In this revised and updated beginner's guide I’ll be answering the following questions: What is conversion? What is CRO? What techniques can be used to improve CRO?

According to 59% of company respondents, CRO is crucial to their overall digital marketing strategy. While 98% overall believe CRO’s impact on their digital marketing carries some kind of importance.

Let's say your site is doing brilliantly in many areas. Traffic is coming your way via an effective SEO, paid search, social or content strategy. Great! 

Unfortunately the people visiting your site aren’t achieving the goal you actually intended them to achieve in the first place. They’re not converting.

‘Conversion’ may not necessarily be a purchase, although more often than not it can be. A conversion can also be an email sign-up, the creation of an account, the completion of a survey, an app download.

Whatever the ultimate point of your website is, a conversion is the successful completion of that action. Conversion Rate (CR) is a key metric in ecommerce as it reveals the percentage of your site’s total traffic completing a specific goal. The higher the conversion rate the better.

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is the process of optimising your site to increase the liklihood that visitors will complete that specific action.

According to our latest Conversion Rate Optimisation Report there are eight valuable areas that companies need to concentrate on for conversion rate optimisation:

  • A/B and multivariate testing 
  • Having a structured approach
  • Customer journey analysis
  • Copy optimisation
  • Online surveys/customer feedback
  • Cart abandonment analysis
  • Segmentation
  • Using a complementary selection of the above 

Let's take a look at a few of these examples...

A/B or multivariate testing

Companies with significant increases in sales are completing 6.45 A/B and multivariate tests a month, in comparison to the 2.42 test average among those whose sales are decreasing.

What is A/B testing? In very basic terms, you set up two different landing pages, each has a different element from the other. Perhaps one has a bright green call-to-action, the other has a slightly less garish colour. Your site presents one of these pages to half your traffic, and the less garish one to the other half.

Then you can then see whether or not a small change to a call-to-action (CTA) can make a difference to conversion. 

The button isn’t the only element that can be tested of course. Headlines, product copy, image size, layout, amount of text, fonts… If it’s an element on the page then it can be tested. If testing that element means a chance of increasing conversion, then it should definitely be done. 

Multivariate testing just means splitting up your traffic towards multiple versions of the same page. For this your site requires a large amount of traffic in order to test the larger number of combinations successfully.

Testing should never reach a stage of completion: even if you’re absolutely confident that CRO has been refined to the very limits, carry on… Who knows what minor tweak may squeeze out a few more conversions.

For four years in a row, A/B testing has remained the most used method for improving conversion rates, with two-thirds of companies surveyed by us saying they use it. 

Customer journey analysis

58% of companies use customer journey analysis and it has become one of the most valuable methods for improving conversion rates.

Customer behaviour is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. Their ‘journey’ from being advertised your products, to researching your brand, visiting your website or store, making a purchase then contacting you for any customer service needs can take place on a massive number of offline and online channels.

It is now more vital (and complicated) than ever for businesses to understand their own customers and the journeys they undertake which lead to conversion.

The benefits are definitely recognised in the industry. The vast majority (86%) of companies said that profitability and increased revenue were a “major benefit” of customer journey analysis. 83% said that identifying pain points and reducing customer struggle were a “significant benefit”.

The collection of data from every available channel is important in understanding the customer journey, however it’s critical to have staff with the right skills to analyse and create actionable insight using this data. 

Organisations also need to collect and analyse data from offline sources (call-centres, high street stores). Combining this with online data is the only way you can build a complete and accurate picture of your customers and how they are likely to behave in the future.

After all multichannel customers are worth four times that of customers solely shopping offline or online.

There is lots more information available in our Understanding the Customer Journey Report.

Online surveys/customer feedback

Feedback can be collected in a wide variety of ways, some more user-friendly than others, but it can all be used to improve the customer experience. Even if the improvement is just to stop showing them survey pop-ups all the time.

One popular and less obtrusive method of doing this is the Net Promoter Score. This is a customer loyalty metric based on one direct question: How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague? 

The final NPS score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of customers who are detractors (those who are unhappy with your site) from the percentage of customers who are promoters (your most loyal enthusiasts). Promoters – Detractors = NPS.

According to Forbes companies like Amazon and Costco operate with an NPS between 50-80% but the average venture has an NPS of only 5-10% or even negative.

Other benefits of CRO

Constant testing doesn’t just mean a possible increase in conversion. It will also lead to a better user experience. Removing barriers, simplifying forms, clarifying navigation, all these things lead to an improved customer journey and therefore making your site a better place to browse.

The goal of CRO is not to manipulate visitors into converting. It’s to ease the journey of already interested or engaged visitors through your website until they’ve achieved the outcome they desired themselves. 

If a user has searched for ‘blue Nikes’ and they’ve landed on your product page, chances are they want to purchase the product, it’s not trickery to make it as simple or even enjoyable as possible. That customer will come back for future purchases and recommend you to other users.

Help shape 2015's CRO report...

Help us with this year’s Conversion Rate Optimisation Report by filling in this short survey, and in return for your time you will get access to a free copy of the in-depth report ahead of its publication on in November.

Deadline for completion is Wednesday 2 September 2015.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 16 July, 2015 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (4)

Julian Erbsloeh

Julian Erbsloeh, Senior Digital Marketing Analyst at Fresh Egg

Hi Christopher,
Great summary of why conversion optimisation should form an integral part of every website’s digital strategy. CRO was definitely the new black in 2013 and will be on the high street in 2014 for everyone to wear.
We have been involved in many conversion optimisation projects over the years but have seen a real boost in interest and advanced application last year. In my opinion it is worth mentioning that the success of a conversion optimisation campaign lies in the the quality of the data and a well-structured approach. Only when you really understand what is happening on your website (and what isn't) will you be able to hypothesize effectively.
I also think that conversion rate is not the only / best metric of success as companies ultimately aim to increase profit which does not necessarily mean number of transactions. A campaign to increase the average order value for example or to increase the quality of leads captured on a site can be a real profit driver. Revenue per visit or ideally profit per visit are great metrics that include all potential profit drivers and measure what really changes the website's bottom line.

over 4 years ago


rhia styles, Content Marketeer at Brownstone

I found this article really usefull and informative. I had no idea how important CRO was! Will definately be following your blog Christopher! Thank you.

about 3 years ago

Vivek Singh

Vivek Singh, Internet Marketing Consultant at Self Employed

Great insights Christopher! Can you recommend any tool for customer journey analysis. I find Google Analytics a bit cumbersome. Thank you.

about 3 years ago


Daniel Madhan, Ceo at MADHANRAJ -Cro AGENCY

Love the way you mention about customer journey analysis.
Most of the companies and sites forget this and focus on product instead of customers.

I also have a 9000words cro guide. Hope this help others

10 months ago

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