Improving your conversion rate using marginal gains

Watching the Olympics over the last few weeks in Tokyo got us thinking about out our unique proposition as an eCommerce Agency. What makes us stand out from the rest in a highly competitive world is the fact that we own and run our own online shops as well as providing traditional agency services to our clients. Thus providing us with a testing ground in which to experiment with new ideas that will boost our sales, increase the conversion rate per website visitor and enable us to share this information with our clients. 

If you are a fan of the Olympics and in particular the GB cycling team you may be familiar with the term “Marginal Gains” and Sir Dave Brailsford. It made us realise that all of the tweaking and adjusting we do to each part of the businesses is aimed at tiny improvements. When gathered together will make a huge difference to our performance. 

What is the Idea Behind Marginal Gains?

The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of, that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.

Sir Dave Brailsford

In the same way that every millisecond gained on a bike adds up to a faster time and the difference between Gold and Silver, an increase of half a percent on your conversion rate could result in hundreds of more sales. Once you have made the changes the difference will be felt long term and be better for your bottom line.

In a business sense, Team GB weren’t the first to use this methodoligy. The Japanese business concept of Kaizen is what inspired him. After the second World War the Japanese needed to play catch up on the industrial stage and so used Kaizen to ensure “continuous improvement‚Ķ Doing little things better, setting and achieving ever higher standards.

How does it work with eCommerce?

The British Cycling team and Team Sky of course under Brailsford looked at everything. When I say everything, I mean everything, from the riders’ clothing to the type of chain to the food and even travel arrangements. Did you know that when competing, cyclists were not even allowed to lift their luggage off the conveyor belt in case they strained a muscle, their wives or family had to do it for them. No shaking hands at all in case of infection and this was way before Covid. 

In business and especially eCommerce there are a multitude of departments where you can make changes. Finance, Marketing, Sales, HR, IT, Communications etc but for the purposes of this blog we will talk about your website. In a later blog we will go into other areas like fulfillment and see how creating easy to use and automated system can save time and money while increasing customer satisfaction. 

What is the Conversion Rate?

Conversion rate on Shopify

The conversion rate of your eCommerce store, or indeed any website is the number of people who complete your desired goals or actions when visiting your site. This could be the number of sales as a percentage of visits or the number of completed enquiry forms or subscribers. A typical store conversion rate on Shopify is around 2 %. If we can get this number to increase by 1% with the changes we are suggesting you stand to make a lot more money. Shopify have a very useful tool that shows you how well you are converting compared with your competitors. 

Where to Start?

We will start with the fundementals of users experience on your website and how you can improve the experience without too much technical knowledge.

1. Website Speed

When we talk about optimising your website, there are several factors to consider. One of the most important is speed. Visitors expect a website to load quickly when viewed on any device. The expected load time is now 2 seconds, whereas a few years ago the goal was 3 seconds and faster. Any slower than 3 seconds will most likely result in a bounce (someone leaving your site without having interacted with it at all).

What value can you put on increases in website speed? One of the most well known examples is a study by Amazon, a long time ago in 2006 but it still remains a benchmark for most web agencies. 

Every 100ms delay in load speed results in a drop of revenue of 1%. 

Source: Content King App

How do you speed up your website?

There are multiple factors effecting your website loading speed. You can alter the majority without having to spend any significant money.

  • Fast and secure Server
  • Content Delivery Network
  • Images
  • Video
  • Code
  • Themes
  • Apps

Once you are sure you have the fastest server and a good content delivery network you might want to talk to a developer about thinning out the code on the back end of the website.


When you build your website you may experiment with a few different apps before deciding to remove them. This doesn’t mean the code for those apps has necessarily been removed. Any extra lines of code can reduce the speed dramtically.  Get an expert to remove the latent code if you can’t do it yourself.


If you are using a theme to build your website in Shopify, WordPress or any other website builder. Do the research first and find out which ones are built with speed in mind. Of course the more money you pay for a theme the better the results are likely to be. Ensure that the theme is regularly updated by the source company. 


If you imagine website loading speed to be governed by how heavy the page is. The heavier the page in terms of size of file that has to load then it becomes easier to imagine. Images and video are often the largest assets on any website. The average homepage is approx 2mbs in size. How big is yours?

The banner image at the top of the page is quite often the culprit so check the file size of the image. You can use a number of different tools to reduce the size of your images. We recomend Photoshop’s save for web tool. Open your photograph in Photoshop – click file – save for web – then reduce the size of the image to 1800 x 900 and it will reduce the file size down to below 100kbs. 

You can bulk edit images in photoshop and other online tools. We would recomend reduving the file size of all of your imagery. You can also use website speed testers to identify the big files. 

Our favourite is GT Metrix:

GT Metrix Results

As you can see from the results of a speed test on our own website the results are very good. This has taken as you know a long time working on each element on the website. All part of the success of marginal gains. 

If you would like us to look at your website speed and suggest what needs to be done to improve things, then please give us a call


Video is much the same as images. Responsible for some terrible load speeds. You can however again reduce file sizes if you need to using tools like Handbrake. You can also shorten your video down to the essential length and allow user to click through to another platform to watch it. 

Instead of uploading your video to your website you might want to consider getting another platform to do the heavy loading. Consider Youtube or Vimeo and simply get the embed code from the share video option. 

You will always be adding more content to your website so ensure you have a process for ensuring all images and videos are the smallest they can be without reducing their impact through pixellation. The first step of course is to sort out all of your latent content which can be a big task, but once done the gains will be immediate and for the long term. 

Customer Service:

In an ideal world, once a customer has experienced your service and products they will keep coming back for more. Unfortunatly this is rarely the case unless you offer outstanding customer service and keep them in the loop with news and product releases. There are many ways to do this and when we do our tweaks we are always on the lookout for simplifying processes and using automation that won’t annoy customers. 

Live chat and an email marketing platform are essential parts of your communications strategy. We have spent the last three years fine tuning our processes and know we are not even half way there. It is something that needs to be worked on constantly and luckily there are now tools out there to help you. Our live chat is easy to find and can answer simple questions like opening hours, discounts and size guides for customers. If they have further questions they can then chat to one of us on the phone or through the app on our phones and computers. Our recomended app is Tidio.


Klaviyo is a key tool in our armoury to improve conversion rates. An easy to use and access app that fits in with Shopify, Klaviyo enables you to keep in touch with your customers, segment them into different audiences and ensure they get reminders if they have left something in their basket. If someone adds a product to their basket and then leaves the site, this is not a conversion. To turn them into a conversion and therefore up your Conversion rate you need to send them reminders about what they are missing. You might even want to offer a discount to encourage them back.  These are all things we play with regularly. Not just setting up the system, but testing different wording and images. Using the templated wording is boring and is very impersonal. We try to include humour where possible and see what happens. 

Like all of your marketing efforts, you should be tryng out new ideas to increase open rates on email lists. This is quite often changing the subject line to get them to click. If you can increase the open rate on emails then you will get more engaged visitors who are more likely to convert. 

Checkout process

Do you keep track of your abandoned basket rate? What is your checkout process like? It is worth spending some time testing your process from the customer point of view and considering what you would like to change. Is it quick and easy, do you take different forms of payment, is the shipping obvious. Lots of questions and all worth considering. 

With a system like Shopify you can quickly enable different payment options like Amazon Pay, Google Pay and as we have discussed before Shop Pay. A lot of these payment systems auto-fill your address details and remember you across multiple websites. If you are using other platforms like wordpress, you can alter the number of fields that need to be completed. Every step you reduce speeds up the checkout and makes customers happy and therefore increases your conversion rate.

Product Information

One of the most important parts to owning an ecommerce website is to ensure your website visitors have all the information they need about a products without having to hunt around or go to another competitor. There are apps you can use if your theme doesn’t have the necessary fields. For us selling dog beds is all about getting the size right. This helps avoid returns and refunds for the wrong size. We use a combination of size guide apps together with product tabs. This means customers don’t have to scroll around the page, most of the information they require is at their fingertips. 


Getting your navigation right is essential in helping visitors to find what they want and quickly convert to a customer. You have multiple avenues at your fingertips, just remember that each visitor will have their own way of finding products and you need to cater to all of them. 


Ensure you have a search bar or icon at the top of each page. Most themes have them in the header section of the website. Don’t just be happy with the out-of-the-box solution. We have just boosted our conversion rate by .5% by giving our search result section a thorough going over. You can edit what results appear and in which order. You should also go through previous searches and find out if they resulted in the correct product appearing. As an example. We sell Fat Face Dog Beds. If you search for Fatface all one word the products was not showing up in search results. So we changed the product description to include both spellings and voila more Fat Face Dog Beds sold. 


Have a look at Amazon’s menu section, more menus than your average store. Partly because they have a huge range of products and services but also because they want visitors to be able to find products from anywhere on their website. Is your website menu system worth it’s salt? Get friends and family to try and find products or information about products and see what they come back with. You may think it looks pretty, but does it do the job. 


One of the hardest things to get right is your product categorization. Is it done so that everyone in the office understands it, or are you focused on the customer? Getting this right will also help with your navigation, some products may need to show up in multiple categories but currently only show in a single one. This will affect your homepage because most websites have banners and images directing visitors to particular product categories. If you are using a platform like Shopify, they use the word “Collections”. Does this make sense to your website visitor is you use both collections and categories?

In summary

The list could go on and on, but as you can see there are lots of areas that you can pick apart and improve. It is a never-ending process and every change may result in a step forwards or backward. At the end of your journey, you at least know your goal, to have a bigger conversion rate.

We would recommend working through the content first and reducing file sizes, followed by ensuring your navigation is as good as it can be, then start to tweak checkouts and categorisation with feedback from your customers. Remember if it is good enough to win Gold Medals at the Olympics, then it is good enough for you.

Good luck and if you need help we can use our experience to boost your conversion rate. 

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