The Growth Strategy That’s Being Ignored!

Why is CRO failing to get traction in the boardroom?

Why is it that Amazon Prime converts 74% of the time on Amazon.com and yet the average Ecommerce retailer only converts 3.1% of the time according to research by Millward Brown Digital? Even non-Prime customers convert 13% of the time. Bryan Eisenberg, CRO expert and thought leader suggests that Amazon’s secret is to do with developing a culture of customer centricity and experimentation that is deeply embedded in the culture of the organisation from the C-suite level down.

Given the success of Amazon with applying the principles of CRO to drive business growth, why is it that in many organisations there is little, if any, engagement with CRO at the top level of management?  This is the conundrum that the book ‘The Growth Strategy That’s Being Ignored’ seeks to answer.

Why should you read it?

Although this is a short read, Paul Rouke, from CRO agency PRWD has managed to gather contributions from 17 global CRO thought leaders, including Chris Goward , Roger Dooley, Brian Massey, Peep Laja, Bart Schutz, Oli Gardner, Talia Wolf and Tim Ash. These are people with a huge amount of experience of successfully applying CRO strategies in large ecommerce organisations.

The book focuses on the key reasons for the frequent failure of organisations to fully benefit from CRO and why optimiser often find themselves stuck in the “trough of disillusionment”. I’ve previously written about the Dunning-Kruger effect and how initial success with CRO often creates overconfidence in the optimiser’s skills and abilities to create successful tests. But, what is the cause of the despair that many CRO teams experience?

Image of Dunning-Kruger Effect for conversion rate optimisation
Image source:

A number of reasons are given for the lack of  adoption of a CRO philosophy at the executive level, including the name and a lack of change management skills in the team. But the most frequent cause mentioned is the perception of CRO as a short-term tactic rather than a strategy for long-term growth. As a result CRO thinking is often not embedded into the culture of the organisation from the C-suite downwards. This automatically relegates CRO to a tactical solution to short-term problems that can be handled by a silo in marketing or some other department in the organisation.

“The majority of marketers run meaningless tests without any strategy or hypothesis and the results are hard to analyse and scale.” – Talia Wolf, Founder & CEO of Conversioner

What you won’t get from this book is any insight into the detailed process of CRO or tips for experiments to increase your conversion rate. This book is solely about why CRO has failed to be successfully embedded into the culture and processes of many digital organisations.

“The ego of the optimisers makes 90% of tests results a lie.” – Andre Morys, Co-founder & CEO at Web Arts

I have to agree that this is a problem. Being an optimiser in an organisation where there isn’t a culture of experimentation and senior management support is limited can be soul destroying. It feels like there is a constant battle to get resources and co-operation from product, MarComs and marketing. As a number of contributors mentioned you need to employ change management skills and engage internal stakeholders first before trying to communicate your strategy.

Who should read this book?

The problem outlined in the book is clearly with communicating the benefits and implementation of CRO to executive level management. As such this is an ideal read for C-suite management and CRO managers seeking to establish a culture of CRO within their organisation.

What next?

The book should be a wake-up call for many CRO specialists and executives who are allowing their sites to fall further behind the leaders in customer centricity and experimentation. According to RedEye companies spend on average $92 on driving traffic to their website and only $1 to convert those visitors. This is not a sustainable approach because sites will increasingly be squeezed out of the market by the likes of Amazon, AO.com and other companies that recognise the benefits of a strategic approach to CRO.

I firmly believe that with the development of artificial intelligence based optimisation tools, such as Sentient Ascend, this time is rapidly approaching. Such technology is speeding up the optimisation process by allowing massively complex multivariate testing. Companies that embed CRO into their culture as a strategy for growth will exploit these tools much more effectively than organisations using CRO as a tactical tool. So maybe the book should be re-named “The Growth Strategy That You Can’t Afford To Ignore”?

Value for money:

As I have already mentioned the book is on the short side and with such a star-studied list of contributors you might have expected more detail on how to implement a strategic approach to CRO. However, the contributors do make some very valid points and there are plenty of other books to read if you want advice on the optimisation process. Given the potential audience of CEOs and CMOs brevity is also a bonus. They won’t want to read anything too detailed or long about  what they perceive to be a specialist subject.  So my advice is buy the kindle version for your smartphone or e-book reader as it’s only £2.99.

Thank you for reading my post and if you found it useful please share using the social media icons below.

The Growth Strategy That’s Being Ignored

For more details you can go to a dedicated landing page about the book.

 

Related posts:

CRO Strategy – 9 mistakes companies make with website optimisation

CRO Implementation – How smart is your approach to conversion rate optimisation

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.ukpartypoker.com and Bgo.com. He uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
  • 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 neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

Is LinkedIn The New Facebook?

The First Rule of Social Media Marketing:

I recently saw this post on LinkedIn and wondered why some users were surprised by the negative comments it received.

Image of post on LinkedIn timeline

The post reads; “Last weekend I had the pleasure of travelling to Berlin on a private chartered plane. After being escorted through security ‘VIP’ , we were met with Prosecco before heading onto the plane. If 2017 carries on like this, I’m going to have a pretty great year.”

One user posted this comment in response to the negative feedback:

“Great stuff Tim. What I fail to understand is all the negatively here, get a grip people & if you don’t like it scroll on by & enjoy your day. It’s quite simple really.”

Well, are you guys trying to turn LinkedIn into the new Facebook or are you just submitting the same posts to all your social media platforms? Whichever it is you need to stop doing it because the first rule of social media is to tailor your message to your audience.

LinkedIn is a professional networking site for making contacts and sharing useful content. It is not for boasting about how lucky you are to have been on a private jet. Enjoying yourself at work is important, but LinkedIn is not the platform to distribute this kind of self-congratulating twaddle. It’s unprofessional and annoying to other users.

Indeed, if I was a potential client of the agency concerned I would question their fees if they can afford to send employees on a private charter plane. Maybe the charter plane was paid for by a client or someone else, but that’s not the point. It creates that thought in your brain that is how my fees are being spent.

These types of posts also dilute the effectiveness of the LinkedIn timeline and put off users browsing their homepage. As the comment above suggests you can; “scroll on by” but just don’t expect me to scroll for very long as I can go to Facebook to read this kind of bragging content.

The power of LinkedIn:

LinkedIn is still a very effective social media platform though. Whilst the time line is getting clogged up with mediocre stuff the special interest groups are fantastic for sharing quality content with like-minded people. LinkedIn is currently my number one source of social media traffic because I spent time finding interest groups that closely match the target audience for my blog posts. The content is therefore relevant to users and I get constructive comments and good click through to my website.

Finally:

So I’m not against people having fun at work, but just make sure you think before you post on your LinkedIn timeline. Otherwise LinkedIn will turn into a version of Facebook that will damage its effectiveness as a networking tool. Ask yourself a few questions.  How relevant and appropriate is the content to my LinkedIn contacts. Also, what will it say about me and my company to other users on LinkedIn? The latter is the main point really. As unlike on Facebook where most people don’t give a toss where you work on LinkedIn your job title and company is very visible.

Thank you for reading my post. If you found it interesting please share using the social media icons below.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.ukpartypoker.com and Bgo.com. He uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
  • 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 neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

Should MPs Vote To Stop Article 50?

29 Reasons Why MPs Should Vote Against Article 50

The UK is clearly a divided nation as shown by the EU referendum result. However, will ploughing on regardless of the cost of Brexit really heal the rift? I don’t think so. No, to bring people together we need a genuine and open discussion to understand if leaving the EU is a reasonable and sustainable solution to people’s concerns.

For this reason I have outlined below 29 reasons why MPs should vote to block Article 50.

  1. Less than 40% of the electorate voted in favour of leaving the EU. 
  • 52% of people who voted chose to leave the EU, but given a turnout of 72% this means that only 37% of the total electorate actually voted in favour of leaving the EU. This figure would be even lower if you allow for the fact that adults aged between 16 and 17 were not allowed to vote and around a million ex-pats living in another member state for more than 15 years were also excluded from the vote.
  • Indeed, only 26% of the UK population voted to leave the  EU. To call this the “will of the people” is a complete fallacy and is a dangerous use of a referendum result. John Stewart Mill, an English philosopher, political economist and civil servant argued in 1859 that following the “will of the people” could be an “abuse power”.

Quote from John Stewart Mill about danger of following the will of the people

  1. Theresa May attempted to ignore Parliamentary sovereignty.
  • A British PM cannot trigger a General Election without the approval of 66% of all MPs and so why should Theresa May be allowed to use a small majority in a referendum to force the UK to leave the EU? May tried to argue that she alone could trigger Article 50 despite the Conservative Government in 2010 confirming that referendum cannot be binding due to the sovereignty of parliament.
  • What May attempted to do was unconstitutional and would have reduced the power of Parliament. Fortunately the Supreme Court has confirmed the power of Parliament and May will now have to get a bill through Parliament.
  1. The referendum was not binding and requires Parliament’s consent to proceed. Why are MPs ignoring the nature of the referendum Bill?
  • The Government had the opportunity to make the referendum binding by requiring a super majority, 2:1 in favour and a 70% turnout, but instead asked Parliament for an advisory referendum. The Government  rejected more than one attempt to introduce clauses that would have made the result binding.  An advisory referendum is supposed to be just that because it would be reckless to base a major constitutional change on a simple majority without Parliament first debating it and voting on such a change.

Image of the EU Referendum Bill 2015-16

4. A majority of MPs wanted the UK to remain in the EU. 

  • Before the referendum  74% of the UK’s 650 MPs were in favour of remaining in the European Union. Now they have the opportunity to vote on Article 50  MPs should stand up for their principles and do what is best for the UK. They should vote against Article 50. Even Theresa May made this statement about supporting the Remain campaign on the Andrew Marr show. Why is she now following a slim majority to ignore her own opinion that the UK would be better to remain in the EU?

Theresa May explaining why UK should remain in the EU on Andrew Marr show

  • Winston Churchill famously said the first duty of a MP is to do what he thinks is best for the country and secondly to represent his constituents.

Image of what Winston Churchill said about the role of a MP

5. The Leave Campaign had no plan or costings for leaving the EU.

  • If someone proposes a major constitutional change the least you would expect is a carefully thought out implementation plan, including estimates of the costs and benefits of the change. Any proposal with so little effort put into the planning and implementation stage of the process deserves no respect and should not be taken forward until a credible plan is presented and put to Parliament.

Brexit is costing £461m a week

6. People can change their minds.

  • It is over 6 months since the referendum and only now do people know that the plan is to leave the single market and probably the customers union. Given the potential impact of such changes on the economy and people’s lives it is only reasonable to give the electorate a second opportunity to vote on the full details of the plan when it has been finalised.
  • A recent YouGov survey found that 54% of Leave voters are not prepared for their family finances to be affected by Theresa May prioritising immigration over the economy.  Only 11% of people who supported Brexit said they would be prepared to be more than £100 a month worse off to get greater control over immigration.

 

7. The electorate were lied to about many of the potential benefits of leaving the EU.

  • Although misinformation was a characteristic of both sides of the argument, the Leave campaign made a number of claims (e.g. £350m a week to go to the NHS and Turkey about to join the EU) that have proved to be totally inaccurate and untrue. For a start the Office for Budget Responsibility now estimates that the UK will only save £250m a week by leaving the EU and that most of the cost savings will be wiped out for a number of years due to the high cost of leaving the EU.
  • The EU is potentially asking for between €60bn to €100bn cover existing commitments. People cannot be expected to have an informed opinion on leaving the EU when much of the information about leaving the EU was false.

 

Leave campaign claim that Turkey was about to join the EU

8. Theresa May’s Government has no mandate for hard Brexit.

  • The referendum did not specify that the UK would leave either the Single Market or the Customs Union. The ballot paper simply asked if voters wanted to remain or leave the European Union. There was no indication about the nature of any withdrawal from the EU.

9. Brexit could result in the break-up of the UK.

  • Following Theresa May’s speech of 17th January, Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of SNP, has indicated that a second Scottish independence referendum is almost inevitable. Scotland voted strongly in favour of remaining in the EU (62% to 38%), and the Scottish Government want to remain in the single market. A hard Brexit could you also increase pressure for the unification of Ireland as Northern Ireland also voted in favour of staying in the EU and is the only part of the UK to have a land border with another EU country.

 

10. Theresa May’s plan is not credible or logistically possible.

  • May’s plan is to leave the single market and the full customs union and negotiate a new “frictionless” trade agreement through “associate membership” of the customs union without having to submit to the regulations of the customs union. All of this is to be completed within 2 years.
  • Why would other members of the customs union approve an agreement that allows the UK to ignore existing regulations and rules? For free trade to happen counties must collaborate to ensure compatibility between national legal systems, standardising their rules and regulations to bring down trade barriers. The UK doesn’t want to abide by the rules of the customs union and so why would other members agree to a free trade agreement?
  • May wants to complete a new deal within 2 years? It took the EU seven years to agree a trade agreement with Canada. Indeed,  Michael Fuchs,  a senior adviser to Germany’s Angela Merkel has told reporters that May’s Brexit plan is impossible as she does not appear to want to give up anything to achieve her aims.

 

11. Taking the UK out of the single market could seriously damage the economy.

  • May wants to take the UK out of a market over 500 million people with no guarantee that we can obtain “frictionless” access to the single market after we leave the EU. This means that the City of London would almost inevitably lose its European passport allowing free trade in financial services throughout the single market.
  • This is a highly risky, if not, reckless strategy which runs contrary to the Conservative Party’s own policy of being the party of “economic competency”. The City is also one of the biggest contributors to corporation tax in the UK and if tax receipts decline this could force the Government to increase income tax whether it likes it or not.

12. May considers “no deal is better than a bad deal” with EU.

  • No country wants a bad deal, but no deal is the worst scenario for all countries and could be very damaging for the UK economy. Before it joined the EU the UK tried to get approval for a free trade agreement with the emerging EU and France blocked it. Relying on all 27 countries to approve a new trade agreement again seems a very risky approach to trading with EU countries.

13. The EU already has many trade agreements with other nations which the UK would exclude itself from if it leaves the EU.

  • The EU has just completed a free trade agreement with Canada and has many multilateral and bilateral trade deals, and includes the USA as a major trading partner. The EU is currently in discussions with Japan about a free trade deal. As 44% of the UK’s exports go to the EU why would we want to risk jeopardising this trade?

14. We risk losing sovereignty of Gibraltar and 30,000 loyal subjects.

  • As all 27 EU states have to agree to any new trade agreement with the EU it is highly likely that Spain will use this as an opportunity to push for joint sovereignty of Gibraltar. Spain only opened its border with Gibraltar because it wanted to join the EU and now will have the opportunity to make life even more difficult for the people of Gibraltar if the UK leaves the EU.

Image of Gibraltar

15. London risks losing its status as Europe’s leading financial hub and a centre of creativity in the arts and sciences.

  • Many multinational banks have already announced they are planning on moving thousands of jobs from London to other European financial centres in response to Brexit. Losing the European financial passport will be a major blow to London’s status as a financial hub. Further, London has successfully attracted many talented people from the rest of Europe and other countries due to its ethnic and cultural diversity. This has helped establish London as a centre of creative and high-tech science. Given the perception of Brexit from outside the UK and proposed new immigration controls this status is in serious risk of being undermined.

16. Leaving the EU is likely to undermine the UK’s world-leading position in science and innovation.

  • The EU has greatly assisted UK science and innovation as freedom of movement of expertise and EU science funding has supported important complex international research and development programmes. This has been beneficial for education, training, innovation and the economy overall. Leaving the EU will prevent collaboration, remove funding opportunities and hinder attracting talent from other EU countries.

17. Many UK industries are reliant on EU regulatory bodies to trade in both the UK and EU.

  • The UK does not have the resources or money to create numerous regulators to replace existing EU regulatory bodies within two years. EU pharmaceutical companies for instance have to submit results to the European Medical Agency (EMA), which is currently based in London. Otherwise companies cannot proceed with testing and production. Of course the EMA will have to move to another EU country, which will result in job losses in the UK. However, even if we establish our own agency, UK companies may still have to submit results to the EMA if they wish to have continued access to EU markets.
  • It is possible that the UK could petition Europe to allow EU regulators to continue to regulate UK companies but this would conflict with May’s plan to leave the single market. It would also give the EU another bargaining counter in negotiations. So we are left with potentially having to replicate EU regulatory agencies which will add significantly to the cost of leaving the EU.

18. UK citizens would lose the automatic right to work and live in other EU countries.

  • 1.2 million British born people currently live in another EU country and an estimated 800,000 are workers and their dependants.  Currently people in the UK can work and live in any other EU country without having to apply for approval from the other member state.
  • This is likely to end if we leave the single market and customs union as the UK Government wants to prevent EU nationals coming to the UK without first being granted permission. Apart from the loss of a right that many of us have benefited from over the years this will increase red-tape and make it more difficult to recruit skilled staff from other EU countries. Why would such staff come to the UK when they can go to an EU member state without any need to complete paperwork?

19. It is not clear if Article 50 is reversible.

  • As no country has ever triggered Article 50 it is not known if at the end of negotiations it is possible to reverse our decision and to remain a member of the EU. It is perfectly possible that after two years of negotiating the UK may not have a plan that is acceptable to the electorate. What if this happens and we are forced to leave the EU because Article 50 is not reversible?

20. UK citizens may lose the right to free medical care when travelling in the EU. 

  • Currently UK citizens have access to free or subsidised medical care when travelling in the EU via the EHIC card. However, this will now be part of the Brexit negotiations. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, admitted during evidence to a Commons committee he could give no guarantees that the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will survive withdrawal from the EU. Removing access to the EHIC card would have serious financial implications for UK citizens travelling in the EU, especially if they don’t have travel insurance.

21. UK universities will lose tens of millions of pounds in fees from EU students deciding to study elsewhere. 

  • EU applications for UK universities have declined by 7% according to figures provided to a select committee of MPs. It is the first drop in applications from EU students to study in the UK for almost a decade and is likely to have been influenced by the Brexit decision. EU students have been an important source of growth for UK universities because the number of 18-year-olds in the UK are declining.  Applications from EU students rose by 5.9% between 2015 and 2016 and 7.4% the year before.

22. Producing a White Paper after a bill has been passed is contrary to our normal constitutional process. 

  • A White Paper normally proceeds a bill to allow MPs to properly debate the full details of any proposals to be enshrined in law.  Producing a White Paper after the Article 50 Bill has been voted through Parliament will prevent MPs from shaping the Article 50 legislation and  diminishes the power of Parliament.

“Producing a White Paper AFTER legislation: sheer trickery: MPs should absolutely not stand for it. Redouble MP lobbying efforts accordingly.” – A C Grayling

23. Allowing just 5 days for MPs to debate the Bill for triggering Article 50  shows “contempt” for Parliament. 

  • The Government’s  Bill to trigger Article 50 is only 8 lines long, composes of 137 words and MPs are being given just five days to debate it. This has angered many Labour MPs in particular as they believe it shows “contempt” for Parliament. This appears to contradict the leave campaign’s promise to bring back parliamentary sovereignty.
Image of Article 50 Bill
Image Source:

Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats called the Bill an “affront to parliamentary sovereignty and democracy”.

“Take back control was a mantra of the leave campaign, but this government’s extreme reluctance to involve parliament in this process has instead been an affront to parliamentary sovereignty and democracy.” Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat leader.

  • In the explanatory notes it indicates that the Bill is not expected to have any financial implications. This is completely untrue as the Government themselves have estimated that the cost to the UK once we leave the EU will be around £120bn.

24. The NHS is heavily reliant on staff coming from other EU countries.

Statistics from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) show that there has been a 90% fall in the number of nurses coming to the UK since the Brexit vote.  The figures relate to the number of nurses  and midwives from other EU countries registering to work in the UK. Only 101 nurses and midwives from other EU countries registered to work here in December 2016 compared to 1,304 in July, the month immediately after the referendum.

There has also been a large rise in the number of EU nurses who have decided to stop working in the UK. In December 318 nurses from other EU countries decided to leave the NMC’s register, almost twice the 177 who did so in June, the month the referendum took place.

25. Given that Jeremy Corbyn consistently defied the Party line as a backbencher why should Labour MPs take any notice of the three-line whip?

  • In his 32 year career as an MP Jeremy Corbyn  defied the party whip over 500 times. Even David Cameron never managed to vote against the Labour as many times as Corbyn has.  Labour MPs should therefore not feel obliged to  vote as requested by their leader and should instead vote for what is best for the country and block Article 50.

26.  As part of Brexit the UK is to leave Euratom which is likely to delay the building of new nuclear power stations and reduce the competitiveness of the UK in this sector. 

  • The explanatory notes for the Brexit Bill revealed that the UK will also leave Euratom, which promotes research into nuclear power and uniform safety standards.
  • Referring to Hinkley and other nuclear projects, Dr Paul Dorfman of the Energy Institute at University College London said:

 “The UK nuclear industry is critically dependent on European goods and services in the nuclear supply chain and their specialist nuclear skills. Leaving Euratom will inevitably increase nuclear costs and will mean further delays.

Source:

27. Brexit MPs don’t understand how the EU works or the complexity of leaving the EU.

  • After the referendum Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary, said that the UK would negotiate many new trade deals for when we leave the EU. However, EU regulations prohibit member countries from negotiating trade deals with other countries while the nation is still a member.
  • Theresa May also thinks that the UK can negotiate a free trade agreement with the customs union without having to comply with their regulations. Michael Fuchs, an adviser to  Angela Merkel has said this is no possible as “you can’t eat a cake without paying for it”.
  • On the 27th January Mr Iain Duncan Smith issued a statement criticising the Supreme Court’s judgement on Brexit. A leading barrister analysed the statement and concluded it was inaccurate and inappropriate given the British constitution. This raises the question of how valid other statements Iain Duncan Smith has made during and since the Brexit campaign. To conduct their jobs competently MPs should have a good working knowledge on such matters.

28.  “The election of Trump has transformed Brexit from a risky decision into a straightforward disaster.”

Donald Trump is a destabilising influence on the world economic and political landscape. In an article for the Financial Times Gideon Rachman argues that Trump is a disaster for Brexit because the UK can no longer rely on the US for support because Trump’s vision and policies are at odds with Theresa May’s strategy and values.

Donald Trump is  the most protectionist US president since the 1930s and any trade deal would probably require major concessions on the NHS and agriculture. This is the opposite of May’s vision of . “global Britain” being a champion of free trade.  May is also a firm supporter of NATO and the UN whilst Trump as twice referred to NATO as obsolete and wants to drastically cut funding for the UN. Trump would also like to see the break-up of the EU whilst May wants to see the EU prosper as it is our biggest trading partner.

Given our very different values and outlook on the world this is not the time to break free from the EU. We should be seeking stability within the EU rather than risking an uncertain future with a closer relationship with the US.

29. Hate crime has soared since the Brexit vote.

According to official Home Office figures there was a 41% increase in racially or religiously aggravated crimes recorded in July 2016 compared to the same month the year before.

Finally:

Brexit is making the UK poorer, smaller, more inward looking, is reducing diversity, less tolerant and will create unnecessary barriers to both trade and travel. It is also making our Government more selfish, our opposition irrelevant and lowering our status in the world.

Thank you for reading my post and if you believe in keeping the UK in the European Union please share this using the social media icons below.

 

Related posts:

Referendum – Are referendum a device of dictators and demagogues? 

Brexit – The psychology of Brexit – why emotions won over logic?

Marketing – 7 marketing lessons from the Brexit campaigns.

  • About the author:  Neal Cole is a digital marketer who has worked in a number of European cities including Paris and London, and also in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar.   He is the founder of Conversion Uplift Ltd which provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.ukpartypoker.com and Bgo.com.

Why Do Some Ideas Go Viral?

What is the Bandwagon Effect?

For an idea to go viral people have to copy and share it with other people they interact with.  But what makes this process continue to build up momentum for an idea to spread throughout our social networks? Many marketers focus on targeting “influencers” but is this the right approach? Analysis of the bandwagon effect may provide answers to these questions.

The bandwagon effect is a psychological tendency where the adoption of ideas, products or behaviour increases with the uptake (or perceived uptake) by others. This means that the propensity to take-up something rises as more people decide to follow the trend (i.e. jump on the bandwagon).

When people seek to align their beliefs and behaviour with a specific group this is also called herd instinct. For example, people may purchase a new electronic gadget due to its popularity within their peer group, not because they necessarily need it.

The bandwagon effect is an important driver of behaviour as people align their beliefs and actions with others as they prefer to conform or they derive information from others. Indeed, research indicates that many purchase decisions and behaviours are the result of social influence. For this reason displaying evidence of social proof can be a very effective strategy for establishing trust and credibility for an online brand.

Copy, Copy, Copy:

Mark Earls, author of Herd, suggests that because people are “super social” we naturally copy the behaviour of others, often without even being conscious of it. Few ideas are new and so rather than reinvent the wheel people naturally copy others when they believe it will be beneficial.

Earls argues that social learning as he calls it helps to spread ideas, products and behaviour through our social networks. It is also a major reason for the success of the human race because it allows people to pass ideas and knowledge onto future generations without the need for them to be reinvented. Further, because people often makes mistakes when copying an idea or behaviour this can sometimes lead to improvements that are then copied by other people and become adopted as a new idea.

Asset bubbles:

This bandwagon effect is also seen during stock market and asset bubbles where people stop using their own judgement and rely on the wisdom of the crowd. People wrongly assume that other investors must have knowledge they don’t and also they seek to avoid regret (which they might feel if they don’t follow the crowd).

There is also some evidence in politics of the bandwagon effect with undecided voters choosing to support the party with most popular candidate because they wish to be associated with the biggest party.

Evolutionary Advantage?

Some psychologists also believe that the bandwagon effect may be an evolutionary strategy for reducing the risk of making a poor decision. Being part of a large crowd can certainly provide protection in dangerous environments. Merchants also risk losing reputational capital if they sell sub-standard goods or services to a member of a large group. People understand this and so assume that they are less likely to be ripped-off if they buy from a well-known supplier who is known to other members of their social network.

What conditions make it go viral?

In his book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that for something to spread widely through a population there need to be three types of agents involved. These are connectors, mavens and salespeople.

  1.  Connectors are people with an innate ability to form and maintain long-term relationships with a diverse range of individuals.
  2. Mavens are people who love collecting and sharing specialist knowledge, and have the necessary social skills to pass the information onto others.
  3. Salespeople are very expressive and adept at persuading people through both non-verbal and verbal cues. Indeed, Gladwell suggests these people are much more emotionally contagious than the average person.

However, even with all these agents being aware of an idea or behaviour it will only spread effectively if it is what Gladwell calls “sticky”. This means that the message is memorable in a way that engages and motivates people to share it. Only when this condition is met are we likely to get the kind of behaviour needed to result in a geometric progression which characterises a viral episode.

This may explain why companies with a strong customer-related purpose or personal crusade tend to perform better than the average. This is because people who hold the same passion and beliefs are more motivated to share a brand that embodies these goals with others. The insight here is not to focus on influencing a particular type of individual, but instead find your purpose idea and live it.

When an idea or trend gets to a certain point in popularity (known as the tipping point) an availability cascade forms which results in a sudden and huge increase in the adoption of the item. Gladwell suggests that what triggers a cascade are not large changes in behaviour or circumstances, but lots of small changes that amplify the trend. So don’t look to create a large splash, but instead work on generating lots of small ripples and hope they may trigger something bigger later on.

The bandwagon effect & conversion optimisation:

Developing a compelling purpose-led value proposition is an important first step in using the bandwagon effect to improve conversions. It is not what you say about your brand that matters, it is what your customers and staff say that determines what your brand stands for. By having a clear purpose and aligning your businesses’ and staff’s behaviour with what is important to your customers you are more likely to motivate visitors to interact and share your brand with others.

Example of Celebrity Endorsement

Image of cristiano ronaldo playing poker
Image Source: PokerStars.uk

Secondly, evidence of social proof can help online conversion optimisation. This includes customer testimonials, celebrity testimonials, number of customers, product rating and reviews, social media likes and shares, awards and brand logos of well-known customers or partners. Indeed, a lack of social proof is often a key reason for poor online conversion rates as visitors are reassured when they perceive that a site is popular and trusted by many other customers.

Example of Social Proof A/B Test

Example of A/B testing customer numbers for social proof

In the above A/B test example the only difference between the two variants is that we changed the number of monthly players from all players on the left (i.e. total number of players for all rooms throughout the whole month) to the number of unique players (i.e. only counting each player once in a month) on the right. This dramatically reduced the number of active players that could be quoted underneath the call to action button. Variant B which displays the lower number of unique monthly players reduced registration conversion on the landing page by 5%.

Conclusion:

The bandwagon effect is one of the most important drivers of conversion and sustainable growth. Like any strategy for improving conversion it is essential to establish a strong and compelling base (i.e. a purpose led value proposition) first. This will help to encourage interaction with your brand which facilitates the sharing of your idea or product through social networks.

Having clear evidence of social proof on your site or app should also be a priority as it provides reassurance to visitors that you are a popular and trusted brand. Use online experiments to validate the implementation of social proof as it is particular sensitive to how and where it is communicated.

Related posts:

Herd instinct – Are most purchase decisions the result of social influence?

Herd instinct – How do social networks influence human behaviour?

Herd instinct – What makes social networks tick?

Word of Mouth – 6 myths about word of mouth marketing.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • 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 neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

How is AI Disrupting Conversion Rate Optimisation?

Using Evolutionary Pressures To Optimise:

Digital marketing is a zero-sum game – it’s survival of the fittest. Brands have to respond to changing customer needs and pressure from competitors or they go out of business.

What if you could use these evolutionary pressures to automatically adapt and adjust your site according to what has the highest conversion rate? And if your audience changed, perhaps due to a TV campaign, wouldn’t it be great if your site responded by optimising your user experience for the new audience profile? But rather than only improving a single page, what if it could simultaneously optimise multiple pages in the user journey?

Well, with the advent of AI and evolutionary algorithms this time has arrived! Sentient, a company born out of the minds that developed the technology behind Apple’s Siri, has come to market with Ascend. Sentient have combined evolutionary computation (a form of AI which uses mechanisms inspired by biological evolution), and deep learning to create a market leading optimisation solution. What is unique and exciting about Ascend is that it is capable of autonomous decision-making to assist businesses improve their bottom line and enhance the customer experience at the same time.

 

What are the benefits of Ascend?

Sentient Ascend is the first testing and optimisation solution developed by integrating AI, evolutionary algorithms and deep learning technology. As a result it has the capability to revolutionise how testing and optimisation is carried out. The main benefits of Ascend are:

  • Massively complex multivariate tests that have over 1 million possible combinations can be completed with Ascend that would be impossible with traditional MVT solutions. Below is an example of the kind of test that is now feasible with Ascend.

 

Image of multivariate test with over 1 million possible combinations
Source: Sentient Ascend

 

  • Ascend requires lower traffic levels than traditional optimisation solutions because it uses what it discovers about the performance of a particular combination of elements to predict how that combination will influence the conversion rate in the future.
  • Testing is completed with greater speed and double digit uplifts in conversion rates are normally achieved within the first 2 months of employing Ascend. Recently completed tests have achieved between a 12% and 48% uplift in conversions.
  • It can optimise multiple pages simultaneously to improve conversion rates throughout a user journey.
  • Indeed, for underwear brand Cosabella, Ascend tested 15 different changes to the homepage header, category page, product page and shopping cart design. Using standard multivariate testing would have required 160 tests, instead of the automated process that Ascend manages for you. This improved conversions by 35% compared to the control experience.
  • Automates the testing program so that once all your ideas have been input into Ascend it employs all the power of AI to adapt and respond to user interactions to identify the best performing combination of changes to your site or web app.
  • It allows for tests to be paused and new ideas to be input into the testing program as and when required.
  • Automatically adapts to a change in the visitor audience profile without the need for any manual intervention.

How does evolutionary computation work?

To give the evolutionary algorithm a purpose it is first necessary to define a fitness measure. With conversion rate optimisation (CRO) the fitness measure should be the conversion metric that you wish to optimise for such as sales, revenues, average basket value, first time deposit or sales leads. It is important to take care in selecting your fitness metric because it needs to be a characteristic that makes one experience (or algorithm) better than another.

With an evolutionary algorithm each page (i.e. a selected combination of elements) is classed as a genome and it uses genetic operators (i.e. selection, mutation and crossover) to create and maintain genetic diversity. In the example below two high performing pages (see column on the left) have been identified through selection (i.e. survival of the fittest).

Image of how Sentient Ascend uses evolutionary algorithms to optimise designs
Source: Sentient Ascend

However, a further generation of solutions can then be created through crossover (i.e. recombining elements from the two high-performing genome) to create children; the middle solutions above. Mutation (i.e. randomly altering one element in the child’s chromosome) encourages diversity amongst solutions and seeks to prevent the algorithm converging to a local minimum by avoiding solutions becoming too similar to each other. This is shown in the right column above.

Although each operator individually seeks to improve the solutions generated by the algorithm, the operators work together with each other to create an optimal solution that would not be possible if they were used in isolation of each other.  In the first instance the algorithm simply evaluates each page (i.e. genome) to identify if it performs well enough to be a parent for the next generation. Otherwise it will be rejected.

Image of illustration of how an evolutionary algorithm works

This allows literally thousands (out of millions) of experiences to be tested in a short space of time. But as Ascend learns which combination of elements create the best performing designs it automatically adjusts experiences according to how visitors respond. Below is an example of changes that Ascend can evaluate as part of single multivariate test.

The advantage of this technology is that it can create page designs that convert better than those designed by people because it automatically searches for unexpected interactions between elements. It is also doesn’t suffer from human misconceptions or biases, which means that it can generate surprising ideas that we might never have thought of ourselves.

What’s the catch?

Like any optimisation software Sentient Ascend relies on the quality of ideas and designs to generate uplifts in conversion. It is therefore essential to invest in the people who will be using Ascend to ensure they have the required skills and support to get the most out of this amazing solution.

To generate a sufficient quantity of ideas and designs for testing will take some time and resource as you are essentially compressing twelve months or more of testing into a single month or two. This is an analytical and creative process and so it will require the input and approval from various stakeholders if it is to be a success.

To keep Ascend fed with additional ideas after the initial test will also require further planning and support to ensure you get value for money from the solution. There is certainly a danger that rather than focusing on quality hypothesis users might be tempted to throw every idea into the mix without proper evaluation and prioritisation. This would be a recipe for a sub-optimal result as with any model if you put garbage in you will get garbage out.

As with any multivariate test it is advisable to run an A/B test to validate the winning experience. However, no worries, Ascend can manage this for you or you can use your existing A/B testing solution to conduct the experiment.

Conclusion:

Sentient Ascend makes most existing testing software obsolete because it offers an automated platform for massively multivariate conversion optimisation. This allows you to test an enormous number of ideas in a shorter time period than is possible with existing solutions. It is also more efficient at discovering new combinations of elements that result in uplifts in conversion due to the evolutionary nature of the algorithms.

Further, as you can add new ideas as you test you don’t need to wait for the test to end to respond to changes in campaign execution or strategy. You can just keep testing continuously if you have the ideas.

Note: Conversion Uplift is now an accredited partner for Sentient Ascend.

Thank you for reading my post and if you found it useful please share using the social media icons below.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • 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 neal.cole@conversion-uplift.co.uk. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.

 

How Smart is Your Approach to Conversion Rate Optimisation?

Conversion rate optimisation co-ordinates:

 

Image of conversion rate optimisation coordinates for clever and stupidity

 

 

I’ve previously written about mistakes companies make with website optimisation where I outlined some fundamental errors that some organisations make with implementing digital optimisation programs. I have also written about strategies for successful conversion rate optimisation programs.  But I’ve not looked at strategies from a clever/stupid perspective before.

Really clever – sounds stupid:

Do you need a user acceptance testing (UAT) team? Not if you ask your developers to test their own changes to make sure they get them right first time and then A/B test the change before they are fully rolled out. This makes developers more accountable as they can’t rely on the UAT team to identify bugs.

Take most of the control for tactical changes to your sites away from the highest paid person opinion’s (HIPPO) and committees by agreeing to use online experiments to inform teams about the effectiveness of proposed changes.

To short-cut building your own internal team consider bringing in expert consultants who have the experience and credibility to shake the organisation up and get things done.

Sounds stupid – Really stupid:

Changing content is not optimisation, it is content management, but it is often called optimisation by some marketers.

Vanity metrics, such as likes and shares are meaningless if they don’t impact on the bottom line.  Monitoring such metrics results in the cobra effect which is damaging to the business.

Listen to customers, they are your most important stakeholders, but don’t take what they say literally or do what they ask without first testing the idea to measure real behaviour. People are poor at predicting their own future behaviour because the choice architecture influences decision making (volition) and there are many complex and contributory factors that influence the final outcome.

Usability testing is just common sense. But focus groups are not usability testing and so don’t use them! Enough said.

Sounds clever – really clever:

With the development of AI solutions and evolutionary algorithms it is now feasible to optimise the whole customer journey at once.

Establishing a culture of experimentation and learning through testing ideas out should be a given.

Having a central team of CRO experts who work closely with stakeholders and seek input from the wider business is the most efficient and effective way of using such expertise.

Diversity of people and inputs is key to a successful innovation and change management program. CRO needs to be a collaborative process as that is what it is.

CRO needs senior people with clout to manage all the crap of the highest paid person’s opinion (HIPPO) and the internal politics generated by trying to use evidence rather than subjective opinions to make decisions.

Sounds clever – Really stupid:

Trying to control everything is a stupid and unrealistic idea for anything. To develop a culture of experimentation it is necessary to seek ideas and help from all parts of the organisation.

IT won’t solve optimisation – it needs the support of the whole organisation.

Keeping experiments secret and not circulating results just limits the organisation’s ability to develop the right culture.

Relying on departmental specialism ignores the expertise of conversion rate optimiser’s who bring together skills from number of disciplines. Very stupid approach to optimisation.

Optimising sites separately. When you have more than one digital brand the last thing you should do is to allocate separate optimisation resource to each site/app.  Why test on a small brand with little traffic when you can complete the same test much  more quickly and with a higher degree of confidence on a larger, more profitable brand? Prioritise resources according to where it can have most impact rather than creating silos for each brand.

Why on earth would you want to stop testing at peak times? This is when you have most traffic and greatest potential to improve revenues. With high traffic levels you can also complete tests more quickly than at any other time and so you would have to be stupid to waste this opportunity.

Thank you for reading my post and if you found it useful please share using the social media icons below.

 

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • 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 neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, see his LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.