A Roadmap to Conversion Science

Every mouse click, every move of the cursor is a clue to figure out what the web site visitor wants. How do you turn that “want” into a “buy”?

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the umbrella term for all the techniques and tricks that turn a web visit into a sale. There is a science to it. Practitioners have to find the data that matters and craft a solution that fits the client’s need. The result should be a significant sales gain.

Buzz words, buzz meanings

Many clients have already read a  the plethora of online articles and blog posts touting CRO as the next great solution. Pause.

“There is definitely some mis-education out there,” said Ayat Shukairy, co-founder and managing partner at Invesp, a CRO consultancy. Clients mistakenly believe that CRO is all about A/B testing, or that it will double conversions if certain rigid methods are adopted. “It’s not that simple.” she said.

“To me, a conversion is really any opportunity to successfully convince a customer to invest in your brand.” said Drew Burns, Group Manager at Adobe Target. “ Making a purchase is just one example of this, but it can also include downloading an app, signing up for a newsletter, consuming more videos and content, or engaging on social.” Burns explained.

Getting to the heart of CRO mans getting to the data, noted Timery Crawford, senior content marketing manager at Heap Analytics. The client will have some basic information, like traffic, page views, “but not enough information to make a good data decision,” she said.

“A common misperception is that CRO strategies are set in stone, when in fact they should be adjusted and revisited based on the current objectives of the business.” said Carl Tsukahara, CMO of Optimizely. CRO requires the client to pay attention to how each marketing channel acts and interacts with customers. The goal is to personalize the online experience, Tsukahara explained.

It’s as hard as A/B

Data is the foundation of CRO. Consultants and marketers will sift through the megabytes, looking for the bits that make sense. Choices must be narrowed down to one of two courses of actions. Which variant works better, A or B?

Heap’s specialty in this regard is automatic data capture from all the  different channels the client is using to reach their customers. “Every company has different customer journeys and flows,” Crawford noted. Heap can spot the conversions — and the drop-offs.

At that point, A/B testing can be done to see what factors affect a conversion. One can test for factors like web page layout, wording, social media, reviews and special offers, Crawford explained. Just be sure the gain is immediate.

“A conversion can only truly be optimized through [A/B] testing the entire experience from UX to code-level features.” Tsukahara said. “This isn’t limited to comparing just images or phrases, but is also about ‘feature level’ testing, where you can experiment on pricing models, algorithms or even search result outcomes.”

“You don’t want to get into paralysis by analysis,” added Shukairy. But you are examining data to craft a hypothesis, then test it to see if it is valid. A/B testing must provide “verification that the solution we provide has impact,” she said.

“For more efficiency, marketers could also run multivariate tests, which show what areas on the page are most likely to increase customer engagement or conversions.” Burns added. “ A test could ultimately show that it wasn’t simply a color choice, but rather a blend of multiple design elements that increased engagement or conversions.”

“When coupled with analytics, testing can also help solve tougher challenges like determining a more efficient path-to-purchase or easier access to answers for frequently asked questions — which can result in increased conversions and greater customer lifetime value.” Burns said.

What the client wants, the client gets

Every CRO solution will be tailored to meet the client’s needs. “There is no such thing as best practices,” Shukairy said. “Taking a cookie-cutter approach won’t work.”

Yet there is a process one goes through to get to the CRO solution. First comes research.  Through interviews, surveys and polls, the consultant must get to know the client’s customers, Shukairy continued. “You pair this with quantitative data to make sure you stay on the point.”

Problems are prioritized, a roadmap is developed, the client works in the direction show and results obtained. This is a time-consuming process for a client that needs quick gains, so it is important for the consultant to identify a short-term goal that can be gained. “”We’re generally taking until the end of the first quarter to see an increase in the conversion rate,” Shukairy said.

A more comprehensive CRO plan takes more time to construct and test. Just make sure the plan gets you an increase above five percent, Shukairy said. “Anything lower than that is not considered [a win].” Success, however, has many measures.

“Measuring change depends on the maturity of the program.” Tsukuhara said. “Imagine if a test created a one percent lift in cost-per-action for paid search. If you are spending $200 million a year, that improvement could have quickly returned $2 million to the business as almost pure net margin to the budget.”

Sometimes the client’s sheer size can affect the threshold of CRO success. “What’s considered a win for a Fortune 500 company may differ from an up-and-coming brand.” Burns said.  “What might seem like a small percentage can translate into millions of dollars in incremental revenue.”

Or CRO success could be something more than money. Adjustments that improve customer engagement, loyalty and brand advocacy can also add up to increased sales over time, Burns added. Marketers must show this ROI and share their insights with the broader organization “to spur on greater investment, growth and mind share,” Burns said.

 

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