The Conversion Equation

30th August 2022

5 minute read

Sales are proportional to Desire minus Effort.

Let’s dig into that in a bit more detail.

First, what do we mean by Sales? In CRO this generally means the number of visitors who convert to customers when they’re on your site. In reality this is a little reductive and doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re making more money from the site. If you were running a real-world shop you wouldn’t just want more customers, you’d want more profit.

Your website conversion rate may be high, but people might be buying your least profitable product.

Effort — this means a few things. The Effort the customer has to make in order to understand, find, and purchase your product is clearly going to be a function of how well your site works (in website terms, the UX), but Effort also includes less immediately obvious points such as how much your product costs. Something expensive could take more effort to buy, both in terms of the work involved to earn the money and the work involved to justify the purchase in the consumer’s mind.

Which brings us to Desire — how much does your customer desire your product? The more a customer desires what you’re selling (in purely economic terms this would be the value they get from the product) then the more work they will do to get it, whether that’s trawling through a website, paying more money, or simply telling themselves how much they’re worth it.

You can see from this that there are many levers to pull to increase the profits from your site, and that pulling one lever can help influence another. We know that people will queue for hours outside Apple to get the newest iPhone — why? They’re not cheap, waiting is a pain and you have to queue outside overnight so the Effort is very high, but the value these people will get out of being the first person in the country to own the new iPhone is worth all that extra effort. Their Desire is very, very high and it overrides everything else. Increasing the customer’s desire for your product is hugely important, and depending on the product and the context in which it’s used, bought, and communicated, different people will desire your product in different ways and at different levels.

For more advice on how to improve your conversion rate yourself – try our book on CRO.

Written by Rob Dobson

Rob Dobson has been working in digital and building websites for 20 years. From designing and developing the world’s first internet bank in 1999 (, he founded Northern Comfort in 2010.

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