It’s not enough to spin up a store, install a theme, and take orders. Smart business owners know how to maximize the impact of their traffic on their bottom line – and the absolute best way to do that is through conversion rate optimization, or CRO for short.
If you’re on Shopify Plus and have enough traffic to get statistically significant results from optimization, you’re in the right place. In this post, we’ll talk about what optimization means to store owners (it’s not precisely what you think!), outline the best tools that you can use to optimize your store, and discuss what to do next.
What is Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?
There’s a widespread belief that CRO is synonymous with A/B testing. Running experiments is a big part of CRO, but we take a much broader view at Draft, our Ecommerce optimization consultancy.
A/B tests don’t happen in a vacuum, and we consider their role in a more holistic process. In addition to A/B tests, we also consider one-off fixes to be the purview of optimization. We also believe that the process of understanding customers, researching what tests are likely to move the needle, and prioritizing accordingly is part of optimization. Our job is part design researcher, part project manager, and part A/B tester.
Taken in such a broad fashion, optimization is fundamentally the process of de-risking new design decisions by investigating whether they’ll move the needle, prioritizing what to work on next, and experimenting with new changes. In doing so, you eliminate the negative impact that could come with making significant changes, and you connect your decision-making process to economic impact.
If you’re wondering how this all fits together, we wrote a book, Value-Based Design, that teaches you everything you need to know about how to start moving the needle by optimizing your store and designing more intentionally.
What Makes for a Good CRO Tool?
A good optimization tool should be:
- Easy to set up. I don’t know about you, but I love nothing more than pressing single buttons and making the numbers go up. The less configuration, the better.
- Focused on conversion. This should go without saying, but so many apps claim to focus on conversion without actually backing it up. And any decision you make is speculative until you put it in front of paying customers. If you install a tool and find that it isn’t meaningfully helping you, stay focused and get rid of it.
Types of Optimization Tools
With that in mind, let’s dive deep into the current tool landscape and discuss what might work for your store. There are many options out there, and you don’t need to install all of these, of course. Just go through this list, pick what might work for you, and see what happens.
There are many apps that replace your checkout with a custom solution, allowing you powerful tools like one-click post-purchase upsells, custom messaging, and countdown timers – even if you aren’t on Shopify Plus.
The challenge with many checkout apps is that they replace your whole checkout, meaning that updates and long-term maintenance fall on the app provider, not Shopify. And now that Shopify has stopped allowing new checkout replacements into the app store, you may be on your own.
With that in mind, the increased AOV may be worth the risk. Here are the biggest players in the space:
Custom Funnels & Post-purchase Upsells.
CartHook replaces your whole checkout with a custom funnel that allows you to provide post-purchase upsells to your customers. Once the customer has placed their order, they have a time-limited opportunity to add more products to their cart. This generally increases AOV by 10–15%.
CartHook’s monthly fees are a little higher than its competitors, but at a low transaction rate, you might operate in sufficient volume to make up the difference.
- Custom funnel builder for multiple upsells & downsells
- Apply multiple upsells – with custom messaging – to different orders, based on what’s in the customer’s cart
- Dozens of integrations with the most popular merchant account, email marketing, and automation providers
$500/month, plus 0.5% of all upsell revenue.
Smart Product Recommendations & Cross-selling
Bold Upsell is a robust, comprehensive upselling app. It offers rich funnels that adapt to the customer’s choices, offering a series of alternatives if a given upsell offer is declined.
Bold Upsell also gives you full control over the design of your upsell flow, so you can match it to your store’s theme.
- Automated smart product recommendations
- Strategic upsells that match customers’ contexts
- Complex funnels
- Full design control
Starts at $9.99/month
One-click Post-purchase Upsells For Your Store
*Full disclosure: Zipify is a former Draft client.*
Zipify’s OneClickUpsell, or OCU, replaces your checkout and creates comprehensive upsell, downsell, and cross-sell funnels for your store. It’s easy to get started, with robust integrations with your existing email automation and payment workflows.
- Easy setup
- Custom, multi-step upsells & downsells
- Native split-testing functionality for funnel optimization
- Mobile-first design
$56/month for their essentials plan, plus 2.5% of all upsell revenue.
In-checkout Upsells – Without Checkout Replacement
Order Bump is an upsell app that only adds upsells to your checkout page – without the need to replace the checkout wholesale. Since OrderBump focuses exclusively on this part of the checkout process, it can deliver upsells without needing to replace the entire checkout.
- Upsells within the checkout page
- Mobile & desktop friendly
- Shopify Plus stores only
$99/month, 10-day trial.
Monthly Installment Plans in a Pinch
Sezzle lets customers buy now and pay over six weeks – and, as of press time, it’s the most-used buy-now-pay-later app for Shopify.
In our research with Draft’s clients, many customers cited Sezzle’s functionality as a key reason why they were able to buy right now. Its call to action easily fits in any store’s buy box, and should increase conversion rate significantly.
- One-click payment plans with easy-to-understand terms
- Easy integration into any store’s buy box
- Sezzle assumes all credit risk
Rates are customized to merchants, depending on their transaction volume and take rate.
Multi-channel Messaging to Recover Carts & Boost Conversion
CartStack focuses on getting more of your customers to convert with smarter messaging. With cart abandonment emails, SMS campaigns, and push notification alerts, CartStack provides a comprehensive set of channels to engage with customers in order to close more sales.
- Abandoned cart recovery for all accounts
- SMS reminders
- Push notification campaigns
- Exit intent popups
Starts at $29/mo for abandoned cart recovery, and $49/month for multi-channel messaging.
Thank-you Page Optimization for Upsells & Cross-sells
ReConvert provides custom messaging and robust features on a store’s order status, or thank-you, page. Upsells are part of the package, of course, but with additional functionality around birthdays, social shares, and videos & imagery, ReConvert gives store owners considerably more creative latitude over their thank-you pages – in far less time than rolling your own code.
- Social sharing widget on thank you page
- Discount pop-ups with countdown timers
- Reorder upselling
- Birthday SMS
Starts at $7.99/mo for up to 100 orders.
Optimization goes beyond the borders of your store, across every touchpoint that the customer experiences – from ads to shipment tracking.
Let’s talk about how you can think more holistically about every part of the customer’s experience – and create the best possible impression of your brand in the process.
Richer Package Tracking & Shipping Insurance
After purchase, customers want to know where their stuff is. Route provides them with deep, rich insight into exactly where their package is, along with push notifications for every step of the way. And it also provides protection against lost, damaged, or stolen packages.
- Real-time visualization for online orders
- Proactive push notifications for every step of the package’s journey
- Premium package protection for customers
- Instant claim resolution
Free for merchants, 98¢ or 1% of order value for customers
Facilitate Charitable Donations From Your Customers’ Purchases
ShoppingGives allows customers to donate 1% of their purchases to causes that matter to them. Instead of saying that a small portion of proceeds go to charity, now you can allow customers to decide who to give to. This increases conversion rate, AOV, and CLTV for you, while allowing customers to live out their values in their purchasing behavior.
- Integration in under 30 seconds
- Checkout & cart widgets
- Featured causes
- Customer add-on donations
Starts at free, with an 0.5% processing fee on any order that has a donation
Set Up Your Store for Google AMP
Right now, Shopify doesn’t offer support for Google AMP out of the box. AMP by Ampify Me is a drop-in tool to make your store ready for AMP right away.
- AMP editor
- Support for your store’s home page
- Custom domain support
- Rich analytics
Starts at free, with a $9.99/month plan for AMP validation, suggested products, richer analytics, and review integrations
Turnkey Progressive Web Apps & Mobile Apps
Progressive web apps, or PWAs for short, are available for easy installation on a customer’s smartphone home screen – regardless of whether they’re on iOS or Android. The result is a fast, user-friendly experience that stays top of mind when the customer makes future purchases.
- Allow your customers to install your website without needing to make any changes to your store
- Create progressive web apps in one click
- Native iOS & Android apps
Starts at free, with a $29.99/month plan for analytics & a custom iOS splash screen
Headless Ecommerce for Merchants
Nacelle is a headless Ecommerce platform that helps customers load your store faster. In particular, they help you build unique PWA storefronts – with the backend fully managed by them, so you don’t have to worry about issues like scaling or updates.
- Unique, bespoke PWA storefornt
- Works with Shopify, Magento, and even custom stores
- Backend managed by Nacelle
The Best Shopify Discounts App
Special offers & discounts are essential to the purchasing process, but Shopify doesn’t make it easy to create them. With Ultimate Special Offers, you can create over 8 different types of discounts, from BOGO to bulk to free gifts.
Discounts can be scheduled in advance, too, so you can run time-delimited sales that start & end at the exact right time – without having to sweat about turning everything on or off all at once.
- Separate offers for signed-in customers
- 8 different types of sales
- Upsells & cross-sells
Starts at $19/month
Product Detail Page
Pre-purchase Delivery Estimates for Conversion Boosts
The absolute best thing you can do to boost conversion rates on your store right now is to provide specific delivery date estimates on your product detail page, cart, and checkout. Worst-case estimates are fine, too: underpromise and overdeliver, after all. But the date should be specific, and it should be an actual date: no “in 2–3 days” here.
FenixCommerce is the gold standard for estimated delivery dates, and multiple Draft clients use it. FenixCommerce combines geolocation and customer information to provide delivery date estimates that are as accurate as possible.
- Shows delivery date estimate anywhere you need it
- Delivery date connects to cheapest shipping speed
- Clear display of best possible shipping options for every customer
Starts as low as $199/month. Use code “Ecomtech” for 10% off!
Increase Sales with Drop-in Social Proof
A lot of my time as an optimizer is spent wondering how to display and promote social proof, especially on product detail pages. Fera makes it easy to add social proof anywhere, including in important above-the-fold places like your store’s buy box.
From star ratings to curated testimonials, you’ll be able to make new customers feel more comfortable buying from you at every step of the way. And with A/B testing functionality, you can even optimize your testimonials for maximal impact.
- A/B testing & optimization helps you put the right testimonial in the right place
- Curated testimonials with a wide variety of proven templates
- Popups, top bars, and notifications
Starts at $20/month
Shopify’s default search is getting better by the day, but it still can’t beat many of these out-of-the-box offerings, featuring machine learning, rich results, and fast autocomplete.
Smarter search, without the hassle
If you’re looking to upgrade your search provider from Shopify’s built-in store search, Algolia has a robust API and testing tools that allow you to adapt your searches over time to meet your customers’ needs.
- Full-service search API to adapt to your store’s theme
- Results ranking optimization
- Rich analytics
- A/B testing for layout, behavior, and results
Starts at free for 50,000 search queries, $29/month and up thereafter
Fast Autocomplete & Rich Results
For those who are okay with their search providers controlling the experience so they don’t have to, Searchanise provides a drop-in, turnkey search solution that levels up on a few of Shopify’s stock features and fits a wide range of layout contexts.
- Full-text search with fast autocomplete
- Customizable drop-downs to fit your theme
- Recommendation blocks for product detail pages
Starts at free for up to 25 products, $9/month and up thereafter
Page Speed Load Time
On-the-fly Image Compression
- Serves the right image at multiple different resolutions: smaller images for smartphones, etc
- Machine-learning compression reduces file size significantly with no apparent optical impact
- Automatic: set it once and forget it
Starts at $4.99/month
Page Speed Monitoring That Reflects How People See Your Store
In conversion, nothing matters more than performance. Yet there are dozens of metrics that people use that don’t really reflect how people perceive your store. Time to first render matters, as does the time to interactive.
Lightify Me allows you to monitor how your store is performing, while also giving you concrete recommendations for improvement. That way, you don’t need to focus on vanity metrics or the wrong points of improvement.
- Multiple key metrics for determining page speed
- Actionable performance improvements
- Monthly reports on overall store health
Starts at free, $9.99/month plan for daily reporting
For when you’re ready to start experimenting on your store, you’ll need a framework to build new tests, send variations to the right customers, and analyze results.
The Best Optimization Framework for Any SMB
Draft’s exclusive optimization platform as of press time, Google Optimize has risen from newcomer to industry standard within just a couple of years. Its plan is free for the vast majority of applications, and its tight integration with Google Analytics makes experiment analysis a snap.
It's in-browser editor works well enough for most content tests, although you’ll want to host your own images through Shopify for any image-based experiments.
- Native Google Analytics integration
- Easy test execution
- Best for small and mid-sized businesses
- Personalization for winning experiments & deeper segmentation
Free for up to 5 concurrent tests & 3 goals, with enterprise pricing for very, very big stores
Developer-focused Optimization for Bug-free Experiments
If you have any developers on staff, or you’re looking to get a little more involved in your store’s code, Omniconvert is a tremendously powerful experimentation framework.
- Easy CDN bypass
- Detailed segmentation
Starts at $1,990/year
One of the first, still one of the best
Visual Website Optimizer, or VWO for short, is one of the earliest experimentation frameworks – and still among the best. VWO allows you to set as many goals as possible, allowing you to gain a greater understanding of knock-on effects & upper-funnel metrics. And its in-page editor is super fast for updating variants, bug fixing things on the fly, and ensuring clean data reporting.
- Unlimited goals & concurrent experiments
- Funnel analysis to assess drop-off points & conversion opportunities
Testing starts at $199/month, limited by page views
Robust, Modern Testing At Volume for Large Stores
The choice of large, enterprise-scale stores - Optimizely helps you run tests, flag features to specific customer segments, and roll features out in continuously deployed environments. If you run multiple dozens of concurrent tests on every single part of your conversion funnel, Optimizely is worth looking into.
- Feature flags & rollouts for dynamic testing
- Product-based experiments for enterprise-grade needs
- Solid data analysis when running many experiments at once
You’re probably aware that personalization is essential for conversion. Once you operate at a sufficient volume, you need to focus on delivering the right message to the right customers at the right time. That’s accomplished through personalization, or the practice of modifying your store to meet specific segments’ needs. Let’s talk about some of the best personalization tools out there right now.
Customized Banner Images & Products
If you’re looking for an easy way to get started with personalization, DataCue helps you modify your banners, mastheads, and advertising in order to convert as highly as possible.
- A/B testing to determine what content performs the best
- Customization features, so your store matches the ad that people clicked
- Weekly tips on content & ad strategy
Starting at $9.99/month for Shopify & Shopify Plus, $99.99/month for PrestaShop & WooCommerce
Cross-platform Personalization – Even Over Email
For those who want to personalize their product recommendations, LimeSpot is a perfect tool. With plug-and-play installation, easier customer discovery, and recommendations that change based on product performance, LimeSpot is personalization that’s easy to set & forget. And with email recommendations being custom-tailored to customers, now LimeSpot works across your two most important channels as well.
- Product recommendations optimized to demographic profiles
- Post-purchase personalizations
- Automated first-time visitor support
Starting at free, with a $20/mo plan for email personalization
Omnichannel Personalization, From In-store to Emails to Pop-ups
Nosto is a major personalization force in DTC, allowing the biggest brands to match their personalization strategies between their in-store experiences, emails, mobile apps, and online stores. It’s great if you’re a large or rapidly growing DTC brand with many touchpoints, and you want to unify everything into one consistent experience.
- Dynamic product recommendations
- Personalized category pages
- Dynamic personalization of email, based on past purchasing behavior
Starts at $1,000/month
Segmentation & Personalization with Dynamic Q&As
The best way to know what your customers are thinking is to ask them. And RightMesssage provides a terrific experience for surveying customers, gathering data on their motivations, and adapting your store to meet their needs.
- Q&A pop-ups allow for rich, bespoke personalization of content
- Higher email subscription rates through relevant opt-in forms
- Landing page optimization for segmented ad traffic
- Email integration with ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign, Drip, and HubSpot
Starts at $29/month
User Experience Tools - Wireframes & Prototyping
When you’re putting together new design decisions to test, you want to find a way to rapidly convey your ideas to the team. That’s where good wireframing tools come in: they allow you to create mock-ups as you desire, showing layout, behavior, and edge cases. That helps prototypes get built out at lower cost, with fewer bugs.