Finding a CRO consultant can be like unicorn-hunting. Much harder when you’ve never seen one before.
There are risks to hiring the wrong CRO consultant: money, time and momentum (the same risks that apply to any recruitment process).
On the flipside, optimising visitor-to-customer rates on your website is usually the fastest route to e-marketing success. It’s this simple: deploying conversion rate optimisation (CRO) helps companies to grow faster online.
Conversion Rate Optimisation: What & Why
A Quick Definition Of CRO
CRO is the process of extracting more value from the existing traffic to a site. Thus, instead of turning 1 out of 100 visitors into a customer, you might focus on converting 2 out of 100 visitors into paying customers, effectively doubling your revenues.
This involves identifying roadblocks on your pages, hypothesizing and testing, and implementing the best content and design solutions.
The Business Case For CRO
If you’re reading this, you probably already came to this conclusion: conversion rate optimisation is a force-multiplier.
The major advantage of CRO is that it’s cost-effective, since you can grow your business from the traffic you already have.
Put another way, if you want to double your turnover, it is easier and cheaper to double your conversion rate than double your traffic.
Four Main Advantages Of CRO
Effects of higher conversion
- Increased customer acquisition,
revenue & net profit
- Increased ROI on current
The uplift from
optimized web pages is:
Set the foundation for future
- Google Adwords
- Facebook Ads
Studies show that improved
- Increase retention and
- Increase lifetime customer
value and reduce churn
Conversion Rate Optimisation Services
When hiring an external consultant for CRO services, you can expect certain processes to be followed.
Methodologies vary between consultants (more on this later) but there are specific activities you should expect your consultant to undertake.
- Collecting quantitative data from your web analytics tools (tools such as Google Analytics)
- Collecting qualitative data about your customer (techniques such as user testing, surveys, video recordings and heatmaps)
- Creating content/design solutions in the form of wireframes or designs
In some cases, it may be appropriate to A/B test your website. Running A/B tests is a way to mitigate risk, because a conversion consultant can empirically quantify the benefits (or disbenefits) of the changes made before making permanent changes on your website.
A/B testing (or split-testing) quantifiably demonstrates the impact of CRO to website performance
There are two main considerations when determining whether to A/B test:
- Amount of website traffic. Without enough people arriving to your website, there isn’t enough sample size to reach statistical confidence. You can’t trust the results.
- No-brainer insight. Something is clearly wrong (like a technical or UX error). It doesn’t need testing, it needs fixing!
CRO Service Deliverables
There are three main types of CRO services:
- Measurement (data). Many CRO consultants begin with some form of ‘conversion audit’ – which involves deep research into your website and audience. The output is a blueprint which you can use to make data-driven and profitable changes to your website. Conversion audits often involve an ‘analytics health check’, which is usually a technical re-implementation or fix of your Google Analytics setup to ensure that all the website behaviour is tracked properly. Without accurate quantitative data, your optimisation program is dead on arrival.
- Done-for-you services involve ongoing optimisation and testing of your website. Commonly, done-for-you services involve A/B testing and there is a commitment to run a certain number of tests per month.
- Finally, there are CRO consultancy/coaching services to guide and support you to achieve your ecommerce objectives and business outcomes. This is usually a month-by-month arrangement. This type of consultancy may involve research, strategy, liaising with your internal teams, reviewing their output, measuring success and setting up processes to achieve a constant improvement cycle.
In all cases, the idea is to identify where the website is leaking money and what are the biggest conversion opportunities.
CRO services will lead to website treatments that are data-driven, based on a structured approach to design, copy and layout that persuades visitors to action.
What Type Of Work Goes Into CRO Services?
CRO Data Triangulation
A robust conversion rate optimisation methodology uses data to make decisions that inform conversion activities.
Without data, there is no informed hypothesis or informed design solution. Without data, there is only guessing and baseless opinion.
In this context, what is ‘data’? CRO involves an understanding user behaviour and psychology to increase conversion rates. Your CRO consultant will need to analyse the website and how it’s used. She’ll do this by combining quantitative data (to tell her what’s happening) with qualitative data (to tell her why it’s happening).
Where does the data come from? Here’s a non-exhaustive list that goes into CRO service deliverables:
✔ Quantitative data:
web analytics (e.g. Google Analytics), event analytics (e.g. Heap, MixPanel), Net Promoter Score, system usability score, form analytics.M
✔ Qualitative data:
heatmaps, video replays, user surveys, user testing, customer interviews, customer service data, eye tracking, mouse tracking.
There are innumerable data insight tools. It’s a fragmented space in CRO.
CRO services involve researching multiple data sources. Then triangulating those data inputs into customer insight. Then converting those insights into data-drive hypotheses.
Finally, with the help of conversion patterns, a conversion rate optimisation consultant will turn those hypotheses into content/design solutions for your website.
I have written about the difference between data collection and analysis (spoiler: data is easy, INSIGHT are hard!) and what ecommerce businesses can do to address the data collection/analysis gap to make smarter decisions.
This blog article goes into more detail about the relationship between data measurement and analysis – and how they feed each other.
Heuristics For Conversion Rate Optimisation
Heuristics are rules of thumb. A conversion heuristic is a principle that has been shown to increase conversion rates.
Heuristics are not universal, but they rely on psychological principles that usually contribute to better outcomes on your website.
Nielsen’s famous set of 10 usability heuristics were originally developed for user interface design rather than marketing. To analyse a website’s marketing effectiveness in a systematic way, several heuristic frameworks have been developed in recent years. These include MECLABS Conversion Sequence, Andre Morys’ 7 Levels and MECLABS’ (again) Transparent Marketing for analysing copy.
The goal of these heuristics is to systematically diagnose the inefficiencies in your sales, marketing and conversion process. They act as tools to help identify where to focus our energies when moving through a conversion opportunity.
CRO Is NOT A List Of “Best Practices”
There is a big difference between principles and best practice.
If you’ve spent time on any marketing blog, you’ve likely come across articles on “CRO Best Practice” backed by isolated case-studies. These case studies reflect how making certain standard changes (such as changing the CTA button colour from red to green), lead to dramatic improvements in conversion rates.
The truth is that CRO results are seldom uniform across websites and verticals. Results from one site don’t always apply to another. This is because your business is unique, your website is unique, your value proposition and your audience are unique.
In other words, what works on another website may not work on yours. Instead of making assumptions, it’s better to rely on data to make decisions. The trick is turning data into insights, and insights into action.
CRO: Server-Side Vs. Client-Side Website Changes
Want to make the most amount of money in the shortest amount of time on your website? Consider two-speed optimisation.
In my practice, we conduct deep-dive audits of the website that separate findings into two streams. The first stream is A/B testing. This is where the majority of our insights tend to go. The second stream we call ‘Just Do It’ changes which can be made without A/B testing.
With any robust optimization programme, you’re likely to have a pipeline of A/B tests AND a pipeline of ‘Just Do It’ changes. The big question is “when do you A/B test and when do you ‘Just Do It’?”
For A/B testing, run those tests when you have a data-driven hypothesis that you need to prove or disprove.
For ‘Just Do It’ website changes, implement them when you’ve observed something fundamentally broken with the website, it’s a real no-brainer and it just needs to be fixed. I’m talking about things like broken address lookups, poor filter functionality, device-browser rendering issues, etc., etc.
And finally, bear in mind that those two pipelines to your optimisation program are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact, you should run both streams concurrently. Remember that A/B testing provides the business case to your ‘Just Do It’ changes. It’s like experimenting before you leap.
Let me leave you with this: your A/B testing stream is likely to be BIGGER and you’re ‘Just Do It’ stream. Not only that, but you’re likely to get your biggest conversion wins on the website with AB testing.
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CRO Metrics & KPI-Picking
CRO & Statistics
- “Most Marketers are not much different than shamans” (Georgi Georgiev)
- “Being able to apply statistics is like having a secret superpower” (Evan Miller)
- “Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” (Aaron Levenstein)
✔ Sample Size
✔ One-sided and two-sided tests
✔ Statistical power
✔ Confidence interval
✔ Statistical confidence
✔ Binomial vs non-binomial
Whilst these terms are nuanced and opaque (not to mention dizzying!), it’s critical to have a conceptual understanding. A lack of statistical knowledge drastically increases the likelihood of mis-preparing A/B tests or misinterpreting test results.
A/B test tools are guilty of papering over the cracks when it comes to statistics.
CRO Specialist – What To Look For
A CRO specialist specialises in conversion rate optimisation.
That might sound obvious, but a lot of marketing agencies specialise in search engine optimization, paid search advertising, social media, media buying, etc. and add conversion optimisation as an additional offering. That’s sub-optimal because they are not necessarily conversion optimisation specialists.
Diagonal Thinkers In CRO
CRO is a multidisciplinary process. There is a tension between art and science that involves left-brain and right-brain thinking. On a website, a CRO specialist needs to persuade visitors to take action; at the same time, she must use data to work out the best way to do this.
The “maths men vs mad men” paradigm, so prevalent in digital marketing, is relevant here. But for a CRO consultant, the two personas often combine into one individual. Something the
Customer Empathy In CRO
Remember that conversion rate optimisation is marketing-on-a-website. It’s about knowing the customer so you can talk to them. When you empathise, you DON’T have to ‘sell’ or ‘persuade’. You can simply communicate.
Where does empathy come from? Insight. For CRO specialists, empathetic research is crucial. All with one goal in mind: “what are your customer’s needs, wants and desires?”
A CRO specialist has a methodology – a way of doing things. Life’s easier when you follow established principles!
Many businesses that offer CRO services have their own IP or unique methodology. However, if you look at them from a macro perspective, common patterns start to emerge:
- Measurement (data). Identifying problems based on business, marketing or conversion goals.
- Analysis (insights). Developing hypotheses from collected data (qualitative and quantitative) to solve these problems.
- Change (action). Creating and testing page variants based on the above hypotheses (may involve A/B testing).
At Host Digital, I use The Conversion Velocity Formula. It’s a structured process for optimising websites to increase online profits. It’s the 3-point framework and conceptually it’s very simple.
CRO Knowledge & Experience
In the same way that a doctor doesn’t apply the entirety of their medical knowledge to every single patient, a CRO consultant doesn’t need to apply every tool, research technique and heuristic to every website.
Using everything at his disposal might be a waste of your time and money.
A specialist can get right to the heart of the issue and pick the right weapon from his arsenal, so that the approach is customised to your specific conversion issues. Does he need to deploy some user tests? How about session replay recording? Google Analytics or Form Analytics? And so on.
Accordingly, a CRO consultant can use your existing web tools proficiently (e.g. HotJar, Visual Web Optimizer, etc.) or make recommendations to plug any data gaps to support the optimisation programme.
CRO Prioritisation Framework
Every company interested in CRO wants the same thing: to make the most amount of money in the shortest possible time. This is why prioritisation is so important.
CRO prioritisation is a balance between business impact (money) and time to market. Your consultant will develop a prioritisation roadmap based on the money-time opportunity.
Using a prioritisation framework that focuses on financial return and time-to-market turns a subjectives process into an objective one. I have written about leveraging prioritisation frameworks to increase the profitability of conversion optimisation programmes here
In this way, it’s often possible to get some easier, quicker wins at the beginning of the optimisation programme which can build momentum and stakeholder buy-in.
Conversion Optimisation Agency Vs Consultant
I have already mentioned that specialists use a proven methodology to systematise success. Whilst the exact methodology varies depending on who you talk to, there are core processes that a robust conversion rate optimisation programme will adopt:
✔ UX Research
✔ Build / Dev / Quality Assurance
✔ Hypothesis Generation
The main difference between a CRO agency and a CRO consultant is that an agency will separate these processes into different roles. Here is a potential breakdown of roles in a CRO agency:
|Conversion Consultant||Generating test hypotheses, creating the optimisation roadmap, applying statistics (KPI-setting, test duration, sample size, etc.), project management.|
|Web analyst||Implementing/fixing Google Analytics, analysing quantitative data, creating insight-led reports|
|UX researcher||Executing and analysing UX research activities, such as user testing, card sorting, surveys and interviews|
|Designer||Developing wireframes and designs|
|Developer||Coding split-tests using A/B test tools, setting up goals, technical quality assurance and launch|
There is no right or wrong way to split the agency workload, this is just an example.
The difference for a CRO consultant is that he will likely execute several of these requirements himself. Depending on his skillset, he may be able to do all of them or some of them.
Clearly, where separation of tasks occurs between individuals, it’s important that there is strong knowledge-sharing and collaboration. This is particularly the case when combining data from multiple sources, and translating insights into website solutions.
Therefore, if working with a CRO agency, a key question to ask is who you will be dealing with on a day-to-day basis and how their role fits into the overall responsibilities. It might also be beneficial to ask what measures the agency takes to ensure the efficiency of knowledge-sharing from one individual to another.