Conversion rate optimisation strategy co-ordinates:
I’ve previously written about conversion rate optimisation strategy mistakes where I outlined some fundamental errors that some organisations make with implementing digital optimisation programs. I have also written about conversion rate optimisation strategy used by successful companies. But here I bring them together to look at conversion rate optimisation strategies from a clever/stupid perspective.
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 an optimisation strategy, 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 conversion rate optimisation 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 counter-productive 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? Sure, you shouldn’t assume you can replicate the test result for other non-peak period. However, this is the time 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. If you want to maximise revenues you could use multi-armed bandit testing to facilitate this process.
A successful conversion rate optimisation strategy has the potential to significantly improve revenues from your digital marketing and increase business growth. Companies such as Spotify, Netflix, Google, and Booking.com have mastered this process. They conduct thousands of experiments a year to improve the performance of their digital experience. Yet many other companies struggle to grow their business using CRO and fail to achieve significant uplifts in A/B tests and multivariate tests.
There are common mistakes companies make with conversion marketing. But what are the secrets of success that the likes of Amazon and other organisations embed into their conversion optimisation strategy? Below are some of the key strategies that these companies employ.
1. Start by listening to your customers:
Before even considering A/B testing it is important to understand your customers. What are their characteristics, needs, wants, desires, motivations and concerns? What is it that attracts customers to your proposition and why do prospects buy from your competitors? In CRO being customer centric is not an option, it is an essential ingredient for success.
Once you begin to get a better understanding of your customers. You can develop buyer personas of important customer groups to help you visualise your visitors. And develop hypothesis for why prospects don’t buy from your company. For more information on using personas to improve conversion see my post on the buyer legends process.
If you don’t have much demographic data on your website visitors use your web analytics as a starting point. But also try online survey tools such as Surveymonkey and Typeform to obtain feedback from visitors whilst they are on your website. You should also conduct usability testing to observe visitors attempting to complete important tasks on your website. This can be invaluable for identifying major usability issues or just generating ideas about how you can reduce friction on your site.
All high performing companies start with their customers as they are the people who ultimately determine the success or failure of your brand.
2. Get an emotional response:
Now you are ready to examine and refine your value proposition. People buy benefits, not features and yet many companies still focus on product/service features and treat people like they are purely rational beings. An effective conversion optimisation strategy considers how to target underlying customer needs to get an emotional response.
A product needs to fill some kind of rational need, but we choose a brand for the implicit (psychological) goals that generate an emotional response. From listening to your customers you should get insights into the kind of psychological goals that drive customer behaviour.
Use the psychological goals from the Beyond Reason model below which is based upon the latest neuroscience and psychological research. This has identified 32 primary psychological motivations that determine much of our attention as we seek to achieve current implicit goals.
This motivation model is the intellectual property of BEYOND REASON
3. Get senior stakeholder support:
It is important that senior management understand and sponsor your conversion rate optimisation strategy. HiPPO’s (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) get a hard time at many conversion conferences. An informed and engaged HiPPO can be an asset to your program, helping to develop a culture of evidence based optimisation.
An effective conversion optimisation strategy removes the need for subjective opinions to decide which design of a web page is most effective at achieving conversion goals. This does require a change in established decision making processes. You will need senior stakeholders to agree to such changes as otherwise you may find internal politics become a barrier to successful optimisation.
4. Follow a structured process:
To avoid random and undirected optimisation it is necessary to use a tried and tested process for conversion rate optimisation. This helps to provide rigour to your program, but importantly it can assist in building credibility within your organisation. It allows you to communicate how you identify, evaluate and prioritise changes and tests. Having a transparent prioritisation process, such as P.I.E (Potential, Importance, and Ease) is critical because it sets expectations and removes subjectivity from the testing process.
5. Resource analytics:
The old saying, if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve, certainly holds true here. Some start-ups might think they can’t afford such tools. Google Analytics has a free version, and Hotjar Insights provides visual analytics and online customer feedback for less than €1,000 a year.
What advanced CRO companies understand though is that analytics requires dedicated resource as someone won’t become an expert at web analytics if they only have time for an hour or two a day. They also appreciate that averages lie and that segmentation is essential for giving meaning to such data. Opportunities for personalisation are often driven by analytics. Once you begin to analyse the behaviour of individual sub-groups you will see how different they are and appreciate they have different needs.
Similar issues arise with user experience tools, but there are also opportunities to integrate such tools with customer facing software to help with customer services, complaint handling and fraud. Again segmentation is key to getting value from such tools. Integrating from analytics allows you to track individual input field completion and drop-off rates. Any conversion optimisation strategy is dependent upon good analytics and insights to inform decision making.
6. Scale matters:
Predicting human behaviour is very difficult, especially with a complex ecosystem such as a large e-commerce website. For this reason the likes of Netflix, Google and AppSumo find that around 80% of their A/B and multivariate tests fail to deliver significant uplifts in success metrics. Our intuition is generally not relied on as even experts are poor at forecasting the future.
This is why after dealing with the low-hanging fruit it is necessary to increase your testing and run multiple tests at the same time. There is limited evidence of interaction between tests. Provided you are not testing on the same area of the page or have the same objective running tests in parallel it should not be a major problem. A conversion optimisation strategy is much more likely to be successful if you can scale up your online experiments to allow for the low success rate.
7. Collaboration spreads the load:
A conversion rate optimisation strategy cannot be implemented by one person. It needs to be something everyone in an organisation thinks about. Whether it is how to improve page load speed, improving the findability of stuff, cutting down on information we request from users or providing a more personalised user experience. Companies that understand CRO ensure they nurture a culture of experimentation and collaboration across the organisation to generate and share ideas, tests and outcomes.
8. Use the 80:20 rule for your test designs:
When creating test designs don’t seek perfection or be overly restrictive with which visitors are included in an A/B test. Yes, little things can matter, but at the same time bear in mind the Pareto Principle. This states that 80% of the output will be generated by just 20% of the effort. Conversely 80% of the problems can be traced to 20% of the causes.
This suggests that once you have fixed the most important elements of a design the rest of the experience will probably have little impact on the outcome. If you also always ask for two designs for each hypothesis you will also have the opportunity to learn about how implementation of an idea influences the outcome.
9. Take risks:
One of the main benefits of online experiments is that you don’t have to test a new design on all your traffic. You can turn the design off in a matter of seconds. This allows you to effectively manage downside risk and should be the green light for developing radical new, innovative designs to test. It is also sometimes necessary to try something totally different to achieve the big uplift in conversion that CRO promises. And yet many managers see CRO as a risky exercise and frequently try to limit testing activity due to misinformed concerns.
10. Challenge everything:
I once worked for an organisation where I was told that I couldn’t test different CTAs, such as the colour or place additional text on the CTA because these were set in stone by the brand guidelines. Companies that understand CRO don’t allow such untested and subjective policies to restrict their CRO program. They take great delight in saying they can even test the colour of their CTAs, not because it’s allowed by their brand guidelines, but because they test anything if they think they can learn from it.
For CRO to reach its full potential it is important that even the smallest detail can be scrutinised and challenged through A/B and multivariate testing. It is sometimes the things that have never been challenged that can result in the step-change to higher conversion rates.
Conversion rate optimisation strategy is a complex process and needs good planning. It requires a structured and rigorous approach that needs resource and support at the highest level of an organisation. The customer needs to be at the heart of your CRO program. A better understanding of customer needs and motivations is likely to lead to stronger hypothesis and more winning tests.
CRO should remove the need for subjective opinions and for that reason everything should be challenged. Management should not be allowed to hide behind untested policies if they want CRO to reach its full potential. CRO is a strategy, not a tactic to solve short-term problems.