Reaching New Potential: Conversion Rate Optimisation
The room for guesswork in e-commerce, digital and product marketing is being reduced closer to non-existence. While bold projects, impactful businesses, life-changing products, and grand ideas will always be borne from a blend of intuition and inspiration gifted from ancient muses or the divine figure of your choosing, the possibility and likelihood of that project reaching its fullest potential is greater than ever…if you know how to optimise it.
In 2021, conversion rate optimisation (CRO) leaves us with very few excuses for underperforming in the digital realm; not, at least, without attacking that underperformance with a colourful arsenal of tools for measuring, testing, inquiring about, and reiterating them, until they reach their peak capability. It seems to be something that too many businesses either aren’t aware of or simply choose to bury their heads in the sand and remain willfully ignorant to. As long as the practice of CRO is neglected on a digital product or website, there remains potential left on the table; potential for conversions, growth, and a better customer experience.
CRO isn’t just about testing. It’s about IDEAS.
There is more to CRO than the maniacal running of test after test. Rather, it is fundamentally founded on the ‘why’ that every test stems from: the ideas we come up with, and the hypotheses we posit for them.
CXL Institute has developed hundreds of hours of content, delivered by leading experts in the fields of marketing analytics, UX, branding, product marketing, content, SEO, and beyond to provide first-rate digital marketing education and certification. Conversion rate optimisation happens to be at the core of the syllabus taught at CXL Institute.
According to CXL, conversion rate optimisers have 3 main jobs:
- Ask good questions
- Increase the sample size
- Increase the quality of the sample size
The ideas that form the foundation of the function of these jobs aren’t all made equal. These ideas should form part of a prioritisation framework called ‘ICE’:
- Impact the idea will have
- Confidence we have in the idea
- Effort required to test the idea
So, where can you get ideas from? The same place we always start: Google. Check to see if anyone else has run a similar test before you; let’s not reinvent the wheel, here. Beyond that, start digging through existing data within your organisation, including pulling from Google Analytics, results from user testing and focus groups, surveys, and heat maps.
A/B testing validates the visceral
The importance of the creative component on a web page or in a digital campaign cannot be underestimated. It reinforces and personifies the brand and it can speak volumes; it’s what resonates with people, and appeals to their soul. But…does it convert? Well, that’s up to the user to decide. By presenting slightly different versions of creative and making it statistically valid, bias is eliminated and the visitors decide (without even knowing it) which variation is better.
“The customer is always right”. The age-old adage rings true at scale.
Here’s the catch with CRO: most tests will be failures. Hypotheses will be incorrect more often than not. So, in true Silicon Valley fashion, “fail fast and fail often”. It will be a struggle in the beginning, but soon your skin will thicken, and you’ll get better at coming up with good ideas and hypotheses to test. Eventually, you’ll start to see your strike rate go up, and you’ll get better at knowing what to A/B test, and what those tests should reveal.
CRO Best Practices
There are plenty of points at which to begin the CRO journey on a given website, with some pretty safe assumptions that can be made, guided by well-established best practices that have been consistent in returning positive results.
This, of course, doesn’t mean we forego testing entirely. We test our assumptions, even when guided by best practice. Some of those things that can get us out the gate include:
At best, ignorant design causes user friction. At worse, friction is knowingly added to as a trade-off for more data or to coax more conversions. This is incongruous with true CRO; don’t make the user’s job harder for your own gain. Don’t:
- add unnecessary form fields simply to dish up ammunition to your marketing team;
- overwhelm the website visitor with too much information; or
- force registrations to make a purchase.
…but sometimes do add friction
Some types of friction can help both you and the user. It can improve lead quality, filtering out undermotivated users that won’t ultimately be converted, saving everybody the time of learning that later on in the buyer’s journey.
Fundamentals of web design apply to CRO. The 5 elements of persuasive design are:
- Clarity above all
- Visual appeal (keeping design simple & familiar)
- Strong visual hierarchy (more important elements should dominate)
- Conserve attention at all costs
- One action per screen, when the user is ready
Optimise vs. total redesign
Flog a horse while it’s still running, trotting, maybe even still standing. But once it’s dead, it might be time for a new horse.
Now, I don’t condone animal violence, but for the sake of analogy, the racecourse is a good place to look when it comes to CRO. Any given design has a limit on its optimisation. This is because of the granularity of the tests that we are conducting in CRO. They are not radical changes to an entire website, app or brand, but rather “evolutionary design” shifts, small iterations, made little-by-little, that improve user experience and result in favourable user behaviour. Any larger changes are too extreme to reasonably control with CRO testing, and so the job falls to the designers.
If optimisation efforts start to reach a point of diminishing returns, the website may have reached its local maxima, in which case it may be time for a reboot and an entire radical redesign could be in order.
Once rebuilt, we pick our optimisation tools back up and make for the new summit, reaching for that renewed potential.
An observation on CXL Institute course content
The development of the course material seems to span several years, which might be a more trivial notion if it weren’t for the infamy of marketing education to expire quickly. With some of the examples dating back as far as 10 years, some doubt is instilled around the content’s relevance, leaving you contemplating the current applicability of some of the ideas and best practices presented and whether or not presented may have already been superseded.
Needless to say, this seems to only be perceptible in some lessons and, even in many of those instances, plenty of timeless value can obviously still be taken from the content.