Last April, Phillip Jackson (Something Digital’s Chief Commerce Office) and I talked at a high level about the importance of conversion rate optimization (CRO) in the long-term success of a brand. You can read that discussion here.
Now it’s time to take it to the next level: executing on a CRO initiative. For a lot of people, the biggest hurdle to getting just such an initiative off the ground is overcoming internal objection. “We just spent all this money on building a site, and we followed best practices…why do we need to test the user experience now,” the thinking goes. “Can’t we wait to see if we even have a problem?” “I already know what my customers want and need, so let’s just implement that.”
If you find that you’re having a difficult time trying to sell the concept of CRO to your management team, read on! We’ll tackle the most frequently raised objects to this critically important endeavor.
Why do we need to test stuff that already follows best practices?
We hear this frequently. When we build new sites for brands we follow best practices, including those recommended by the Baymard Institute, and we apply what we’ve learned designing, building and optimizing sites for countless brands across numerous B2C and B2B sectors. So, if your company has followed all of these best practices and strategic advice from your agency, why do you need to spend 30, 60, or 90 days testing adjustments to that site experience?
Even all the best practices, don’t deliver 100% CVR. So there’s always a need to be better.
It all goes back to your customer. A customer may behave one way with a specific brand and a completely different way with yours. I may not hesitate to jump on my mobile device to buy a product from a brand I’m loyal to, that has a low price point, free shipping, and which auto-fills my address and payment information on checkout. But am I going to buy an expensive appliance from an unfamiliar brand, where I need to coordinate delivery and install, all from my mobile phone? Personally, I won’t. Having recently moved, I found my buying behavior is much more cautious with a new brand, a product I’m unfamiliar with, and higher price point. I also ran into careless issues when ordering from my phone versus my laptop. The fact is, what works for one customer on one site might not work with that same customer for another brand.
This is why we never solely rely on best practices, which, by the way, are more or less assumptions of how consumers behave when they shop online. In truth, the behavior you want from your site’s visitors is very much dependent on your brand, business, and revenue goals. If you rely on those assumptions, then you’re essentially guessing about what your customer wants. Testing, on the other hand, provides you with evidence, and what’s the harm in that?
How am I going to sell CRO to my leadership team?
We hear you. You get why CRO is important but selling the concept to management on it can take some effort. But it’s not impossible.
First and foremost, keep in mind that doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Remember the Chinese proverb: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time to plant a tree is now. It may take some time for your management team to agree to invest in a robust CRO platform and to hire a CRO team, so start with baby steps.
To pique their interest, start by doing some competitive research. Just Google, “CRO case study + [name of your competitor] and see the results. It’s entirely likely that your competition is already deploying CRO to their benefit. If they are, that should certainly be cause for concern among your management team.
Your competition, is no doubt doing all they can to siphon your traffic, customers, and revenue away from your brand. They’re leveraging the best of data science to understand the customer and personalize their experiences and win their long-term loyalty. It’s an arms race, and if you’re not constantly looking to see how you can do better, you’re putting your business at risk.
Every successful ecommerce brand needs to create a culture of experimentation because the market is always changing, customers are always changing, and their expectations evolve continuously.
Another concern may be budget. We understand that you set your budget at the start of your fiscal year. We’re not looking to disrupt that plan. If you’re an SD client, these services can be delivered in your current SEG agreement, but if you’re not, you may need to invest in a CRO service. (Something Digital is getting ready to announce a small CRO service for new prospects, so stay tuned.) But, still, beyond the manpower, you need to invest in a tool, so what now?
- There are some free or low cost CRO platforms out there that can help you build proof and generate evidence to justify further investment (more on that later). In other words, you can start with a low-cost approach to prove the value of CRO and set the stage for a more comprehensive investment.
- Additionally, consider that the insights provided by your CRO platform, benefits many other departments outside of your ecommerce group. Once you’re able to create loyalty through a better user experience, you can lower customer acquisition costs which impacts your marketing team. You can identify performance improvements that are disrupting the marketing team’s campaign landing page or IT’s infrastructure costs. And Customer Service may receive less communications from customers because your CRO platform was able to help you pinpoint the problem, improve the site experience, and thereby minimize the shopping experience complaints.
Therefore, you can make an argument that the cost for CRO shouldn’t be against the ecommerce or web team’s budget, but instead, an overall investment that benefits a multitude of departments and the overall business goals.
We use Google Analytics, why do we need a special platform for CRO?
Most of our clients use Google Analytics to understand and get basic data about visitors and for some insight into the customer journeys. But what you get from a CRO platform is above and beyond the basic ecommerce capabilities within GA. For instance, CRO platforms offer session recordings so you can look back at the specific interactions a customer, or group of customers, have taken on your site. You can actually see where their mouse moved and the elements they clicked on. This is useful to diagnose issues that your customers may report, such as failing to checkout successfully because they didn’t realize they need to, say, select a quantity or color choice. Your site could have been working fine, but some portion of your customers failed to see that warning, which means you may need to optimize the UX.
Heat Mapping is another feature available on CRO platforms. Heat maps reveal critical insight into visitor engagement, like where they hover their mouse, and which shortcuts they take. You can use heat maps in page audits. For instance, you may want to know which feature visitors rely on more: your main navigation or the search function. You can determine which categories get the most traction, and which should be deemphasized. All of these insights will allow you to optimize your UX in meaningful ways.
Another tool is click reporting, which can help you understand whether or not your visitors engage with a specific object, or you’ve built functionality that’s never used. Additionally, visitors may click on a design element that’s not active, meaning they expect it to do something, and they’re disappointed when nothing happens. It tells us that your visitors expected a different experience than the one you’ve provided.
And finally, A/B Testing capabilities which allow you to validate ROI through data evidence, and gain deeper understanding of your customer to build loyalty to your brand.
These are just some of the many tools CRO platforms provide to help you understand how your customers engage with your brand, whether or not their experiences match their expectations, and how you can optimize your site to build CLV.
Why can’t we do CRO in-house?
That’ll work if you have the complete skill set in house and they have the time and availability to focus on CRO. For sake of comparison, Something Digital’s CRO team consists of:
- A strategic engagement manager who understands how CRO applies to your specific business and is in charge of keeping all aspects of your testing and analysis organized and rolling. They’re also your internal advocate within SD, ensuring that you have the resources you need from SD to meet your roadmap and business goals.
- A digital strategist who’s tasked with analyzing your ecommerce metrics across many different avenues (marketing, on-site, email, funnel, performance, etc.) to determine know where to focus our attention. They will also run your initiatives each month and help to determine statistical significance for your winning experiment.
- A UI/UX designer who runs the user experience analysis to determine the priority of the hypothesis and tests we should run.
- A frontend developer who ensures all the variations of tests we want to run can be implemented with consistency of your brand styles.
I hope I’ve answered all the questions you face when justifying a CRO initiative within your brand. If you’re facing another hurdle, give us a call. We’ll be happy to help you address the concerns you face. CRO is way too important for the long-term health and sustainability of your brand for you not to win this battle.