An Introduction to Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)
We have used 10 years worth of data from 10 editions of our CRO reports (written in conjunction with Econsultancy) to compile this guide to Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO).
Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is all about making it easier to acquire new customers and maximise the lifetime value of existing customers. Essentially it is a proven approach that any organisation can apply to get more value from the right kind of customer. It has a wide array of elements and methodologies that, when combined properly, could spawn first-class insight and increase your ROI by threefold or potentially even more.
To get to grips with CRO it’s important to first understand what a conversion is, what is conversion rate, and how do you got about optimising it. So, what is a conversion?
When talking about a conversion we’re referring to an action taken by a visitor or user of your website, this predetermined action will be specific to you company goals and will vary in definition from business to business. A conversion for you could be signing up for an email newsletter, making a purchase, requesting a quote, downloading an app or something else entirely the list goes on. This desired action that you are hoping to entice your visitors to carry out is the action that you would measure as a conversion, it’s that rate of action that we are looking to optimise.
Annual online conversion improvements
Very few statements can be taken and applied universally, often the case is what works for one person will disappoint another as it fails to hit the mark. Yet the statement consistency is key is one of those rare few that hold true and applies to both daily living and business life. With consistency in your attitude, work and relationships you will find success, end of story.
So why is it satisfaction levels have increased so minimally since 2011? Despite conversion rates improving, with 65% of companies surveyed showing improved conversion rates year-on-year since the survey began back in 2009, just over a quarter (28%) of company respondents are satisfied with their conversion rates. When asking the same question to agencies for their view on the matter their response shows client’s conversion rates improving higher than when they go it alone, providing an argument for seeking expert help. Though these rates are the lowest they’ve been since the beginning of the survey it is unsurprising, as the internet and digital world has developed into a methodical and efficient machine over its years of maturity there is a high degree of standard to thank for general increases in conversion rate, but CRO is the thing that will separate good from great.
Before you move on look for yourself at the charts. Ask yourself if you’re doing enough? If your competitors are in amongst those charts demonstrating improved conversion rates and you’re not, then maybe it’s time to make a change. To survive in the market of business’ that’re out there today you need to be at least doing the same as everybody else but even then, if all you’re doing is the same as everyone else then you’re unlikely to be anything more than average, you need to stand out.
Typically, have your clients’ online conversion rates improved over the last 12 months?
Have your online conversion rates improved over the last 12 months?
Areas of testing
Testing is by far the most popular and value proven method for improving conversion rates, generally accepted within the industry as a crucial component of strategy. As each leg of your testing program reaches conclusion it should allow for you to begin developing new hypotheses for further optimisation efforts. These efforts should generally start small as you find your footing in the world of CRO, before you dive into complex testing methods, it’s important that you have a solid foundational understanding of dos and don’ts to allow development of a robust testing strategy. To do this you need to decide which areas of your UX that you’re going to focus optimising, website is the most tested area year-on-year with the landing pages being the principal focus element tested by more than 70% of companies.
Website testing is an area that we’ll go into in far greater detail shortly as it has so many elements to be tested, you can find more here, but to cover some statistics, websites are tested by 82% of company respondents consistently being the most tested area since the dawn of CRO within the ecommerce era a decade ago. It’s important to acknowledge each separate element of website testing as websites vary so drastically in function between sectors the priorities for various elements will change with that.
Landing pages are specifically tested by 71% of companies, the figure is so high because no matter the varying function of a website a landing page is always going to be an extremely important area to test and optimise. If you think about the other elements of testing, CTAs, page layout and copy, they’re all engrained into the landing page. This is where the customer journey begins and similarly can end if you fail to capture their interest from the whistle. People are inherently lazy, its basic human nature, therefore it’s vital that you grab their attention and begin to persuade them to become a conversion right from their “landing”.
Email optimisation is the methodology behind maximizing your campaign effectiveness, if this is done well while sticking to budget and your own specific guidelines you can see a drastic increase on overall ROI. As a tool email is generally an effective, efficient, and inexpensive form of marketing. Email continues to be the main driver of customer acquisition with 81% of all small to mid-sized businesses relying on email as their main customer acquisition channel. While email is an age-old strategy it can still be highly effective in helping a business create conversions, but execution is everything. While ineffective email marketing campaigns may not be a massive hit to your wallet the time and energy burden of a wasted campaign can all be negated by meticulously optimising your campaign for maximum effectivity benefiting your company with a significant boost to overall ROI.
Paid search advertising, or PPC, is an easy way to test an impression to click experience. Using PPC ads you can obtain a valuable foothold within your business sector appearing at the top of a list when people search certain keywords, most PPC agencies will pass data from the URL to a system made to tailor the message received ultimately personalising for your potential customer to get the best results from their initial impression. The best part about PPC ads is the fact that the effects are easy to see as you’ll see spikes in your site traffic whenever you do something right. This is a growing area of testing, most notably between 2016 and 2017 while other areas saw some rather sharp declines in testing rate PPC went up by 10%. By utilising CRO with your PPC strategy you can fuel drastic conversion rate increases along with overall site visitor rate increases. Due to the data heavy side of each marketing element, you can get a two-for-one deal on valuable insights gained within your data analysis and optimise different sections or develop otherwise unrealised hypotheses off the back of data collected for unrelated reasons. By properly applying the insights gained to complement each element of CRO beyond optimising your PPC ads you can significantly decrease your average CAC and have that extra money go straight to your bottom line.
Mobile apps have taken over, in 2018 app revenue was calculated to be around 108 billion USD. Like everything else encapsulated in CRO, mobile app conversions will be based off your business model and goals, some will class a download as a conversion while others may class a conversion as an in-app purchase or microtransaction, for each of these different conversion types there is different methods and levels to optimisation. The mobile app conversion rates are important for the developers and business owners as it demonstrates the performance of the app while live on the store and out amongst the overall consumer base, if your app fails to hit the mark, be it by making little to no impression or failing to benefit consumers in their day-to-day life, that failure or win will be demonstrated here. Only 15% of company respondents stated that they test mobile apps in their strategy, now I know this may seem low compared to other areas but it’s worth noting while almost every company will have a website to run tests on its slated as of 2018 that only 42% of small business had a mobile app. By reducing friction points in front of your conversion goal and ensuring that all the steps are necessary you can create an experience that is a pleasure to take part in, hit your goals, and begin to turn people into high value repeat customers.
Building and testing an optimisation plan
If, at the start of your CRO journey, you find yourself lacking resources then using quick tips and tricks that you can find online isn’t necessarily a bad place to start, however, this is not a long-term solution and cannot be classified anywhere on the CRO maturity model as you are lacking any element of testing.
Applying popular CRO tactics
By applying popular CRO tactics you are ticking boxes:
- You are equipped with a “toolbox” of suggestions and quick fixes – This could be anything from a CTA change to a button colour change, however, this selection of changes that you will amass is unlikely to bare much in the way of fruit as you blindly optimise with no plan instead of developing a compounding source of growth and improvement
- Focussed on basic single element concerns – These types of issues are small and have no effect on any other areas of your conversion funnel, it’s important that when you are making optimisation efforts, they work towards a grand goal with each element working with the others to maximise effectivity and efficiency
- Failing to analyse customer behaviour – By using tips and tricks you are neglecting research regarding the wants and needs of your customer base, by failing to act here you can end up in a state of disconnect resulting in a failure to convert
- Optimisation efforts based on guesses and hunches – When basing your optimisation efforts off this you will end up needing to seek out more tricks instead of having a clear plan, this will leave you in a state of disarray throwing your changes at site visitors in expectancy that they will stick
Building a CRO plan
By building a CRO plan you will:
- Take time to analyse the figures – It’s important to understand the analytics you’ll have collected and what they truly mean before you make any attempts to fix them, if you don’t you could end up negatively effecting other elements and making unnecessary changes
- Form a solid hypothesis – By forming a solid hypothesis your aims are made clear to everyone involved and the goals can be met in an accurate and efficient manner without wastage throughout each stage of testing and optimisation
- Develop a strong plan of action – This point partners up with the point prior, you must have a clear hypothesis to develop a strong plan of action, without either you are likely to end up wasting time and resources that could otherwise be avoided if everybody is on the same page from the get-go
- Compound compound compound – Similar to compounding interest rates or compounding your investment gains you will see the greatest levels of return when you compound your CRO gains to from new hypotheses, it’s unlikely that after any singular stint of optimisation efforts you will be left feeling completely satisfied with the result and without discovering any other areas that could be better optimised. Build new efforts on-top of prior ones to maximise the effectivity of your efforts and investments into CRO
- Understand it is a constant and ongoing process of continual betterment – We discuss this in greater detail here, it’s important that the CRO process is a constant cyclical part of a business, any alterations made to an element calls for the same level of optimisation efforts applied to all others to ensure there is a level of consistency throughout your CX
Building your plan
Now you understand the benefits of creating a proper plan for your CRO efforts above copying other tactics it begs the question, what steps must be taken within this plan?
Step one: Identify what conversion means for you
Before beginning any optimisation strategy, you must know what it is you’re aiming to measure and attempting to optimise. What action is it you desire your site visitor to take? Only once you have this established can you look to move forward.
Step two: Establish a baseline for your current performance
In the initial planning stage, it’s important that you outline the most important metrics and the goals you’d like to achieve. This outline enables you to focus your efforts on the most important areas dictated by their metrics or KPIs. Having solid analytics as a prerequisite to starting any CRO research is vital to measure any levels effect your efforts will have. Using your selection of tools, you will gather metrics to compare against later.
Step three: Identify a problem area
Look to identify where your biggest barriers to conversion are. Using the analytics, you’ve gathered in the previous step you should be able to see areas of resistance or conversion hold ups within your funnel, use this to develop your hypothesis. Prioritisation is key, what is a constant area of concern in customer feedback? Where is an are on a heatmap that lacks interaction?
Step four: Design your test
In this step you’ll need to take everything you’ve learnt so far and design your testing strategy. Start small, use others around you to validate your process, and think outside the box. As you begin to develop in CRO maturity you can experiment with your experimentation and begin to explore some more complex testing methodologies. Check you have sufficient tracking in place before running any tests to ensure the quality of data collected will support you in developing a final optimisation.
Step five: Run your test
This is self-explanatory really, if you have planned everything well so far then it shouldn’t be difficult in any way to carry out your test simply stick to the design of your plan. Once you have run your tests you must produce a report, this report must be preceded by measurements to show real indicators of failure or success. You measure your success against your baseline established earlier. This will tell you exactly where to go from there, if it was a failure take it on the chin and move back to step four, design a new test and repeat until you find the success you were looking for. If the initial test is a success, then move to your next prioritised problem area or develop further on-top of what you have already done.
Culture of experimentation
Defining a culture of experimentation
To understand exactly what a culture of experimentation is let’s get a clear definition of experimentation, this is the process of trying out new ideas, methods or activities to find an answer to a question or hypothesis. So, to develop a “culture” of experimentation means to implement ideas or solutions to hypotheses throughout the entire organisation without restricting any of elements to certain departments. Rather than having one singular satellite department focussed on your CRO and experimentation it should be made everyday practice, engrained into every element of every step of every process, this should be standard in the development team already but to truly get the best from your teams they need to be allowed to have the same creative freedom and input as others, allowing them to run tests or suggest experiments freely without prejudice enables this. If payroll believe they have found an area of cognitive friction within your conversion funnels and would like to run a test they should be allowed to and find themselves to be equally valued in doing so as if they were a member of the design team.
Elements of website tested
With the ever-growing development of customer journey and increasing complexity it’s in your best interest to introduce hypothesis-based testing as part of company culture in efforts to foster an environment that will encourage a continuous loop of testing, learning and developing. Using the results from 10 years of Econsultancy CRO reports we’ll take some time to discuss the elements of websites most tested, what they are, their levels of popularity in use and why you may choose to test and optimise these elements.
As discussed earlier, websites will always vary in function, most notably differing between sectors, therefore making the priority for testing various elements interchangeable with the function at hand. It must be noted that there is no doubt in the value and importance of each element no matter the function, what does come to question is the changes that can be made in efforts to optimise.
CTA buttons: The CTA is, as it sounds, a request or call for your users to take a desired action that you will potentially class as a conversion. This could be anything, as discussed earlier a conversion is entirely dependent on your business and goals. A strong CTA can produce more leads, it’s as simple as that yet you’ll see that all CTAs use basic psychology tactics to define the goal and persuade the user. CTAs are the leading elements of a website that is tested with 82% of respondents doing so. It’s likely due to the simplistic nature of the change weighed against the chances of a quick win in conversion rate uplift, but I must warn you to be wary about what you will find online. Often in discussion people will put a lot of emphasis on certain industry examples of CTA optimisation that resulted in disproportionate and often unrealistic uplifts from a simple CTA change when it is most often an amalgamation of page elements that work together to create a more whole experience leading to a conversion.
Page layout: Page layout is a close runner up in second place with 77% of company respondents claiming to run tests on this website element in efforts to find conversion improvements. This is often one of the first elements to be looked at and considered in the CRO chain as it’s important for things like usability and involves copy optimisation and CTA optimisation. It’s crucial that a user is presented the information they require in an easy-to-understand format within an easily comprehendible field of view. Companies like ecommerce giant Amazon will design their product pages to ensure every minute detail is made prominent and visible for their customers to allowed for a reduction in general friction in the conversion journey that could cause any potential customer anxiety or doubt that could cause a failure to convert. Things like size and colour are considered for the likes of CTAs, font and pictures while making decisions on placements to have the greatest desired effects.
Website copy: Effectively utilising well designed and pleasing copy can be the difference between getting a customer engaged or having them become another figure in your bounce rate. Your content must be clear and concise, answering any questions your customer may immediately have to avoid overhead friction. Website copy is tested by 69% of companies and is often split into two subsections, header copy and body copy. It’s important that the style and formatting is kept consistent with your company brand and message, it’d be inappropriate for places like a funeral parlour to have a humorous tone to their copy. As you are unlikely to have any direct communication with your visitors at this point it’s important to think of your website copy as an online salesman, conveying persuasion points, points of interest and value, and building trust leaving the customer feeling heard, happy, and capable to easily continue the conversion process thereafter if they’d so please.
Navigation: Navigation is an element of website testing that sits with 68% of company respondents testing, the slightly lower rate than other elements is likely because navigation testing will often come later in a CRO strategy with testing methods and priorities for this element being encapsulated within a slightly higher maturity model than others. When discussing navigation we think of it as an all-encompassing element of the website, from the moment a visitor clicks a link to be directed there to the second they leave, it’s important that analytics are measured at each step to get a better grasp on user behaviour and better understand the user experience. It’s crucial that navigation is structured in a way that is easy and predictable to make the customer journey as simplistic as possible. If your site visitor gets lost along the way and can’t easily get the answers, they’re looking for within a matter of a handful of logical clicks they’ll often turn tail and leave. Create a fluid, easy to navigate site and watch your conversion rates climb.
Images: Image testing is an area of testing that had seen steady growth over the years sitting comfortably with 51% of company respondents testing this element of their website, however in the data collected with Econsultancy there was seen to be a sharp U-turn with a 5% decrease in companies testing and is still yet to fully recover to its prior level of priority, It’s important to remember that the right image can make or break a web page, people can remember thousands of image with high degrees of accuracy far better than that of the written word. When selecting an image it’s important to research, you want to aim to find an emotion that will fit your target audience, to do this you need a good understanding of exactly who your targeted users are and personalise for that, personalisation is an area we will cover in greater detail here, but the image must be on topic, be of high quality and bring your visitors emotions on point in a persuasive manner.
Checkout process: Similarly, to image testing the checkout process has seen steady testing growth over the years but in 2017 saw a 5% decrease in testing rates. Checkout process testing is still carried out by 51% of company respondents but it is often an element that is ignored or overlooked, as it’s the final section in a conversion funnel it’s often thought at this point that your conversion is secured, which while holding an element of truth is not all that accurate. Say your checkout process has 25 form fields that need filling out to make the purchase, that’s going to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths when they think back to the experience, if the customer is in the process of buying an item that they truly need the chances are they will still follow through with the purchase but if there is any level of anxiety or doubt in the need of said purchase the daunting list of form fields will likely put them off causing them to exit the page and turn a winning conversion into a loser. Well, optimised a checkout process could have as little as 6 form fields or even less if you’re high-volume repetitive customers where you can retain information to allow for single click purchases or something similar.
Promotions and offers: Having reached a peak of testing at 47% you’ll now find promotional offer testing to be used by around 41% of company respondents. Optimising promotions and offers can be a difficult task as there are elements wrapped in personalisation where you’ll have to collate massive amounts of data to target your offers towards a demographic. However, you don’t have to optimise for personalisation in this area, you could simply conduct competitor analysis, see what your competition is doing and see what’s working, with that information you can take elements for yourself while being creative and unique to take your offers a level above. Similarly, you could run calendar-based promotions, black Friday, Christmas, Halloween etc. Through this you target a known demographic that you know is looking to spend money around that time of the year on specific product types. Promotional optimisation is an area often overlooked due to the slightly complex element of testing however it can be a strong persuader to a buyer potentially sitting on the fence about a product almost forcing their hand with a deal they can’t refuse. Through doing this you could gain a long-term repeat buyer and generate new leads through word of mouth all with a simple deal.
Search functionality: Search testing is something that has always settled relatively low on the list of company CRO priorities, in-fact within the masses of Econsultancy reports there was no data collection from company or agencies regarding search functionality testing until 2015 where it was first discovered only 32% of company respondents tested their search functionality, that figure has seen a steady increase resting more recently around 39%, but nonetheless compared to other areas of focus here is an element that is clearly neglected within the cause. Most companies think that the search engine with the advanced algorithms know best and will simply leave it be when a search function should be fine-tuned and designed to fit the niche needs of your visitors. To do this you’ll need to really understand your visitors, who they are, why they’re here, and specifically who they are as “searchers”. Are your site visitors likely to be specific with their search terms or broad? Is it best for your visitors to be met with a wide array of related search results or siloed results, even if it turns up no results? There needs to be a simple way to see everything, by developing towards a full site blended search you allow more opportunity for your prospected visitors to move towards your conversion goals.
Security fields: Creating a collaborative, yin and yang, level playing field between your security teams and development teams is a fundamental step to put security in unison with end user performance. Most security tool’s protective benefits will come at the cost of system performance, testing and optimising from both ends together will allow you to mitigate any security risk while also mitigating any reduction in performance in one foul swoop. Security fields are selected to be tested by far fewer respondents than any other element of websites, it’s likely due to the differences in website function and the fact that security fields is a heavily regulated element, there’s only so much you can do. In-fact the regulations behind site security are such a burden on testing that only 12% of company respondents stated they test this element with figures showing only 1% of growth in four years of surveys. Optimising security functions can be a daunting task, any alterations made must serve the needs of your end users alongside those of your security teams, so what sort of needs are we looking to meet? Well first and foremost like mentioned before the impact on end user performance is something that is important to be kept to a minimum, refraining from resting any burden of the security features on their shoulders. You also need constant monitoring of your systems to avoid any elements of vulnerability that come associated with scheduled scanning, continuous monitoring allows you to avoid this while also amassing data that is then at the disposal of your teams attempting other optimisation efforts.
How can UX be multipurposed with CRO
Your goal for effective UX research is to gain an in-depth and clear view of what will meet your users wants and needs, by having this understanding at hand you can utilise the insights to also help with your CRO, be it to aid in deciding a realistic clear-cut goal for your optimisation efforts or for discovering points of friction during the user’s time spent interacting with your company website. You aim to make the user journey an experience that is simplistic, enjoyable and effective to their needs while maintaining relevancy on both ends of UX and CRO.
While carrying out UX testing you’ll find that massive amounts of data is collated and organised with the purpose of optimising your user experience and design process; this is lucky as that’s not far off your aims with CRO, by carrying out this form of research you are essentially giving yourself and beginning rung on the CRO ladder. With the data at hand that you have collected you can get rid of any random untargeted starting experiments and begin testing and optimising in areas that will offer a far greater uplift in conversions all from insights gained initially for other purposes. By developing your early CRO hypotheses around data collected from UX research you can significantly decrease the possibility of a failed optimisation effort and be gone with diminishing returns of CRO backed by “best practices” or “tips and tricks” that most people begin with to try and find quick wins. UX can give you a great target area to start your CRO.
Two for one insight with your design teams. CRO is often focussed on a website and its usability with a hypothesis designed around that. Using UX research to your advantage you can gain insight from your design teams on elements like website usability across multiple devices or the user experience beyond the site that could be optimised within the site for efficiency, essentially filling offline gaps digitally. A UX researcher or member of your design team could be a fresh set of eyes that can look at analytics and pain points from a different perspective that could come as a refreshing and different approach beyond your current CRO efforts.
To flip that the other way around, CRO could be used to uncover potential design flaws. While CRO has the focus of conversion, it is in the name after all, it’s important that you use the testing and discoveries to also be optimising your UX. If your design team has overlooked something that’s resulted in the hampering of your conversions it should be uncovered during CRO testing, be it a small and simple issue or something major, it’s important that the entire UX is as seamless as possible.
By combining efforts and applying your findings to both UX research and CRO you can turn your efforts of optimisation into and exemplary service and fuel a fresh-faced symbiotic relationship between the two teams that, with well informed decision making, can lead to weighty improvements to all elements of your UX and optimisation efforts.
Which website elements have the biggest impact on CRO
While it’s important to emphasise that there is no singular idea that is a guaranteed win for everybody there are certain common elements that can be altered to increase your conversion rates. These are all areas that we have discussed before but here are a few tips, tricks and added details that will be an added benefit to have on hand if you so need.
CTA: As we discussed before, a CTA can be a deciding influence whether your website visitor turns into a conversion. CTA changes can be something as simple as button colour, size or location but the most important testing to carry out is on the wording. You want to keep your format on par with your overall company feel all the while using a hint psychology to persuade your visitor into following through. For example, a CTA change that you will find populating many CTA optimisation discussions is one carried out by ADT security services, they reported a simple wording change from “Book a free survey” to “Get a free quote” resulted in an increase in conversions by 60%. This is impressive to see but unrealistic in being a repeatable result, it should be taken not as gospel but as an example to reinforce the importance of a well optimised CTA and the difference that can be made in doing so.
Landing page: The landing page is as it reads the page your site visitors “land” on, whether it’s coming from a banner ad or Google ad, whether they visit from a link sent by a friend or they’ve found your website through an organic search, the user will have expectations and need to be treated accordingly. Landing page design should begin with low level analytics that can be used to cater your website flow to fill any gaps in information relevant to them. A product page can go into far greater detail whereas a landing page should be treated to simply tick the boxes: Does it articulate benefits and support them with proof points? Is the content and design organised to support your CTA rather than distract people from it? Have you removed as much immediate friction as possible, removing unnecessary fields, clicks, shortened loading times and gathered the minimum amount of information possible? Have you used compelling copy to hook you visitors and propel them towards your desired action?
Website copy: For website copy optimisation to have the desired effect on your conversions rates it’s vital to know your targeted customer base, if you’re not in touch with your site traffic and write for the wrong type of audience you can end up failing to convert people who could otherwise find value in your product or service. You should have your text capture the attention of your visitors soliciting them to read on. Headers should be kept simple and to the point, short and sweet is the key while maintaining usefulness providing them with information they may desire from the start. If you can provide blocks of text in smaller sample sizes with a precisely optimised point of content your visitor will be more likely to read on, bullet points for example can be an effective way of getting an important focal point across quickly in-turn making the absorption of information for your users easier and ultimately increasing your overall readability for people lacking in time.
Form flow pages: I’ve added this as an honourable mention, as mentioned earlier most people that have something in their basket will follow through at the checkout page, especially if the purchase is for a product that will resolve and immediate problem, however, a poorly optimised form flow can turn a winning conversion into a loser. It’s important that you try to remove as many non-mandatory fields as possible, while gathering as much information as possible, all the while trying to minimise the amount of information you collect. Now I know reading that back it seems like conflicting points but to find the right balance is a challenge worth undertaking, the rule of quality over quantity is priority here. Depending how smooth of an experience your user has had in the build up to this stage, being greeted by a long list of form fields that need filling our can be an annoyance of a task that could quickly cause abandonment. A truly well optimised checkout process can have as few as 7 form fields while the average is 14.8, most sites can reduce these by anywhere from 20% to 60%.
How CRO matures to a culture of experimentation
Keeping ahead of your competitors is a never-ending battle of innovation and experimentation, trying to keep them as far off your heels as possible to gain a better foothold within your market. A successful example of innovation is moving your company away from the singular departments of testing and broaden your scope, to do this you must first reach a high level of maturity with your current CRO strategy, this means you’ve already picked off all the small wins and moved through the different stages of the CRO strategy maturity model we have discussed earlier on. When starting out most companies will start with just one person beginning the CRO journey, at this early stage their ideas of experimentation are in fact still just experiments of experimentation. I know that seems like a convoluted tongue twister but bear with me. When you first start out using CRO you’re in the foundation stages of testing, there’s no real structure, running one or two tests a month mainly focussed on making simple changes like a text or image change. That’s great, you’ve started somewhere, but to find the real value in CRO it must become a fundamental part of everything you do. Elements of continuous experimentation are widely understood yet the actual component of action is yet to mature within most organisations. A rare few have found their way to developing a sturdy and widely trusted culture of experimentation, but the gains enjoyed by those companies that have made these steps forward should really give others the courage to follow in their footsteps.
Using the image below, alongside the CRO strategy maturity model, should enable you to gauge where you are along your journey towards the goal line of an experimentation fueled organisation
How is personalisation misunderstood
People will often confuse personalisation and optimisation; each is a process used to try and deliver a more positive customer experience and increase your business growth. Some of the testing areas and elements of the customer experience that get changed can be the same, but personalisation itself is a whole different bag of worms, they just happen to share the same end goal of more conversions.
You may find people debating optimisation vs personalisation but that’s a wasted cause, what should really be thought about is opting for an approach that will incorporate optimisation and personalisation together. Use optimisation to make your ads, landing pages and customer journey more relevant and simplistic while you use personalisation efforts to make sure that you’re targeting the right audience with the correct messaging. In doing this you can see conversion rates driven through the roof all the while increasing CLV, customer life value, which is used to determine the true long-term value of customers to the business, and foster brand loyalty as your customer gets treated as more of a unique individual with specific preferences feeling heard and respected.
How to build a culture of experimentation
Experimentation is a critical tool to be utilised from the very beginning, as you reach a more mature optimisation level to continue onwards elevating above and sustaining a dynamic business model, that will maintain your competitive edge, you must move towards a culture of experimentation. But how do you get there?
Begin by getting your management involved. Written in an article on the Harvard Business Review site I found a statement, “nothing stalls innovation faster than a so-called HiPPO – highest paid person’s opinion”, this is obviously circumstantial to the degree of truth held however what does stand true is the element that company higher ups can and will cause the greatest hold ups if they were to fall into the classification of becoming an obstacle in the way of your success. If you can’t get the head of the table on board then nothing will get done, resources flow down from the top. If you want your company to become a breeding ground for innovation and optimisation, then it’s vital that the top management is compliant and on the same page. Once they are on the same page, they should be quick to allocate resources and budget. You must embrace this new leadership model, allowing the testing within the company to flow freely and enable employees to make a good and well-informed decision on their own. In doing so you facilitate additional efficiency and effectivity within your CRO efforts.
Get the teams involved, it’s all well and good if management is onboard and willing to allocate sufficient resources towards the cause but we’re discussing a culture of experimentation here, that means that everybody needs to be involved, living and breathing experimentation, this is beyond anything your company will have undertaken before. You will only find success if your employees embrace the experimentation, to do this they need to be enabled and incentivised to do so; do this by educating them early, from the moment they are brought into the fold they should be taught how you work and feel driven and able to contribute to the cultural demand. Utilising every ounce of input from every employee of a company allows for a modernised drive towards excellence.
Embrace failure and unknowns. By developing into an experimentation-based culture you must be ready and willing to accept that failure is in fact an option. Once you abolish any cognitive overhead within your company on the matter you will find that teams begin to work freely of indecision and anxiety, by doing this you’re essentially optimising your optimisation. Alongside failure is unknowns, unknowns come hand in hand with experimentation and testing, without an unknown you wouldn’t be testing for an answer. In embracing unknowns, you allow yourself and others not to fear the answer or stress about finding the “right” answer because in the end the analytics will provide you with the answer, make the best test you can to get those analytics and accept them with certainty as the data trumps opinions.
Tools, tools, and more tools. Ensuring you have the right set of tools at hand is important to create a culture of experimentation. The type of tools you need will vary dependent on your organisation and the purpose you need them for. The main thing to look for in tools is this, “Are they simple?” and “Can they be centralised?”. It’s important that the same tools are used by everybody and that all testing information, results included, end up in one central database. By having this decentralised culture of experimentation, you need a central system to foster accountability and trust between co-workers and employees. Tools are rarely the major obstacle for this kind of developmental leap forward, when it comes to CRO there’s been so many iterations and changes in tools and technology over the years, the main hang up for this is often an issue with shared behaviours, beliefs and values.
Be driven by data. Data is everything, without solid data you have no real indicators of success or failure. The same can be said before you begin running any test in the first place, without prerequisite analytics you have no baseline to compare against. Having all this data in a central system will allow for collaboration and avoids wasted resources, there’s nothing worse than designing and carrying out a test that has either already been done or shares qualities with another resulting in repeated findings. By having well organised accessible data you promote trust in one another and nurtures productivity by avoiding wastage.
Most importantly of all, maintain and innovative mindset. It’s all well and good investing time, resources and energy into getting the steppingstones in place but it’s important you avoid reaching a point of complacency and stagnation, don’t saddle your processes with policies and methods that could end up rotting your otherwise blossoming culture. To stand out and continue to expand and develop as a company it’s vital that you are constantly changing, continuously adapting to your customer’s wants and needs; then keep that mentality. It’s all too easy to get lost in a safety net of “that’s how we always do it” but this is exactly what you’ve worked so hard to get away from so to fall back into a similar pattern later would be a real shame. By expanding you make room for new ideas and innovations that you then must nurture to fruition.
The importance of CRO being a constant
CRO is an ongoing process of learning and improving, the ongoing part is an element often overlooked. CRO is not a one stop shop, it simply cannot be used in a that you make a few changes on a planned-out timeline and then on seeing positive results think that enough has been achieved and move on. CRO is something that is everchanging, always progressing, and should be utilised in a manner to match that. The good thing is that it has an almost snowball like effect, CRO itself is an inexpensive practice as mentioned before, you’re not trying to acquire new traffic, you’re trying to make changes and improvements to fit that traffic you already have. Any improvements you do make to conversion rates will be seen in profit going directly to your company bottom line, this in-turn allows for you to budget more towards additional customer acquisition, your new increase in traffic from doing so provides opportunity for more testability and more conversion opportunities, continuously building on-top of itself providing a constant flow of new opportunities…you get the picture; this circle of improvement goes around driving continuous compounding growth around prior wins.
As you CRO moves along through the maturity model you can develop further, with the right drive and enablement, towards turning your CRO into an everyday common practice at every level of your company and move towards a culture of experimentation.
Why do UX research?
Thanks to CRO’s explosion into the world of marketing within the last decade or so the advancements of testing tools that can be utilised has expanded vastly allowing for a more in-depth analysis of user behaviour, psychology and a higher class of insight into the paths taken to reach an end goal be it for utilisation in CRO or UX research.
UX is mostly considered within the design process to gain the perspective of the target user, it allows the designers to benefit from a holistic understanding of said user: What they need, why they need it, what they value in a solution and their capabilities and solutions. By understanding this from the get-go the design teams are made able to avoid any costly mistakes early on that could become a hard to fix later. In doing UX research you can develop a user-centric design and experience that won’t just be a solution to their problem but hopefully make the act of resolution a pleasure to take part in and keep them coming back for more. The most effective way to increase business uptake is by creating a product, service or experience that is likely to be referred from one person to another, it needs to stand out from the crowd, as the number one source of new leads for a business is and always will be referrals. By keeping your customer happy and engaged you keep them coming back 90% more often and spending 60% more per transaction.
Now this doesn’t solely apply to design of course, UX research can be, and should be, carried out at all levels to discover any hang ups or issues a user may have purchasing this product you’ve spent months or even years designing, this is where UX and CRO begin to tie into each other.
Which marketing channels are personalised for the greatest conversion rate uplift
There is a whole plethora of different marketing channels and company elements for you to personalise in efforts to increase your conversion rates. Your personalisation efforts should go beyond just your website; no doubt that it is a key focal point due to the varying elements on each website that can be personalised but it’s important to personalise the initial driving forces, that are your other marketing channels, to ensure a consistent experience and ensure great reward.
Some of the different channels available to be personalised are as follows:
Email- Email is an obvious one, it is often the quickest to be taken on and the easiest to facilitate basic levels of personalisation. As the leading marketing channel for small and medium sized businesses, and generally utilised by all companies globally today, Email stands as a vital communication channel and should be optimised accordingly. Email is the most often personalised channel with 90% of all company respondents stating they have utilised this within their targeted marketing methods in 2017. To support the figure, only 8% noticed no uplift in conversions after utilising email personalisation with 27% seeing a major uplift and the other 65% seeing a minor uplift. Like all other personalisation efforts, it’s important that you provide those receiving your emails with the relevant and updated information tailored to their needs and tastes to drive up overall interaction and conversions.
Website – Website personalisation hosts an incredibly broad scope of elements that can be personalised, far too many to cover in brief here so we will cover this in a little more detail shortly but do note that website personalisation was carried out by 53% of companies with 6% seeing no uplift to conversions, 61% seeing a minor uplift, and 33% seeing a major uplift. While some people may not necessarily see their website as the exact definition of a marketing channel there is always going to be actions you take with the aim to drive individuals to your site, so it would only make sense that the personalisation levels are matched throughout the UX from first impression all the way through to checkout processes and any follow up interactions.
Social media – Beyond email and website personalisation you begin to see a sharp decrease in company uptake of personalisation efforts for other channels, social media is no exception. Social media is found to be personalised by 26% of company respondents with 23% seeing major uplifts, 65% minor uplifts, and 12% stating to have found no increase in conversions at all. Personalising through social media may at first glance seem like an easy task because so much individual information is readily available but to personalise for an individual there would mean that you’d likely resort to methods of direct messaging which will fail to fully utilise the benefits that come with the reach of social media. Any mass personalisation efforts would have to be well thought out and targeted more towards a broader grouping of individual than the often more effective niche targeting efforts used elsewhere. Like any optimisation social media personalisation can still return great rewards, generating more leads, boosting company engagement and brand awareness, and boosting your social relevancy scores allowing for the algorithms to be more favourable to your posting. While you may not be able to deliver a particularly granular targeted message on an extremely broad spectrum like some other channels you can still absolutely utilise social media to your advantage.
Search engine marketing – Search engine personalisation is very low on the list of priorities for marketers with only 27% of companies utilising it. It’s interesting seeing the correlation every time we find an underappreciated element of CRO or personalisation as it’s an area that often sees a far greater quantity of companies benefiting within the upper echelon, in this case we find 39% of those utilising search engine personalisation to have noticed a major uplift in conversions, 54% noticing a minor uplift and 7% noting no uplift at all. With competition growing faster than ever before due to the masses of companies globally now accessible online, with more coming online every day, it’s important that you can effectively personalise your search engine results in a way that will persuade those search users to be swayed in your direction. Winning the customers attention early is the key to it all, there’s no use having an incredibly well optimised and thought-out website design if you fail to drive traffic beyond the first hurdle, showing your customers the most relevant information in as few clicks as possible is a vital steppingstone at the forefront of your conversion funnel.
Which areas of their website do people personalise?
With just over half of all companies personalising their website, and a third of that group seeing major uplifts in conversion, there is no doubt in value. Each element of a website has seen steady proportional growth in usage, the biggest increase seen in the post-purchase journey, reported up by 13% in 2017. Reflective of website elements being tested for CRO purposes, we find landing pages come out on top in terms of popularity with 62% of companies trying to put personalisation into effect here. The website homepage came in just shy of the top spot with 61% of companies reporting to personlaise this area also.
Your website has many elements all ready to have some degree of personalisation put into place, with it being one of the main conversion centres that your marketing channels are going to be driving prospective customers towards its clearly worth putting time and energy into making it as perfect as possible. By ensuring that your site shows the visitors relevant information on their first impression, however small that may be, you’ll be making UX improvements while also removing a degree of that initial overhead anxiety as your visitor edges closer and closer towards the goal line, a conversion.
Other areas of websites personalised by companies include things such as: Product recommendation, this is suggestions like “You might also like…” or “Others also bought”, offers and promotions, specific journeys, “basket to checkout” or “booking journeys”, customer account areas, and the post-purchase journey. These are by no means all of the varying elements of a website that can be personalised, they are just a few key areas that warranted highlighting as most popular, each element holds a level of merit different from the others, deciding which is best suited for you should be task number one. Landing pages and homepages most often end up being the priority, especially as they can be the first impression. It’s extremely important to have a level of consistency, if your web page is going to refer to a known user by their name it’d be good to have your checkout process personalised to retain that information to keep an air of acknowledgment rather than demonstrating a lack of recognition your customer.
The complexity of testing ties in neatly with the CRO strategy maturity model and company satisfaction levels with conversion rates. Predictably the frequency of tests will often decrease as the complexity levels rise, whereas the company satisfaction levels with conversion rates is more likely to see a steady increase in correlation with the complexity of testing.
Only 6% of companies state that they never perform simple style tests, simple being that of a text change or button colour, with 45% frequently carrying out this level of test and the other 49% slated to either occasionally or rarely run simple testing. These figures are almost matched up with medium levels of complexity, medium complexity entailing something like multiple changes to components on the same page, with only 8% never carrying out medium complexity testing, 24% frequently, 48% occasionally, and 20% rarely. These are relatively good numbers to be seeing, the numbers showing strength at this level show that almost all companies are testing even if it is only a simple test on the rare occasion, they have stepped a rung above the 6% that never run any tests of the type. As we move towards more complex testing methods, changes to multiple components on multiple pages, we begin to see the figures flipping in reverse with 19% never testing this format of complexity, 12% frequently, and 69% collectively for those occasionally or rarely, I’ll often put these two groups into one big bundle due to the fact that occasionally and rarely can be interpreted in a broad way and the key focusses here are the groups frequently and never running each test types. Finally, highly complex testing, this is things like a complete design and journey change, for obvious reasons this is not a method that can often be tested as the design stage alone is likely to take up a large chunk of your time to format and develop, that said analytics still show 6% of companies frequently carry out this testing type with 20% occasionally, 28% rarely, and 36% never.
You can use the two tables below to see for yourself but there is a very clear correlation between conversion rate satisfaction and the frequency and complexity of a company’s testing methods. As your CRO strategy matures and grows with you you’ll develop a comprehensive sandbox of knowledge and tools that can be used to develop new and innovative hypotheses. If you’re unsatisfied with your conversion rates then look back at your own testing, are you running tests at different complexities? Are you running tests at a consistent frequency to match with their complexity?
Six key factors contributing to CRO success
CRO is not going to be the “be all, end all” solution to your problems but it is most definitely something that should be put at the forefront of all that is done within your organisation. By getting your foot in the door and developing your CRO knowledge you can grow your strategy in maturity, building towards a culture of experimentation where you’ll have CRO engrained within all business aspects, in doing so you give new ventures and ideas their best shot at success. Become customer-centric and focus on what you can do to deliver not only the best product to your customers but also the best experience to keep them coming back for more.
From everything written here today, if nothing else is taken, then the six proven, key factors, to your CRO success for improving both conversion rates and satisfaction harmoniously are:
- Companies using nine or more different methods are most likely to see improvements in and increased satisfaction with conversion rates.
- The more complex the testing, the more likely companies are to see improvements in conversion rates. However, regardless of the level of complexity, improvements are more likely if tests are run frequently
- The optimal number of A/B or multivariate tests is between three and five each month.
- 82% of companies with a structured approach have seen improvements in conversion rates, while the same figure for those without a structured approach is just 64%.
- Improvements in and satisfaction with conversion rates are more likely to be seen when responsibility for CRO sits within the analytics/ business intelligence or ecommerce functions.
- Having at least one person responsible for CRO is more likely to result in improvements in and satisfaction with conversion rates.
Making the case for CRO
What are the biggest barriers?
For many companies budget and resources are the major factors preventing their progression towards improving conversion rates. Alongside those is also organisational support, this can have you stuck in a position where you are unable to take any steps forward to tackle optimisation issues. To get a real CRO strategy being developed you need to show real value in CRO and bring your company onboard?
How to make the case for CRO
Simply making the case for CRO within your company can be a challenge in and of itself, harder in some organisations than others depending on your work sector and the open mindedness of the decision makers you work under. To make the case will be unique for everybody as they come up against varying obstacles but there’s a few basic concepts that you could utilise or take inspiration from to aid you in making the case for CRO.
First and foremost, you’re going to want to start small. This example may seem simple and obvious but it’s important to have noted that without any real plan or structure in place shooting for the stars is simply impossible and impractical, even the small changes over time can be fruitful, now they may not bear incredible results but if there is any level of increase gained from relatively baseless alterations to your CX then it allows you to demonstrate the value for CRO and begin to sway others towards investing into larger scale optimisation efforts.
Run surveys and collect customer feedback. Be it in person, over the phone or collected online, this is something you can do with relative ease without making any real impactful changes to the CX while in turn collecting first-hand insights into what it is your current customers may like or dislike. It’s important you gather this information because CRO isn’t necessarily about acquiring more customers, it’s focus is about making more from the customers you already have.
Use metrics you already have. Google analytics is a free tool that anybody can use, as an open-source piece of software you can gain beneficial insights into how users interact with your website without investing any money or resources beyond a little time to learn the system. If you have privileges to alter any areas of your website, you could carry out small tests and compare base level metrics to back up any argument in your favour. Having quantitative data reinforce your case will help you demonstrate the true value of CRO.
Two is better than one. Bring somebody else in the fold on your side of the argument, two voices making the same case is often more likely to be heard and actually listened to than a singular voice shouting into an opposing void, practice making your case to another individual within your organisation, this will not only make you more prepared to make the case higher up but you’re also effectively bringing this person onboard if they agree with the points you make. Strength in numbers is a very real effect.
Now it’s all well and good making your case and maybe the company decides they do see value in the points you make but one of the fundamental parts of CRO is that you will keep optimisation efforts constant. A few small tests will not be enough to make a real impact, by keeping CRO efforts constantly flowing you allow for a compounding effect to take place pushing your conversion rates higher.
What is personalisation
Personalisation sources from behavioural data, this data is leveraged in your favour to deliver and individualised experience, message, or offer. Step one of personalisation involves grouping together customers with similar behavioural traits and needs before moving on to get a better understanding of their journey. Customer journey is the string of interactions that a customer makes with your organisation, this applies to both pre-click and post-click, from their initial introduction to your service or product, to any purchases, and any following purchases.
Methods used to improve conversion rates
Choosing the methods that you’ll use as part of your CRO strategy is an important step as many methods are used in all manner of ways in efforts to improve conversion rates. The methods you choose to use should guide your efforts to an area of focus that will maximize returns monetarily for your business but also improve customer usability on your site, in turn increasing conversions. During your course of optimising, it’s important that the methods you use will give you a clear picture of your customer journey in analytics that will allow you to step into their shoes and set objectives along their path to conversion.
Of course, each method holds merit individually but by combining a handful together you will drastically increase your chances of successful optimisation. Unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all answer to which methods you should be using, ideally as many as possible, but realistically it’s an individual choice dependent on what you’re testing and how long for. Where one method may come into stride another may fall short of the mark, that’s why it’s crucial that you can select the right methods for you. To help you in making that decision it’s important to know what others are doing, below you’ll find a snapshot of each popular method used by companies and agencies to increase conversion rates, their popularity according to each type of respondent, alongside their value in connection with those that utilise these methodologies.
Which of the following methods do you currently use to improve conversion rates? Company respondents
Which of the following methods do your clients currently use to improve conversion rates? Agency respondents
A/B testing: A/B testing is by far the most used popular method used by company respondents and agency respondents alike; this is likely down to the simplicity of this testing method. A/B testing compares one version of a site element, for example the wording of a CTA, with another to see which performs better. This method is quick to implement with almost infinite possibilities it can make for quick wins in conversion rates often being the starting point for many companies CRO. With A/B testing being utilised in all areas of optimisation it’s unsurprising to see it have the highest value rating with 72% of company respondents and 60% of agency respondents finding it highly valuable.
Website personalisation: This is an area we find least used by company respondents while being planned by the most; the statement similarly applies to agencies coming in a strong third to last on the list of utilised methods. It’s surprising to see such figures since over 50% of companies have recurrently stated they plan to utilise personalisation since 2015. The fact these figures have stayed so strong for years demonstrates the difficulty in effectively implementing this methodology yet, those who can, often see steep improvements in conversion rates. We cover personalisation in greater detail here but it’s clear from the figures, with only 2% finding it not valuable, that personalisation is worth your time.
Customer feedback: Customer feedback is a relatively easy method to implement in the grand scheme of CRO, all you need is to implement a feedback form field somewhere along the journey of your customer, be it an exit intent pop-up, cart abandonment email or a widget in the corner with a compelling CTA for feedback. Used by 58 and 55% of company and agency respondents respectively this method of data collection allows you to look beyond basic analytics to gain qualitative insights with great speed and precision allowing for a look into the psychological and emotional elements that drive your customer behaviour. This methodology is widely accepted in the field of CRO and valued by a large majority of both company and agency respondents with only 2% and 8% stating they find customer feedback methods to lack value.
Copy optimisation: Writing relevant and engaging content to emphasize a product can make a significant impact on whether a visitor turns into a conversion or not. Copy optimisation is often divided into two subsections, headline and body content, each needing to have their own recurrent format and writing style on theme with the company design. Keeping the right tone for your audience and providing them the relevant information when they need it is vital in persuading them to act. This methodology of CRO is often run in an A/B testing format however can also be run as multivariate for more complex testing where you look at a complete page or even company design overhaul. There’s no doubt in the frequency of use for copy optimisation coming in a strong second and third for company and agency respondents at 59% and 57% utilizing it respectively, however, when discussing the value copy optimisation, it gets slumped to the middle of the pack. It’s likely an area of optimisation used early on in a company’s CRO strategy that will give diminishing returns over time, there’s no doubt you should be utilising it but really there’s far more rewarding methods of improvement out there to add to roster.
Customer journey analysis: Think of your customer journey like a tree with almost endless branches going this way and that way, all stemming from one main trunk, all be it different areas of said trunk. All websites have the trunk, a home page or other landing pages, with branches off to all areas for a visitor to take on their journey to find the answers they’re looking for. It is important that your site is optimised making an experience that is simple, predictable and easy to navigate. If your entire process is fluid, it will allow users to, generally, have a struggle free time reaching a point of possible conversion, however, a poorly optimised unstructured journey can lead to your visitor getting lost in the process and abandon their journey all together. Using customer journey analytics can give you access to real time multichannel analysis and visualisation of their journey allowing you to make more informed decisions and gain a holistic view of customer behaviour and your business. Only 15% of companies and 9% of agencies responded they have no plans to utilise this method of optimisation with only 3% and 5% finding it not valuable.
Segmentation: Segmentation is a method that you’ll find wrapped up in personalisation; this is where you take your broad user base and divide them into sub-groups based on a shard characteristic. By doing this it allows you to closely tailor the UX to the needs and desires of each sub-group based on a shared characteristic. By doing this it allows you to closely tailor the UX to the needs and desires of each sub-group for more precisely targeted marketing efforts. There’re four main areas of analytics used for segmentation; they include
- Geographic: Country, city, language, climate etc.
- Demographic: Age, gender, income, occupation, social status etc.
- Psychographics: Lifestyle, interests, opinions, personality, values etc.
- Behavioural: Usage, intent occasion user status, engagement etc.
This CRO methodology is utilised by 47% of companies and 56% of agencies but can be found running atop the value charts with only 3% and 5% finding segmentation to be of no value from a company and agency viewpoint.
Competitor benchmarking: By gathering company metrics and comparing them against that of your competitors you can gain a snapshot image of possible improvements you could make or hypotheses of where you have downfalls effecting your conversion rates. You can utilise this as a method to measure your performance over time singularly but also compared to others, this allows for an organized overview of your company at all levels and allows you to evaluate your strategy accordingly. Competitor benchmarking seems to be a slept-on method of optimisation with only 22% of companies finding it highly valuable all the while 81% of companies utilising it have seen improvements in their conversion rates.
Multivariate testing: Like A/B testing, multivariate testing is something that encompasses almost all CRO methodologies. This method of testing refers to the testing of multiple variations of many different page elements in various combinations to determine the best performing elements and combinations. For example, a multivariate test on a landing page may test many variations of the pictures, copy and CTAs all at once in complimenting way to find the best performer. Surprisingly enough only 32% of company respondents are utilising it with another 43% having plans to do so yet it has proven to have correlation with those seeing improved conversion rates, in fact 83% of companies that use multivariate testing have seen increase in their conversion rates. It is likely due to the complex nature of this method that responses fail to transcribe the benefits and true value that this mature methodology can bring.
Usability testing: During a usability-testing session a researcher, often known as a moderator or facilitator, will ask a participant to perform tasks where they’ll interact with a website, app or other products. While the participant carries out each task the researcher will observe the participant’s behaviour and listens for feedback. Usability testing is a method utilised by significantly more company respondents than agency, with 49% utilising and 37% planning to use against 38% utilising and 42% planning to use respectively. Usability testing is often an area of focus early in the design stages of a product or service but can be applied just as easily to improve conversion rates, by utilising this methodology you gain first-hand insight to identify problems and uncover opportunities throughout the UX to allow for improvements and reduction in cognitive overhead that could cause a possible failure to convert. With 57% of companies finding usability testing highly valuable it’s safe to say that it’s an excellent methodology to have somewhere in your CRO roadmap.
Expert usability reviews: Expert usability reviews are used and planned by the lowest quantity of marketers from both company and agency viewpoints, yet it’s found to be one of the easier high value areas that companies have found they’re able to focus on, in fact just under three quarters of companies that do use expert usability reviews have seen improvement in conversion rates. Expert reviews involve the analysis of a design, be it a website design or design of a product, they review all elements of UX. It’s different from your normal usability testing in the sense that the issues found will vary from those discovered in usability testing, you’ll see the best results if you can combine both things together. An expert review can identify minute issues that could otherwise go undetected or that may be difficult to observe or measure in a small qualitive study. With that in mind expert usability reviews are still found to be quite useful by 61% of company respondents with 28% reporting to find it highly valuable.
The CRO strategy maturity model
CRO isn’t a quick fix, while there are a few generic tips and tricks you can find that will apply to you once you’ve run out of these little tricks that’ve been randomly applied you’d likely lack any technical analytics showing how and why they helped and you’ll be left in the dark, all-be-it with a small increase in conversions, you’re back at square one scrounging for more tricks to blindly throw at your customer base and see what sticks.
It takes real time to see results with CRO, the model used to put together this table has been refreshed to reflect the increasing complexity of tools and techniques used for CRO. Using this you should be able to get a relative understanding of where you or your business may stand, where you want to go with it and the steps that should be taken to get there.
Foundation: At the foundation level you are aware of CRO but lack the resources and insight to get things done, you’ll likely face resistance internally. When you identify yourself at this stage focus on addressing your lack of resources, if you struggle to budget for or understand the type of resources you need then you can look to external agencies or consultants that would be able to better explain the long-term impact of this type of investment to your management teams. Alternatively develop an internal partnership to make a collaborative case to prove the impact of CRO. You can read more about making the case for CRO here.
Practitioner: Here you are still new to CRO, you likely will have had some success making your case within the company and have some resources at your disposal to run simple tests in a straightforward, cut and dry method. Identifying at this level it’s important to start thinking about how you can structure your strategy to integrate optimisation fully into your business operations. By developing a roadmap of known problem areas, you can test and optimise for quick wins allowing for a stronger case to gain more resources.
Intermediate: At an intermediate level you know what good practice looks like you’re striving to achieve it with a well-structured approach. You will have multiple conversion personnel running multiple tests including some complex tests. When identifying at this stage in the maturity model to move up you’ll want to be aiming to add sophisticated techniques to your testing arsenal including segmentation and website personalisation, you need to find or develop tools capable of the type of personalisation that you need while pushing towards an informed CRO strategy.
Expert: At an expert level of maturity, you’ll have picked off any quick wins long ago, unafraid to run increasingly complex test on a regular basis to keep ahead while always pushing for improvement. Combining usability testing and segmentation with easier methods to have several areas of website personalisation coming online.
To sustain a highly dynamic business environment maintaining a competitive edge over your competition in testing and experimentation demands a mature optimisation model. This roadmap shows where a company may place themselves through their CRO journey and allows for you to recognize key areas to focus and improve. Reaching an expert level of maturity isn’t the end, as you mature through the model, you’ll develop the necessary insight to move your company towards a more engrained culture of experimentation. Culture of experimentation is an area we will cover in detail later; you can read more here.
The difference in known and unknown users
Understanding the difference between known and unknown users is important to any personalisation efforts. It is slated that 64% of companies fail to create a different experience for both known and unknown site visitors, this is a concerning statistic when 97-98% of all website visitors are deemed anonymous and unknown to you. As mentioned begore personalisation is only as good as the data you have fuelling it, once you can capture a visitors’ contact information or some level of demographical information that individual becomes a “known” visitor to you; depending on what other information you can capture, or they are willing to provide you can begin to look at more targeted personalisation techniques. To begin looking at personalising for the “unknown” visitors you need to use tactics like cookie-matching, activity tracking, reverse IP identification, data onboarding, and contextual targeting strategies. In doing this you can begin to fill the empty gaps with actionable data, bringing down your total number of “unknown” visitors and creating an experience catered to their needs.
It’s important to note that all aforementioned techniques will be wrapped tightly in a bundle of GDPR guidelines so before utilising any of them it’s important to get user consent, this can easily be obtained by imitating other websites’ cookie policies in the form of a small pop-up that many individuals will be quick to accept, often without reading into it at any level. If you can bring your site visitors out of the dark unknown, you’ll find your CRO, and personalisation efforts can be vastly more effective.
The difficulty implementing effective personalisation
Like any marketing strategy there are challenges and difficulties that come with the territory trying to personalise. Many organisations struggle to effectively implement personalisation elements into their conversion funnel for a handful of reasons, to name a few:
The data problem – We’ll cover the actual importance of data in greater detail shortly but essentially without data there is no personalisation. With technology advancing it allows for us to collect massive amounts of data, more than ever before, that can allow for precise marketing targeting techniques to be used. There’s one key problem with this though; to effectively utilise this data you need the right tools and systems in place to methodically manage and sort the colossal mountain of data out there. Customer data can also come from poor and disconnected sources, to have actual actionable data you must have one singular source of accurate and tangible customer data. If you are to target and audience on improper data, you’ll often end up doing more harm than good and could in some cases tarnish your brand reputation with an individual by demonstrating a lack of competence showing a lack of relevant information and elements to a certain customer group.
Resources – Be it time, people, or budget, resources are always going to be a hurdle to overcome in any strategy development. For personalisation you need to have the right software and systems in place, you need a devoted team (or to have personalisation engrained into your culture). In some organisations you may find yourself lacking resources as the higher ups may not be willing to dedicate enough towards a personalisation strategy, if this is the case then we advise building a case to present and validify your ideas, like building a case for CRO like we have discussed before, apply those same methods here.
Regulations and restrictions – Shared with trust and transparency this hurdle will be the biggest of them all and is often the leading cause for a personalisation strategy to falter and be brushed aside. With ever-growing GDPR regulations on everything a company may do it can seem a daunting task to simply learn what you can and can’t do with data, what data you can and can’t keep, and what methods of targeting you can utilise with said data. The funny thing is that customers are becoming more expectant of a personalised experience online yet are generally unhappy with their personal data being collected and stored by a company. To be effectively customer-centric you must be willing to really dig in deep and put effort towards personalisation, a half-assed attempt will fail to bear any real fruit and could do more harm than good. You must collect accurate data, acquired in a trusted and transparent manner that your customers will be comfortable with. By keeping the customer wants and needs central in your crosshairs you can make changes that will increase your CVL and ultimately your conversion rates.
Now not everybody will come across the same hurdles implementing personalisation effectively into the CX these are just a few of the generalised and common obstacles you could find in your path, you may find you come up against one or all, but you can’t avoid them all. Personalisation is a growingly important part of customer experience, if you can find your way through the thickets of work and obstacles along the journey you can profit greatly from it with greater CLV and generally happier customers, bringing them back for more and willing to refer your products or services on.
The importance of CRO
The importance of CRO is widely acknowledged and accepted year-on-year however fewer see it as crucial than ever. With newly emerging channels and disciplines arising in the marketing sphere to excite teams it’s unsurprising to see opinions drop on the importance of CRO after 65% of marketers have developed a mature discipline that has resulted in annual improvements in conversion rates since 2009. This continual improvement can fuel complacency, yet it’s important to note that despite the slight downtrend 50% of client-side marketers still see CRO as crucial to their strategies, with only 1% claiming it has no importance at all, and that marketers are still not happy with their conversion rates. Again, driving the need for continued efforts toward improvement. In fact, half of all companies surveyed plan to increase their CRO budgets over the next year.
There is no doubt on the matter of CRO importance whether it’s deemed crucial or not is a split decision, but it is clear the value of optimisation is reasonably understood. CRO has been on the to-do list of marketers ever since the ecommerce era began, before this a business only had to worry about local competition to their physical stores. With the speed of ecommerce uptake and competition on a global scale ramping up CRO has quickly become an integral part of any business’ marketing strategy.
CRO enables you to not only improve your marketing ROI, but it goes hand in hand with optimising your website’s functionality and user experience whilst helping you to better understand customer psychology, who your site visitors are and why it is they find themselves coming to you. Optimisation is all about getting more of the right kind of customers while getting more from the right kind of customers. CRO is capitalising on the traffic you already have. This means you’re not spending more money getting visitors to your site, just doing a better job of converting them once they get there. Not only that but it causes an almost snowball like effect on your marketing momentum. CRO is cheap, in fact it can be virtually free in some cases, it lowers your CAC by optimising the upper echelon of your conversion funnel; Your company profit is intimately tied to your conversion rate and because you won’t be paying more to acquire this conversion that profit will go straight to your bottom line, by doubling your conversions you half your average CAC, this in turn gives you more money to invest in additional customer acquisition turning into a rinse and repeat cycle.
If all of what I’ve said feels unimportant to you in your current position or if what has been written here has failed to demonstrate the importance of CRO then at least take away this. It is a dog-eat-dog world with very few free, untapped, markets. To simply survive you need to be at least doing what your competition does, to excel and grow a business into something more you need to develop a mature, well-structured and researched CRO strategy to remove as much friction for your site visitor, be it wasted time in the form of clicks or cognitive overhead putting doubts into their mind. All these things must be optimised, fluent and easy to make you stand out in what can only be referred to as an extremely oversaturated online marketplace.
The importance of data in personalisation
I said it once before, but I’ll say it again, without data there is no personalisation. To personalise you need to leverage data collected allowing you to put people into predetermined groups. You need to use your customer analytics to highlight who each of your customers are, their behaviour and aims throughout the course of their journey, and if, when, and how they’ve had any type of engagement with your brand. The data you collect is the key to familiarising yourself with them enough to cater for their specific needs, trying to make educated predictions of what it is they might want or need at certain stages in their journey.
It’s all well and good understanding data’s place in your personalisation strategy but you must also realise how vital it is to improve the quality of your data. This was mentioned earlier but it’s important to reinforce the fact that improper data collection can lead to poor personalisation, you could utilise targeting tactics based on flawed information providing an irrelevant recommendation or experience for that user. Are you even collecting the right data? Most sites will collect basic data like demographics and geographical data while most personalisation is mainly being done with browsing and transactional data, these are arguably the simplest forms of data you can base your content personalisation on without relying on things like complex data manipulation and segmentation. Least likely to be used is data such as psychographic, attitudinal or satisfaction data; this is unsurprising considering the difficulty in collecting this data with the time commitment needed to collect and utilise this data set effectively.
Gathering data is a mammoth task, to do so effectively you would benefit from developing a data strategy:
Goals – Before you consider capturing any customer data it’s important that you determine your company goals, be it attracting new customers or simply retaining current customers, you can’t know what sort of data is relevant without an end goal
Recycle – Familiarise yourself with the data you do already have, you could be sitting on a treasure trove of insight and not even know it. It’s worth taking some time to assess and sort the data you have already captured from your customers to make sure that you’re not wasting time and resources trying to discover the same data set
Plan – Develop a plan for utilising your data, once you’ve decided what data you need and have discovered what you already have then to acquire the rest you need to think how you plan to segment your users into specific classifications predetermined by your goals and needs
What is conversion rate, and how do you work it out?
Now you understand what a conversion is you’re likely wondering what is conversion rate? Conversion rate simply put is a figure worked out by taking your total conversions, this is the number of people who complete your desired action, and you divide that by the number of total visitors to your site.
For example, a site that gets 1000 visitors with 30 conversions has a conversion rate of 3%. This is a good conversion rate to have but it’s never a bad thing to strive for better.
You may have noticed how I’d written “total visitors” in italics; this is because there’s two ways you can work out a conversion rate, one being the above method dividing conversions by total visitors and another dividing conversion by unique visitors. Each method has merit however using total visitors may have more weight. Let me explain with an analogy. If you operate a physical store and a customer comes in to look around and check out your products, this is counted as a visit. The customer then decides to walk out, for whatever reason be it they forgot their wallet, or they may want to compare with your competition down the road, they then eventually come back to your store. Each time they do this it is counted as a visitor all the while being one unique visitor.
The same will apply to how people shop online; visitors will often look around a little, checking other competitors for better price or quality or simply being distracted by a cute cat video. In this case it shouldn’t be taken as a failure as you can’t expect to convert a visitor on each interaction. It is for this reason some people may choose to use the unique visitors figure to determine their conversion rates. Whatever metric you decide to use is up to you, but it’s important you stay consistent throughout. If you decide one gives a more accurate representation of conversion rate for you then be sure to continue to use that method only. Only once you know your conversion rate can you begin to look for barriers in your conversion funnel.
Using UX to compliment CRO
What is UX?
User experience (UX) is a general, all-encompassing term, used to talk discuss the experience of an individual in their end-to-end interaction with a company. This terminology does not solely refer to a user’s interactions with a company website like some may think, it covers every single interaction from the first impression with an advert to their purchases and on to any resulting customer service interactions or subsequent purchases.
Optimisation of UX is something that works similarly to CRO in the sense that they will both be data driven working from analytics and feedback to meet similar end goals. It’s important to note that these are not the same things these are both two different matters they just share similarities. Also, worth noting that UI is not UX like it is often mistaken to be, UI is a part of UX just like usability but neither of them alone will make up UX. UX covers the wide scope of elements of a product, site or service.
Where do you get ideas for testing
It’s all well and good knowing CRO testing methods, elements of your website that you could optimise and the methodologies that work well for others, but you need to where is right to start for you, so how do you do that?
You can develop a hypothesis from many sources in all manner of ways, the most common method for coming up with testing ideas is, and likely always will be, using analytics and user testing, commonly used in union. Competitor analysis is another key focal point for companies to develop testing ideas from, this is closely followed in popularity by employee suggestions. Visitor session recording has seen considerable growth since its introduction into the market space a decade ago, it allows for a first-hand view into the journey that is undertaken, you see real time hang ups, unnecessary clicks or paths taken and get a better idea of how your site visitors may think and operate. Consultant testing ideas can bear great results to your conversion rates, these specialists will come in with their one singular goal focussed solely on improving your conversion rates, no focus on traffic or anything else. They can evaluate your site without any bias as they themselves have no invested interest or effort into how the site currently look of operates, the skills there allow them to pick up on minute issues that otherwise an untrained eye is likely to gloss over.
Each method discussed above is great and if you’re just starting out in the world of CRO then utilising any of them to get started is what’s most important, however it’s important to note that as your CRO strategy matures there’s value in experimenting and finding what’s right with you. While each year figures for companies taking up new methods for developing testing ideas is increasing, analytics, which is the highest rated in use, is one of the least fruitful for results. While analytics is fantastic for revealing an area that would need looking into that’s kind of where the buck stops, basic analytics often fail to demonstrate why an area is causing a problem. By combining different methods for developing a hypothesis you’re more likely to find success and optimise appropriately within the area of focus.
Most importantly of all points discussed so far is employee ideas. Ask everybody, not just your developers but anybody in the company, you never know what sort of ideas an individual may have that could be implemented. So, ask the boss, ask your intern, ask your parents. The key to successfully developing testing hypotheses is to try and make it an open session per say, get everybody’s ideas pooled together before prioritising the best ones, alternatively mix and match them, a poor idea could be one singular alteration away from being an excellent idea. You’ve developed a deep and unique roster of employees for a reason so use them as best you can at every given opportunity and be sure to leave no stone unturned because you never know what gems may be hidden underneath.