January 23, 2017 By Nick P - Optimization Architect,

CRO Explained.... a little

There are so many questions about Conversion Rate Optimization, aka. “CRO” these days. I have frequent conversations with marketers from coast to coast on this subject and I’ve come to realize that we have a clear case of misinformation. Who is to blame for this ‘fake news’, you ask? The blame is on all of us actually. I want to point out that while the internet has an enormous amount of information on crafting CRO strategies, a lot of it is less than optimal. My goal in writing this is to facilitate a paradigm shift in the way many marketers view the strategy behind CRO. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy conversing with marketers on the subject (and sounding smart whilst setting the record straight) however I’d like to get to a point where many of these aforementioned conversations pertain to customer theory learning and application as opposed to treatment wins/losses. Let me explain... CRO is more about customer learning and less about winning a specific treatment over another. If you google something like ‘CRO’ or ‘A/B testing’ you will find several articles about these topics, some successful and some not so much.

So what constitutes a failed CRO strategy?

First of all, many marketers do not understand the full level of commitment required to engage and maintain a successful CRO strategy. An easy way to fail is to do what I like to call the ‘winning treatment only’ strategy. This involves creating test variations with the primary goal being to produce a ‘winner’. The main problem surrounding this strategy is that these types of tests are designed around the goal of getting a winning treatment, as opposed to proving or disproving a specific customer theory. This strategy will most-likely provide short-term gains however many companies who use this method fail to see long-term benefits and as a result, acquire a sour taste for CRO.

How does this happen so often?

Decision makers have been exposed to case study after case study of button color and copy changes with big up arrows and large percentages (often relative with no context which makes me chuckle). Marketers are often pressured through terms like ‘ROI’ or ‘Overall Conversions’ to direct CRO departments/agencies down this path and while many agencies attempt to push back, fools still gotta eat.

So what constitutes a successful CRO strategy?

Commitment is the key. Essentially, we need to transform the thought of CRO from a short term boost in conversions or revenue to a long term investment for the future. This investment can permeate through your entire business, not just internet sales. I mean, in what case would you not share valuable customer insights across the business. Creation of a customer theory document that can be shared across departments is a vital component. The successful CRO strategy seeks to prove/disprove customer theories in order to learn what drives customers to complete various activities in-line with the goals of the business. Testing is just one method to uncover these insights. To put it another way, the CRO strategy is focused on validating hypotheses (win or lose) to learn, and less concerned with what the experience will look like in the future from what we learn now. For example, if a test concept proves a hypothesis correct/not correct, we will then take that learning into account when we either design the next treatment or redesign the experience going forward. We will not necessarily always just implement a winning treatment. That conversation will be like, ok now we know xyz about these customers, now let's either advance the learning into a new hypothesis (next in sequence) or design the best experience around that (and other) understanding(s) and the needs of the business. This process could take a couple of winning treatments and a couple of losing treatments to truly understand and design the best experience. My purpose for writing this is not only to answer some common questions that I have been asked by many marketers, but to also help promote the common communication of what CRO is. As a result of all the miscommunication and failed attempts, and regardless of your position or title, we must all promote a paradigm shift in how we approach the strategy behind CRO. I hope this piece sheds some additional light on what constitutes an effective CRO strategy and why it is important to think of CRO not of winning or losing treatments, but as a systematic approach at continuous customer learning and validation. Still have questions? Reach out and say "Hello" we'd be happy to answer any questions you've still got about building a successful CRO strategy, we'll even help you build it!

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