As a SaaS business, you can always improve your conversions of casual browsers to loyal, paying customers by optimizing your site and app. The thing is, this process of conversion rate optimization, or CRO, is a never-ending, evolving journey that constantly changes and takes time, patience, and resources. That’s why we’ve developed this guide to help you learn the ins and outs of CRO. Plus, it includes some of our tried and tested tips to help set you up for success.
Below, we’ll tell you all about:
- What conversion rate optimization is and how it works
- SaaS CRO for various parts of your site and app
- Where to focus your CRO efforts
- How to convert visitors into trial users with CRO
- Our own experience and expertise with CRO
What is Conversion Rate Optimization?
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the way in which you increase the percentage of conversions from your website or app. That is, you’re increasing the number of users who take a specific action such as clicking “add to cart”, making a purchase, signing up for a service or email subscription, or something else.
CRO involves understanding how your users navigate your app or site, what they’re doing, and exactly what’s getting in their way of taking your desired action. It’s about thinking up ideas for how elements of the site or app can be improved, and then validating those ideas through methods like multivariate and A/B testing, workflow improvements, and content enhancements.
But, CRO is not just about quantifiable, hard data. Aside from the numbers, CRO can be seen more holistically about users themselves and what drives, persuades, and stops them from doing what you want them to do. CRO helps you offer the best possible user experience, which is ultimately what boosts your conversion rate. When you can’t pinpoint why a large number of users aren’t converting to paid customers, you need to focus on them and dig deeper into the “why” behind the information you’ve collected.
How to calculate your conversion rate
Your conversion rate is found by taking the number of times users take a specific action and dividing it by your total site (or app) traffic. For instance, if you have a landing page with a conversion rate of 12% that gets 1,800 visitors per month, this page is generating 216 monthly conversions. If you’re able to boost that conversion rate to 15% by optimizing certain page elements, your conversions increase by 25% to 270 per month.
Why is conversion rate optimization important?
It’s important to maximize your conversion rate because it helps you earn more revenue per visitor or user and attract new customers. This lowers your customer acquisition costs over time and ultimately helps you become more profitable and grow your business.
What conversion rate is good to aim for?
Conversion rates vary depending on your niche, company type, goals, channel, market demographics, price point, and other factors. This means that benchmarks for poor, average, and high conversion rates will be different across the board. As one example, Shopify’s average ecommerce conversion rate is 1.4%.
Higher conversion rates mean your site or app is well-designed and formatted, and appealing to your target market. Lower conversion rates can come from things linked to poor site performance or design including slow load times, broken forms, or copy that doesn’t communicate the value of what you’re offering. And if you find your conversion rate is lower than ideal – whether it’s below industry average or your main competitors’ rate, or it’s just not meeting your goals – you need to boost CRO.
Conversion rate optimization for SaaS
Conversion rate optimization originally started in ecommerce as a precise analysis of products for sale and carts in online stores and how visitors engage with them. But now, SaaS and other online businesses are more customer-focused than product-focused, with the goal of providing the best customer experience possible to boost conversions.
This means that CRO is extremely important for SaaS businesses. Since SaaS operates on and earns profit from long-term user relationships, CRO actually touches every part of the customer journey – from casual browser to trial user, to long-term subscriber, and even to influencer or referrer. And, accordingly, SaaS conversion metrics are different than they would be for other online businesses. For example, you could measure new visitor to trial, sale, or user metrics, along with user to premium user later on.
Aside from the number or value of purchases, SaaS conversions can measure:
- Memberships sold
- Credit card information collected
- Visitors to trial periods
- Trials to qualified leads
- Trials to paying customers
It’s important to remember that conversions in SaaS can occur anywhere on your site or app including the homepage, landing pages, pricing page, blog, and others. Plus, SaaS conversions are often dependent on the purpose served by a certain part of your app or site. So, you need to optimize each of those parts if you want to maximize your conversion potential.
SaaS CRO for Different Parts of Your Site and App
All parts of your site and app should support the conversion metrics you’re trying to optimize. Here are some of the key areas to focus on.
Home page and landing page CRO
Since users will typically land on your home page before others on your site, it’s best to assume they know absolutely nothing about your product or brand when you optimize this page. For this and all landing pages, create the best user experience by:
- Communicating your value proposition and most relevant information as quickly, clearly, and smoothly as possible, in all aspects of messaging, imagery, and design.
- Focusing all content on assisting your user, and updating it over time to address the pain points and problems they deal with.
- Using catchy, informative headlines and keeping copy short and sweet, as people have limited time and attention.
- Ensuring your user experience and design are simple, clear, obvious, and mobile-friendly. If your site is too tough to navigate, users will lose patience and leave.
- Creating clear, compelling CTAs (calls to action) that resonate, encourage clicks, and, ultimately, get the action you’re seeking.
Pricing page CRO
Pricing is a huge decision-making factor for people, and your pricing page should reflect this. Be sure it presents pricing information clearly, including exactly what each product or plan includes and when, how, and the amount users are billed or charged. You can try tactics like ordering plans from lowest to highest or vice versa, offering discounts, and featuring the plans you’re aiming to sell the most of.
Sign up flows CRO
When your users have signed up, they should go through a flow or experience to set them up for success with your product. For example, you can offer immediate access post-signup, set-up actions post-signup, or basic functionality access without signup.
You won’t necessarily know which flow will perform best, so it’s good to A/B test different options. Be sure to clearly show what you’re offering and encourage users to action it, including the specific offer text (e.g. Try now for free). Testing and measuring results will help you easily see exactly what achieves the best CRO results.
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SaaS Conversion Rate Optimization Focus Areas
Depending on your goals, you’ll need to focus on different things to best optimize CRO. For example, if you’re hoping to get as many trial users as possible, marketing is key. If subscriptions are more important for your business at a given time, customer support, onboarding, and user experience play a much bigger role. Here are a few common areas on which to focus your CRO efforts.
Lead nurturing involves relationship building and establishing trust with users, typically who either have something in their cart or have made a purchase in the past. Lead nurturing can take time before you begin to see conversions, but it helps to share useful content, tools, stories, and experiences that offer value (e.g. through a blog or newsletter with email marketing).
Your marketing efforts should be highly targeted and segmented to your ideal customers, as attracting the wrong people to your site won’t result in many conversions, if any. Do your research to learn about them and their habits, preferences, needs, and pain points. Discover where they spend time online and introduce your product to them in those channels. After all, the more traffic you get from those within your ideal customer persona, the more conversions you’ll see.
Be sure you’re intentionally choosing the best pricing strategy for your niche, product, and customers based on the features you offer, the problems you solve, and the benefits you deliver. Some common pricing strategies include:
- Freemium – users can access limited features and functions for as long as they want at no cost, and they pay for more advanced features and functions.
- Free trial – users can access all features for a set amount of time and pay once the trial period is over.
- Pay for use – users pay for the scale they need (like the number of pages or leads). This is ideal for products with very few features or functions.
- Custom – you create pricing around your users’ needs.
User experience (UX) and onboarding
The moment a user has signed up and signed in to access your product, they’re going to expect great value from you. So, your onboarding experience should anticipate their needs, leave little to no questions unanswered, and be as seamless, easy, and quick as possible. Focus on the entire user experience across all product and company touchpoints. This sets the stage and introduces what you offer, leaving users with an impression you need to ensure is a lasting, positive one to secure future conversions and success.
How to Convert Visitors into New Trial Users Using Your Marketing Site
Since we’ve gone through tons of CRO tests and experiments for many products here at SureSwift, we thought we’d share some of our advice and best practices.
Before optimizing any page, we recommend testing and tracking experiments and listening to your customers. Use Google Analytics for goals and events, Hotjar Heatmaps to see how people are navigating and using the page, and Google Optimize to see results and improve as you go.
Potential optimization areas for your homepage and landing pages include a main CTA with key differentiating factors that encourage action (e.g. no credit card required, if applicable), consistent CTAs throughout the page, a tagline, hero image, and above-the-fold content, along with your specific experience and advice.
Don’t distract users with too many options on the pricing page, since they’re so close to signing up once they’ve come here. Instead, keep pricing plan info simple with obvious signup buttons. Your page header should include a simple logo, description, and any differentiating factors that might encourage signup. We’ve found that hiding the main menu, footer, and any distracting links or buttons above or below pricing works well. As for CTAs, entice users with an invite to try for free (if applicable), and place buttons at the top and bottom of each plan column.
Case study: How SureSwift puts CRO into action
The Docparser team at SureSwift performed a CRO audit on a number of its blog posts and landing pages and saw great results. For example, its How to Extract Text from a PDF in Seconds post didn’t have clear, obvious calls to action (CTAs) with buttons. Instead, it simply showed text that didn’t stand out well and a couple of images in no strategic place – there was nothing to direct the reader or compel them to click on anything, except maybe in the above-the-fold area, but this wasn’t enough:
Why? Nico LaCorcia, Docparser’s Marketing Growth Manager, explains, “Readers may not notice it or simply scroll past it to get to the article below. This particular CTA may work better with a smaller feature (top) image.” This would bring the title and text higher up on the page, allowing readers to get to valuable information sooner and not waste time.
Different layout, title, and image changes are typically the areas you should focus on and test for CRO. In this example, the team could:
- Add text on top of the image to provide more information,
- Shorten or change the title,
- Add a CTA button on the page’s lefthand side where readers might be more likely to look, or
- Use a full-width layout at the top to create a sidebar and a call to action.
Nico was pleased that conversions went up once the team added clear and compelling CTAs that stand out on the page, like this one:
Docparser’s Marketing Growth Manager recommends checking Google Optimize to see how your CRO experiments have performed. They did this for social media management tool MeetEdgar over a month to test whether or not people would be more likely to convert if there was nothing free on the page, which provided great insight into how to move forward.
Nico also used Google Optimize for CTAs for Docparser’s home page. The team simply tested different text on the CTA, like Try Docparser free. If they found it was only giving them a lot of trials, rather than paid subscriptions, they knew they’d need to try something else. They ended up using Use it for free, Try it free, and Try it free with no menu. Google Optimize showed them the conversion rate was highest on Use it for free, so they stuck with that.
The Docparser team also tried an experiment with long-form content, instead of shorter content, which was successful as the conversion rate went up a few percentage points.
CRO tips: what we’ve learned
Over time, our teams have learned not to get stuck on a specific conversion rate. While you want to have a rough goal to aim for, Nico advises keeping in mind that it will constantly shift and will always depend on the product you’re offering since you have to start at your baseline and increase it from there.
As well, Nico points out that quality matters. They’ve seen firsthand that sometimes, CRO experiments will simply go the opposite way you intended. For example, the Mailparser team tried out a different ad campaign they hadn’t used before. While it increased trials, it actually made the trial-to-paid conversion rate go down. So, they stopped the campaign because the quality of the trial leads coming in wasn’t great. You can get an audience that wants to try something for free and then disappears, or that frequently contacts the support desk and ends up costing you more than acquiring other customers.
Now that you have a better understanding of conversion rate optimization and how to implement CRO experiments for various parts of your SaaS app or site, go ahead and try it out. It won’t be long before you’re seeing great results.