps users understand their choices, reducing the chances of experiencing an error – or simply giving up – before finding their desired size.
  • **Do your product pages include "human model" images? **For accessory, apparel, and cosmetic products, simple “cut out” images of the item against a white background are not enough. Products designed to be worn — like apparel, accessories, and cosmetics — require the context of a human model to convey a true sense of the product. Include “human model” images on your product pages for these types of items to help users understand the visual qualities of each option.
  • Is your product rating design harming conversions? Our latest large-scale UX testing of product pages found that 95% of users relied on reviews to learn more about products. But product review design can lead buyers to mistrust the reviews or misinterpret the ratings as overly negative.

Cart and Checkout

Cart and checkout are the most impactful areas to optimize for conversions since any roadblocks at this stage are a direct cause of cart abandonment and lost sales.

Our latest research on checkout UX shows many common pitfalls to look for in your conversion audit, and here are a few examples:

  • **Does your site have a prominent “Guest Checkout” option? **Our eye-tracking testing revealed that users expect the “Guest Checkout” option to be located in the upper-left-hand portion of the screen — when it’s not there, 14% of users were unable to figure out the checkout step and abandoned the site.
  • **Does your checkout form have too many fields? **We documented that 18% of users have abandoned orders due to a “too long or too complicated checkout process” — but today’s average checkout flow is 5.2 steps and includes 11.8 form fields. Minimize friction by reducing the number of form fields displayed by default during the checkout process.
  • Can users edit data during the “review” step? We consistently observed that issues during the “Review” step can easily cause users to abandon their purchase. Many sites make editing even the simplest typos a highly complex and discouraging experience. To avoid this, allow users to directly edit data at the review step via inline form fields or page overlays.

Mobile-Specific Conversions

When performing a conversion audit, don’t neglect the mobile version of your e-commerce site. Here are some examples of mobile-specific UX issues to look for:

  • **Are you using the right keyboard layouts for the right fields? **By changing an attribute or two in the code of the input fields, you can instruct a user’s phone to automatically show a specific type of keyboard optimized for the requested input. For example, you can invoke a numeric keyboard for the credit card field, a phone keyboard for the user’s phone number, and an email keyboard for their email address. Using specific keyboard layouts like these can improve conversions by saving users time, minimizing typos, and reducing accidental taps.
  • Are tappable elements too close together? Inadequate spacing between elements can lead to missteps and unintended detours on the mobile interface of your e-commerce site, which can create a negative user experience and lower your conversions. Look for at least two millimeters of space between tappable elements. If you continue to notice issues on mobile in future conversation audits, spacing between elements could go much higher (~10 millimeters).

UX Copywriting

There are plenty of opportunities to clarify the copy and ease users through the buying experience to improve conversion rates. Look for unclear, contradictory, or insufficient text at every stage of the customer journey.

Here are a few examples of UX writing improvements to look for during a conversion audit:

  • **Do your product descriptions include sufficient detail? **A lack of sufficient information in descriptions on a product page can cause abandonments. Ensure your product descriptions include the most critical details users need, like materials and ingredients, product dimensions, and compatibility information.
  • **Highlight key product features in product headlines. **Product pages often contain large amounts of information that make it difficult for users to scan. Don’t bury key features in dense blocks of text on your site — guide your users by including critical details in your product page headlines.

Tools for E-Commerce Conversion Audits

Conducting a full conversion audit of your site is well worth the time and investment. A comprehensive audit that evaluates your site against well-researched recommendations and benchmarks can help you uncover issues you would never have spotted otherwise.

Our research catalog provides all the UX insights you need to identify your biggest conversion blockers and optimize your site to boost sales. It’s the same UX guidelines and assessment tools used by many of the highest-performing e-commerce sites in the U.S. and Europe.

When you’re ready to conduct a 360-degree analysis of conversions on your site, get access to our extensive e-commerce UX research in Baymard Premium.

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