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Conversion rate optimization (CRO)

Sep 30, 2022

What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of increasing the percentage of website visitors who take a desired action or conversion goal. That desired action could be a purchase, a free trial sign up, a demo request, a content download, or even just spending more time on a specific page. Because online audiences (and marketing spending) can be so large, relatively small improvements in conversion rates can sometimes produce significant impacts on business performance and financial outcomes. In fact, CRO can be one of the highest ROI activities in a marketer's toolkit and can dramatically impact successful customer acquisition through refinements in the conversion funnel.

While website conversion rate optimization relies heavily on analytics and statistical approaches to decision making, CRO is fundamentally about consumer insight and understanding prospective buyers - something that creative marketers are uniquely positioned and qualified to do. Conversion-obsessed marketers use an array of tools - web analytics, heatmaps, session recordings, surveys, user experience testing & customer interviews - to understand how and why consumers behave in the ways that they do.

Using this research, optimization experts develop a list of hypotheses on what may cause web users to change their behavior and complete the conversion goal more often. Then, borrowing from the tradition of scientific research, marketers test each hypothesis in a statistical A/B test using A/B testing software to randomly deliver different versions of a web page to individual users while measuring the results. Soon the level of complexity rose and marketers were embracing multivariate testing, which involved multiple iterations of several different content variations in a single experiment. Eventually marketers would also target specific content to unique, identifiable audience segments through a technique called "Personalization." But all of these different approaches were focused on refining the conversion funnel and delivering more value for the traffic on a company's website.

By methodically testing each hypothesis and incorporating winning iterations into the overall web design, a website's conversion rate will rise over time, increasing the value of the website traffic for the business.

The Importance of Conversion Rate Optimization

Marketers today invest a tremendous amount of money and resources into driving traffic to their websites. By making sometimes minor changes to their landing page, marketers can improve conversion rates and the revenue that flows from those additional conversions, resulting in greater returns on the initial marketing investments.

Companies with high converting website conversion rates stand at a competitive advantage to their competitors with lower conversion rates. Because the firm is able to produce a more profitable return on their marketing investments, the company is then able to reinvest more of those profits back into customer acquisition, producing even more returns and a virtuous cycle of growth continues. This is especially true in cases where paid advertising is a main driver of website traffic and improving efficiency is an imperative.

One point to note, conversions are the lifeblood of any online business, though how they are defined and measured differ from industry to industry. An online ecommerce site might define a conversion as an order or sale. A B2B technology company might define a conversion as a form fill for a white paper download which generates a sales lead. While the process in each of these industries is different, the importance of generating conversions is the same.

The Building Blocks of Successful CRO – What to Test

In a recent research from Forrester and SiriusDecisions, they define three key patterns that digital marketers must follow for website and conversion rate optimization success in today’s online environment.

  1. Attract – marketers must capture and direct the user’s attention. Evaluate the content on your own site by type:
  2. Visuals – imagery, color, overall design, and emotional resonance. How these visual components are presented to the site visitor can determine whether they leave or convert.
  3. Copy – headlines and body copy that connect the site visitor to your value proposition. Refining your story is critical to earning your next customer.
  4. Calls to Action – a cta button, banners, links, and other similar calls to action move the user through the intended customer journey. How you choose and frame an offer can make all the difference between success and failure.
  5. Usability and User Experience – unifying the previous elements in an experience that is pleasant for the site visitor helps improve the website.
  6. Engage – your website, as an important representation of your company or brand, must build trust with your audience. By aligning content to a user’s intent or goal for visiting a website, smart marketers build credibility. This helps facilitate future visits, purchase decisions, and long-term loyalty. The components that are put to work here include:
  7. Navigation – site visitors can move throughout the site content smoothly with clear navigation that facilitates this process.
  8. In-depth Content – site content should demonstrate expertise relative to the company’s value proposition.  It should also be consumable in different formats – such as text, video, etc. – and speak to visitors at various stages of the buying process.
  9. Personalization – those sites that speak to the unique needs or pain points of the website visitor will resonate more with prospects and potential customers.
  10. Convert – While there's a lot that goes into a quality conversion, building a deep understanding of consumers and what motivates them is critical. Psychological approaches, such as social proof, expertise & authority, also play an important role in the CRO strategy.
  • Offering Alignment – aligning the user experience with the site, product, or sales offering is critical. Content delivered along a “buyer’s journey” is an example of offering alignment.
  • Decision Justification – leverage confirmation bias and micro-conversions as steps toward a larger goal.
  • Paths to Conversion – Some people convert faster than others and thus need a different route to conversion. Explore content formats and purchase paths customized to industry or persona.

Traditional A/B Testing – Is there Time to Manage the Complexity?

In the early days of digital marketing, A/B testing emerged as a winning solution to provide a definitive answer to a simple question - this one or that one? The statistical and scientific rigor of the process reinforced the credibility of data-driven decision making, and online content was forever changed for the better. Testing one landing page iteration against another landing page iteration was and is the foundation of conversion rate optimization today.

However, A/B testing software soon emerged to simplify the work of tracking experiments, measuring performance, and testing statistical significance, leading to a second revolution on the timeline of conversion rate optimization. For a new generation of digital marketers, it was now possible (and easy) to create variations, launch an experiment and report on the results.

But the complexity of managing an online optimization program has grown exponentially as the internet has grown and as the way we experience online content has evolved. Today, growth and experimentation-focused marketers must be cognizant not only of sample sizes and confidence intervals, but also multivariate experimentation, bayesian vs. frequentist approaches, cohort performance, test velocity, win rate, and experimental capacity. All while optimizing over dozens, if not hundreds, of pages & products, ensuring that no one experiment confounds the results of another and tracking the results of each one.

It is in part due to this complexity that A/B testing has struggled to reach widespread adoption in the industry, though A/B testing software is widely available and even free now. While some firms have embraced the mantra of experimentation, other conversion optimization managers note challenges like organizational alignment, conflicts with experimental mindset and time to impact.

Despite these challenges, industry titans, like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and others, highlight experimentation and optimization as foundational elements not only of their online experience but also of their competitive strategy.

With the rise of new technologies, like machine learning & AI, teams from the world's leading companies have developed a new suite of tools to address the challenges of website optimization, leading to a third revolution in the timeline of website optimization - and turning skeptics into believers with some head turning results.

Intelligent Website Optimization Delivers Faster Results

The third revolution in conversion optimization is now available to the world’s most conversion-obsessed marketers. Intellimize has introduced artificial intelligence and machine learning into the conversion optimization dynamic, outperforming traditional A/B testing and personalization, and delivering better results, faster.

Intellimize uses machine learning to deliver a uniquely crafted web page to each and every visitor, assembled from the dozens or hundreds of variations envisioned by insightful marketers. Using powerful algorithms, Intellimize selects each specific element of content based on all of the available known data – including the user's behavior.

Then Intellimize beautifully presents the best version of your website to each visitor, delivering a world-class experience for them – and game changing results for you.

Intellimize CRO in Action

Conversion rate optimization can make or break a website’s, and even a company’s, success. With Intellimize’s intelligent website optimization, you can transform your website into a conversion machine that drives results 25X faster than traditional A/B testing. Here are some case studies on how Intellimize has worked for other marketers:

  • B2B – See how Drift tried out 25,000 different variations of one of their landing pages, and ended up seeing a 322% improvement, driving higher-quality leads and more sales.
  • B2C eCommerce – See how Dermalogica leveraged Intellimize to test over 450 variations on their website, increase revenue, and grow their business across 6 global markets.

Recommended Resources – Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Here are some additional resources on how you can elevate your CRO efforts: