Perfecting Conversion Rate Optimization


*This article makes mention of Google Optimize. Google has officially announced the sunset of Google Optimize. Both Google Optimize and Optimize 360 will sunset on September 30, 2023…. Read More

Understanding your customers’ pain points is the best way to convert them to loyal consumers. Experiment Zone increases your ecommerce revenue by giving you a deeper understanding of your customers, enabling you to uncover whatever impedes their conversion process to help you elevate your bottom line. Join our conversation to learn the process of perfecting conversion rate optimization with AJ Davis.


Jeff Mendelson 0:00

Welcome back. My name is Jeff Mendelson, this is the one big tip podcast. Today, my guest is AJ Davis, who is the founder and CEO of Experiment Zone. AJ is a leading industry expert in understanding the user experience and how it correlates to customer conversations. AJ is passionate about helping startups that have that aha moment so that they can optimally reach their target audience.

As a podcast host for startup insight, AJ is spreading the importance of understanding the pain points of your audience through proper research and analytics. Prior to running her own company, AJ was employed as an optimization strategist for Fortune 500 companies, including CVS, Steve Madden, and Lululemon. Bringing data to life is the basic tenant of Experiment Zone. Please join me and let’s talk all about experiments. AJ, thank you so much for joining me and welcome to the show.

AJ Davis 1:03

Hey, thanks for having me on. Excited about our conversation today.

Jeff Mendelson 1:06

Thank you! I want to get a little bit of a grip on these great opportunities that you’ve had, all of these points within your bio and on your LinkedIn profile. You’ve worked with some of the best products and best marketing companies around, can you please give us a quick overview of who you are, and what makes you so amazing.

AJ Davis 1:35

I am very passionate about finding what it is that will make a difference for your customers. My history and journey into conversion rate optimization is pretty kind of a wavy path, just like anyone else you find in this field. I started in product development as a UX researcher. I got to talk to hundreds and hundreds of people about the pain points they had in their lives, things that mattered to them, and where their experiences intersect with technology.

This led me to work on this really wonderful product, Google Optimize*. I was the lead researcher for that product and I had this opportunity to meet lots of people who were doing conversion rate optimization, and looking to do A/B testing on their websites. They say “Is this thing true or not about my customers,” Will that help us increase ROI, but also make the experience better.”

After interviewing hundreds of people about CRO I decided to make the leap from being a UX researcher into the conversion rate optimization space and have been doing it ever since. It marries the two things I love the most: getting to talk to people, figuring out their pain points, and then putting them into action, solutions, as fast as possible, that will make things easier and make the business grow.

Jeff Mendelson 2:53

One thing I want to make sure I’m clear about when you’re talking about conversion rate optimization is we’re not just talking about the numbers and percentages that go into whether we should use the color red or the color blue.

There is a lot more going on than just describing yourself as a researcher, but also understanding the psychology that goes into it. The subtle cues of what makes a great landing page, what elements need to be placed? Can you please talk a little bit about what are some of the more interesting parts of CRO that really gets you out of bed in the morning?

AJ Davis 3:31

Yes, CRO is really the opportunity for us to reach through the computer and connect with the person on the other side of the screen. I love to think about the analogy of if we have a physical brick-and-mortar store and we wanted to talk to our customers to figure out what kind of products we should sell, how we should talk about those products, and what brought them in in the first place.

CRO isn’t just “what color is your register?” Or “what color is your Add to Cart button.” But it’s all those other elements, “Where should your store be?” “How should you talk about your store?” “Who should you encourage to come into the store?” “How do they know they’ve walked into the right place?”

What’s really fun about really well-done conversion rate optimization is that we learn so much about your customer, it’s not just about applying those kinds of tweaks and improvements to your site. But it’s about building up a body of knowledge about who that customer is, what they respond to, and then being able to apply those insights to other parts of the business.

Jeff Mendelson 4:27

One thing I’m curious about, especially in your spaces, I have spoken to many clients when I look at their website. I could spot like five different things like call-to-action in the wrong place. Having too much text over a place, getting the story all wrong. Not promoting their services correctly, what have you, and then they do it. Then they say “I already paid $1,000 to that guy, to help me optimize it right.

My big question here is, how much of this is your taste in your experience? How much of this is really on science, based on the real numbers that you can tease out in actual ROI out of the actions that you’re providing?

AJ Davis 5:17

The way that we do things at Experiment Zone is that we’ll identify pain points and prioritize what to work on the site, based on your customer input, and based on where you might be falling short in your data. But we validate everything with an A/B test.

So any particular change that we do will have a measurable impact, possibly a negative, most of the time a positive. Then we can learn from either those wins or those losses in aggregate. Everything boils down to hard numbers. But you’ve got to combine the two to make sure you’re focused on the right ones, and not just guessing.

Jeff Mendelson 5:48

That’s exactly what I want to segue into. Part of your one big tip is how to treat everything that you do as an experiment, and have a clear path to measure whether it works or not. Let’s talk about that. When a new client comes into your sphere, how do you approach that because client A that’s selling an ecommerce play versus client B, that is selling something similar? We’re not just talking about a shopping cart, a grid of products, and clicking on a checkout button. There’s so much more to that.

How do you help guide your clients, especially in these initial stages to setting up these experiments so that you can provoke these better outcomes?

AJ Davis 6:34

I think an essential thing is to separate the problem we’re trying to solve from the potential solutions. Any given solution is a hypothesis. It’s an idea that we think will have an impact. We should define it really specifically, we should say what problem that’s going to fix. Then we should have measurable things that would indicate yes, we did it, no, we didn’t or we kind of did it. But we actually learned something else along the way.

It’s a really important thing for us to ground what it is that we’re working on. What kind of test theme or problem area do we want to focus on first, and then do iterative solution testing, to make sure we’ve put the right one out there. And we have a measurable impact on ROI.

Jeff Mendelson 7:13

What are some of the tools that you use to do this? You mentioned the Google Optimize* tool. But there are others out there, right? You’re not necessarily married to this one tool. What does that landscape look like to you?

AJ Davis 7:26

I would describe that landscape as the first part of the first pillar of being able to do an A/B test. Within that sphere, there are a whole bunch of different tools like the free version of Google Optimize*. They have an Optimize 360, Optimizely, AB Tasty, web opt, optimal trends, there’s a whole bunch of tools out there that will provide the capability to take an experience, make a change to it, and split your traffic 50:50.

A foundational part of having it in your conversion strategy is to have a specific tool for testing and then the other thing you need to do is to have analytics tools. The behaviors on the site, what people are clicking on, where they’re going, you need to have generally a click tracking tool to see how far they’re scrolling, where they’re focusing their time, and their clicks.

Then user research tools are another category, you’ve got to understand how to interact and recruit people to talk to capture screen recordings of them using your site, being able to interview and capture that feedback. I could go on and on about all the kinds of tools out there, but those are the three main categories.

Jeff Mendelson 8:28

What’s interesting about all that is that we’re talking about a tech stack at this point, we’re not just talking about using Google Optimize* or Google Analytics and being done with it. I used to be able to tell a story about a particular website just by looking at their analytics, where people are coming in from, what they’re clicking on, and once they’re inside with just the Analytics tool. Whereas the Optimize tool is for when people are coming in, and you can provoke those changes in real-time, in order to tease out those measurable results.

One of the things I’m curious about is when a client comes to you for this kind of stuff, do you normally have to source those tools and set them up yourselves? Or do they normally come prepared, knowing that they need this, and they maybe just didn’t know how to work with it well enough that they needed to hire a professional? How does that work for you?

AJ Davis 9:35

I think most clients know about the click tracking and heat mapping tools, they are really well advertised. They’re easy to configure, and they promise a lot of insight, but they’re really hard to go through. There are tons and tons of data. Many times you end up watching videos and not learning anything. So it’s about how you leverage that particular tool that you already have.

For the optimization and split testing tools. It really varies on whether they’ve tried split tests themselves. It’s not unusual to set up the tool, run some tests, like the red versus blue button, not see any impact on ROI, and feel stuck. Looking for a strategic partner who can help you find value in testing.

Research is an area that I’m borrowing from the product development world. If you can involve your customers early and often in your process, you can get much further and be really competitive because you’re speaking their language, and you know exactly where the trends are. For that, we often don’t find that our customers have anything much more than a survey tool in place.

Jeff Mendelson 10:36** Yeah, that’s really amazing! What would you say are some of the most glaring issues when a new client comes to you, and they need the most help? Is it the color scheme? Is it the call to action placement? What are the slam dunks for you in this industry?

AJ Davis 11:14

Yeah, for anyone listening who’s like, is my site optimized? I’ve given them three things to look for today, to recognize instantly as soon as you have these three questions. On any landing page, let’s just say homepage for simplicity, you need to be able to say what it is that your business offers in plain English, or another language if you’re not in English. But in just plain words, as opposed to talking about something very aspirational, we want to say we sell bicycles, so that people have no doubt, and they can stick around to read more about it.

You want to talk about who it is that they’re for. Is it a bicycle for people in their home doing at-home exercise, they’re maybe working at home as well. You can start building up a persona about them that you can say, here are some details about this customer, and that person will read it and instantly connect and say this is a solution for a problem or a goal that I have.

Then the third thing that your landing page should say right off the bat is what makes you different, or why you should be the one to solve that problem. Things like quality, if you have great policies on free shipping and returns, those have huge impacts on conversion, and any testimonials or social proof often come into play in this as well. It’s “the what,” “the who,” and “the why,” anyone can recognize that. But a lot of businesses kind of leave that behind in trying to push forward other marketing goals.

Jeff Mendelson 12:40

Thank you so much for sharing that. One of the things that have been really interesting about this part of the marketing world is attribution. How to attribute the source of a particular client as it goes through your flow and actually does a checkout, now with the way that Apple is restricting tracking on their phones and the way Facebook is promoting to get pixels onto each and every page. How has attribution changed the way you’ve got the way you’re doing business right now, and how has that affected your clients?

AJ Davis 13:19

It certainly has affected our clients. But what’s great about conversion rate optimization is we’re looking for ROI. What we’re looking to do is to maximize the value of a test, which for the most part means we don’t really care where the customer comes from. Because there’s usually messaging, user experience, and certain types of content that all customers need, regardless of where they start from or what device they’re on.

For the majority of tests, they’re looking at holistic, all audience types of experiences. Where this does come up more is when we’re looking to build a specific landing page or a specific customer journey for someone. Let’s say it’s like a lower intent customer who clicks on you on a Facebook ad, you might create a more curated experience for them. But we do our CRO from the top down. We only eliminate audiences if there’s a good reason to, as opposed to picking a really specific segment of your customers and building a really specific experience. Because what we find is that when you start with that you end up with a very expensive, very complicated ecosystem that most customers don’t need.

Jeff Mendelson 14:29

Amazing! Thank you so much for sharing that. AJ, can you please let everyone know how they can learn more about your company, and how they can reach out to you directly if they want to learn more?

AJ Davis 14:41

Yeah, absolutely. You can find us at We’ve got a contact us form, so feel free to shoot me a note there. We also offer a free report card. If you’re looking for some actionable tips for your site, we can help you put a plan in place to measure and see if they work. Go ahead and fill out that form that’s in the navigation.

Jeff Mendelson 15:01

I love it thank you for joining me today, this has been very informative. I love learning out on this stuff and I’m sure the audience has as well, thank you for joining me

AJ Davis 15:10

Thanks for having me on.

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