• Ann Njuguna

Shopify Theme Selection for Conversion Rate Optimization

Updated: Jun 27



We’ve talked about Conversion Rate Optimization and how it can benefit your business. We’ve also covered the 6 step Conversion Rate Optimization process and why each of these steps is important. However, you might still be left wondering, “If my website needs so many CRO changes, where do I get started?” “What if I start the process and the cost of making these changes is too high for me?” “How do I address this?”


Don’t panic: we’ve got the answers to all these questions and more. In this article, we'll discuss how the CRO process integrates with themes: if and when you need a new theme, when you don’t, and how to select the best Shopify theme for CRO.


Note: Our advice on Shopify is also applicable to choosing the best WordPress theme for CRO.


Getting started with theme selection for conversion rate optimization

As is standard procedure in the CRO process, our 1st step is to audit Google Analytics.


You might be wondering why this is important if you’re just going to end up buying a new theme anyway. Here’s why:

  • You need to audit Google Analytics (or the data collection platform you use) to make sure that it is in good health. Any errors in configuration e.g lower traffic than usual (missing data), spam data, or trackable data that gives us information about the key performance indicator, need to be fixed.

  • After the fixes, you will need to allow some data to collect, based on your website's traffic. This is because this data is now much cleaner and comprehensive and will help make better decisions.


Now, the 2nd step is to audit the website (heuristics analysis). As explained in the 6 step CRO process, this step gives you information on the low-hanging fruit you can start optimizing and checks if your website meets the standards required for eCommerce websites. Besides this, you also get some more ideas to A/B test on.


The 3rd step is the data analysis step. This step is important because it both helps to qualify A/B testing and reveal other website weaknesses that need optimization e.g. leaking shopping funnels, underperforming pages and devices, speed-related issues, and even traffic source performance.


Now that we have done steps 1 - 3, it's time for the interesting part: deciding whether you should buy a new theme or implement the rest of the CRO process, including making changes to your existing websites and running A/B experiments for optimization.



When to install a new theme


In this case:

  • If the number of required changes is high and resource-intensive to the point where buying a new theme helps solve a good number of these issues, then install a theme and continue from there.

  • Also, if you are on a limited budget and a new theme with most of the eCommerce website standards implemented helps you cut down on the cost of the changes, then a new theme is the best option.




Now that we know when we need a new theme, let's focus on what to look out for in a new theme. It's important to note that after installing a new theme, we'll need to proceed with the rest of the CRO process for the best outcome. I'll explain why in a bit.



Theme selection

Since each business is unique and the themes sold are meant to serve as many businesses as possible, it's hard to get a perfect fitting theme that will cover all the ideas you have on optimization and A/B tests. However, you can get a theme that covers most of the needs of your business and customize it to fit your needs.


Here is what to look for when selecting a theme

  • Product listings - well organized and spacious

  • Fast loading speeds

  • A search module with auto-complete, product images, and prices

  • Visible search module on mobile devices

  • Mobile friendly

  • Breadcrumbs to help with navigation

  • A cart popup that is well implemented and can be used for cross-sells, and a link to “Continue shopping” that encourages users to buy more

  • Sticky menu

  • FAQs page

  • The product details page needs to have the following items above the fold:

  • Product name

  • Product price

  • Product Rating

  • Image gallery

  • Floating add to cart and checkout buttons

  • Sticky filter for the category pages

  • SEO Optimized theme

  • Consistent colors across all pages & Primary Call To Action Buttons

Here are sample themes that have some of the listed features with their advantages and disadvantages. Since it's not easy to find a theme that fits all your needs, assessing the advantages and disadvantages helps you figure out how much time and resources will be needed to implement the required changes that are not in the theme.



Sample Theme 1: Flow - Queenstown

Advantages

  • Product listings are well organized and spacious

  • The search module is well organized with images (It's best if the prices are also added to the dynamic search results)

  • Mobile friendly

  • Breadcrumbs to help with navigation

  • The cart popup is well implemented and can be used for cross-sells, however, since it is persistent, we might need a way to let users know that they have an option to continue shopping instead of having to close the popup.

  • Sticky menu

  • FAQs page available

  • SEO Optimized

  • Consistent colors across all pages & Primary Call To Action Buttons

Disadvantages

  • On the product details pages, there are a few things above the fold that we really don’t need (can be placed elsewhere) e.g. social media icons, and the important stuff like the product name, rating, and cost are not above the fold

  • There are lots of margins above the fold that should be used to keep the most important elements visible.

  • Unless users click on the x, there is no direct way to encourage them to continue shopping. Furthermore, the theme does not have a cart page, which is a prime place to cross-sell products.

  • No filter module on the category pages

  • Needs speed optimization



Sample Theme 2: Tennessee

Advantages

  • Loads fast

  • Mobile friendly

  • Ready FAQ page

  • Sticky menu

  • SEO Optimized

  • Consistent colors across all pages & Primary Call To Action Buttons

Disadvantages

  • No search integrated into the theme.

  • No filters for the main category pages

  • No sticky filter for the category pages

  • Needs speed optimization

  • This is best for stores with very few products, specifically, same type products but with different variants.

  • No mega menu

  • No floating CTAs (Call To Action) buttons on the product and checkout pages

  • No bread crumbs

  • The most important features above the fold don't fit well e.g. product name, price rating, and image gallery


Deciding on the theme to install

Provided the two examples above and their advantages and disadvantages, we can make the following observations:

  • The 2nd theme (Tennessee) has more disadvantages than Flow - Queenstown theme.

  • The resources (e.g. time) that would be used to get the Tennessee theme to have the standard features of an eCommerce website are more than would be required for Flow - Queenstown theme.

  • Tennessee theme is also suited for one type of product as opposed to a fully-fledged eCommerce store that sells a variety of products


Given what we have learned above, the most ideal theme to go with would be the Flow -Queenstown theme. The next step is to add the missing functionalities.




Next

Now that we have resolved the low-hanging fruit by adding the new theme and fixing its missing functionalities, we can now go ahead and set up heat maps and video recordings. This should give us more information on the performance of the new theme.


Please note that this is done alongside data collection like with the previous theme. This means that after the installation of the new theme, tracking needs to be redone on the new website.


At this step, you can also go ahead with the A/B testing ideas formed at the heuristics and data analysis steps of the CRO process.




Conclusion:

We have learned that there are cases when you can choose to install a new theme as part of the CRO process or just optimize your existing theme. This depends on the resources and effort that will be required to fix the standard recommendations for an eCommerce website.


We have also learned how to check if we need a new theme or if we can just go ahead and optimize the existing theme by going through the Google Analytics audit, heuristics analysis, and data analysis steps.


To decide on the best Shopify or WordPress theme for conversion rate optimization to select, focus on the missing functionality in a theme and the resources that will be required to fix them. Also, choose a theme that is as close to your business needs as possible e.g. if you’re selling a variety of products in your store, avoid themes that are meant for one type of product with a few variants only.


It's also important to understand that it’s hard to get a theme with all the features you need. This means that you can only select a theme that gets as close as possible to your website needs, then proceed with the CRO process to optimize the theme further.









FAQs

Is it wise to install a new theme as opposed to going through the entire CRO process?

It's advisable that you go through the entire CRO process, even if you choose to install a new theme for your website. Unless it was built specifically for your business, no theme will fit all your needs. A few tweaks need to be made and that’s where CRO comes in.


How do I know when I should install a new theme over optimising the existing one?

This depends on what changes need to be made as well as the resources required for website optimization to fix any low-hanging fruit. If more resources are needed to make such fixes and you’re on a tight budget, then we recommend installing a new theme and continuing to optimise the website after installation. This will reduce the cost of optimization by a certain percentage.


How do I know what changes are required on my website so that I can decide whether to install a new theme or optimize the existing one?

You need to go through the first 3 steps of the CRO process, these are Google Analytics Audit, Heuristics, and data analysis. This will help you come up with a list of changes to work on and A/B testing ideas to implement.


What do I do after installing a new theme, should I stop the optimization process?

It is important to complete the CRO process by monitoring the behavior of the users through behavior analysis (heat maps and video recordings) and running A/B tests. Note that CRO is a continuous process and you always need to be optimizing your website to keep up with the competition and give your clients the best user experience on offer.