Why Local Optimization Goals Are Winners

Web optimization goals

When we started Intellimize, we thought that optimizing for our customers’ ultimate goals would be the best way to achieve the business outcomes they were seeking. This is common wisdom and often practiced when buying ads. When it comes to websites, we were wrong! We discovered some non-obvious things along the way. It turns out that focusing on nearby goals and optimizing every step in the funnel typically works better. Now we recommend local optimization rather than optimization for an end goal several steps away in the buyer journey. This is counterintuitive and many would say it’s incorrect. Let me share why we generally think it’s the right approach.

 

The case for local web conversion optimization

To explain, let’s consider an extreme example. Assume you have a 10 step signup flow for a trial offer. Let’s say you choose to optimize the CTA (call to action) wording on your landing page at the start of the 10 step flow. Common wisdom would say that you should optimize for the signup that happens 9 steps later in the flow. This is just what we did with many customers early on at Intellimize.

However, we found that CTAs that we thought would perform well performed poorly, while CTAs we thought would perform poorly performed well. And then the performance flipped. There was a seemingly never-ending series of inexplicable ups and downs in conversion rates.

Why? After a lot of digging through data, we have come to believe that this happens because there is not actually a meaningful correlation between a few changed words on step 1 and a signup on step 10. There are many interim steps in between, and what happens on those steps often matters more to reaching the ultimate conversion than what happened on the first step. Maybe one step requires entering a credit card number and another step requires entering sensitive information. The uncomfortable reality is that often these interim steps would have more of an impact on whether or not a prospect makes it through to successfully sign up for a trial than the words on the first page.

While this may sound extreme, we routinely have customers who want to do just this – change a word or image and optimize for a conversion many steps later. This is common wisdom, but our experience showed that it’s wrong.

So what should we do instead?

In most of our client engagements, we optimize each step to get to the next step – and we optimize every single step in the funnel, from beginning to end.

We recognize that the goal of that CTA wording, for example, is to get the prospect to take the next step in the funnel. CTA wording that gets more visitors moving forward in the funnel is a good thing. Once a prospect is in the flow, we will optimize each successive step to get the right people all the way through to trial signup.

“But wait a minute”, you might say. “Isn’t this just pushing a bubble of people that would’ve dropped out anyway to the next step?” This is a risk, if you only optimized one step. You might inadvertently “click bait” prospects, effectively pushing uninterested folks one step further in to the funnel when, in fact, they were going to abandon on the first page.

However, if you optimize every step in the funnel and measure progress against a holdback (aka control) group that doesn’t get an optimized experience, you can tune the impact of the stepwise optimizations and improve the final result. You can move prospects through the entire funnel.

When taking this approach, we also suggest measuring from beginning to end to see the cumulative impact of each step’s optimization. This end-to-end measurement is measuring the business results you seek while optimizing each step individually.

Coming back to our example: typically, a few words on the homepage don’t actually get a prospect to a successful trial signup, unless the signup is on that page or the next page. What those few words on the homepage actually do is get that prospect to the next step in the funnel. Now on that next step, you should optimize and create the right experiences to get to that prospect to move forward to the next step. And so on.

This counter-intuitive approach was not obvious to us when we started. We learned by analyzing thousands of campaigns and seeing that this step-by-step approach drove better outcomes with more predictability than the common wisdom approach of optimizing for the ultimate outcome.

 

 

Don’t we optimize online ads for the end result?

I’m sure that some readers will think this feels all wrong and counter to what they’ve learned over the years. If that’s you, I wouldn’t be surprised if you have a background in digital advertising, where conventional wisdom also says to optimize for the end result. For digital ads, we agree! There are two key differences between optimizing digital ads and optimizing website experiences.

First, with ads, there is a direct connection between how much you’re paying and what you’re optimizing. You may be throwing money away if you only optimize for the initial click on the ad, rather than optimizing for prospects that ultimately become a customer. It can get very expensive if most prospects click on your ad and few convert on your website. Shifting from paying per impression (CPM) to paying per click (CPC) to paying per acquisition (CPA) moves more of the risk from you, the marketer, to the publisher or intermediaries. Optimizing for the end goal often saves you money when done well.

The second difference is that ads can only optimize to get a prospect to a website landing page. Ads cannot also optimize subsequent steps through to conversion (trial signup in our example above) because ads aren’t running on the marketer’s own website. So if there is a bubble of poorly qualified traffic, ad optimization can’t do anything about it once the prospect has reached your website.

These differences are why we agree that optimizing for the end goal can often save you money with ads.

 

How to have your cake and eat it too

If you have a system that can simultaneously optimize for multiple goals (Intellimize is one such system), you can have your cake and eat it too.

When our customer’s organization is deeply focused on downstream goals, we help them by optimizing for both at once. We encourage our customers to put more importance on the local goal and less importance on the downstream goal.

The further away the downstream goal, the lower the importance we suggest on optimizing for it. Why? You guessed it. When the downstream goal is further away, there is less actual correlation between what happens in this step of the funnel and the ultimate downstream conversion.

You need a system that can optimize for multiple goals with different values in order to make this work well because different goals are worth different amounts to us as marketers.

 

Next steps

As you are working to optimize your website and landing pages, take a close look at the optimization goals that you’ve selected. If the goals are further down the funnel and away from the page being optimized, we recommend testing new, local optimization goals at each step of the funnel to try to improve the performance toward your overall optimization objective. This approach has worked quite well for us, and we’re confident that it will for you also. Please let us know how it goes!

 

To find out more about driving revenue through web conversion optimization, contact us by clicking on the “Request Demo” button on our website. We’ll share specific examples of which optimization ideas are working right now in your industry.

Video: Which is better for me? A/B testing, rules-based personalization, or predictive personalization?

In this video, Intellimize CEO Guy Yalif explains the core differences between 3 methods of website optimization: A/B testing, rules-based personalization, and machine learning predictive personalization.
 

 

As you think about which method to implement to drive conversion rate lift, consider the following questions:

  • Is my audience all the same?
  • How many tests do I do in a week?
  • Do I know when visitor behaviors change on my website?
  • Am I able to deliver the right experience to each individual visitor at the right time?

 

To learn more about how Intellimize can help your marketing team with website optimization efforts, simply click on the “Request Demo” button on our website.

Covid’s Impact On Doing Business Online: March through May

Coronavirus Pandemic Impact

Shelter-in-place orders related to the covid virus stretched on through May in much of the world, and the dynamics of online business continued to change. We haven’t yet reached a stable “new normal,” and with restrictions expected to lift or loosen through the Summer, we anticipate more change ahead for digital behavior and online conversion rates.

Since most covid related lockdowns began in mid March, we’ve seen web traffic marching ever upward and conversion rates move fairly steadily lower. While more traffic typically leads to lower conversion rates, the intensity of these changes were not easily predicted. In the rest of this blog, we’ll look at this trend through different lenses. We hope this original data provides helpful insights to your business.

One procedural note: The data is aggregated across Intellimize customers, and we’re using the first half of March as a baseline for comparison since most lockdowns started in mid March. Also, when we measure conversion rate, we are using each company’s own definition of the website action(s) that are important to that company.

 

People are online more and more

Looking at the chart below, one can’t help but wonder, “How long can this traffic growth continue?” We wondered the same thing a month ago. We continue to see significant growth in online traffic. Though we once thought 18% and 34% were big jumps compared to the first half of March, overall web traffic is now up by 116%. We’re curious to see how behavior changes in the weeks to come as lockdowns begin to ease. We believe that web traffic will eventually stabilize higher than it was pre-covid.

Web traffic (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Online Traffic Growth

 

Conversion rates continue to drop as traffic rises

When traffic goes up, additional visitors are typically not as highly qualified, so conversion rates typically go down. Lower conversion rates is what we see across our customers. Importantly, the traffic gains are larger than the conversion rate drops, so these changes in behavior are net gains for businesses.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Low Conversion Rates

 

Websites need to be dynamic

The initial weeks of shelter-in-place were a shock to many businesses as human behavior changed rapidly. Perhaps not surprisingly, many existing messaging, content, and experiences were not as effective as they had been before the lockdown.

Pre-existing base websites significantly underperformed dynamically personalized web experiences. Over the weeks since lockdown began, websites that automatically adjusted to changes in visitor behavior saw a 23% to 78% reduction in the conversion rate drop.

This effect was most pronounced in the initial weeks following the change, and remains meaningful. We suspect that at least part of the decreasing benefit is due to static websites being updated during the crisis to better reflect current customer behavior.

For anyone who believes that website visitor behavior will continue to change, the message seems clear: develop capabilities that allow your business to adapt quickly to change.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Dynamically Personalized Website

 

Digital-only businesses’ maintain better conversion rates

While overall conversion rates have dropped quite a bit since mid March, the impact has been notably uneven.

Digital-only businesses, built to live or die online, have seen far better conversion rate impacts than brick-and-mortar connected businesses. Even with traffic continually increasing, these businesses have increased conversion rates, an uncommon double win. Over the last month, the scale of this conversion rate increase has fallen back toward the pre-covid starting point. Perhaps this was inevitable as traffic growth remains remarkably strong.

Brick-and-mortar connected businesses have seen significant conversion rate declines: 81% lower over the month of May compared to the first half of March. We hope to see this metric improve as these companies adjust in this dynamic environment and as shelter-in-place rules are loosened in the months ahead.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Insights for Digital-only Businesses

 

Conversion rate impact remains lumpy by industry

The changes in behavior driven by the current environment had very different impacts on different industries. These differences were somewhat stable prior to May, but conversion rate differences have tightened considerably in the last month.

It’s unclear why we’ve observed this shift. One hypothesis about the B2B shift is that while businesses initially sought out solutions to help in the new environment, they have now shifted toward implementing the new programs and solutions that were planned early in the crisis.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Industry Conversion Rates

 

Marketers investing in email and paid search

The rise in traffic from email continues be top other channels and is now 4x pre-covid levels. Marketers appear to be investing heavily in email, with paid search a distant second.

Web traffic (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Paid Search & Email Marketing

 

Organic search conversion rates impacted least

Organic search, along with direct navigation traffic, continue to show the smallest drops in conversion rates relative to other channels. This isn’t a surprise, since in each of these cases, the visitors were actively looking to find our customers’ websites. Organic social has experienced the greatest drop in conversion rate, down 66% since early March.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Organic Search Conversion Rates

 

Mobile traffic is soaring

As people are online a lot more, tablet and phone traffic have increased the most: 167% and 137% respectively, in the second half of May vs the first half of March. Desktop traffic continues to rise as well, albeit at a slower pace.

Web traffic (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Mobile Device Traffic

 

Desktop conversion rates least impacted

Perhaps not surprisingly, since desktop traffic has grown the least, desktop conversion rates have fallen the least. We will watch to see if these rates converge in the future across all three platforms, or if desktop maintains its conversion rate edge.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Desktop Conversion Rates

 

Traffic up throughout the day

We continue to be online more, all day long. We had actually hypothesized that we would see increased activity during the day as in person meetings and events moved online, but this didn’t translate into increased traffic on our customers’ websites during those periods.

Web traffic (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Hourly Conversion Rates

 

Early evening conversion rates down the most

While we didn’t find differences in traffic changes across different times of the day, we did see conversion rates for early evening (5 PM to 8 PM) down the most compared to the first half of March. This may be due to people browsing for entertainment rather than with intent in the early evening hours.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Evening Conversion Rates

 

Weekend traffic surged recently

Until the second half of May, weekday traffic grew more than weekend traffic. This relationship flipped when weekend traffic surged from a 52% increase to a 144% increase over the last two weeks. We can speculate that as the lockdown lingers, many people are shifting more weekend activities online, and we’ll look to future weeks to tell us if this was just a blip or a permanent change.

Web traffic (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Weekend Traffic Insights

 

Conversion rates have dipped throughout the week

Weekend and weekday conversion rate changes have moved closely together since the second half of April, both reaching their greatest drops of -33% and -35% in the second half of May. This is surprising, given the dramatic surge in weekend traffic. We would have expected weekend conversion to fall by a greater percentage than weekday traffic in the last couple of weeks.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Weekday Web Traffic

 

West coast traffic not growing as much

The west coast continues to spend more time online – but less so than any other part of the US. People in Mountain Time have increased their time online substantially. Some suggest that the West coast was already online more and so has less room to grow – or that those on the west cost are finding other ways to spend time. We don’t have data on either hypothesis.

Web traffic (change since first half Mar ‘20)

West Coast Traffic Insights

 

West coast conversion rates not down as much

Not surprisingly, west coast conversion rates have dropped the least since west coast traffic grew the least. However, the Mountain zone has shown the greatest relative gains with their combination of their highest traffic gains coupled with the second lowest conversion rate decrease.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

West Coast Conversion Rates

 

Safari traffic growing more rapidly

Safari users have grown their online traffic more than Firefox, Chrome, or IE/Edge. With Android traffic up almost 50 percentage points more than iOS and MacOS barely ahead of Windows, this is a surprise, and a trend to continue watching.

Web traffic (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Safari Browser Traffic

 

Conversion rates varying significantly by browser

As expected, with Safari traffic increasing the most, Safari conversion rates have decreased the most, down -35% relative to early March. The other browsers’ conversion rates have converged during May and ended the month with -21% to -25% drops.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Web Browsers Conversion Rates

 

 

Over the last two months, we have published a series of posts that share the impact Covid has had on our customers’ digital businesses from the unique vantage point of seeing traffic and conversions on those sites.

We see digital behavior changing rapidly as quarantines have shifted. The changes in behavior accelerated in May, to our surprise. We hope this data helps you make better decisions on digital strategies that best support your business during these times of rapid change.

The biggest lesson for us has been that change keeps coming, and the companies that adapt rapidly to changes in digital behavior have a competitive advantage as they engage and convert their prospects.

Video: Prioritizing what to optimize on your website

Website Optimization

Before moving forward with a personalization plan, many marketers wonder: Where should I begin when optimizing my website?

In this video, Intellimize CEO Guy Yalif walks through several steps to help marketers determine how to prioritize what they personalize on their website, and discusses strategies for where they should focus their efforts.

Throughout the video, you will learn what to optimize on your website:

  • Creating a website optimization plan around the metrics that move your business
  • Prioritizing those places in the funnel that affect those metrics, and that have big drop-offs in engagement
  • Considering where your prospects and customers are in their lifecycle so that you can meet them with the right context
  • Figuring out what you want to optimize for: speed of iteration or long-term conversion
  • Optimizing for metrics that are measurable today
  • Optimizing for behaviors that are close to the tests you’re running

 

To learn more about how Intellimize can help your marketing team with website optimization efforts, simply click on the “Request Demo” button on our website.

Video guide: Product and content recommendations

Content Personalization

If you’re just getting started with personalization, you might be wondering what types of product and/or content recommendations might help you with your marketing team’s web optimization strategy.

To learn more about these approaches and practical ways to apply them to your digital marketing strategy, watch the video below.

There are several reasons why marketers want to share product and content recommendations. They might want to ensure that visitors are seeing more ads, moving further through the sales funnel, or giving marketers some information about them in return.

Marketers might do this through a number or ways, including:

  • Frequency: Using the frequency of relevant activity to drive what you show a prospect. Examples include: visited a category more than X times, frequently visited categories, or viewed a product more than X times.
  • Recency: You might also use recent behavior to help you determine what to show a prospect. Some common examples of this include: showing recently viewed items, showing recently purchased or downloaded items, or showing recently viewed categories.
  • Popularity: Using recent purchases, votes, or positive signals to increase popularity. Older purchases, votes or positive signals count for less than recent ones.

 

For more an even deeper look into advanced product and content recommendations, check out techniques that delve into user-based, item-based, and content-based recommendations, as well as collaborative filtering, in the video below.

Covid’s Impact On Online Business: Insights and Trends

We’re excited to share our latest data on the impact of covid on prospect behavior as seen through the lens of web traffic and conversion rates. We see intuitive changes, like web traffic rising sharply, and non-intuitive changes, like digital-only businesses doing better than digital businesses with a brick and mortar tie in. We see the performance of static websites dropping precipitously and the impact of reacting to your prospects’ changing world blunting that drop materially. We hope you’ll find the trends as interesting as we do, and we hope the data is helpful to you as you manage your business.

A brief bit of context: When we talk about conversion rates, we mean visitors to a company’s website taking the one (or multiple) actions that are defined as important by that company. It’s their own definition. Additionally, all of our comparisons below will use the first half of March as a baseline because most covid related lockdowns began in mid March.

 

People are online more and more

Across all of our customers, traffic is up significantly post-covid, and this trend continues to build. Overall traffic is now up 54% compared to the first half of March.

Web traffic (change since first half Mar ‘20)

As so often happens when traffic goes up, you get less qualified traffic and conversion rates go down, and that is exactly what we’re seeing across our customers

 

Conversion rates remain lower as traffic rises

Conversion rates have stabilized, albeit 15% lower than the first half of March.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Importantly, the net result remains positive for these businesses since the growth in traffic more than offsets the decrease in conversion rates. However, the effect is far from uniform.

 

Mobile Traffic Soaring

We are spending more time on our phones. A lot more time. Mobile phone usage is up 65% compared to the first half of March, and tablets are up 63%. Desktop usage is up too (40%), but we seem more glued than ever to our mobile devices… and the trend is accelerating, with mobile usage growth picking up steam while desktop growth tapering off.

Web traffic (change since first half Mar ‘20)

 

Desktop conversion rates increasing

However, desktop traffic has performed far better than mobile on conversion rates, more than offsetting the difference in traffic growth. We can speculate that we are entertaining ourselves and browsing more to kill the time on our phones while taking more directed action when we sit down to work on a desktop.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

 

Marketers investing in email and paid search

Marketers appear to be investing heavily in email as the increase in website traffic coming from emails is 240%, far greater than the increase in any other source of website traffic. Marketers appear to continue investing in paid search and are enjoying the benefits of their organic search optimization as both source of traffic are up materially since early March as well.

Web traffic (change since first half Mar ‘20)

 

Organic search conversion rates remain strong

Organic search and direct navigation traffic, when a visitor types in your URL directly into the browser, are showing stronger conversion rates compared to other traffic sources. Visitors from these traffic sources often have the greatest intent, so their relative performance is not surprising.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

 

Traffic up throughout the day

We were surprised, however, to find traffic up roughly equally throughout the day. We hypothesized that website traffic would be up materially during the day as in person meetings were replaced. Another theory was that traffic would explode during the evening and weekends as we all sought more leisure time online. Instead, we are all increasing our time online throughout the day, roughly evenly.

Web traffic (change since first half Mar ‘20)

 

Early evening conversion rates down the most

Despite the even growth in website traffic throughout the day, early evening has seen the biggest drop in conversion rates. We believe this is due to an increase in browsing online for entertainment, with lower purchase intent, in the evening.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

 

We’re online a lot more during the week

Because we already had more leisure time before covid on the weekend, we were not surprised to see weekday website traffic up materially more than weekend. Our hypothesis is that many of us are online virtually all the time now, and weekday time online was simply catching up to weekend time online.

Web traffic (change since first half Mar ‘20)

 

Conversion rates are slightly better on weekdays

Despite the significant increase in weekday website traffic, conversion rates on weekdays have gone down less than on weekends. So we are spending more time online and converting more on weekdays. That’s a significant shift in behavior.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

 

West coast traffic not growing as much

Looking across the US, we were surprised to discover that the increase in website traffic from the west coast is less than the rest of the country. Perhaps the west coast was already online more? Or perhaps the west coast is finding other ways to spend time? If you have ideas or data about why, please engage with us and let us know.

Web traffic (change since first half Mar ‘20)

 

West coast conversion rates not down as much

Since the west coast traffic increased less, it is not surprising that west coast conversion rates decreased the least. Why? Just as we saw with overall global traffic, more traffic typically brings in less qualified visitors and lowers conversion rates.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

 

Safari traffic growing rapidly

We also saw that web traffic from Safari is increasing more than Chrome, Firefox, or IE/Edge. We hypothesized this had to do with more iOS traffic since mobile traffic is up more, but when we looked at the data, iOS and Android traffic are up similarly. Perhaps this signal is temporary noise or perhaps there is some other dynamic that we’re missing.

Web traffic (change since first half Mar ‘20)

 

Conversion rates varying significantly by browser

Not surprisingly, as Safari traffic has increased the most, Safari conversion rates have decreased the most. In the second half of April, Chrome’s conversion rate change was the best among all major browsers.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

 

Conversion rate impact remains lumpy by industry

When we look at how conversion rates have changed pre- and post-covid by industry, the results vary a lot, and those differences are remaining relatively consistent as the crisis continues.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

B2C SaaS continues to have the largest increases in conversion rates. This category is heavily weighted to “stay at home” B2C SaaS offerings, like personal video conferencing and online education.

B2B conversion rates are also up, though the increase has moderated since the initial surge. We hypothesize that the increase may be reflective of the many businesses that are actively seeking solutions to help them perform during these difficult market conditions.

 

Digital-only businesses’ conversion rates remain strong

At a time when so many people are at home with strong incentives to buy online, we were surprised to see data showing ecommerce conversion rates falling. As we dug deeper, we found a major difference between conversion rates of digital-only and brick-and-mortar connected businesses, which has continued since mid March.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Businesses that have been digital-only from the start are seeing 26% higher conversion rates that have trended upwards, even as traffic continued to rise. Traffic going up typically means conversion rates go down, so this is a surprisingly strong signal.

The businesses that are tied to in-person activities saw conversion rates drop significantly, and the conversion rates are staying down. In a time when in-person engagement isn’t possible, engaging prospects differently is proving to be a critical capability.

 

Base websites need updating

We’re seeing the importance of engaging prospects differently born out in other data as well. What worked on our websites just a few short weeks ago isn’t working nearly as well now.

As we described at the start of this blog post, overall global conversion rates continue to drop as traffic rises. That same data is the yellow line in the chart immediately below.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

We discovered a big difference, though, when comparing performance changes in pre-existing websites vs. the conversion rate changes on those same websites for visitors presented with a dynamically personalized experience.

Adjusting to changes in visitor behavior blunted the drop in conversion rates: this chart shows the conversion rate dip to be consistently 55% to 78% better. As prospects behavior rapidly changes, a lot of existing messaging, experiences, and content are not nearly as effective as they had been before covid.

This data reinforces that marketers must be nimble, especially so when the world is changing rapidly. We can increase experimentation to learn what really works now, and adapt our online engagement tactics as we learn. To effectively counteract the overall decline in conversion rates on websites, we believe that this approach must be baked into your ongoing marketing strategy.

 

One month ago, we published An Early Look At Covid’s Impact On Doing Business Online to share the impact Covid has had on our customers’ digital businesses, and two weeks ago, we published UPDATE: Another Look At Covid’s Impact On Doing Business Online.

We hope these ongoing updates through the first months of a covid-impacted world continue to be helpful as you consider where to drive your business during shelter in place. We invite you to believe, as we do, that prospect behavior is always changing, even more rapidly now, and that your prospect engagement should change with it. Finding the right way to engage will help each of our businesses weather this difficult environment better.

UPDATE: Another Look At Covid’s Impact On Doing Business Online

Two weeks ago, we published An Early Look At Covid’s Impact On Doing Business Online to share the impact Covid has had on our customers’ digital businesses.

We’ve updated the observations to now also cover the first half of April. We are continuing to use the first half of March as our baseline for comparison because this is before most lockdowns began in mid-March.

Overall, we see that the initial shifts in online behavior have continued and, in most cases, deepened. Let’s take a look at the details.

 

People are online more and more

Across all of our customers, traffic is up significantly post-covid, and this trend is increasing rapidly. Traffic was up by 18% in the first two weeks of lockdown, and is now up 34% in the second two weeks.

Web traffic (change since first half Mar ‘20)

As so often happens when traffic goes up, you get less qualified traffic and conversion rates go down, and that is exactly what we’re seeing across our customers

 

Conversion rates continue to drop as traffic rises

Conversion rates in the second half of March are 11% lower than the first half of March, and in the first half of April, they’re down even further to 19% below the first half of March. Conversion, in this context, is defined as the online action or actions that our customers said are important to their businesses.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Importantly, the net result remains positive since the growth in traffic more than offsets the decrease in conversion rates. However, the effect is far from uniform.

 

Conversion rate impact remains lumpy

When we look at how conversion rates have changed pre- and post-covid by industry, the results vary quite a bit.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

We still see B2C SaaS continues to have the largest increases in conversion rates. This category is heavily weighted to “stay at home” B2C SaaS offerings, like personal video conferencing and education.

B2B conversion rates are also up, but the increase has dipped back closer to the baseline. Two weeks ago, we guessed that B2B buyers have more time at home and are more open to potential solutions. Perhaps that hypothesis was off, or perhaps that free time has dried up as B2B buyers settle in to a new normal. Other B2C conversion rates remain flat’ish.

Both ecommerce and finance conversion rates continue to fall. This didn’t make any more sense to us now than it did two weeks ago, so we dug deeper.

 

Digital-only businesses’ conversion rates remain strong

It didn’t make sense to see data showing ecommerce conversion rates falling when we know that so many more people are at home with strong incentives to buy online. When we dug deeper, we saw a major difference in the conversion rates between digital only and in-person-connected businesses.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Businesses that have been digital only from the start are seeing conversion rates go up and stay up, even as traffic goes up and continues to rise. Traffic going up typically means conversion rates go down, so this is a strong signal.

The businesses that are tied to in person activities are seeing conversion rates go down by a lot, and it’s getting worse. In a time when in person engagement isn’t possible, engaging prospects differently is really important.

In fact, we’re seeing that principle, of adapting to this changed environment, true across the board

 

Base websites need updating

As we described above, conversion rates continue to drop as traffic rises.  That’s shown in the yellow line in the chart below.

Web conversion rates (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Existing messaging and base websites are underperforming this by a wide margin. When we look at those same websites in the portion of traffic that is dynamically personalizing, automatically adjusting to changes in visitor behavior, the dip is 55% to 78% better.

This implies that as prospects behavior rapidly changes, a lot of existing messaging, experiences, and content are not nearly as effective as they had been just a few weeks ago.

The signal we took from this data is that we, as marketers, should adjust our digital engagement with prospects to mirror their rapidly changing behavior. It’s not immediately obvious what new engagement will resonate, so trying out multiple hypotheses quickly seems valuable. We believe this investment is critical given the decline in conversion rates on base websites.

 

Customers are more active, reacting to changes

We see this investment among our customers. They are trying out roughly one third more ideas than they did before covid to adjust to the new behaviors of their prospects.

New tests / ideas being run (change since first half Mar ‘20)

Our customers are actively responding to this rapidly changing environment by testing significantly more new content and online experiences to engage their prospects. As we saw in the previous section, this increased experimentation and dynamic personalization is paying off through better conversion rates.

 

We hope these updated insights from the first month of a post-covid environment continue to be helpful as you consider where to focus to drive your business during shelter in place. We invite you to believe, as we do, that prospect behavior is always changing, even more rapidly now, and that your prospect engagement should change with it. Finding the right way to engage will help each of our businesses weather this difficult environment better.

Video: “Winner take all” testing vs. personalization

Website Personalization

When you’re optimizing websites, it’s important for marketers to understand the different approaches you can take in an effort to drive more revenue and conversions. You can use data to continually improve the experiences that you’re showing on your website.

 

There are generally two ways you can do this: following a “winner take all” approach, or personalizing (either by segment or individual). Here’s a breakdown of each approach:

 

Fork in the road: “Winner take all” vs. personalization

 

Winner take all

This is essentially picking just one experience to show on your website. This is useful when it’s important to have only one experience. For example, you might have one onboarding flow with a specific type of technology vs. another on your website that you want to direct visitors to.

 

Personalization

  • Personalizing by segment: You might want to treat your customer segments differently on your websites. For example, you might want to send enterprise prospects to a website experience optimized for a chat with your sales team compared to lower-value prospects that you want to direct to a self-serve website experience.
  • Personalizing by individual: You take this approach a step further and tune the website experience for each individual website user — this is where machine learning personalization tools like Intellimize are quite helpful.

Because individuals behave differently on your website, we believe it’s important to not treat everyone the same. Perhaps even more importantly, people’s behaviors don’t stay the same on your website over time. Having the ability to tune your website to individual customers in the moment is a key advantage for marketers looking to grow revenue and conversions. Watch the video above to find out more about why we recommend personalization as a key driving force for website optimization.

 

To find out more about how you can apply website personalization to scale at your organization, contact us by clicking on the “Request Demo” button on our website.

‎If You Market Podcast: Practical AI for B2B Marketing

Listen in on this lively conversation with co-hosts Sky Cassidy and Karla Jo Helms as they discuss Marketing AI with Guy Yalif, CEO of Intellimize.

Guy highlights how AI is used to personalize websites, continually learning to dynamically adjust each individual visitors’ experience as the market and behavior changes over time. Guy shares that best practice is to meet each visitor wherever they are in their journey, presenting the appropriate flow and experience whether they are a new visitor, long-time customer, or somewhere in between.

Other topics that are raised in this wide-ranging discussion:

  • Rules-based AI vs. machine learning AI
  • The “right problems” for AI vs. the ones that need to be left to humans
  • Best personalization use cases for AI
  • Staying on the right side of the personalization “line of creepiness”
  • How AI can eliminate a lot of marketer rote work
  • The Terminator (several times, not kidding)

Guy hopes B2B marketers everywhere will learn how AI can help us get more done, deliver more value for our companies, and produce better experiences for our customers.

Check out the full episode on Apple Podcasts and directly on the IfYouMarket site.

Video: Main applications of machine learning in marketing

Machine Learning Personalization

Thanks to advanced algorithms and machine learning, there is a wide range of applications that digital marketers can use to grow their marketing strategies and drive more revenue for their organizations.

 

 

There are many branches in the machine learning tree, but we believe that these are the differences that matter most to marketing practitioners, like demand generation managers and growth marketers. By understanding which algorithms are appropriate for which business problems, marketers can get practical value out of machine learning.

In this video, Intellimize CEO Guy Yalif will walk through several common problems that marketers face, and how machine learning can help solve them.

What is machine learning good at in marketing?

  • Lead scoring
  • Finding the ideal price to sell your products and services
  • Finding the ideal promotional amount to use for your products and services
  • Determining whether or not a person will click on an ad
  • Determining whether or not an email is spam
    Determining what product or content to show on your website
  • Recognizing the content of an image
  • Writing an email subject line
  • Understanding speech
  • Customer segmentation
  • Finding business insights from data
  • Fraud detection or outlier detection
  • Conversion rate optimization
  • Determining a sequence of emails to send to prospects

Each of these common marketing tasks falls under a specific type of branch in the machine learning tree. To find out more about machine learning and how it influences marketing, watch the video above.

 

Personalization is another area where machine learning is making a big impact. To understand how you can apply machine learning at scale to optimize your website for each individual customer with Intellimize, simply click on the Request Demo button on our website.