Secrets of successful conversion rate optimization:
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) has the potential to significantly improve revenues from your digital marketing and increase business growth. Companies such as Spotify, Netflix, Google, and Booking.com have mastered this process. They conduct literally thousands of experiments a year to improve the performance of their digital experience. Yet many other companies struggle to grow their business using CRO and fail to achieve significant uplifts in A/B and multivariate tests.
There are certainly common mistakes companies make with conversion marketing, but what are the secrets of success that the likes of Amazon and other organisations embed into their optimization programs? Below I have summarised some of the key strategies that these companies employ.
1. Start by listening to your customers:
Before even considering A/B testing it is important to understand your customers. What are their characteristics, needs, wants, desires, motivations and concerns? What is it that attracts customers to your proposition and why do prospects buy from your competitors? In CRO being customer centric is not an option, it is an essential ingredient for success.
Once you begin to get a better understanding of your customers you can develop buyer personas of important customer groups to help you visualise your visitors and develop hypothesis for why prospects don’t buy from your company. For more information on using personas to improve conversion see my post on the buyer legends process.
If you don’t have much demographic data on your website visitors use your web analytics as a starting point. But also try online survey tools such as Surveymonkey and Typeform to obtain feedback from visitors whilst they are on your website. You should also conduct usability testing to observe visitors attempting to complete important tasks on your website. This can be invaluable for identifying major usability issues or just generating ideas about how you can reduce friction on your site.
All high performing companies start with their customers as they are the people who ultimately determine the success or failure of your brand.
2. Get an emotional response:
Now you are ready to examine and refine your value proposition. People buy benefits, not features and yet many companies still focus on product/service updates and treat people like they are purely rational beings.
Humans are emotional and social creatures, we may buy a product for conscious reasons, but we choose a brand for the psychological goals that generate an emotional response. From listening to your customers you should get insights into the kind of psychological goals that drive customer behaviour.
Use the 6 psychological goals below to consider how best to position your proposition to trigger these implicit motivations. Marketing consultant Phil Barden identified these core psychological goals from the latest neuroscience and psychological research.
3. Get senior stakeholder support:
It is important that senior management understand and sponsor your conversion rate optimization program. HIPPO’s (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) get a hard time at many conversion conferences, but an informed and engaged HIPPO can be an asset to your program, helping to develop a culture of evidence based optimization.
CRO removes the need for subjective opinions to decide which design of a web page is most effective at achieving conversion goals, but this does require a change in established decision making processes. You will need senior stakeholders to agree to such changes as otherwise you may find internal politics become a barrier to successful optimization.
4. Follow a structured process:
To avoid random and undirected optimization it is necessary to use a tried and tested process for website optimization. This helps to provide rigour to your program, but importantly it can assist in building credibility within your organisation as it allows you to communicate how you identify, evaluate and prioritise changes and tests. Having a transparent prioritisation process, such as P.I.E (Potential, Importance, and Ease) is critical because it sets expectations and removes subjectivity from the testing process.
5. Resource analytics:
The old saying, if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve, certainly holds true here. Some start-ups might think they can’t afford such tools, but Google Analytics has a free version, and Hotjar Insights provides visual analytics and online customer feedback for less than €1,000 a year.
What advanced CRO companies understand though is that analytics requires dedicated resource as someone won’t become an expert at web analytics if they only have time for an hour or two a day. They also appreciate that averages lie and that segmentation is essential for giving meaning to such data. Opportunities for personalisation are often driven by analytics because once you begin to analyse the behaviour of individual sub-groups you will see how different they are and appreciate they have different needs.
Similar issues arise with visual analytics, but there are also opportunities to integrate such tools with customer facing software to help with customer services, complaint handling and fraud. Again segmentation is key to getting value from such tools and also integrating form analytics to allow you to tracking individual input field completion and drop-off rates.
6. Scale matters:
Predicting human behaviour is very difficult, especially with a complex ecosystem such as a large e-commerce website. For this reason the likes of Netflix, Google and AppSumo find that around 80% of their A/B and multivariate tests fail to deliver significant uplifts in success metrics. Our intuition is generally not be relied on with such matters as even experts are poor at forecasting the future.
This is why after dealing with the low-hanging fruit it is necessary to increase your testing and run multiple tests at the same time. There is limited evidence of interaction between tests and provided you are not testing on the same area of the page nor have the same objective running tests in parallel should not be a major problem.
7. Collaboration spreads the load:
Conversion rate optimization cannot be done by one person – it needs to be something everyone in an organisation thinks about. Whether it is how to improve page load speed, improving the findability of stuff, cutting down on information we request from users or providing a more personalised user experience. Companies that understand CRO ensure they nurture a culture of experimentation and collaboration across the organisation to generate and share ideas, tests and outcomes.
8. Use the 80:20 rule for your test designs:
When creating test designs don’t seek perfection or be overly restrictive with which visitors are included in an A/B test. Yes, little things can matter, but at the same time bear in mind the Pareto Principle. This states that 80% of the output will be generated by just 20% of the effort and conversely 80% of the problems can be traced to 20% of the causes.
This suggests that once you have fixed the important elements of a design the rest of the experience will probably have little impact on the outcome. If you also always ask for two designs for each hypothesis you will also have the opportunity to learn about how implementation of an idea influences the outcome.
9. Take risks:
One of the main benefits of online experiments is that you don’t have to test a new design on all your traffic and you can turn the design off in a matter of seconds. This allows you to effectively manage downside risk and should be the green light for developing radical new, innovative designs to test. It is also sometimes necessary to try something totally different to achieve the big uplift in conversion that CRO promises. And yet many managers see CRO as a risky exercise and frequently try to limit testing activity due to misinformed concerns.
10. Challenge everything:
I once worked for an organisation where I was told that I couldn’t test different CTAs, such as the colour or place additional text on the CTA because brand guidelines determined the design of the CTAs. Companies that understand CRO don’t allow such untested and subjective policies to restrict their CRO program. They take great delight in saying they can even test the colour of their CTAs, not because it’s allowed by their brand guidelines, but because they test anything if they think they can learn from it.
For CRO to reach its full potential it is important that even the smallest detail can be scrutinized and challenged through A/B and multivariate testing. It is sometimes the things that have never been challenged that can result in the step-change to higher conversion rates.
Conversion rate optimization is not a quick fix strategy for websites to raise their performance. It requires a structured and rigorous approach that needs resource and support at the highest level of an organisation. The customer needs to be at the heart of your CRO program and a better understanding of customer needs and motivations is likely to lead to stronger hypothesis and more winning tests.
CRO should remove the need for subjective opinions and for that reason everything should be challenged. Management should not be allowed to hide behind untested policies if they want CRO to reach its full potential. CRO is a strategy, not a tactic to solve short-term problems.
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- About the author: Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for brands such as Deezer.com, Foxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com. He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.
- Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website. If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.