5 common mistakes brands make with Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)
Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is the process of testing a range of experiences to find which combination provides the best results. These results are usually related to increasing positive user actions such as newsletter sign-ups, memberships or donations, and improving site engagement, for example turning visitors into leads and leads into sales.Having worked with numerous brands as they introduce CRO into their marketing mix, I have identified five common mistakes:Mistake 1: Shallow experimentationMany brands start experimentation by testing a single idea within a specific category. In most cases if this single idea fails, they generally discredit all ideas within the category.For example, we had a client who, prior to working with us, wanted to see what the addition of testimonials would do to conversions. They did a basic star rating and sent the test live. Most people assume testimonials work, so when the test lost the client decided that their customers didn’t value them. But the test was too specific, so what users actually indicated was that they did not value star ratings.When we started working with them, we asked if we could do more testing with testimonials. We started by documenting all the different ways we could visualise them. We then set out to test each one and learn. By deploying four tests, we found that testimonials with people's faces, no longer than 32 words and with a current date worked better than all other formats tested.Running one test in a specific area of interest is too shallow. The only way to obtain valuable results is through deep experimentation, covering all possible permutations. It will not only tell you if something does or doesn't work but why or why not – and also offer alternative solutions. These insights are of massive benefit in relation to conversions, insights and experience for users.Mistake 2: Insubstantial hypothesisingOrganisations are excited when they start CRO and often have a bunch of ideas ready to test. Many of these ideas, unfortunately, are founded on the customer's personal beliefs rather than grounded in clear problem definition. I call this the 'shoot from the hip hypothesis' because it's not founded in any data and therefore unlikely to be targeted enough to yield results.There is nothing wrong with gut feel – instincts can sometimes lead to amazing outcomes – however there needs to be something substantial supporting it. It's about balancing hunches and formalising guesses with data-led analysis of what needs to be addressed.A good hypothesis responds to a clear problem statement and is grounded in research. This formal structure ensures that upon completion of the test, we can look back at why we tested and if the outcome has solved the problem. Shooting from the hip often results in lot of tests where you're unable to say what you learnt.In my experience a lot of these flaky hypotheses are generally driven by the 'HiPPO', the Highest Paid Person's Opinion. It's an agency's job to ask the right questions and provide a strong framework around CRO so that tests are fleshed out properly.Mistake 3: Organisational culture doesn't support experimentationA lot of organisations understand the benefits of CRO and want to do it in theory but in practice their culture doesn't allow it to thrive.For CRO to really take off, it needs to happen within a culture that supports experimentation, where every failure is a chance to grow. All parties need to be involved and focused on the ideology of learning rather than looking solely at results. Sadly, most organisations are built on output, not learning, which means failure is not a career-progressing move.Many are happy to conduct testing but are not pro-experimentation in nature; testing is short, but because experimentation is long term, it takes a good partnership with a CRO agency and cultural support within the organisation to make it work.To work towards a culture of experimentation, organisations need teams to be more hyper agile and collaborative. They need to know how to take insights and share it in an organised manner, to understand and demonstrate that an idea for an experiment can come from anywhere.Mistake 4: Trying to create the perfect testSome organisations try to create the perfect experience for users without understanding that the point of experimentation is to learn. You are better off doing more tests and learning from them than perfecting one test and learning only one lesson. More outcomes to study is always better than one outcome to study. One of the symptoms of this is when many people have an opinion about the test and the campaign becomes a diplomatic nightmare where you're trying to get everyone's input and then never run the test. You will always lose 100% of tests you don't send live. Get your test up and use other opinions in future tests.Mistake 5: Mismanagement of expectationsCRO can provide extremely valuable insights but because of this reputation, many people think they can put up a test and the money will come pouring in. CRO is about incremental growth by updating experiences, and that's a journey.Once you recognise that CRO is about understanding what experiences resonate, rather than how much money you can make, it's important to manage the team's expectations on what you want from CRO and get senior management to buy into this ideology. Not only will it change how your program runs, it means you can focus on outcomes and lessons rather than results.At the core of all these mistakes is a fundamental misunderstanding of why people use CRO. When you're clear that it's an exercise designed to facilitate incremental improvement over time, you'll start to embrace the motto for testing: never stand still and always learn.If you have any questions on this article or want to know more about the basics of Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO), I recently wrote an article on the four things you need to know to get started. Read it here. Please feel free to contact us to speak directly about your brand website and how we can help you engage with your customers and create successful conversions.