As we talked about in the previous post on Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), CRO is a tool that is quickly emerging as a cutting edge way to ensure you are getting your money’s worth out of your website or campaign.
In December 2012, Econsultancy, an industry leader in analyzing trends and new strategies in digital marketing and e-commerce, posted an article entitled “Will 2013 be the year of conversion optimisation?” (In case you’re a grammar fanatic like us, that’s the United Kingdom spelling with an “s” there…) The article contains a great quote giving an easy to understand example of why CRO is so important. Craig Sullivan of PRWD, a major trend-setter in the field of Conversion Rate Optimization testing based in the United Kingdom was talking about the fact that too many companies spend too much money attracting customers to their website only to lose them without a sale or “click-through” after the customer has already browsed around their site. He compares you managing your company’s website to you being a manager at a real life retail store saying (remember we’re quoting a Brit, so “queues” at the tills means long lines of people waiting to checkout at the cash register),
“In real life you’d be able to see this (i.e. losing customers)—queues at the tills, narrow entry doors, messy floors, unhelpful staff, bad signposting—and you’d want to do something about it. Conversion rate optimisation lets you see these problems and fix them—so that you maximise the return from any footfall you’ve driven to your site.” (Jivaldi’s parenthetical comments added.)
When you think of CRO in terms of what you’d see in an actual physical store it makes it clear that CRO is something you need to be using for your website.
So how do you conduct CRO Testing? The concept is simple. Putting the more basic elements into practice on a rudimentary level can be as well. Perhaps you know how to change the color of your website’s “Call to Action” or “Buy Now” button. If you keep track of your “Conversion Rate” you can conduct a very basic test which might give you some useful information. Of course, the problem is that there are many variables that you are not testing in this situation—for example, are you testing the color changes at the same time of the year? How is the overall economy doing? Was there some significant or tragic event in the world that made people buy less or more of your company’s products or services that just happened to coincide with your basic CRO self-test? How many people from Europe clicked on your website when you offer local services in Wyoming so there would be zero expectation that someone in London would actually purchase your services? Is there a difference between a first-time website visitor and a customer who has purchased your products or services previously?
That may make this all sound just too complicated. But it isn’t necessary to start by looking at and analyzing EVERY variable. Valuable information can be learned by just limiting a few of the major variables.
For example, a quick fix is to have your CRO testing at random send an equal number of customers to different webpages covering the same product or service (you can watch the entire 17 minutes of the Dan Siroker video from Jivaldi’s first blog post on CRO to more fully see this concept and others). For example, let’s say you’re selling backpacks. On your website you have a page that shows all your backpacks designed for 5-day backpacking trips and longer. For our hypothetical example, when your potential customers click on a particular backpack to see a fuller description of the product, a true CRO test might automatically divide those customers who “click” on that particular backpack as follows:
- ¼ of the customers go to a page which has a product description, a LARGE PICTURE of the backpack and a “Purchase Now” button on the LEFT side of the screen;
- ¼ of those “clicking” customers would be sent to a page with a product description, a LARGE PICTURE of the backpack in question, and a “Purchase Now” button on the RIGHT side of the screen;
- ¼ of the “clicking” customers would be sent to a page with a product description, a VIDEO REVIEW of the backpack playing, and a “Purchase Now” button on the LEFT; and
- ¼ sent to a page with product description, VIDEO REVIEW playing, and “Purchase Now” on the RIGHT.
So, once you’ve done this for a statistically significant time, you can analyze the data and have some hard facts to work with in deciding how best to configure your website.
There are many websites and blogs that now have helpful hints about CRO. Here are some thoughts that Jivaldi would like you to consider as your business ponders how (and, of course “if” and/or “when”) to integrate CRO Testing into your online marketing strategy–some of which don’t seem to be talked about much in other blogs or articles:
- Website traffic: CRO Testing tends to be more effective if you, or your web design and analytics consultants, have taken steps to drive web traffic to your site and that you have a solid foundation of traffic from which to work from.
- Website Design AND Analytics Consultants: Having a great web designer that produces some great images for your website can be (and often is) very important. But you are not receiving all the help your business can use if all you have is a beautifully designed and maintained website. A better choice for your digital marketing agency might be a company that not only creates and/or maintains your website, but one that knows how to ask the right questions and test the correct variations in order to optimize your Conversion Rate. Of course, you probably already have a website—or, budgetary constraints may force you to initially hire a web design company that does not do CRO testing just to get a website up and running. If this is the case, PLEASE make sure that the web design company you use has a “humble pride” in their work and places an extremely high value on seeing you build your business. They need to be proud of their work, but humble enough to let a 3rd party company that is experienced in implementing CRO testing come in and manipulate your website (which they built, or are going to build). Make sure they understand your intention to use another company to do CRO testing as soon as possible. If you are your own website designer and you have the time, ability, and analytical expertise to do the CRO testing on your own, go for it. But this may be a good time to take a bit of your hard-won marketing funds and hire someone who can do the CRO testing for you—and maybe even take over some of your website maintenance and improvements. However you choose to do it, having a team that can merge their design skills with CRO testing and real data analysis can have a significant positive impact on your business.
- Trust the CRO Testing: At least initially, the design of any particular website is incredibly subjective by nature–although there really aren’t that many people who are REALLY good at it. CRO testing will move you away from whims and hunches that guide and, unfortunately, often damage, a design process. Trust the data. It may seem unbelievable to you that the expensive video your company produced of the services you offer doesn’t generate as many sales as a still photo of a bucket of water, but if the data says the still photo works, it should be there. Even if that means that whoever initially proposed the video idea has to swallow their pride with a smile on their face.
- Start Simple, But Look At The Big Picture: A testing process can be a very complex process, but it doesn’t need to be. This is especially true during an initial trial of CRO Testing. A small, lower cost project will reduce your risk and exposure as you begin this process. Coincidentally, a smaller, lower cost project also reduces the risk and exposure to your Internet Design and Analytics Consultant. At the beginning of your relationship your Internet Marketing Agency will be worried sick that if they do something simple like switch the “Buy Now” button to say “Add to Cart” and your sales go down a bit that—shall we say– “difficulties” will arise. (Remember Dan Siroker’s “Fail Fast” lessons learned from Jivaldi’s previous blog post on this.) Do all you can to pick a Digital Marketing Agency with a long-term track record, and, when you’ve hired them to do CRO testing “Stay the Course.” By all means give them your input, but the BEAUTY of CRO testing is that it eliminates whims, assumptions that seem correct, and even well-thought out reasoning that happens to be wrong. It gives you hard data to look at that should increase your productivity and profit. Look at the big picture and let the process work for you.
- Think of CRO Testing as “Known” not “Unknown”: As long as humans have walked the planet, the fear of the unknown has been one of the prime motivators for either action or (often) inaction in our daily lives. Obviously, trying something new in a business climate that is currently very tough is somewhat of a scary process. But CRO testing and analysis gives you hard data to guide your decisions. There is actually more “Unknown” to be afraid of if you don’t implement CRO testing. Does the time your company puts into Twitter really help? How many of your Twitter followers are actually going to ever make a purchase? So your company has 1000 friends on your Facebook page—does that really increase your sales? Are you losing sales by having an orange “Buy It Now” button instead of a green one? If you don’t test these things, you don’t know. Remember that quote by Craig Sullivan of PRWD—if your website was a real life store you’d constantly be looking for and correcting small problems as you see them arise to increase the likelihood that your customers purchase today and return to purchase in the future. CRO testing is just looking around your “store” so you KNOW the problems and can fix them. If you are the chief decision-maker, choosing to embrace the “Known” of CRO Testing is relatively easy. If not, get others to buy in to this.
Your start in CRO Testing may just be a small, simple project, but do what you can to wisely start now.