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 pages, 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 website conversion rates stand at an advantage over their competitors with lower conversion rates. Because the firm can produce a more profitable return on its 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 imperative.
One point to note, conversions are the lifeblood of any online business, though how they are defined and measured differs 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 generating 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 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.
Marketers must capture and direct the user’s attention. Evaluate the content on your site by type:
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.
Copy - Headlines and body copy that connect the site visitor to your value proposition. Refining your story is critical to earning your next customer.
Calls to Action (CTA) - 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.
Usability and User Experience (UX) - Unifying the previous elements in an experience that is pleasant for the site visitor helps improve the website.
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:
Navigation - Site visitors can move throughout the site content smoothly with clear navigation that facilitates this process.
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.
Personalization - Those sites that speak to the unique needs or pain points of the website visitor will resonate more with prospects and potential customers.
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, and 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 variation against another was and is the foundation of CRO today.
However, A/B testing software soon arose to simplify the work of tracking experiments, measuring performance, and testing statistical significance, leading to a second revolution in 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.
However, 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 of 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 and 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 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 (ML) and artificial intelligence (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.
AI-Driven Optimization Delivers Faster Results
The third revolution in conversion optimization is now available to the world’s most conversion-obsessed marketers. Intellimize has introduced AI and ML into the conversion optimization dynamic, outperforming traditional A/B testing and personalization, and delivering better results, faster.
Intellimize uses ML 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 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 AI Optimize, 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:
Intellimize for 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.
Intellimize for 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.
Conversion Rate Optimization FAQs
Why is CRO important for businesses?
CRO is essential to businesses because it helps businesses maximize the value of their website traffic. By converting more visitors into customers or leads, businesses can increase revenue and achieve a better return on investment (ROI) from their marketing efforts.
What are some common CRO techniques?
Common CRO techniques include A/B testing, multivariate testing, usability testing, heatmaps, user surveys, and analyzing website analytics data. These methods help identify and address barriers to conversion.
How do you prioritize which elements to optimize for CRO?
Prioritization for CRO involves identifying high-impact areas, such as the checkout process or key landing pages, and focusing on elements that have the greatest potential for improvement. This can be determined through data analysis or user feedback and will vary business-to-business.
What role does UX play in CRO?
UX is crucial to CRO success because a positive user experience can significantly impact conversion rates. A well-designed, user-friendly website is more likely to convert visitors into customers, while a poor UX can drive them away.
Is CRO a one-time effort, or is it an ongoing process?
CRO is an ongoing process. Consumer behavior and market dynamics change over time, so continuous testing and optimization are necessary to maintain and improve conversion rates.
What are some key metrics to track in CRO?
Key CRO metrics include conversion rate, click-through rate (CTR), bounce rate, average session duration, shopping cart abandonment rate, and customer lifetime value (CLTV). These metrics help measure the effectiveness of optimization efforts.
How long does it typically take to see results from CRO efforts?
The time it takes to see results from CRO efforts can vary depending on factors like website traffic, the extent of changes made, the experimentation method, and the industry. Some improvements may yield quick results, while others may take several weeks or months to show a significant impact.
What are some common CRO mistakes to avoid?
Common CRO mistakes include making changes without data-driven insights, neglecting mobile optimization, ignoring the importance of page speed, and failing to consider the entire user journey.
Should I focus on desktop or mobile CRO?
Ideally, you should focus on both. Mobile optimization is increasingly important due to the growing use of smartphones. However, it's essential to assess your audience's preferences and prioritize the platform that receives the most traffic.
How do I create effective CRO hypotheses?
Effective CRO hypotheses are based on data, research, and a clear understanding of your audience. Start by identifying problems or opportunities, propose solutions, and then validate them through testing.
What is the role of data in CRO?
Data plays a central role in CRO. It helps toidentify user behavior patterns, track conversions, measure the impact of changes, and make informed decisions about optimizing your website.
Recommended Resources – Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
Here are some additional resources on how you can elevate your CRO efforts:
- Webinar: Strategies for Driving More Leads & Revenue: A CRO Fireside Chat
- Blog: Words Matter: How to Write Effective Copy for Better Conversions
- Webinar: Web Conversion Tactics That Work Right Now
- Blog: The Beginner's Guide to Landing Page Conversion Optimization (Part 1 of 2)
- Blog: The Beginner's Guide to Landing Page Conversion Optimization (Part 2 of 2)