mastering the basics of cro
CRO is all about improving your website conversion rate by harnessing insight from data and experimentation. There are many elements to CRO and different methodologies to try. But when combined effectively, CRO can produce first-class insights for your business that help you acquire new customers and maximise the lifetime value of your existing ones.
However, it can be overwhelming to know how to get the most out of this tactic. A fan of mastering the basics first, we’re sharing insight into what you really need to know about CRO.
why should cro be part of your strategy?
Pretty much any business can benefit from CRO. We often find that there are two ends of the spectrum when it comes to leveraging this tactic:
1. cro and the data it produces is ingrained into the business
2. cro is based on gut feeling and is usually branding led
CRO Technical Account Manager at equation, Kevin McCarthy, shares his thoughts on this:
“When it comes to CRO we often find that at one end of the spectrum you’ve got businesses who are doing it to the maximum. It shapes the strategy for the whole business. And at the other end, you’ve got business who have really flashy websites that look great on the surface but they’re just making changes based on gut feeling. That approach will only take you so far before the impact lessens.”
The importance of CRO and its benefits are widely acknowledged:
spot new conversion opportunities
create personalised online experiences
generate more conversions
By combining data, UX and experimentation, you can improve your website’s conversions through informed insight, rather than assumptions, to create a better chance of success. This is done by making incremental changes as a result of successful A/B experiments which reduce journey friction while encouraging your visitors to do the thing you want them to do on your site.
mastering the basics
1) the hypothesis and triangulation
CRO consists of experimentation and learning from those experiments to shape development. However, to come up with the experiment, you need a hypothesis or reason to do it in the first place.
The definition for a hypothesis is a proposed explanation based on evidence that acts as a starting point for further investigation. In the world of CRO, a hypothesis is an assumption on which the optimised test variant is based. It works by targeting what the business wants to change on the landing page before predicting the outcome of making the change.
Qualitative and qualitative data is integral to understanding what triggers your users into taking action. For example, heatmaps, audits, Google Analytics, biometric testing, profiling and real-time feedback can all locate onsite challenges that stop users converting. In addition to this, we also use our exclusive Landing Page Opportunity tool to identify where CRO could uplift performance, so we never miss an opportunity.
Triangulation should then be used to analyse the data to gain the most accurate understanding. This involves using multiple sources of data (such as quantitative and qualitative) to enhance the credibility of the research. We recommend making decisions based on collecting qualitative and quantitative data, plus the triangulation of said data and a solid hypothesis.
2) data over opinion
We’re all about the data. Website changes shouldn’t be made based on opinions but based on the data itself. This can be collated in a number of ways including the quantitative and qualitative methods mentioned above and through an extensive data audit.
Once the data has been gathered, we can follow specific user journeys through the site to understand exactly how the site operates. Combining our UX understanding with the data, points of friction can be spotted and opportunities for improvement unlocked.
These days, you need to use more assertive forms of personalisation to create an online experience that will impress your users. In CRO, personalisation tactics are used to enhance different areas of your website such as:
recognition: Upon logging into a website, the user is greeted by their own name such as, “Hi Lisa”.
recommendations: Provide the user with related content, resources or product recommendations that are relevant to what they’ve already engaged with or shown interest in.
preferences: Instead of assumptions about what the user wants to see, preferences allow the user to explicitly confirm what they want to see.
responsiveness: Tailor the user experience to the device being used to engage with your website.
language: Consider the language requirements of your audience so you can offer your content in a language the user will understand.
landing pages: Tailored landing pages that will guide users to a certain area of your website rather than just the homepage. This can also extend to keywords. For example, for one of our automotive clients, we tailored their landing pages for the individual keyword such as ‘audi car warranty’ or ‘bmw car warranty’ to generate unique pricing, imagery and headlines for the user. By creating landing pages that are designed to convert based on exactly what the user is searching for, the overall online experience will be significantly improved.
While personalisation has become a standard CRO practice, when defining the personalisation needs of your website, it’s important to ensure you’re not just doing it for the sake of it. Referring to our section on hypotheses, have a reason backed by data as to why you want to implement the change.
4) making predictions
Every test will have a metric that it’s judged on. With a test there are only two options: win or lose. For example, “I predict that changing the location of this button will improve conversions by 3%”.
However, CRO can become less effective when too many metrics are focused on at once. When this happens, a business falls into the trap of choosing wins from their long list of metrics rather than focusing on a primary metric. This could mean that the change falls short of actually ‘winning’ but is still rolled out because it had a positive impact on another metric. Judging changes by the wrong metric or finding a reason for a test to win should always both be avoided.
We recommend resisting the urge and focus on a singular metric. If the test doesn’t ‘win’ on the primary metric, it’s not worth rolling out.
Without a prioritisation system in place, the order of your CRO test roadmap can be otherwise influenced which will see tests jump the queue. A prioritisaton system ensures that every scenario is played by the same rules.
However, we see common issues arise with prioritisation. A regular one is when prioritising tests is done in a way that simply ranks the test ideas in terms of traffic levels or perceived value. This could be suitable in theory but not always in practice. This approach can create blockages in the roadmap if a larger test involves a complex build process and, therefore, takes a lot of time. The main problem occurs when smaller yet important tests are continually overshadowed and pushed down the priority list.
When approaching prioritisation, we favour a weighted model with an objective approach to scoring that requires input from multiple parties. This helps to avoid bias and also ensures tests are considered from different angles. Questions to help get you thinking along the right lines when prioritising your tests could include:
is it a high traffic page?
will it increase user motivation to proceed?
is the test idea supported by analytics?
is the test idea supported by qualitative insight?
will it require development work?
will it require design work?
what is the ease of implementation?
what is the perceived value – high, medium, low?
Regardless of the model you choose for prioritisation, it’s important to remember that A/B testing prioritisation must be a group activity, especially when variables are tied to different teams across your business. We also recommend reprioritising regularly as the test idea list shouldn’t be static. Business priorities can and do regularly change so it’s important you remain agile.
6) don’t do cro in silo
A fundamental error that we often see is a business doing CRO in silo, not linked to their other online activities. To really make the most out of your investment, CRO should be considered as part of your wider business strategy. CRO stands for conversion rate optimisation and while the focus is on optimising the performance of the website, it closely links into other areas of your digital marketing efforts such as SEO and PPC.
For example, a PPC ad tends to direct the user to a landing page. If that landing page is of poor quality, doesn’t adhere to basic UX principles or doesn’t contain related content, it’s unlikely to convert many visitors. This is where CRO can help. Through analysis, design tweaks, development changes and testing, barriers to conversion can quickly be spotted and resolved allowing your users to flow seamlessly through their online journey.
getting started with cro
Improving your CRO will have a positive impact on the entire online experience. Over time, you can improve your website performance, streamline the user journey and begin to see higher levels of traffic convert. If you want to find out how working with a CRO agency can help you maximise your return, get in touch with our experts.