5 Qualitative Research Methods to Use in Conversion Rate Optimization

Getting people to convert is not an easy task, because each user has his/her own agenda. This is why every conversion rate optimization process should start with analyzing user behaviour: both from a quantitative perspective, and through qualitative research.

The goal is to identify the things your visitors have in common in terms of motivations and anxieties and create buyer personas. Knowing your main categories of buyers, what defines them and what motivates them to buy will help you tailor your marketing message in a way that it meets their needs.

Why you should never skip qualitative research 

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Analytics data will show you how users interact on your website, but they won’t explain why they do (or not) certain things. Only by getting to know your audience and understanding user behaviour you will be able to deliver the best shopping experience. 

Qualitative research helps you identify what is preventing users from converting, what are their fears and anxieties, their motivations, and most importantly – their needs. Knowing all this will help you lay the foundation for a realistic and relevant A/B testing process, which in return will lead to an increase in conversion rates. 

Let’s go through the most important qualitative research methods you can use to better understand your users:

1. Heatmaps

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Extremely visual and intuitive, heatmaps reveal hot and cold areas on your website in terms of user interest. The hot spots are red colored and highlight elements users interact with the most, in terms of clicks and mouse cursor movement. The cold spots are blue colored and represent elements visitors barely interact with. 

A heatmap basically tells you what part of a page gets the most attention. There are click maps and scroll maps. The first type we’ve already covered. Now let’s get to the second function: scrolling. It shows you how far down the page visitors have scrolled, so that you’ll know if it’s time to move important elements higher in the page in order to ensure accessibility. 

Another interesting insight you’ll gain from analyzing heatmaps is identifying static elements that users have interacted with repeatedly, while being under the impression that these elements were clickable. In other words, if you see that an icon has been clicked numerous times, you have two options: either change its design as to avoid confusing users or make it clickable. 

Amongst the most popular tools for creating and analyzing heatmaps are: Hotjar, Crazy Egg, MouseFlow, Lucky Orange. 

2. Session Recordings

Session recordings are an essential part of qualitative research, because they show you how visitors really navigate your website. They highlight user flow, help you identify any issues in usability (could be bugs, technical errors) or elements that are overlooked. 

They also represent a valuable source of testing ideas, as they bring to surface user behaviour in its purest form. Through session recordings you can identify issues you weren’t even aware of or find new ways of optimizing user experience. 

3. Website Polls

You have a great testing idea, but it’s quite complex and it implies spending a significant amount of time and resources on implementation. How can you make sure it’s worth it? 

One idea could be setting up a feedback poll on the page you want to run the experiment on. Simply ask visitors what they think about the feature you want to implement on the page. Will they find it useful and use it? Do they need it?

There’s nothing more valuable than customer feedback, and running on-site polls is a great way of obtaining it and finding out if you’re on the right track in terms of A/B testing.  

Here’s another possible scenario: you’ve already tried numerous A/B tests on a page, but you still don’t see a significant increase in the conversion rate. Right about now you’re starting to think: ‘Am I missing something?’. You most probably are.

Fortunately, you can always run a site poll and ask customers if they would benefit from additional features and if yes, what would they be. 

You can ask customers right about anything, as long as it helps you improve their shopping experience. Here’s a list of possible questions to help you get started. 

4. Customer Surveys

While on-site polls focus on presenting users with a single question, in a brief manner, customer surveys are more complex, starting with general inquiries to ease the customer into filling out the form and ending with practical questions about their shopping experience. 

Customer surveys are really insightful, as they enable you to run an in-depth analysis of your customers. This is also a great starting point for the buyer persona development. 

We recommend sending surveys to customers that have recently purchased an item from your store, no more than a month back. Because they’ve tried the product recently, their experience is still fresh, making them more likely to fill out the survey and offer honest feedback. 

You can find more details on creating an effective customer survey here

5. User Testing 

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User testing is probably the most powerful qualitative research method out there. You are basically observing actual people as they navigate your website and notice the way they interact with various page elements, while at the same time explaining their thought process out loud.

It can’t get more insightful than that, can it? All you need to do is pay attention to everything your test users say and do.

The process is quite simple: you select a group of users that are representative to your target audience and assign them various tasks you want them to complete.

It’s best to aim for key actions, such as purchasing a product or signing up for something. You’ll want to create plausible scenarios that real users would follow with the purpose of identifying all the issues they experience in the process. 

In order to make sure you cover everything and generate useful insights, it’s best to include three types of tasks in your test protocol: a specific task, a broad task and funnel completion. 

User testing will help you gain a better understanding on how your website is perceived by real people and what are the most pressing issues arising in the conversion funnel. 


Ideally, when running qualitative research you’d go through each one of these research methods, as to get a clear and complete picture of user behavior. 

However, if your time or financial resources are limited, consider running at least heatmaps, session recordings and on-site polls. These are a great starting point for understanding what really lies behind user behavior.

Need help understanding your users? Write us at contact@ontrack.agency and let’s talk!

By Cristina Neagu

I am a CRO specialist with a focus on consumer psychology & behaviour.

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