Today sees the release of Econsultancy's fourth annual Conversion Rate Optimization Report, which looks at the tools, strategies and processes employed for improving conversion rates.

The report, produced in association with RedEye, is based on a survey of 900 client-side and agency digital marketers, carried out in July and August 2012.

From the results, we have identified the five main areas organisations need to concentrate on if they want to improve website conversion and sales...

Clear responsibility for conversion rate optimization (CRO)

Making one person responsible for website conversion, and giving them the authority and accountability to identify areas for improvement and make the necessary changes is the best approach.

In addition, a financial incentive for increased sales helps. Out of those organisations that did incentivise staff, 72% had seen an increase in conversion and sales.

A structured approach

Conversion rate optimization should be an ongoing and structured process, rather than a one-off project. Survey respondents whose companies or clients took a more measured approach to CRO reaped the rewards. 

  • 70% of the company respondents with a structured approach to conversion had improved sales.
  • 24% of the organisations who had a structured approach to improving conversion had a large increase in sales.
  • Just 14% of companies that did not have a structured approach to improving conversion had a large increase in sales.

However, just 27% of companies in our survey said they currently have a structured approach to CRO. 

Does your organisation have a structured approach to improving conversion rates?

Conversion rate optimization


The report found that companies whose conversion had improved used 90% more ways to segment their visitors and customers than companies whose conversion had not improved or had stayed the same.

The survey found that many companies are using more varied methods of segmentation. For example, the proportion of companies using geographic and demographic segmentation has significantly increased over the last 12 months, by 12% and 7% respectively.

In addition, channel segmentation (e.g. social/mobile) is used by over a third of companies surveyed (37%), up from 33% in 2011.

Behavioural segmentation is no longer the most used method of segmenting visitors and customers, with just over half (53%) of organisations using it (down from 60% in 2011). 

In which ways do you segment your visitors and customers?

A/B and multivariate testing

Despite the fact that only 17% of companies use multivariate testing, it has become the most valuable method for improving conversion rates, knocking off A/B testing from the top spot.

63% of organisations surveyed using MVT say that this method is “very valuable”, compared to 51% last year. A/B testing is now the second most valuable method, with just over half (54%) of companies deeming it “very valuable”.

Though multivariate testing produces results, respondents rated this, alongside segmentation, as the most difficult CRO methods to implement. 

Around two-thirds of client-side respondents said it’s difficult to implement multivariate testing (66%) and segmentation (67%).

Usability testing

This is the best way to find out why customers behave the way they do on websites and, according to our company respondents, usability testing is by far the most effective technique for improving conversion rates.

This is also evident from the quantitative analysis, with the vast majority of respondents deeming this technique as highly (47%) or quite valuable (51%). 

The report finds that more companies are responding to the growing use of mobiles and tablets, and have begun to conduct usability testing of their sites using mobiles and tablet devices. However, 55% have yet to do this. 

Have you conducted usability testing of your website using either of the following?

Graham Charlton

Published 17 October, 2012 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (6)

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James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Graham,

Thanks for sharing.

I had an interesting conversation with a Client the other day who said he thinks CRO/Testing is a waste of time/money and people should know what is a good decision and have more confidence in making them. In his mind, that's what you pay experienced e-commerce people for.

He's not the only person I've heard voice that opinion. I personally think it's a crazy attitude - testing is a standard part of good marketing practice + nobody ever knows exactly what all customers want. Often customers don't even when you ask them. Testing allows you to learn this over time by seeing what really pushes KPIs.

So my question is what is the best way to counter that viewpoint and educate people to the benefits for CRO?

For me the key points are:
1) Good practice is a guideline, it's not definitive - what works for one website doesn't necessarily work for another as customer groups/needs vary
2) Assuming you know what customers want without really knowing is dangerous - it leads to subjective decision making
3) If you implement a change and get an uplift/decrease in KPIs, you don't know for definite your change caused it - there are so many external factors (seasonality, weather changes, economic changes etc)
4) Testing allows you to compare different solutions in real time vs your control - this counters the potential for external influences to obscure results.
5) Your audience is constantly changing - what works today may not work tomorrow. Testing helps you learn how to evolve webpages, processes etc.
6) Speak to e-commerce teams that have benefitted from CRO.

What's your take?


almost 6 years ago

Graeme Benge

Graeme Benge, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

CRO is a funny thing. To some it's scientific nature is off putting, I think its the implication of a lot of work that might not uncover anything revolutionary. The funny think is that CRO is starting to feel like it's in everything - all roads (or jobs) in the main lead to conversions.
Enjoyed the post, the takeaways are a good way of demonstrating the value of CRO and also what it really means because as James said, the perception of what CRO is and what it gives you needs to change.

almost 6 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

@James I think these CRO 'refuseniks' would benefit from seeing a presentation from someone like Craig Sullivan, which shows the ROI you can get from testing and optimisation.

As Craig says here, a good UX professional may be able to get it right 60-70% of the time, but it's no substitute for testing.

almost 6 years ago

Hayden Sutherland

Hayden Sutherland, Director at Ideal Interface

@James your client sounds a right PITA and could possibly be problematic in other areas (good luck with that, I think we've all been there).
The honest answer to a client or prospect that says "you're the expert, you tell me the BEST way to do this" is to say "I can put myself in an imaginary customer's shoes, but nothing ever replaces the feedback given by real users doing real things".
Without a hypothetical infinite budget and superhero foresight abilities it is impossible to completely understand what a user will actually do until you see them doing it.
I also like Craig's approach in saying that testing removes the guesswork and subjectivity out of decisions. Let the facts speak for themselves....

almost 6 years ago

Ian Tester

Ian Tester, Senior Product Manager at brightsolid online publishing

Speaking as a supposedly "experienced ecommerce person" (15 years, man & boy), I expect to have a good feel for what works and what doesn't but I'd NEVER expect to get things right without rigorous testing, both early stage (usability groups) and post-launch (MVT). I'd suggest anyone who suggest otherwise is either ill-informed, or too cocky! Data doesn't lie (unless you make it).

almost 6 years ago

Ian Tester

Ian Tester, Senior Product Manager at brightsolid online publishing

And +1 for Craig, he opens many eyes (and has done for many, many years).

almost 6 years ago

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