How My Barista Taught Me About Conversion Optimization

How My Barista Taught Me About Conversion Optimization

For a very long time, I didn’t like coffee. Don’t get me wrong; I drank the stuff, but for a purpose—one long day at work equaled one big cup of java—not for enjoyment. I couldn’t have cared less if I was drinking coffee from a fancy French press or a cup of Folgers instant. I was strictly into the “Utility Joe,” and set in my ways… or so I thought.


One day, my local barista opened my eyes, explaining the myriad options in the great wide world of the bean. He took the time to learn what I liked and disliked about certain coffees, explained the different ways of making it, even the ways of presenting it, so he could identify the brew that I’d like best. Then, he made sure that’s what I got when I came back, every time I came back. Now, when I go to a coffee shop I sound like a pro and I go much, much more frequently than I used to.

So, what does this have to do with conversion optimization? In short, everything. Think about it: my barista took the time to learn my tastes and preferences down to how I wanted my coffee to look. By having a genuine interest in my opinion on the subject, he made a loyal coffeeholic out of me. I went from someone who would almost never get anything but a tall cup of black to a devoted lover of Ethiopian Sidamo Peaberry—iced, please.


The principles of conversion optimization are actually pretty simple. It’s all about the execution and taking the time to make your efforts actually work.

First, you need to take the time to learn about your customers. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling coffee or cars if you don’t know to whom you’re selling. A person’s buying behaviors are strongly influenced by their likes and actions outside of the purchase funnel. Spend some time identifying your key demographics and analyzing their shopping and buying habits. You can do this online, offline, through social and more, which makes for a decent overall picture of your perfect customer.

Next, employ several variations of whatever strategy you and your team thinks will work best. This is the muddy part. Marketing is always a gamble, no matter how calculated. You have to work with your internal team, or a professional agency, to come up with the approach you think will best speak to your demographic. Once you’ve chosen a starting point, the smartest thing to do is try a few of the variations at the same time. This way, you can monitor the results and choose what works best.

It’s really that simple. My barista knew I didn’t like acidic coffee and, because I’m known to nurse a cup for hours at a time, that I hated my perpetual “coffee just went cold” moments. He showed me different roasts that cut down on acidity and turned me on to iced coffee, a simple fix I hadn’t thought of. He showed me that there was, indeed, no reason to always order the largest size available, and, on the rare occasion that I do get my coffee hot, he even showed me what mug to use.


This barista was employing conversion optimization in the purest sense, even if he didn’t know it. He learned about me and showed me different variations on the same theme to identify his hero. He noted what I liked and didn’t like until he was able to see exactly what I preferred. Then all he had to do was sell it to me. The same logic can be applied when selling almost anything to almost anyone.

Obviously, this is a simplified version of conversion optimization, but the basic principles remain the same. By establishing who your customer is and researching what they generally like, using multivariate or A/B testing to offer them options around their preference, and using analytics to ultimately suggest what has proven most popular, you optimize your chances for a conversion. You’re achieving your goal at a faster rate, and your customers are getting more of what they want. In laymen’s terms, it’s a no-brainer.

Lucid Agency
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