Conversion Rate Optimization – What’s that all about?

Believe it or not, our original business plan had only 10% of quotes completed online – we expected the rest to be done over the phone. When we first started to offer online quoting back in December 2011, the it almost immediately jumped to 50% of our quoting volume. Since then it’s steadily climbed further, to the point where this month 77% of quotes we’ve given out have been done online! You might be wondering what has driven the increase. We think it’s really 3 things:

  1. our marketing mix;
  2. usability enhancements we’ve made to our website and online quoting flow; and,
  3. conversion rate optimization (CRO).

I’m going to spend the rest of this post focusing on the third aspect: CRO. (We’ll try cover the other 2 topics in future blog posts.)

For those unfamiliar with the term, in a nutshell CRO is the process of refining a website landing page, with the aim of increasing “conversions”. In our case the “conversion” we’re focused on is someone getting an online quote. We’re far from trailblazers in this field, so there’s a ton of great resources out there, with concrete suggestions on how to improve website conversion rates. One website we’ve found useful is the blog on – a fellow Vancouver-based company. The general concept is to think of your landing page as a funnel, and you want to steer all visitors that land on that page through a pre-determined flow, that concludes with the behaviour you’re trying to encourage. Based on our experience, some of the most important changes we made on our website landing pages to encourage conversions are:

  1. Customize your landing page based on the audience (and how they got there). For us that means having many (hundreds) of different landing pages, customized based on the user’s location (ie Chilliwack, BC vs Calgary, AB, vs Saskatoon, SK), and product they’re looking for (ie home insurance vs tenant insurance vs rental property insurance etc). When we display ads in Google, we make sure that we link to the landing page that is most relevant for that ad.
  2. Be very explicit about what you want the customer to do, and what they can expect when they do it. When we first launched online sales we just had a little link in the upper right corner of the site, and some additional links embedded in the website copy. Clicking on the link would pop up the following quote widget: old-quote-widget

    Problems with this approach? A lot of people didn’t even notice the links, and would end up calling in to get a quote, because they didn’t even realize they could get an online quote. People are busy and aren’t going to hunt around looking for something on your website. If it isn’t immediately obvious they’ll either call you or, much worse, just move on to another site.

    The other challenge was that the original quoting widget tried to merge 3 different usage scenarios into one screen, and really didn’t provide many clues as to what the customer could expect once they clicked the “Get a Quote” button.

    Our current quoting widget is front and center on all landing pages. (We still offer a link to a similarly styled popup quoting widget from every page, just like we used to). We’re now very explicit about what the widget allows you to do: “Get an online quote now and save on your home insurance. We’re also explicit about what you can expect: Get your free quote in just 15 minutes. You’ll also notice that the form submit button stands out, and again is very explicit about what will happen if you click on it. We’ve also added an information bubble beside the address field (when the address field has focus), to make it even more clear about what the user can expect when submitting the form. Secondary use cases (accessing an existing quote, or entering an “access code” to start a quote) receive much less emphasis.


    Keen observers will also notice that the info we ask for when you start a quote is now different as well. We used to just ask for your 6 digit postal code, but now we actually get you to enter your entire address (using an autocomplete field just like on Google Maps). From a CRO perspective this could be seen as counterproductive, because studies have clearly shown that the more you ask a user to do, the more likely they’re not going to bother.

    Our experience did bear this out; when we made the switch the percentage of website visitors that initiated a quote fell by around 3%. So why you ask, did we make the switch? Because our goal isn’t to get people to start quotes, it’s to get people to complete them.

    Previously, later on in the quoting process we’d use the postal code to try look up the bulk of the customer’s address, but they would always need to at least enter the unit number and/or house number. Asking customers about their address twice just wasn’t that customer friendly, and our experience bore that out.Once we switched to just getting all the address details we need up front, our overall abandon rate decreased by around 5%.

  3. Avoid distracting the user with things that draw them away from the call to action. Carrying on with the funnel analogy, you can think of links to other areas of the site as potential “leaks” drawing users away from the action you’re trying to encourage. You also don’t want to have content on the page that isn’t relevant to the “conversion” you’re trying to promote.

    For us it’s been a real balancing act because we want to make sure that whoever is on our website has easy access to the information they’re interested in, and we’re really not a fan of high pressure sales. On the other hand, some users get overwhelmed if you provide too many links., These users may need a guiding hand to help them get to where they actually want to go. We’ve found that the right mix of content includes “social signals”, like customer reviews, and example quotes. Both of these help build trust, as well as relevant content to ensure any questions or doubts that would prevent someone from getting a quote, are answered.

    The content on our landing pages continually evolves, as we intend to always stay at least a couple steps ahead of our competition. We’d love to get your feedback? Is there anything more that we could do on our landing pages, to encourage you to get an online quote? Some examples of our landing pages are: Vancouver home insurance and Alberta tenant insurance. Take a look, and let us know what you think!

    Send an email to Jason

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