This story begins on a bright May morning in lovely Vancouver. From the outside, it looked like a typical day at LemonStand. We were just shooting the shit, playing some mini-basketball, and being extremely productive overall in terms of baskets scored per shot.

But, it was also the day of Unbounce’s Page Fights of the month, and we were participating in it. Page Fights is a competition where a bunch of conversion rate optimization experts comment on different landing pages and viewers pick the best one. We had submitted oureCommerce Hacker landing page, where savvy entrepreneurs go to learn about eCommerce growth hacks, and we were hoping to win it.

We did. I’d love to make it sound more dramatic than it is, but honestly there was nothing wrong with the page and it was clearly better than some of the others there. There was no close race and twist in the tail. We straight up won.

The prize for winning it was a pair of tickets to Unbounce’s Conversion Road Trip. The road trip is a series of conversion rate optimization conferences in Toronto, Boston, NYC and Chicago and is a precursor to the CTA Conference here in Vancouver in September.

Ross, our VP of Growth, and yours truly, decided to make use of the tickets and flew out to the event in Toronto. Here are some of the lessons we learned.

The Landing Page Manifesto

Oli Gardner kicked things off with his landing page manifesto. Ok, that’s not true. Ryan Engley kicked things off, but it was just a welcome speech and I don’t quite remember what he said.

Anyway, Oli came in next and started talking about how there are so many bad landing pages out there. Why, just before he landed in Toronto he decided to look for Rob Ford t-shirts online, because what else are you going to wear in Toronto. To his dismay, every link that showed up on Google took him to pages that had nothing to do with Rob Ford, or even t-shirts in some cases.

It was at this point that Oli dropped the first of many F-bombs.

Unbounce conversion road trip with Oli Gardner

So, what’s the solution? How do we cure what ails today’s marketing? Well, Oli has a 12-step rehabilitation program for it.


NSAMCWADLP. Try saying it. Too tough? Ok, you asked for it. Here’s the long version – Never start a marketing campaign without a dedicated landing page.

It’s pretty self-explanatory so let’s move on.

Step 2 – Simplify Your Page

For some reason eCommerce sites like to complicate things. Every page has numerous calls to action. Check out our sales, like our store, tweet this product, buy that product, also buy this product, subscribe to our newsletter, tag us on Instagram, and on, and on. When you have so many calls to action on one page, it screws up the attention ratio.

The attention ratio is the ratio of things your visitors can do on a page compared to what they should do, like adding a product to cart. If there are 10 calls to action on a page, but only one of them is the action you want visitors to take, the attention ratio is 10:1. You want it to be 1:1, or as close as possible.

Step 3 – Design With The Principles of ADD

Design plays a major role on landing pages. Good design will help visitors understand the purpose of the page and guide them to the next step without making them think too much. In general, design your page with the 5 principles of ADD:

  1. Whitespace – Use whitespace to make blocks of content and calls to action stand out.
  2. Order – Just like an article is ordered into an introduction, body and conclusion, so should the design elements on your page have some order and structure.
  3. Direction – Your visitors want to keep moving forward. There should be some direction built in to the design of your page to indicate where to look next.
  4. Dominance – Some elements are more important than others. For example, the “Add to Cart” button on your product page should be most dominant, while reducing the dominance of other calls to action, like saving to wishlist.
  5. Affordance – Ultimately, the emphasis should be on one call to action. On your product pages, that’s the “Add to Cart” and in the shopping cart that’s the “Proceed to Checkout”.

Step 4 – Information Hierarchy

Information hierarchy on landing pages

Copy informs design, not the other way around. That means you need to start with your page copy first, before you create the design for it.

When you look at the typical eCommerce store, you’ll find a pattern. Many of them pick cookie cutter themes and then try to adapt their products and copy into those designs. Then they end up with low conversion rates and try to fix it by throwing more traffic at it with expensive ads. Sounds like a poor strategy.

Step 5 – Be Clear In Your Copy

Disney once ran a campaign where they got people to create accounts on their site so they could access premium content. They noticed that they were receiving an unusual number of password change requests from people who had forgotten the password they entered when they first created their account.

On looking deeper, they saw that people were creating passwords that were 30 or 40 characters long. On the landing page, it said the password must contain at least 6 characters. It turned out that people were misinterpreting that and entering the names of 6 Disney characters!

It’s important to understand that your copy can be misinterpreted too. You need to try and make your pages as easy as possible to understand and remove any confusion. Highlight the important parts and aim to have your visitors understand what your product is about as quickly as possible.

Step 6: Form-First Design

Forms are unavoidable on eCommerce store, but they’re also the most important part of your checkout page. Design your form as if it is the only thing on the page.

Here’s the anatomy of a high converting form

  • Headline
  • Subhead
  • Benefits bullets (optional)
  • A form
  • CTA
  • The closer

Step 7 – Create Search Intent Pages for eCommerce

eCommerce stores usually neglect the search function, which is odd because most customers will be using it. The key is to create pages that are specific to searches, rather than sending visitors to generic pages and making their search pointless.

Step 8: Test Everything

Just because you read about a test on another site that improve conversions, doesn’t mean it will work for you too. Don’t blindly copy changes. If you’re going to change something, test it first.

Step 9: Reduce Form Fields

In general, the more form fields the lower the conversion.  Unbounce found that forms with two fields had the highest conversion rates.

Step 10 – Design For Your Ideal Customer

Your landing page shouldn’t be a catch-all. Design it for the customers you want. A landing page for customers in their twenties looking for shoes should be designed differently than pages for customers in their thirties looking for suits.

Step 11 – Don’t Use Negative Words

You might have seen email optin forms that say, “we’ll never spam you.” The problem with that is people weren’t thinking about you spamming them until they read that.

Also, Justin Bieber.

Unbounce conversion road trip

Step 12: Delight Your Visitors

Ultimately, you want to delight visitors when they land on your page. You want them to have a great shopping experience that will make them come back and tell their friends.

Marketing Strategy Hacks

April Dunford is the founder of Rocket Launch Marketing, and she has had years of experience marketing different businesses. See for yourself.

April Dunford conversion road trip

Her talk was mostly aimed around B2B businesses, but some of the important takeaways that relate to eCommerce were about positioning. Whatever you sell can be positioned in different ways and for different markets. If you find yourself struggling in one market, simply reposition the same product and sell to a different market.

Related posts:  How To Setup And Run an eCommerce Referral Program To Grow Faster

For example, let’s take cow dung. On the one hand, it’s a pretty tough sell. If you were selling cow dung as is, you’ll run out of business soon. However, reposition it as a bag of organic fertilizer with a tagline of “gourmet food for your garden” and you suddenly have buyers.

In another example, she was walking down the road and came across a sign for a restaurant named Eggspectations. However, the sign said “Come try our burgers”. Definitely not something you’d eggspect from what sounds like a breakfast place. This is a case of incorrect position.

To find out if you’re positioning yourself incorrectly, you need to talk to people. Talk to your customers and see if they understand your value proposition. Talk to investors and see what they think. If people can’t understand what you do, or think you’re a ‘me too’ product, then you’re not positioning yourself correctly.

Save Your Quality Score, Save Your World

Christi Olson is a Google Adwords expert and she had some interesting insights about how Google ranks their ads and how to optimize your ad campaigns to reduce your CPCs.

A primary factor in ad ranking is the Quality Score. Google wants to serve the most relevant ads to searchers, and they determine this by assigning a quality score to your ad. The quality score depends on the keywords and copy you use in the ad itself, as well as the landing page your ad leads to. Your ad rank is then the product of your maximum CPC bid and the quality score of your ad.

quality score

Now, you can have an insanely high maximum bid that your quality score wouldn’t matter. For example, if you search for loneliness on Google, you’ll see an ad from Amazon for it. Of course they don’t actually sell that and the ad points to something else. But the point is they are probably throwing a lot of money to get that ad ranked so high.

You probably don’t have Amazon’s budget, so your best bet to reduce CPCs is improving quality score. You should aim to have 80% of your keywords with a quality score of 5 or higher.

To help you figure out the mechanics of your ad rankings and quality scores, Christi created a workbook.

Growth Marketing Panel

The growth marketing panel had Sean Power, Hana Abaza and Nemo Chu, with Georgiana Laudi moderating the conversation. It was centered around growth hacking in general, but Ross and I weren’t around for it. Instead, we were at the Chinese restaurant across the street enjoying a meal of chicken chow mein with crispy noodles.

It was delicious.

My 5 Biggest Hyper-Growth Lessons

Nemo Chu used to work at Kissmetrics before quitting and building his own 7-figure business. He spoke about some of the lessons he learnt along his journey.

Lesson #1 – Profit Trumps All

High conversion rates and clickthrough rates are great, but ultimately profits matter the most. Switching to a mindset of profit first opens up more opportunities for your marketing.

Nemo Chu conversion road trip

Lesson #2 – X vs Y Is The Wrong Question

Asking whether you should do Facebook ads or Google ads is not the right way to figure out your marketing strategies. You should focus on marketing strategies based on your team’s skill-sets.

Lesson #3 – Right Processes = Hyperspeed

Marketing is a creative job, and to keep it running you need creative ideas. To generate a large number of ideas, get your team together in one room and ask them to write 15 ideas each within 3 minutes. Then do a review and start scoring them based on how few resources you require, how much of an impact it can have, and how easy it is to scale. Pick the top ones and execute on them.

Lesson #4 – It’s Ok To Be A Copycat

If you see a good growth hack or marketing strategy being used somewhere else, it’s ok to copy it and use it on your store.

Lesson #5 – Make a profit for yourself

Nemo finished off by suggesting that we should care more about making money for ourselves than for others. Of course, if you’re running your own eCommerce business, you already know that!

Creating Better A/B Tests Based On User Research

This was probably the funniest talk of the day. Karl Gilis knocked it out of the park with his hilarious jokes and crazy A/B testing stories. He also unleashed the most F-bombs.

This was a pretty long talk and I wouldn’t be able to do much justice to it by reproducing the full thing here. You’d need to watch a video replay to fully appreciate it. However there were some key takeaways that you should know.

Lesson #1 – Don’t Test Stupid Things

Like whether a green button will convert better than a red button!

Karl Gilis converion road trip

Lesson #2 – Don’t Copy Tests

This goes back to what Oli said in his talk. A test that worked on another store may not work for yours, so don’t blindly copy it.

Lesson #3 – Understand Your Test Goals

Don’t run tests without having a clear hypothesis. Before you start your test, write down your hypothesis and be specific about what you want to test and how that will affect conversions.

Lesson #4 – Follow Best Practices

You can’t test everything, so it makes sense to start by following some best practices. For example, sliders are a huge NO. We’ve written about this before, so it was great that Karl mentioned it too.

Lesson #5 – Remove Clutter

This one took the cake. Karl showed us screenshots of the shopping cart of an eCommerce store. In addition to the “Proceed to Checkout” button, they also had large “Remove” and “Empty Cart” buttons. This seems to be common practice, like as if retailers think their customers enjoy filling up their carts and then emptying them in one fell swoop. By removing the other two buttons, the store saw a 55% increase in conversion rates!

Lesson #6 – Use Bullets

Bullets make your copy more readable. In some cases, switching from a wall of text to bullets helped stores increase conversion rates by 78%.

Lesson #7 – Green Checkmarks Are A Myth

It’s true!

Karl Gilis

Lesson #8 – Track User Behavior

To figure out where your conversion funnel is leaking, track how visitors browse your store. Use eye tracking and heat mapping tools to see what they are doing on your pages, and use Google Analytics to see which pages they visit.

Brain-Based Conversions

Luke Summerfield is the guy who helped Hubspot grow their Agency program. His talk on brain-based conversions was all about the psychology and neurology behind online shopping. His main point was that we need to understand what behaviours lead to a purchase, and how we can trigger those behaviours in our marketing.

Basically, there are two parts to our brains. The conscious brain, which controls our rational thoughts, and the sub-conscious brain which controls emotions. Our aim should be to appeal to the sub-conscious brain because that’s what drives buying decisions. Using concepts like authority, social proof and scarcity, we can influence people to buy our products.

After Party

After a full day of presentations and laughs, it was time to unwind at the after party. We went to SPiN, a ping pong bar at the heart of Toronto. There were free drinks and snacks on hand, as well as a dozen or so ping pong tables. Ross demolished me in the couple of games we played.

I was also promised free tickets to the CTA Conference for being one of only two non-Unbouncers to wear an Unbounce t-shirt. If you’re around in Vancouver this September, I’ll see you there!

Unbounce Conversion Road Trip