Getting started with Conversion Rate Optimisation
Establishing your North Star metrics and what to optimise first
Building a CRO team internally or through an agency
It seems that, for the past 10 years, Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) has appeared again and again in yearly marketing top trend lists as a business priority. But what is CRO, why is it important, and if so many companies are talking about it, why is it still considered a trend and not a staple of digital marketing?
CRO is a multi-step process to determine what users want, when they want it, and the best way to serve it to them. Techniques such as A/B testing, qualitative research, wireframing and data analysis all help to determine sticking points in funnels and how to smooth navigation. A key proponent of CRO is the multi-step process, where changes are researched and implemented incrementally so that the impact can be measured. With such a variety of skills required, it’s no wonder CRO is still seen as a bit of a dark art and why many brands are still failing to invest in it.
It’s well known that a positive user experience will result in higher conversion rates and customer loyalty. Conversion Rate Optimisation removes the guesswork and uses data to confirm whether your website offers that positive user experience.
CRO is an excellent method for risk reduction too. For decades, brands would put hours of work into products or features that failed to make money. Experimentation and taking an agile approach allows you to test the validity of that product before investing heavily in development and marketing.
Getting started with CRO might seem daunting, but building a good relationship with your agency will make it much easier. The first step is to establish what your conversion points are. The majority of businesses will have a ‘North Star’ metric ‒ the main goal that puts money in the bank. But many brands also have a list of micro conversions, such as funnel progression, form completions, account creation or newsletter sign-ups, all of which gauge user interest and help drive up the North Star metric long-term. These KPIs will be different for each business based on their industry, size and digital maturity. You may have more or less; there’s no one size fits all.
Once you’ve clearly defined your list of KPIs, establish your baseline ‒ what is the current conversion rate? Knowing your baseline will help you determine what success will look like when running a CRO programme. Again, success will look very different depending on the KPI and the business itself, which is why working with CRO specialists can help. They provide realistic goals to work towards, which is especially important, because a successful CRO programme can see results gradually or quickly depending on your starting point. CRO specialists will consider this, as well as market trends and best practices, to put together the best strategy for your brand.
When it comes to what you should be optimising, as Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” meaning anything you can quantify, you can find a way to improve.
Clearer navigation can massively improve conversion rates. If users are able to find the information they need via fewer clicks, reaching that goal will be frictionless. A better user experience means more conversions. Navigation improvements can take the form of unambiguous language or design on a CTA, offering search or filter functionality to organise results, or restructuring a mega navigation to be more intuitive.
For many businesses, the clarity of their content plays a vital role in conversion. A user landing on your website for the first time needs to understand what you’re selling within seconds. Often, we are so close to our products, we don’t realise that the content we’re serving does not resonate with our customers, so it’s important to research, review and improve the copy, imagery, videos and any other content on your website.
It’s worth noting that no website is perfect; there will always be something that can be improved. A good agency or CRO specialist will not run out of ideas, and will not limit themselves to only these ideas either.
There are pros and cons to managing a CRO programme internally or via an agency. What it comes down to is relationships, because CRO touches many different areas of digital ‒ engineering, marketing, product and analytics ‒ so good communication and collaboration is important no matter what.
Typically, agencies will have experience with lots of different clients, they’ll know what is universal best practice (what are users familiar with) and what design decisions don’t convert. The ability to draw on a team of highly knowledgeable individuals who specialise in different areas of CRO can be far more cost effective than hiring a team internally. Hiring an agency makes CRO more accessible to any sized company, since packages are flexible depending on the requirements and goals of the individual business.
However, it is often recommended to ensure a single point of contact internally to manage that agency relationship, and that person often shares some of the CRO skills with the agency. An internal CRO specialist can share industry guidance and explain your business challenges to the agency, and they often streamline stakeholder management and sign off. This relationship will be vital to the success of a CRO programme.
To get started with Conversion Rate Optimisation, get in touch with Roger Barr, Chief Digital Officer at iCrossing. His team of CRO specialists has a wide array of experience across numerous industries, and focuses on research and data to manage ‘agile test and learn’ optimisation programmes for clients.
We believe that moving too slowly in digital is the biggest risk your business faces. If you are ready to move faster in digital, we are here to help.