The Art Of User Research and Increasing Conversion Rate (a step by step guide)

  • Magda Baciu

    Magda Baciu


Here’s a quick question for all you business founders, CEOs, CMOs, marketers, or CRO specialists out there: Can you ever say your website’s conversion rate is high enough? 

The Art Of User Research and Increasing Conversion Rate (a step by step guide)

No? We didn’t think so either. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. You can never be too satisfied with it. Yet, increasing a website’s conversion rate often represents an insurmountable challenge. 

We should know – since we had numerous businesses come to us for help after their website or funnel redesigns failed to move the needle in the right direction. 

Why is that? 
It’s got nothing to do with the budget. All the money in the world won’t help you unless you’ve got a good bearing on the direction. Just ask M&S, who, after investing $180M!!! into a new website, and saw their conversion rate go down. 

The Art Of User Research and Increasing Conversion Rate (a step by step guide)

Epic failure! 

So, why is it so difficult to boost a website’s conversion rate then? 

To answer this question, we need to go back in time. Approximately 500 million years back. You know, the time when our lizard brains started developing. You see, we, as a species, are natural problem solvers. However, our lizard brains will often rush to solve a problem without understanding its nature first. 

Going back to our website page example, assuming to know what the prospect wants without actually listening to her makes improving the conversion rate a guessing game.  

And that’s no fun! Investing resources without having anything to show for it never is. A/B testing should be exciting. It should arouse your curiosity. 

Excitement and curiosity. These are the two emotions we’d like you to feel next time you apply a new treatment to your website page. 

To get there, you’ll need accessible tactics that can be applied both by already established businesses and those who are just starting out. In fact, these are the exact tactics used by marketing teams of some of the best-performing websites out there – such as Ikea, Airbnb, Amazon, Booking, or Spotify. 

Throughout this article, you’ll discover: 

  • What do high-converting websites have in common; 
  • The 3 biggest conversion killers and how to avoid them;
  • How to ask data questions that lead to actionable insights; 

& more.  

The goal here is to give you a solid foundation that will help you:

1. Connect with your audience;

2. Frame your website in a way that lowers your prospect’s perceived cost of your product;

3. Ultimately, increase your conversion rate and establish yourself as a legend of your organization. 

Sounds good? Let’s get to it then. 

Common Elements Shared by High-Converting Websites

Have you ever wondered if those high-converting websites share any denominator? If you could find a pattern, then maybe – just maybe – you could apply that approach to your website and boost its performance as well. 

Now let’s see what separates those top websites from the rest. A high-converting website will save the prospect’s mental energy and lower the emotional cost involved in the transaction. 

You may be wondering: What’s the fuss about this so-called emotional cost? 

It’s important to realize that the buying decision is influenced by many more factors than just your product’s price. The subconscious mind works in mysterious ways and also takes into account factors such as: 

  • The unnecessary friction points that frustrate the prospect and waste him valuable time
  • The negative emotions he felt while skimming through your website. 

That is why a prospect’s perceived cost is calculated by adding the emotional cost to your solution cost.  

Emotional Cost + Solution Cost = Perceived Cost 

At the end of the day, the perceived cost must never exceed the perceived value of your product. 

Monster-converting websites do an amazing job at making it as easy as possible for the prospect to find what they are looking for while also making them feel like they’re getting an amazing deal. 

 The 3 Biggest Conversion Killers

Now that you’ve seen what separates big-level players from average competitors, it’s time to focus our attention on the ruthless conversion killers. Our experience taught us that these are: 

  • Content;
  • Design;
  • Usability.  

The order is not necessarily as you see above. However, for most businesses, it’s either poorly written content, weak design, or bad usability that’s drastically affecting performance. 

Let’s dig a bit deeper here – starting with content. Content is what sets your product apart from your competitors and what wins the wallets of your customers. Considering its huge role, it’s not hard to imagine the impact of a piece of content that doesn’t speak the prospect’s language and doesn’t address his concerns. 

So, what can you do to make sure your content isn’t sacrificing your conversions? First of all – you need to study your customers. You need to get to know them like you know your best friend. Identify their pains, their goals, and their motivations. Figure out the question ‘What keeps them up at night?’. Immerse yourself in their world. Learn their language. Once you’ve pieced all that together, start building your new website content. 

Now let’s move on to design. A nice and clean design will only increase the effectiveness of a well-written headline. However, a clammed-up layout with hard-to-see call-to-actions and elements that distract your attention may overwhelm the user and make him quit your website and never return. 

A well-designed website will carefully guide the prospect through the content and direct his attention to the exact elements he needs to focus on. 

Finally, usability represents the coming together of the two elements above. Ideally, the result should offer a functional and persuasive experience that matches the real-world decision-making process. 

Let’s take a look at a real-world example, shall we?


The Art Of User Research and Increasing Conversion Rate (a step by step guide)

Now, this may not be the prettiest of websites – but it does an amazing job of delivering a smooth decision-making process. The content addresses the prospect’s questions, it creates a great sense of urgency, and the design helps identify all the right elements with ease. 

How to Uncover Actionable Insights for Boosting Your Conversion Rate 

Now that we’ve covered the core principles of high-converting websites, it’s time to turn our attention to the actionable insights that will help your audience instantly click with your website, lower the perceived cost, and ultimately increase your conversion rate. 

The way we do things here at Growth Savvy is by:

  1. Analyzing customer support chats; 
  2. Surveying prospects;
  3. Uncovering Behavioral Patterns;
  4. Conducting User Testing;
  5. Interviewing Customers.

Once you tie up all the knowledge that you scoop up using these methods, you’ll reach a whole new customer understanding. 

Customer Support Chats 

Now, let’s take a look at each of these methods, starting with the Customer Support Chats. 

This is probably one of the most underrated resources – and where we always start off. What we’re looking for here are messages from website visitors who haven’t converted yet. Some of them contain some truly astonishing insights about website friction points you may have never even considered on your own.

Here’s an example of the type of messages you’re looking for with this type of analysis. 

  • I honestly think this new platform is confusing. I just want a sample and I’m not sure how to do that.
  • How do I order a sample (possibly a dumb), I’m interested in the Spring pattern.
  • I’m missing the ordering sample button. Can you help?
  • Why can’t I order a sample? I can’t find an option to order a sample, so frustrating.

I want a sample, I’d like to see first if it adheres to the surface. 

We covered over 2000 messages to get to them – so you’ll need to be patient about it. However, as you can see for yourself, it was obvious customers had a hard time finding that Sample button.

As we soon found out, it wasn’t hard to understand why this happened. 

Here’s an image of what the button looked like: 

The Art Of User Research and Increasing Conversion Rate (a step by step guide)

For some reason, the designer thought people would find it easy to spot it and understand its purpose. Obviously, it was nothing like it. 

Now, you may be inclined to believe that the Customer Support team will communicate such issues with the marketing team. However, for one reason or another, we’ve come to the conclusion that Customer Support sucks customer complaints in like a black hole. 

Now, do you remember about that Emotional Cost we talked about higher up in this post? 

Here’s what we mean by it: 

  • Why can’t I order a sample? I can’t find an option to order a sample, so frustrating.
  • How do I order a sample (possibly a dumb), I’m interested in the Spring pattern
  • I want a sample, I’d like to see first if it adheres to the surface.
  • I honestly think this new platform is confusing. I just want a sample and I’m not sure how to do that.

Imagine running into an old acquaintance who always frustrates you and confuses you with his behavior. You’d probably wouldn’t want to meet them again anytime soon. That’s exactly what a prospect will feel like after browsing through a website full of friction. 

Now, if our hypothesis was correct, adding an easy-to-spot button that allowed users to order a sample should help us improve the conversion rate. 

Which is exactly what we did. The result? A 41% uplift. Not to shabby, right?

Surveying Prospects

Surveying prospects is like an extension of the previously discount research method. The advantages of surveys is that you get full control over the questions you want answered, they’re fairly easy to develop, and quick to analyze. 

We usually structure our surveys around 3 key questions: 

  1. What is the purpose of your visit on our website today? 
  2. Were you able to find what you were looking for? 
  3. If not, why? 

The first question is an open-ended one where the prospect has full liberty over the length and type of answer he’ll provide. 

The second one is a simple ‘yes-or-no’ question, while the third will only show up to those who answered ‘No’ to the question before. 

Here are some of the results we got when we ran a similar survey for a fintech company. Out of over 20,000 answers, we were able to extract 10 types of key objections from answers such as: 

“This doesn’t make sense to me. Why do banks allow you to use them when you are a competitor?”

How do you keep your business running with an exchange rate so close to the official one? I’m afraid this is a scam.”

“In event of a hack on your company, are you guaranteeing me that I will be reimbursed on my loss of funds that occur as result”

So, how did we use this information now that we have discovered these concerns? 

We implemented an experiment where the only change on the page was an FAQ section that addressed their concerns. Nothing too complicated. This simple change brought in an extra 20% to the company’s conversion rate. 

However, we didn’t stop here. Having learned so much about the customer’s language, we knew we had more materials to fuel optimizing the website even more. 

So, after having implemented the new page version with the FAQ section, we ran a second experiment where we also changed the copy by using the customer’s language. 

The Art Of User Research and Increasing Conversion Rate (a step by step guide)

The results were spectacular – a 90% uplift! All from a 3-question survey. 

Uncovering Website Behavioral Patterns

For the next tactic, we’re going to need the help of tools that collect data about your website visitors. Tools such as Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, or Mixpanel Analytics. 

The secret to uncovering those super valuable insights is moving away from default reports and switching to custom reports and from all session perspectives to custom segments and sequences.  

Once you’ve done that, start by asking general questions, such as:

What are the top landing pages? 


How do they perform? 

As soon as you’ve figured this out, move on to more complex and specific questions such as: 

How does the journey of the best converting users look like? 

Why do these users convert better than all the other users?

Is there a way to replicate this journey for other users as well? 

Aim for questions that can lead you to even more specific insights that reveal what convinces people to buy. 

Here’s an example of a custom report we always start off with when analyzing a website’s performance. 

The Art Of User Research and Increasing Conversion Rate (a step by step guide)

Our goal here is to understand how different website categories attract the audience’s interest. 

Once we’ve got a good idea about that, it’s time to shift our focus to analyzing different website flows. By flow we mean customer journeys made up of a series of pages and/or website interactions. 

The Art Of User Research and Increasing Conversion Rate (a step by step guide)

To grasp the potential of analyzing your users’ website journey, an example is in order. 

Back when we were analyzing the flows for one of our clients, we noticed that one, in particular, stood out. 

Most prospects who got to the homepage immediately switched to a page where they could compare the overall amount they could save when using our client’s service. 

To reduce this unnecessary step, we created a new homepage that also included the calculator in an attempt to match the prospect’s decision-making process. 

We knew we were on to something, and after running the A/B test, the variation raked in a 40% conversion rate increase. 

Another high-converting user journey featured users who were visiting some long-forgotten service pages – namely, pages that described different customer profiles. Once again, we applied the same treatment as we did for our first example. This time, we did it on the About Us page. 

So, after including a section where we displayed the type of people that generally used the service, we saw a 44% uplift in conversions. 

Conducting User Testing   

This fourth research method is meant to uncover even more usability issues through moderated user testing

This research method involves asking people from your market audience to perform a number of tasks on the website while you observe. 

However, you don’t need to stop there. Once you spot your website’s weak spots, ask the participant to do the same for one of your competitors. That way, you could double your learnings and even gain a competitive advantage in your market. 

Now, for this method to work proficiently, you’ll need people from your audience. If you’re thinking getting a friend to chip in will help – think again, buster! 

YOU NEED PEOPLE FROM YOUR AUDIENCE! Unless your mom, your friend, your wife, or your coworker is in the market for that type of product, look somewhere else! 

Once you’ve recruited the right type of people, the most important thing when conducting moderated user testing is to shut up, listen, and pay attention to what your user is doing. That’s it! It’s no rocket science. 

Interviewing customers

The last research method we’re going to be discussing here goes back to help you uncover your customer’s language. If the first time we used customer support chats for it, this second method is a bit more advanced and a lot more powerful. 

1-on-1 interviews are a great way to get people to open up and talk to you about the struggles that triggered the search for a solution, the pain points experienced from using other solutions, and their anxieties and desired outcomes. 

Pay attention to the words they use to describe all this. Listen to the changes in the tone of their voice as they cover various subjects. 

Whenever we do a customer interview, we usually have a list of go-to questions that target the core of what customers feel and are motivated by. 

The list includes questions such as: 

  • When did you realize you needed a product like “x”?
  • What was going on in your world that caused you to come looking for it?
  • What one benefit would you say you’ve gotten and valued most from using this company?
  • Why did you choose this product over others or this service over others?
  •  If this solution was gone tomorrow, what would you miss the most?  

Make sure to record your interviews so you can always come back to them later. Once you’ve completed them, it’s time to organize your insights. 

Here’s a sneak peek of how we do that at Growth Savvy: 

The Art Of User Research and Increasing Conversion Rate (a step by step guide)

As you can see, we have a dedicated section for struggles, pain points, concerns, desired outcomes, and how their lives will improve once they use the product/solution. This way, whenever we want to build new landing pages or other marketing materials, our copywriters can minimize the time they spend on getting to know the market and start banging out good quality content in no time. 

Final Thoughts

Without proper research and documentation, it’s easy to see how boosting a website’s conversion rate often seems like a mammoth task. 

However, once you take a step back and take the time to get to know your market, how they interact with your website, the elements that catch their attention and the ones that only cause more confusion, your first win will soon follow. 

By now, you should have more than a few ideas about what your first step towards improving your website’s conversion rate should be. 

Boosting the conversion rate for a website is one of the things we do best at Growth Savvy. So, if you ever feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, feel free to reach out to us. 


  • Magda Baciu

    Forbes 30 under 30. Data Science at Oxford. Head of a fast-growing agency and the person who’ll make your data make sense. Magda combines psychology, behavioral marketing and deep data expertise to create the right growth strategy for your business. (And she likes pandas. A lot.)

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