Why CRO needs a culture of experimentation to thrive
Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is the process of testing a range of experiences to find which combination provides the best results, such as increasing positive user actions like newsletter sign-ups, or improving site engagement, for example turning visitors into leads and leads into sales.
CRO works best within a culture of experimentation, but it can be difficult to introduce to more traditional organisations. Here’s a primer on how to explain what experimentation is, the benefits of having a culture of experimentation to support CRO, and the steps to help your organisation adopt an experimental mindset.
Defining experimentationBefore you can address what CRO is and what it can do, you need to start by developing a ‘culture of experimentation’. The hardest part of introducing experimentation is the misunderstanding of what it means and how it affects a business.In its broadest context, experimentation is the systematic process of asking a question and testing it to find a statistical valid direction. The problem is that most organisations are risk averse and, due to their discomfort with uncertainty, prefer to base their decisions on data. But new ideas don’t have any data to support them yet, and that’s why organisations need to experiment.Many companies reward output and throughput, whereas experimentation is about input. The process of testing and learning before implementing and achieving output and throughput needs to be ingrained as a way to gather the data and find out not only what works, but why it works. Having a culture of experimentation will allow organisations to understand the factors that impact outcomes so that the output and throughput that results is the right kind to deliver a positive result.Introducing experimentationMany e-commerce and product managers are interested in CRO for their organisation and need to create a culture of experimentation – if not in the organisation, then at least in their department – to ensure they can support CRO properly. This is not unusual: experimentation in most large organisations starts in a smaller silo with one person or one team, and in most cases the idea of experimentation begins as an experiment.
In more traditional organisations, you need senior management buy-in before you can really begin the process of changing to a culture of experimentation. The only real way to do that is to speak the language of the influencers in the organisation: the makers, the breakers and the shakers.
Makers own a business unit and they make the decisions. Help them understand that experimentation leads to achieving an end result that’s attached to a key performance indicator. The clearer the line between a culture of experimentation, CRO and their KPIs, the better.Breakers have influence but no ultimate control. Keep in mind that they can rock the boat to the point where it sinks, though, so when introducing anything new you need to understand why change is scary and help reposition what you’re doing as an opportunity. Bring them onside early by showing there’s a place for them and their ideas in the new paradigm. The quicker you bring them on board, the better.And Shakers are the enthusiastic people that want to try new things. Harness their energy and enthusiasm by getting them to understand your program and conceptualise ideas for it and identify ways it can help so you can then spread the good word.CRO requires cultural readinessThe key to running CRO effectively is cultural readiness. As with any change management process, implementing a culture of experimentation to support CRO is a journey that involves making sure people are aligned to the outcome. A successful program is founded on the habits and processes you follow, which leads to creating a culture of experimentation. Without that foundation, it is difficult to create tests and run them in an open-minded manner to deliver business value.The more mature an organisation is in making CRO and a culture of experimentation second nature, the greater the business value these processes deliver – but this takes time. A large banking client of ours began its journey more than two years ago, initially just testing web pages. When that website rebuild was a success, they decided to include CRO in future projects. Today, they will not make a decision until it's tested.Demonstrating the benefits of CROMost executives of traditional-style organisations look at the top-level metrics, which are still measured by the old-school way. Demonstrate why they need to care about what feeds and supports those metrics, even if you gather data in a different way to what they are used to.Identify what type of CEO you have and connect the outcomes of experimentation back to why they were hired. There are many types of CEO and each type will be hired for a stage in the life of a business. For example, a growth business needs a sales-oriented CEO, so emphasise how CRO assists sales; a business in financial trouble needs a financially orientated CEO, so connect CRO to better return on investment. When you connect CRO back to what matters to the CEO, they are more likely to support it.This is not a one-off occurrence, either. Just as CRO is a series of tests, a process of continuous improvement, you need to secure buy-in, demonstrate the benefits and repeat. It's a constant process of communication: show the test, run the test, share the learnings and repeat. Manage exposure slowly to get them to trust the method and win them over.Experimentation is a powerful tool I predict will become the next weapon for CEOs looking to change their culture for tenfold growth. It’s not just a method, but an ideology that helps organisations innovate and move forward much quicker than traditional processes allow. Do you want to accelerate or stagnate?