The Geek's Guide to Ecommerce Surveys

by Manish Goyal

August 19, 2015

Short, concise customer surveys will reveal all sorts of interesting information that can help you boost your store's conversion rates. And they're easy to do.

Let's face it -- data-driven marketers tend to stick to the numbers when looking for ways to improve site conversions. Data feels safer (because it's easy to defend) and it's easier to analyze than digging through a bunch of qualitative feedback from customers.

But if you feel like you're running out of ways to improve conversions or sales, try making qualitative customer surveys a priority.  Surveys can give you a fresh approach to conversion rate optimization (CRO) for a few reasons:

  • Discover useful insights you can act on immediately, instead of waiting for analytics reports or sales data.
  • Learn exactly what problems your customers see, instead of taking educated guesses about what should be improved.
  • Collect great customers testimonials that you can use on your site, social media, and publicity materials.
  • Lift stellar wording from responses to use on your site or in your landing page copy.

Even better, a recent study found that 62% of customers are more likely to buy from a brand that asked them for their opinion in a survey.

But before you go off and start interrogating people, let's dive into exactly how to pull those hidden insights out of your customers' brains.

For Ecommerce Surveys, Questions Are King

When you are gathering qualitative data, the best strategy is to ask open ended questions to invite your customers to share their deepest thoughts and feelings about your brand.

Pretend you're a lawyer presenting your first witness, walking them through their story with your questions. To help get you started, here are the exact questions that CRO pros use in their qualitative surveys, starting first with Peep Laja of Conversion XL

  • What’s the one thing that nearly stopped you buying from us?
  • What was your biggest fear or concern about using us?
  • What’s keeping you from buying this product right now?

And here are a few more from Neil Patel, the founder of Quicksprout:

  • Is there anything you can’t find on this page?
  • What’s the biggest problem we can help you solve?
  • What are you looking for in your ideal solution?
  • What else can we place on this page to convince you to buy?
  • Why didn’t you complete your purchase today?

Neil also has a little tip for just how many questions to include in your surveys (Hint: the shorter, the better):

“Customers tend to get annoyed by longer surveys, and everyone’s time is valuable. If you present customers with a shorter survey, there’s a greater likelihood that people will fill it out, which means you’ll receive more responses to evaluate.” 

And here's a bonus question that most marketers overlook because of all the SEO tools that are out there. It's from John Jantsch of Duct Tap Marketing:

What would you Google to find a business like ours?

I can already hear the SEO experts scoffing.  Of course you can do SEO keyword research yourself, and the words your customers suggest might not be standard search terms or even familiar language in your specific industry, but asking this question helps you identify what keywords they associate with your brand and products.  This question can help you discover new avenues for less competitive search terms and fresh language to use in your copy.

The most important tactic to remember with qualitative surveys is asking questions that require more than a yes or no answer. The goal is to discover the deeply held beliefs of your customers to use as insights in your CRO testing. With yes or no questions, you get none of this.

Now that you know the types of questions you should ask in qualitative surveys, let's take a look at a case study to see how this looks in action.

PrideBites Makes Their Survey Top Dog

The Geek's Guide to Ecommerce Surveys


After getting their first whiff of success selling Trojan-shaped dog toys at a USC game, the founders of PrideBites knew they were onto something, but were unsure which products would best expand their business.

Knowing they were working within a niche market with entrenched competition, they were aware a misstep could be costly. Using Google Consumer Surveys, they were eager to learn what kind of toys their customers wanted to see next. Regarding what they found, co-founder Steven Blustein told Google Consumer Surveys, "We couldn't take our eyes off the results."

PrideBites' survey contained nine questions (nice and short), which included questions about pricing, product features, and product descriptions. From these questions, they discovered a handful of unexpected and useful insights they used to adjust their business.

For example, they learned their customers ideal price point was $10, so their focus shifted to products in that range.

They also learned dog owners aren't big fans of playing with their dogs in water, so toys that were waterproofed were de-emphasized.

Thirdly, they discovered that durability was the number one feature that dog owners were looking for in products, so this became the focus for product expansion and descriptions.

These insights helped lead the growth of PrideBites' business, which was projected to hit over $1 million in sales last year.

As you can see, the devil is in the details -- and with qualitative surveys, PrideBites was able to turn their ecommerce startup into a growing powerhouse.

For those of you are working on a much larger scale, let's talk about how you can wrangle all this qualitative data and make sense of it all.

Data Mining Offers Freedom from Spreadsheets

If you're creating a survey and expecting hundreds or even thousands of responses, you typically need to compile and sort all your answers manually or export them to an Excel spreadsheet for review.  Then you have to search for patterns in the responses, like you're solving some kind of cipher.

Unless you're an absolute wizard at Excel, you're looking at a dreary, exhausting task. If you're mixing in site analytics or demographics data, you'll probably need a friend with a statistics degree to figure it all out.

So how do huge retailers comb through all their customer data without employing an army of spreadsheet jockeys? The answer is data mining.

What Is Data Mining, Anyway?

Most of us just nod our head and smile when we hear "data mining" because it seems pretty complicated, but the concept is more simple than you think.

Data mining is the practice of combing through large amounts of data in order to generate new insights. Big retailers like Target use it to predict when female shoppers will become pregnant to send them corresponding deals. Walmart found that Strawberry PopTarts become very much in demand in the aftermath of hurricanes using data mining.

The Geek's Guide to Ecommerce Surveys - Data Mining - Target

Typically with web surveys, insights are found by combing through Excel spreadsheets. But with a survey platform like FourEyes, you can create surveys for free and dump all of your responses (along with any other data you want it to analyze), and their data mining tool will comb through every variable and response to find the meaningful insights, while hiding all the useless data.

With data mining, you can also combine any and all data you already know about your customers - their subscription plan, purchase history, location, feature usage, etc. - and combine it with your Net Promoter Score (NPS) results.

Data mining software then takes all of that info together and spits out the relationships that have the biggest effect on customer satisfaction.

So you might discover insights like:

  • Users who bought a specific product are 50% more likely to recommend it to others.
  • Users that use the English version of your site are 25% more happier than those that use the Spanish version.
  • Users who have had support tickets answered by your customer service rep Janet are 35% happier than customers who talk to your other reps.

By combining data from different sources, you can find insights efficiently and more quickly than our human brains could ever produce alone. Data mining has the ability to show you the 10 interesting statistical relationships and hide the other 990.

Using Data Mining Insights to Transform Your CRO

By pulling qualitative data, you can set your self apart from your rivals. Learning how your customers truly feel about your brand will help you improve your product descriptions, conversion rates,  and headlines.

This shortens your CRO loop because you're finding  juicy relationships in your data - solving the unsolved mysteries that have always plagued your site and can finally be solved, thanks to your customers.

And with a tool like FourEyes, you can supercharge your surveys with advanced data mining at the click of a button, which automatically finds the insights you’d otherwise need multiple data crunching tools to unearth. So instead of looking for CRO gold in reams of spreadsheets or calling your college buddy with the statistics degree, all of the striking correlations are served to you in an instant.

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