Category Archives: Website Optimization

Should You Optimise Your Site For Your Best Customers?

What if most revenues are generated by a few customers?

Some websites get most of their revenues from a relatively small proportion of high value (VIP) customers. This begs the question  should you optimise your site design around your most profitable segment of customers?

How do we optimise the conversion rate?

One of the most scientific methods we use to improve site design and increase the conversion rate is through online experiments (i.e. A/B and multivariate tests). However, when we run the analysis for such tests the standard practice is to remove 5% of outliers to avoid the results from being overly skewed by extreme behaviour, such as from high value players. Is this practice consistent with a website where a small minority of customers generate the vast majority of revenues?

I was recently asked this question on behalf of an online gambling site as  5% of their users generate over 50% of revenues. Here is what they asked:

“How can you reliably test revenue uplifts in an industry which is driven by outliers? We are removing the top 5% of outliers from tests but that 5% of users is generating ~50% of the revenue. So variants could be winning which aren’t suitable for VIPs, and if they don’t like the changes we could lose a lot of revenue!”

Pareto Principle:

As the Pareto Principle tells us most sectors have a similar issue – around 80% of the profit often comes from 20% of customers in many sectors. Online gambling may or may not be more concentrated than this, but it is not an uncommon problem. However, trying to predict who are the high value customers when they first land on your site is more problematic.

Image of the Pareto Principle

Moving Target:

Indeed, a key characteristic of high value customers is that most begin their journey looking and behaving the same as the majority of new visitors.  However, survivorship bias means that we have a tendency to ignore this fact and so we concentrate on the characteristics of those who remain rather considering the nature of those who have been eliminated by the process.

For example, a majority of first time deposits from customers who become VIPs are relatively low. The most frequent amount is often on or near the minimum deposit level. Sure, you get a tiny minority who come in with large first deposits, but they are probably already VIPs on other sites or have a windfall. They do not represent the majority of VIPs.

Think about it, if a large supermarket noticed that high value customers  shop more regularly and have more items in their basket, would they re-design the store and remove lines only purchased by lower value customers? Nope, that would be stupid as lower value customers might one day become a high value customer. It would also potentially annoy low value customers and and they might shop elsewhere.  Higher value customers have the same basic needs, they just happen to have a higher disposable income or a windfall.

High value (VIPs) visitors do not represent a fixed pool of customers. It is in a constant state of flux as user circumstances and behaviour change over time. Very few people, if any, will remain true VIP users throughout their customer life cycle. Their income, luck, assets, lifestyle, attitudes and other factors change as people progress through different life stages.

User Intent:

 

Image of Starburst slot game

Do drug addicts worry about the user experience? Nope, their intent is so strong they will do almost anything to get a fix. Most VIP customers on gambling sites (or other kinds of  sites for that matter) are demonstrating similar addictive behaviour.

Like any addict they will jump through hoops to achieve their goal. I doubt very much that many VIPs will be put off by a long form or poorly designed check-out. If they are then god help your other customers.

Conclusion:

VIP or high-value customers certainly need your attention. But that should be through CRM and personalisation to improve their customer experience and retention. However, as such customers are not a fixed group of people you should definitely remove outliers from A/B and multivariate tests.

It would also be counter-productive to optimise a site just for your highe value customers. You would potentially turn-off non VIP customers and you would not have the opportunity to nurture customers as they progress through different value segments. Certainly in gambling the pool of VIP customers is often too small to conduct robust experiments and so you would also be in danger of drawing false conclusions due to the law of small numbers.

Thank you for reading this post. 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.

  • 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.

What is the most powerful weapon of persuasion?

The Power of Commitment & Consistency!

We have all heard stories of how people are often unwilling to intervene when they see a crime committed in broad daylight. Why would people put themselves at risk to assist a complete stranger? Well, in 1972 the psychologist Thomas Moriarty conducted a study to  see if he could use a simple psychological weapon to persuade people  to put themselves at risk of personal harm for a person they had never met before. The research involved the staging of a number of thefts on a New York City beach.

For the experiment a researcher would place a beach blanket within 5 feet of a randomly selected individual. After about two minutes on the blanket relaxing and listening to a portable radio the person would stand up and leave the blanket to walk down the beach.  Within a few minutes a second researcher would walk by and grab the portable radio before trying to make a get-away.

In the control (i.e. no intervention was made) only four people out of twenty tried to prevent the theft. However, the number of people who were prepared to challenge the thief increased dramatically when the researcher asked the individual next to them to please “watch my things” before walking away. In this scenario nineteen out of twenty people challenged the thief.

The experiment confirms that people have a strong desire to appear consistent with commitments they have previously made. Indeed, in his book Influence, the psychologist Robert Cialdini argues that commitment and consistency is one of the most powerful weapons of social influence available to people wanting to change our behaviour.

Why is consistency so important to people?

Consistency is generally regarded as a highly desirable personality trait in our culture. When people don’t appear consistent they are often seen as indecisive and two-faced. The negative perception of inconsistency reinforces the belief that consistency is a valuable characteristic to portray.

However, Cialdini also noted that such is our desire to be consistent that people sometimes act without thinking and abandon strongly held beliefs in order to stubbornly follow a consistent path. He argues that a commitment can change our self-image and force us to act contrary to our own best interests.

“When it occurs unthinkingly, consistency can be disastrous. Nonetheless, even blind consistency has its attractions” – Robert Cialdini, Influence.

Why does consistency become a habit?

Due to our motivation to be consistent we will often automatically make decisions based purely upon achieving this consistency. This of course saves mental energy as it avoids complex decisions. But it can also shield us from the negative and unpleasant consequences of our actions.

“Sealed within the fortress walls of rigid consistency, we can be impervious to the sieges of reason.” – Robert Cialdini, Influence.

Why is commitment so important?

Psychologists believe that stubborn and ill-considered consistency is often the result of people making a public stand or commitment to something.   Once such a commitment has been made people have a tendency to try to ensure consistency at almost all cost even though  it may go against their inner beliefs.

Just look at how UK MPs have supported Brexit since the EU referendum. According to a poll by the Press Association over two thirds of MPs voted to remain in the EU in the referendum. But as the Prime Minister and many MPs made a public declaration to abide by the result the vast majority of MPs voted to support the Bill to trigger Article 50 to take Britain out of the EU.  This is despite the fact that only 52% of voters supported Brexit and many MPs still believe Brexit will seriously harm the economy and the UK’s standing in the world. That is quite extraordinary behaviour.

What kind of commitment?

The psychologist Steven J Sherman arranged for a sample of residents in Bloomington, Indiana, to be telephoned for a survey. Participants were asked to predict what they would say if they were asked to give up 3 hours of their time to collect money for the American Cancer Society.

Not wishing to appear selfish many of the people called indicated they would volunteer. This resulted in a 700% increase in the proportion of people volunteering when they were contacted a few days later by an operator from the American Cancer Society.

Another strategy used by charity call centres involves asking people about their current well-being. The operator asks something like “How are you feeling this evening?” Once a person confirms publicly they are in good health it is much harder for the individual to refuse to help people where all is not well. The theory here is that people who have just indicated that they are doing well find it awkward to appear uncaring by not donating money to the needy in this context.

Start small to aim big!

There is also the foot-in-the-door technique which means that by starting with a small request we can often get compliance later on for a much larger request. This can work in two ways.

Firstly it establishes a commitment to a cause which means we are more willing comply with much larger additional requests. Secondly it can change our self-image from a prospect to a customer or a citizen to a supporter of a cause. This latter effect can result in people agreeing to requests that are only remotely connected to the original small favour they complied with.

Deeds are more influential than words!

To understand a person’s attitudes and beliefs we tend to observe their behaviour. Psychologists have discovered that we also look at our own behaviour to guide our feelings and attitudes. Our deeds are much more influential than words when it comes to our inner beliefs.  And writing our thoughts on paper is one way of showing our commitment to a cause.

Writing our ideas on paper is more effective than a verbal commitment because research indicates that the greater the effort we put into a commitment, the more effective it is at influencing our attitudes and behaviour.

Further, a written commitment also acts as physical evidence of our support for a cause and it reduces the likelihood that we might forget or deny the act. In may also be used to persuade other people because we have a natural tendency to believe that written statements accurately reflect the beliefs of the person who made them.

Strategies for conversion:

This is one reason why salespeople will often ask prospects to complete sales agreements as it is one way of getting them to make a small commitment to the purchase. Many organisations also get staff to set their own sales targets and commit to them by writing them down on paper.

Image of testimonials from winkbingo.com and Google Analytics

Testimonial competitions are another commonly used approach to benefit from the commitment phenomena as to have a chance of winning people know they have to be complementary about the product or service in some way. What they don’t realise is that such glowing statements help change their own attitudes towards the product as they begin to believe what they have written.

“We are truest to our decisions if we have bound ourselves to them publically” – Robert Cialdini, Influence

People can be extremely stubborn with their commitment even in situations where accuracy rather than consistency should be the priority. Indeed, research involving the criminal justice system found that hung juries were significantly more common if jurors had to initially indicate their position with a physical show of hands rather than a secret ballot. The act of publicly sharing their initial opinion appeared to make them more reluctant to change their decision later on.

This can be used to good use where we are trying to encourage people to give up a harmful habit such as smoking, over-eating or gambling.  Many weight reduction programs understand that a person’s private commitment is not strong enough to withstand the many temptations that we come across every day. For this reason such programs ask clients to write down their weight targets and share them publicly with other members and family/friends.

Can a commitment change self-mage?

Studies suggest that commitments have most impact upon a person’s self-image and behaviour when they are active, public and effortful acts. In addition the change is most likely to be long lasting if the person own what they have done.

Psychologists found that people are most likely to take ownership of behaviour if they feel they decided to undertake the action without any strong outside pressure. This means that using a large incentive, such as a cash prize, can be counter-productive as the individual may not accept inner responsibility for the act. Thus for people to take ownership of an act it is best to keep any incentives as small as possible.

Here is a summary of the main approaches to obtaining commitment and consistency:

Commitment and consistency is one of the most powerful methods of social influence

 

Implications for conversion rate optimisation:

As Cialdini points out commitment is key. Get visitors to commit to something small, such as giving their email address for access to a white paper or your website and this increases the likelihood that they will perceive themselves as customers. Once they see themselves as customers this increases the chance they may purchase products or services from you.

Ask a simple question:

Lifehack.org is a leading wellbeing and lifestyle blog that publishes tips on how to improve many aspects of your life. When I was researching one of my posts I landed on the site and came across a great example of how to use a small commitment to improve sign-ups.

After about 10 seconds on the site a pop-up is displayed which asks a seemingly innocuous question about self-improvement; “try something different today. Don’t stay stuck. Do better.” If you click on the  “I agree” CTA you are then immediately served an email capture form with the heading “We think so, too!”

Example of how to ask a question to get commitment for improving blog sign-ups

Because you have just agreed that you would like to try something different you feel almost compelled to sign-up to act consistently with how you replied to the first pop-up.  This is a really clever way of using the psychology of commitment to improve sign-up rates.

Become a customer for free!

Whilst working for an insurance company we offered prospects the opportunity to sign-up for a year’s free accidental death cover in return for providing their email address and name and address. Due to the low level of cover and the fact that the probability of an accident causing death are quite small this cost the company relatively little money.

However, we managed to sign up many thousands of new customers from the campaign. We could then  target them with other products that they were now more likely to buy as they were no longer prospects, but customers.

Ask for a review!

For apps get a high rating and a positive review of the user experience by targeting loyal customers. Make sure you then email these users to thank them for their efforts and confirm that their review will be publicly available for all users to see.

Run competitions for slogans, strap lines and testimonials with a promise to display the best ones on your website. Once people have written a positive statement about your brand they are more likely to become a brand advocate and will be a positive influence on other potential customers.

Offer a dream!

JohnChow.com offers advice on how to monetise your blog site. On the homepage there is a great heading in the form of a question – “Do You Dare to Dream?” The very prominent single call to action offers you the chance to download John Chow’s free eBook and “achieve your freedom”. This is a form of commitment as the heading is asking visitors a question and the eBook is a possible solution.

Once you click on the CTA you are served a very simple form asking you to enter your name and email address. As visitors have clicked on the CTA which promises “achieve your freedom” they are likely to feel compelled to complete the form to be consistent with their previous commitment.

In addition, as they will now perceive themselves as customers this should increase the likelihood that they will be prepared to buy one of JohnChow’s  services at some point in the future.

Image of JohnChow.com's email capture form
Image Source:

Consistency for consistency’s sake!

Digital marketers can also fall into the trap of commitment and consistency. Brand guidelines create a strong commitment that most people feel obliged to adhere to. However, applying consistency without thought can harm the user experience and reduce conversion.

I often come across copy that is low contrast and unreadable or the CTA is not prominent because designers have blindly followed brand guidelines. Brand guidelines should not be used as a reason not to think about the design and how it appears to the user. Because brand guidelines cover the whole site there are often instances where they just don’t make sense because guidelines are just that. They should guide, but not be applied automatically without thought.

Below is an example from partycasino.com which uses a  grey font on a black background. The contrast is really poor and the use of pink for hyperlinks is especially distracting.

Image of partycasino.com homepage where the colour pink is used for links

Displaying identical navigation elements in the header across the whole site can result in redundant and distracting navigation tabs on certain pages (e.g. Join Now link shown on a sign-up form). This can also lead to situations where certain navigation elements (e.g. an Options tab) only have one menu item on some pages because of the site structure.

Consistency in design is seen as beneficial because the user becomes accustomed to what to expect from a site. However, this begs the question should we never surprise visitors? The answer to this depends on the context, purpose and quality of the surprise. What is the cost of not surprising visitors compared to the benefits of delivering something unexpected?

Consistency is only one of a number of design principles and sometimes they conflict with one another. If we want to optimise conversion this may sometimes mean making compromises with consistency to give priority to more important elements of the user experience.

Conclusion:

Consistency is a powerful force in social influence that can be employed to nudge users towards desired actions. Remember commitment is the main driver of consistency and it is one of the few persuasive weapons that can also change a person’s self-image. Consistency is such a strong motivator that it can even create habits that will sustain long-term behavioural change. Use it with care and also avoid falling into the trap of consistency for consistency’s sake when making design decisions.

Thank you for reading this post. 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.

  • 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.

How important are processes in conversion rate optimisation?

Do processes matter?

Processes matter as they help structure our behaviour and reduce the risk that we might forget to do something important. They provide for a consistent framework and can ensure rigour in our problem solving and strategy. As a conversion rate optimisation (CRO) consultant I have a number of processes including one for persona development, an optimisation framework, a test and learn process and one for how to prioritise test ideas.

Processes have an important role in optimisation, but what happens when we don’t listen to experts and become obsessed with our own processes?

When people don’t listen!

A few years ago I got a new boss following a restructure. He knew nothing about CRO and had managed a website for the past 6 years. The site had gone through a disastrous re-design and was in decline. He was very into processes. But he was known for getting things done and always followed the correct procedures.

The first thing he did was tell us we needed a new process. The process would involve developing customer personas and getting agreement for all work with the various stakeholders before we could proceed with any work on experiments.

I produced a process for how we could use personas for optimisation. That was the last time personas were mentioned. I also recommended we include usability testing into the new process.   No, that was too expensive, our UX guy would build some into his schedule.

Image of process for using personas to improve the user experience

In the new process all ideas for optimisation had to go through our manager for approval. He would then discuss the ideas with MarComs and the main stakeholder. Ideas disappeared into a black hole and when they came back they looked nothing like my brief.

After a few weeks this was abandoned as our manager realised he was becoming the main bottleneck in the process.

The new process involved having a meeting with MarComs before any tests went live to get their approval to proceed. MarComs had complained that our previous process had not involved them closely enough in the development of optimisation ideas. No one turned up at the first meeting, they were too busy.

The number of meetings increased exponentially.

Our new boss decided that although I was the only CRO specialist in the team that everyone should develop and run experiments. We agreed a process for this and I briefed the team on how they could proceed with test ideas.

The number of tests we were running started to fall sharply as the new process meant it took a lot longer and needed much more effort to proceed with ideas.

A few months later the first test that another member of the team had managed went live. I was asked to analyse the results, but I discovered there was no control (i.e. the old page had been taken down). They had decided to evaluate the performance of the new page by comparing metrics before and after the new design went live.  I had to explain that it wouldn’t provide reliable data because the conversion rate is continuously fluctuating due to many reasons and so it is necessary to have a control for the analysis to be valid.

Whilst I was on holiday our boss went live with his own A/B test. He decided to test a promotional page for a specific event against the homepage. He agreed that for those visitors who were served the promotional page they wouldn’t be able to access the homepage, even if they clicked on the site logo. When he looked at Google Analytics he noticed there was a big rise in visitors clicking on the navigation tab for the homepage. He thought that was odd.

The number of tests we were running continued to decline.

I submitted design ideas to MarComs for new tests. The mock-ups that came back looked very similar existing designs . Our boss said let MarComs do their job as they are the experts in website design. No thought was given to maybe conversion isn’t about design. No, this was the process that we had to follow.

The number of tests we were running dropped to zero.

The company was taken over.

Our boss decided we should specialise in those areas where we have expertise and that I should concentrate on the online experiments.

I was asked to explain why the number of tests we were running had fallen so much.

The number of tests we were running started to rise again.

Our boss got a new role in the organisation.

I left the business as they didn’t want a central conversion team, but instead replicated my role across the company. Each website, even those with low traffic got a conversion analyst.

Conclusion:

Processes are there to assist you in achieving your business objectives and should help you avoid random and tactical optimisation approach. Base your optimisation processes on solid evidence and good practice, not your management philosophy or company silos.

When people become obsessed with processes this can lead to lazy thinking and an over-reliance on existing ways of working. Even a good process when followed without thought can be a recipe for disaster.

Processes can then become an excuse not to challenge the status quo and will ultimately damage productivity and innovation. Don’t let processes take over as they should help rather than hinder innovation and meeting business objectives. Having a certain amount of flexibility in your processes is a good idea as each problem is unique and variation can sometimes lead to new ideas being developed.

Conversion rate optimisation is not just about process. The most important factor for successful CRO is developing a culture from the top of the business downwards that puts customer goals first. It should encourage people to experiment, but A/B tests are just a way of validating ideas and good research and evidence based decision making are probably more important.

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

Related Posts:

CRO Strategy – 10 strategies for successful conversion rate optimisation.

CRO process – 8 steps guaranteed to boost your conversion rate.

Prioritisation – How should you prioritise your A/B test ideas?

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.

What Is Conversion Rate Optimisation?

Does CRO Say What It Does On The Tin?

When people ask me what I do for a living and I mention website or conversion rate optimisation (CRO) I often find they think I’m talking about another area of digital marketing. Many people think CRO  is related to Search Engine Marketing, PPC or SEO.  This should not be a surprise though because CRO  is a somewhat misleading term for website optimisation. It gives the impression that it is all about a single metric, which it is not.

Image of chart showing conversion rate for registration and first time deposit

For a start any fool can optimise a website’s conversion rate by slashing prices, offering people free trials or giving free money away on a gaming site. But the site would soon go out of business as this wouldn’t do much for overall profitability. No, CRO is not about optimising the conversion rate as it would be dangerous to use a single metric for a measure of success.

Why conversion rate is a poor metric?

The conversion rate is actually a poor metric to focus on because not all visitors are able or willing to convert. Further, by making your site more engaging and increasing the frequency of visitors returning to your site you may well increase sales, but your conversion rate could well fall as a result. This is because returning visitors may not buy on every visit, but overall they could be buying more merchandise.

The conversion rate also tends to vary significantly according to different channels and visitor types. So if your traffic mix changes your conversion rate could fall due to the source of traffic and not because of anything you have done. Increasing overall traffic to your site could again increase sales but it’s quite common for this to reduce your conversion rate as the traffic mix may change or because visitor intent is lower.

Common misconceptions about CRO:

The lack of understanding of website optimisation is partly caused by the term CRO which has led to some of the following misconceptions about it:

  • CRO only relates to customer acquisition.
  • CRO is A/B and multivariate testing.
  • CRO is a tactical tool for resolving short-term problems with sales or revenues.
  • You need to have a lot of traffic for CRO.
  • CRO is expensive and not for small companies.
  • Landing page optimisation is the same as CRO.
  • CRO is about improving the customer experience.

Well, what is conversion rate optimisation?

CRO is a strategic approach to digital marketing that seeks to optimise the value obtained from visitors to your site in a sustainable and customer centric way. It aims to be a driver of business growth by persuading customers to take action by allowing them to achieve their goals so that you can also meet your business goals. CRO requires a scientific or evidence based approach to decision making regarding changes to the digital customer experience.

Image of skills required for website optimization

So let’s break this definition down into some of its individual components to fully understand what CRO means.

Strategy rather than a tactic:

As a strategy rather than a tactic CRO is much more powerful because it requires a customer centric culture from the C-suite down. Only when CRO is embedded into the culture of a business can we expect it to reach its full potential. CRO should not be a silo in marketing or some other part of the business that is infrequently discussed by the board. It needs to be the responsibility of everyone in the business to consider how changes to the user experience may impact the customer and overall profitability.

Customer goals:

For you to meet your business goals the customer must first achieve their goals. This means communicating a compelling value proposition and using conversion centric design to make the user journey as frictionless as possible.

Acquisition and retention:

CRO principles can and should be applied to both acquisition and existing customer journeys. It is normally a lot cheaper to retain customers than acquire new customers and so it is more efficient to allocate resources to customer retention than to focus just on attracting new users.

Persuasion:

To get more visitors to convert it is necessary to use persuasive techniques to nudge customers towards their goal. This means that a good understanding of the application of behavioural sciences such as behavioural economics, psychology and neuroscience are essential qualities for optimisers.

Scientific approach:

A culture of evidence-based decision making is important to encourage a scientific approach to digital optimisation. Online experiments using A/B and multivariate testing solutions should support this strategy by validating changes and allowing a evolutionary approach to website improvement. This approach largely removes the need for site-redesigns because it leads to a more evolutionary way of enhancing the customer experience.

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

People of course dislike whole site re-designs as they have to instantly deal with multiple changes on a site that looks very different from what they had become accustomed to. Facebook have learnt this lesson the hard way and now ensure change is gradual and controlled to avoid annoying users. LinkedIn on the other hand don’t seem to have understood the pitfalls of site-redesigns and received huge criticism following a new site launch in early 2017.

Structured process:

To develop a CRO strategy it is important to have a structured process to guide your program. Having a process like the steps outlined below helps give you credibility within your business as it demonstrates your professional integrity. Further, it encourages a consistent approach to CRO throughout your organisation.

Image of 8 step process for conversion rate optimization
Source: Neal Cole, Conversion Rate Consultant

Invest in people:

Website optimisation requires a number of specialist skills to perform well in the role. Consequentially it is important to invest in training and personal development to improve the skill set of your optimisation team.

Measurement:

Because CRO is more complex than simply optimising your conversion rate it is necessary to carefully define a number of metrics to evaluate what success looks like. For example e-commerce retailers need to monitor metrics such as average order value, average profit margin and product returns rate to accurately evaluate how changes to the customer experience influence profitability.

Segmentation:

Averages lie, and so It is important to segment your conversion rate because it is likely to vary significantly according to visitor type and channel. Some users will have different intent and  a different relationship with the retailer according to their traffic source or user needs. New visitors and returning visitors often have very different conversion rates.

amazon-conversion-journey

Amazon Prime customers for instance convert around 74% of the time compared to 13% for non-Prime visitors. This compares to just 3.1% for the average e-commerce site. You should also analyse your conversion rate by acquisition channels as for example non-brand terms PPC will usualy convert at a significantly lower rate than yousrsite average. Trying to improve your conversion rate for an individual channel is much more likely to be a success than if you treat all visitors the same.

Change management:

In many ways CRO is a form of change management because it can be a powerful driver of innovation in an organisation. However, people naturally resist change and this can create blockages for a successful CRO program. Use change management techniquest to engage and inform people about your CRO strategy to prevent objections being raised further down the line.

Conclusion:

CRO is about improving the profitability of your site by persuading more of your visitors to convert. This does require a cultural shift in how website design changes are decided. It seeks to replace the use of subjective opinions to make decisions with a scientific evidence-based approach to digital optimisation.

As Brian Massey at Conversion Sciences puts it:

“We optimise revenue, growth, pricing, value proposition, images, navigation and more. Perhaps we’re the Online Business Optimisation industry, OBO. That’s taken, unfortunately.” Brian Massey – Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences – From The Growth Strategy That’s Being Ignored.

CRO does of course create a lot of challenges, but the benefits are well worth it as you can use CRO as a driver of sustainable business growth. As companies such as Amazon, Skyscanner and Netflix continue to develop their CRO strategy it will become increasingly difficult to compete against such organisations unless you also adopt a CRO strategy based upon evidence rather than gut instinct.

 

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

Related Posts:

CRO Strategy – 10 strategies for successful conversion rate optimisation.

CRO process – 8 steps guaranteed to boost your conversion rate.

Prioritisation – How should you prioritise your A/B test ideas?

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.

Why are the habits of successful people a myth?

What is a narrative fallacy?

Have you noticed social media’s obsession with the habits of successful people, how politicians suggest simple solutions to complex problems and the appeal of magical ‘silver bullet’ fixes? People like to simplify things as we have a natural desire to understand what causes events and we hate uncertainty. In the book The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb describes how people can’t help but create narratives that do not exist, particularly when those stories confirm our existing beliefs.

Nassim Taleb coined the term narrative fallacy to describe; “our limited ability to look at sequences of facts without weaving an explanation into them, or equivalently, forcing a logical link, an arrow of relationship upon them.” We can see this all the time as people create stories to explain random and unpredictable events as this makes us feel smarter and more in control of our destiny.

“Once your mind is inhabited with a certain view of the world, you will tend to only consider instances proving you to be right. Paradoxically, the more information you have, the more justified you will feel in your views,” – Nassim Taleb, The Black Swan.

Posts describing the habits of highly successful people are a classic example of the narrative fallacy because writers mistake random attributes as causal relationships. There is no one-size fits all answer for how to become successful,  it’s a myth created by bad science.

Image of traits of successful and unsuccessful people
Image Source:

Take this post I saw on LinkedIn which shows the characteristics of successful and unsuccessful people. For each of the attributes shown for successful people I can think of many examples of people at the top of their profession who do not demonstrate these characteristics.

Zappos vs Amazon!

Image of Tony Hsieh and Jeff Bezos

If we look at major e-commerce retailers in the US, Tony Hsieh of Zappos published a best-selling book on the “happy place” culture he created at Zappos. He managed to build a billion dollar company, but so did Jeff Bezos at Amazon and yet he has a completely different approach to corporate culture. Bezos runs a very tight ship in terms of costs and has a “take it or leave it” attitude towards employees. It is not uncommon to hear complaints about the working environment at Amazon from ex-employees.  So, for every Hsieh you are likely to get a Bezos with a successful company doing the very opposite.

Another great example is Donald Trump. He managed to sell a convincing narrative to become the US President, but he doesn’t accept responsibility for his failures. He argues that anything negative is likely to be fake news made up by the media. Further, within the first month after becoming president Trump tried to take credit for immigration and job-creation initiatives that started before he took office. He’s not alone in his approach either as there are lots of successful business people who have succeeded partly because of their arrogant, overconfident attitude as people often mistake confidence with competence.

Trump’s use of fake news is also clearly a strategy to create a narrative fallacy in the minds of his supporters. He wants them to believe that the media are spreading lies about him to convince them that he is the one telling the truth. When it all goes wrong, which I think is inevitable, he will blame everyone but himself for his failure.

Businesses change and so do people!

A further reason why habits of successful people are a narrative fallacy relates to the fact they are usually based upon the characteristics of the individual after they have become successful. For these habits to be indicative of why they became successful they would have had to remained constant throughout their rise from office junior or  start-up founder to being CEO of a billion dollar corporation.

We all know this is complete rubbish as one can’t manage a small start-up in the same way you do a billion dollar business. For a start the complexity of a large corporation requires a very different approach than you would take with a tiny start-up, both in terms of management style and cultural values.

Hard work and luck matter!

Successful people can teach us lessons, but rather than looking at their behaviours, often it is how they approach challenges and define a problem that is more enlightening. Their experience often gives them great insights into how to deal with challenges, but don’t link an ability to be a good business person with how they live their life. What people often forget is that luck and hard work play a significant role in how successful we become in our professional lives.

Implications for Digital Marketing:

Storytelling can be especially dangerous for optimisers as it encourages us to rely on our existing mental models to generate new solutions. This is because we automatically restrict our testing and learning to those ideas consistent with those same mental models and may fail to consider alternatives that don’t fit with our narrative fallacy. As a result you can damage the efficiency of your program by limiting its scope.

When A/B testing it’s also easy to fall into the trap of trying to explain the psychological reasons why the challenger variant beat the default. We can never really be certain why users behave differently when faced with one design compared to another as we don’t have access to the non-conscious brain which makes most decisions. Further, confirmation bias means that our minds automatically focus on reasons that fit in with our existing beliefs and so we are prone to jumping to conclusions that align with our belief system.

Similar to this is the Causation Bias which is our tendency to see a cause and effect relationship in a situation where none exists. This is especially the case where we find a correlation and assume a causation even though there is no known reason or there to be causation.

How to counter the narrative fallacy?

Establishing a strong hypothesis for an experiment based upon scientific evidence before you proceed is an important strategy as this helps us avoid hypothesizing after the results are known (HARKing). Further, be disciplined with data collection and the length of your experiment to avoid cherry picking data points. When deciding how long to run your test ensure you factor in the length of the business cycle and avoid stopping the experiment before you have both a  high level of statistical confidence and a low error rate (usually below 5%).

Avoid communicating changes in conversion rates for tests that don’t reach full statistical confidence. This just encourages people to create narratives that are not based upon reliable data. Unfortunately some marketers who do not understand statistics will put optimisers under pressure to this, but it should be refused on the basis that it will result in narrative fallacies.

Finally, focus on what action you are going to take as a result of the experiment, rather than thinking about why the result happened.

Thank you for reading this post. 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.

  • 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.

How To use Google’s Search Console To Boost Conversions

Google’s Search Console is Free!

Budgets are often very tight with start-ups and yet it is important to have visibility of how your business is performing in the digital space.  When I advise start-ups on how to optimise their website or app the first thing I do is set them up with Google’s free Search Console tool. Unlike many free solutions the Search Console provides webmasters with a  comprehensive set of tools to inform and improve a site’s performance from an SEO, user experience and conversion perspective.

What is the Search Console?

Previously called Webmaster Tools, the Search Console is a fantastic free site performance tool that seeks to give webmasters the information they need to effectively manage and improve their digital experience. Without this tool set up you will be largely in the dark about many aspects of your site’s performance. Indeed, many companies end up needlessly  paying out a lot of money to SEO agencies for simple tasks that they could manage themselves if they had known about Google’s Search Console.

Once you have Search Console set up you will be in a much stronger position to set SEO targets and understand many of the issues that may be holding your site back in Google search. It can also help you improve the user experience by resolving errors and usability issues.

How do I set up Search Console?

All you need to do is login into an appropriate Google account and go to webmasterstools/home   and “Add a property” within the Search Console. Then follow the simple instructions to confirm your ownership of the site.

The easiest way of doing this is often inserting some code into the header of your site before the closing </head> tag. Alternatively, if you have Google Analytics on your site you can also use that to validate your ownership of the site. If you get into difficulties just contact your website builder or designer for assistance.

Initially you won’t have any search data to look at but you can check the console for any signs of errors or usability issues identified by Googlebots. These are the programs or spiders as they often called that Google uses to crawl your site to understand the type of content you have and index pages for Google search.

The Dashboard:

 

The dashboard of the Search Console provides a useful overview of the health of your site. This includes site errors, DNS errors, server connectivity issues, URL errors, page not found (404s), and a graph of the total clicks over the latest 28 days. This is great, but you can get much more detail about your site by digging into the left-hand navigation menu.

Image of Google Search Console Dashboard

Search Appearance:

This includes structured data which helps Google understand the mark-up of your pages so that it can add rich snippets (or Schema.org) and other information to your search result. Rich snippets describes the structured data mark-up that webmasters add to HTML to enable search engines to better understand what type of information is present on a web page. So, rich snippets are the visible result of structured data that appears in SERPs.

Image of Data Highlights page from Search Console

You can add structured data to your site using a plugin for WordPress.org such as JSON-LD. You can also add structured data to your page using the Data Highlighter tool  (see above) which you can access in the Search appearance section of the navigation.

Rich cards provide data to Google about events, products, or opportunities on your site. Google has five types of rich cards; recipes, events, products, reviews and courses. The Search Console provides sample mark-up for each type of card and a Structured Data Testing Tool to validate your mark-up.

The HTML Improvements tab informs you about any issues related to your page tags. Whether it is missing title tags, duplicate title tags and whether title tags are too long or too short.

Accelerated Mobile Pages provides you with data on errors relating to your AMPs and informs you how many AMPs have been indexed by Google. It also allows you to test AMPs and then submit them to Google for indexing.

Image of Accelerated Mobile Page test in Search Console

 

Search Traffic:

Under this section you can view Search Analytics which provides data on search results, including key words, clicks, impressions, CTR and average position. This information is essential for understanding how successful you are with SEO and identifying key words where you have good authority. Use the data on your average ranking for keyword phrases to inform new content development to build on areas where you have good authority and to understand which words have the most potential from a volume perspective.

Image of Search Analytics in Search Console

This section also shows how many external links there are to your site and who is linking to what content. This information is crucial in understanding how effective your link building strategy is and also what content other sites are most interested in. External links are important to your SEO strategy because they are one of the few ways that Google can tell how well regarded your content is to other web users. It also helps direct more traffic to your site and explains why so much effort is put into link building.

However, be careful about placing links to your site on random blogs as Google is looking for links from sites with a good authority and may potentially penalise you if it becomes aware of such activity. However, where you are getting lots of external links to your content from good authority sites this suggests you should explore creating more content on this topic to capitalise on the interest shown.

Search Analytics also provides additional information on internal links, security issues, international targeting (useful for segmenting content by language) and mobile usability issues identified by Google. Mobile usability is especially important to monitor as Google continues to give more and more priority to mobile users.

Google Index:

Index status confirms the number of pages on your site that Google has indexed and so can be found via the search engine. Blocked resources tells you about pages where the Googlebot can’t access important elements on your page and so Google may not be able to accurately index the page. Remove URL allows you to hide URLs from search engines as the page may contain out-of-date information or may just be obsolete for whatever reason.

Crawl:

The Crawl section provides you with data on errors detected by Googlebots when crawling your site. Although page not founds (404 errors) may not harm your SEO ranking it can damage the customer experience and so it is important to monitor crawl errors on a regular basis.

Generally I would advise initially deleting all the page not founds for both desktop and mobile. You can then check back in a few days to see which ones have been replicated since you removed them from the console. Many 404 errors don’t recur as they are not even correct URLs and so this way you can concentrate on those that matter.

This section also shows how many pages on average are crawled by the Googlebot. But don’t wait for the Googlebot to crawl your site if you have new or revised content to index. Use the Fetch as Google function below to test how Google crawls and renders a page on your site. This identifies whether Googlebot can access a page on your site and you can then submit the URL for indexing. This is especially useful for a rapidly changing site as you don’t want Google displaying old or out-of-date content.

Image of Fetch as Google from Search Console

The Robot.txt tester allows you to edit your robot.txt file and check for errors. Robot.txt files are used to tell Google which parts of your site you don’t want to be crawled and indexed by a search engine. The Sitemap tab allows you to submit a new sitemap to Google which helps it to understand how your site is structured and assists in the indexing of individual pages by Google. It also tracks how many pages you have submitted for indexing and how many pages Google actually indexes.

The Security Issue tab shows if Google has detected any potential security problems with your site. If your site is hacked then Google provides a number of resources to help resolve the problem.

Finally, the Additional Resources tab includes 9 links to free resources such as Email Markup Tester, PageSpeed Insights, Google My Business and Custom Search. Check these out as a number of them can help improve your search engine marketing and grow your organic search traffic.

Conclusion:

When seeking to improve your SEO performance the Search Console should be your first port of call. There is little point in spending money on an SEO agency until you have fully digested what the Search Console is telling you. Even if you decide you don’t have the time or expertise to resolve all the issues identified by this tool, use the Search Console to inform and prioritise objectives for your agency to follow. Further, use the Search Console to monitor your SEO performance over time as a successful strategy should be capable of improving key metrics over time.

Thank you for reading this post. 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.

  • 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.

 

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.

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.