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In the third article of my series on CRO, I highlight the four critical areas a business needs to crack in order to gain long-term growth through optimisation.

Summary

In the previous post to this, I talked about the five characteristics of businesses ready to grow through data driven optimisation.

Hopefully, your business has at least two or three of these characteristics and is seeing the impact that this has on your testing strategy.

In this article, I’m going to share the four critical areas to focus on in order to develop an optimisation strategy that is central to the growth of your business.

Remember, optimisation is not a short-term project. Optimisation is the biggest growth lever your business will ever have.

1) In-depth, continuous understanding of your visitors and customers

Let me lay this on this line. This is the fundamental building block for successful optimisation.

 

Where is your company at in this area?

Is your company one that says you put customers first or that knowing your customers is crucial, but in reality finds saying these statements is actually easier than fulfilling them? Below are four questions to help you better gauge your situation:

  • When was the last time you undertook in-depth user research?
  • Have you considered undertaking user research on your end-to-end customer experience, not just online but offline touch points too?
  • What have you changed in your business in the last 12 months that could affect your customer experience?
  • Do you have a true sense of what motivates your visitors to convert?

Why is customer understanding one of the four critical areas for optimisation?

This is simple. In-depth and continuous customer understanding can (and will) dramatically improve the probability that your test hypotheses will deliver a significant uplift.

What should you be considering in this area?

Here is a quick list of some of the high payoff activities and techniques your business can use to really start understanding your visitors and customers on a deeper level:

  • Conduct moderated in-person user research – but ensure these common misconceptions concerning user research don’t affect the quality of the insights you gain.
  • Gain invaluable insights from visitors who have just converted by asking them a question such as “what is the one biggest reason that nearly stopped you completing today?” at the end of the of your buying process.
  • Establish continuous and simple communication between your front line staff and the people who are responsible for delivering and optimising your digital experience.
  • See visitor and customer understanding as an on-going activity rather than a “once a year” project just to tick the usability testing box.
  • When conducting user research, use this as an opportunity to also gain competitor insights (this is a win-win, as it provides your business with valuable insights and it allows visitors to enhance their ability to provide constructive feedback on the different user experiences).

2) An open-minded business culture that embraces change and works with agility

Embracing data driven optimisation isn’t easy. It requires a change of mindset, it can require rebuilding teams and it certainly requires rethinking where you have always traditionally invested your marketing budget.

Business leaders who are comfortable with change for the greater good are therefore far more likely to grow their business through data driven conversion optimisation.

Where is your company at in this area?

  • Is CRO something that gets discussed at the very top of your business?
  • How does your business respond to change? Is it like turning an oil tanker around?
  • How agile is your business in getting new things live?
  • How much does data and consumer insight influence your development roadmap?
  • How do you go about redesigning your website? How much of it is driven by customer and testing insights?
  • What is the % split of marketing spend between your acquisition channels versus on-site optimisation?

Why is having an open-minded company culture one of the four critical areas for optimisation?

If you’re not open to change and demonstrate an inability to be agile, you will lose ground on your competitors; the businesses who do have an open-minded culture and demonstrate the necessary agility needed to start embedding a testing culture within their organisation.

What you can do

Here is a quick list of some of the high payoff activities and techniques your business can use to ensure data driven optimisation becomes part of your companies DNA:

  • Get the right people involved from the very start – if not the MD then your Finance Director or Marketing Director (all of them will be best) – demonstrating that the move to data driven optimisation needs to be understood and embraced from the top down in your business.
  • Identify a senior, influential champion and advocate within your business. Going forward, this is the person who not only has the credibility and authority to make things happen, but who will ensure that optimisation has a place at the very top (and heart) of the business.
  • For your senior champion, you can gain added traction and momentum for culture change if they themselves are looking to really make a name for themselves in this space. You can read an example of this in The Student Room Group optimisation journey, where Pete Taylor moved from Operations Director to Director of Optimisation in 12 short months.
  • Don’t run your testing activities in silos; ensure you provide site-wide visibility of the impact your tests are having on various KPI’s across your business.
  • Run intelligent, customer research driven tests. These will provide you with valuable business learnings that you can feed into other parts of your business.
  • If you are starting to plan a major website redesign, stop. Rethink how you can use innovative, radical testing and optimisation to redesign your online experience with an evidence led, data driven approach.
  • Don’t run before you can walk with testing. Focus on simpler, iterative tests first and build momentum, wins and learnings, before investing significant time and resources into more innovative or radical tests.

In our years of experience, an open-minded company culture is the biggest influencer in optimisation becoming central to growth, but it’s also one of the hardest things to change!

3) A methodology and process which delivers continuous results, learnings and that ultimately affects your whole business strategy

Having an optimisation methodology may not seem like the most exciting part to your testing strategy, but it is a crucial element for serious growth through optimisation.

So often businesses approach testing without a process or methodology and end up not seeing any real impact through testing. Following a defined methodology improves the quality of your whole optimisation strategy.

Where is your company at in this area?

  • What inputs typically feed in to the development of your test hypotheses?
  • How valid are your test hypotheses?
  • Are you genuinely confident they will result in uplifts in your primary metrics?
  • Do the people in your business who communicate with both your potential and actual customers have a voice in your test hypotheses?
  • How do you go about prioritising what to test and in what order?
  • Do you have separate streams of testing to ensure you are always testing? For example, quick win, simple implementation tests in one stream and larger, more complex and potentially higher impact tests in another stream?
  • How much emphasis do you place on the design of your tests? Do they include expertise on design, copy and psychology to give them the best chance of positively influencing user behaviour?
  • How much time do you spend on analysing test results and identifying customer and business learnings?
  • What do you typically do following a failed test? How do you learn from this and potentially turn this around?

Why is having an intelligence, defined optimisation methodology one of the four critical areas for optimisation?

Without a defined methodology, the optimisation process is like building a house with no foundations.

Without structure, process and documentation, testing can easily lose momentum. You will find that the tests deliver results that are “just OK” and provide little learning for you to work with.

More often than not, this results in the loss of stakeholder buy-in and can leave your business back at square one.

What should you be considering in this area?

Our Six Step Optimisation Method that has been developed and continuously optimised (yes, you heard that right!) over many years.

It provides us with a platform on which we can deliver significant increases in our clients KPI’s, whilst simultaneously establishing a culture of data driven conversion optimisation.

  • Gather insights – from your analytics data, from conversion evaluations, from any interaction with your customers, from on-site surveys, from your customer service teams, from feedback through your social channels, from your internal teams.
  • Develop hypotheses – following intelligent, comprehensive gathering of insights, you can now start developing your test hypotheses. The higher validation around your hypotheses, the higher success rate you are likely to see in testing.
  • Group and prioritise your tests – from simple, iterative tests through to major, radical test hypotheses, it is crucial to not only group them but then prioritise them. You can’t test everything, and with poor prioritisation you are setting yourself up for poor test success ratio and low impact per successful test.
  • Design concepts – from rapid paper prototyping all the way through to UX and copy infused final visual designs, the design concepts phase can make or break a test. However good your test hypotheses is, if you don’t have great design execution that is underpinned by an understanding of consumer psychology, your chances of delivering an uplift are limited.
  • Configure testing – the worst type of test is not the one that “loses”, but one that is inconclusive or results in invalid data. Designing your experiments carefully protects you from these outcomes. Ensure you thoroughly QA your test variations and review your test configuration carefully before they go live. Review the goals and metrics that are coming through once the test is live.
  • Analyse results – learning empirically what works and what doesn’t work is great. Seeing key metrics improve is fantastic, but don’t stop there. Lots of insight can be gained by digging in to the data and looking in to the impact on specific segments. Look beyond primary metrics. Segmentation is powerful. How did behaviour change by traffic source, landing page, conversion type?
  • Identity lessons – You should also take great care to document what you have learned from testing. This partly acts as a record of testing results which allows you to avoid repeating tests and often fuels new hypotheses. Communicating results and learnings is also really important and is a great way to build support.

    The most successful businesses use learnings from testing to improve areas across their business, both online and offline. These businesses also use testing as a way to test actual business hypotheses before significant investment and a potential change of direction for their business is taken.

As the saying goes, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Optimisation is well worth doing and when done right, it will lead to business grow.

4) A multi-disciplinary and highly experienced team of specialists working together 

From UX and copy, to technical and psychology, expertise should underpin what you test and how test designs are produced and delivered.

Success growth through optimisation can’t just be achieved by one person or even a couple of people (but if it can then I’d love to meet them), it requires input, collaboration, thoughts, intelligence and expertise from a variety of people.

Think more Avengers than Superman and you are on the right track.

 

Where is your company at in this area?

  • How much investment have you made in genuine user research skills and activities to form the foundation of your test hypotheses?
  • Which skill sets currently provide an input in what you will test and why?
  • Which skill sets are currently used in initial concept ideation, designing and developing your test concepts?
  • How much of a focus do you put on the smaller details like persuasive copy writing?
  • Do you actively look at utilising influential persuasion techniques like social proof, authority, scarcity, loss aversion and personality?
  • Does your internal or external development team feel a part of the process, or do they see testing as a distraction?

Why is using diverse, extensive knowledge from a multi-disciplinary team one of the four critical areas for optimisation?

Simply put, you want to ensure that you aren’t going to pollute your potentially great test hypotheses with poor execution.

Unless you have a Superman or Woman in your business, you will need to use the experiences, brains and hands of a wide variety of people to truly deliver growth through optimisation.

What should you be considering in this area?

Below are some key considerations for utilising a multi-disciplinary team as part of your optimisation strategy:

  • Develop hypotheses and test concepts using the experience and brains of a variety of people.
  • Pay close attention to small details like copywriting for conversion. These are often overlooked but essential elements of delivering persuasive tests with a higher % chance of delivering an uplift.
  • Don’t just talk the talk about being customer centric, walk the walk. Utilise a wide range of research techniques explained earlier in this article.
  • Enrich your test designs through a genuine understanding of the importance of the persuasive layer.
  • Engage with your technical team as early as possible in your journey to becoming truly data driven. At the start they might not have any time for you, but once the impact starts to be felt, expect greater buy-in, support and resources to accelerate your testing strategy.

You don’t have unlimited time and resource to just deliver tests. The more expertise and experience that feeds in to your test concept, the higher % of tests that will be successful.

In summary, control your own destiny.

The greatest thing about the four critical areas is that they are all within your control. Control your own destiny before your competitors do.

Conversion optimisation insights and learnings

The following articles will provide you with essential insights and learnings for you and your business:

  1. Conversion optimisation: assess the maturity of your current approach
  2. Five characteristics of businesses ready to grow through data driven optimisation
  3. The four critical areas for long term growth through optimisation
  4. What can the German football team teach us about Conversion Optimisation?
  5. Vanity or Sanity: Metrics in Conversion Optimisation

Join our training course

After our last Econsultancy partnered training day sold out, Matt Lacey (Head of Optimisation) and I have newly added dates for ‘Conversion Optimisation: How to Deliver Digital Growth’.

This one-day course shows you how to implement a robust conversion optimisation strategy and process which can deliver major uplifts in sales revenue and profitability, as well as changing the way you develop your brand, innovate your offering, and revolutionise the website redesign process.

The next date is August 21st and more details on the course and how to sign up can be found at https://econsultancy.com/training/courses/conversion-optimisation-developing-your-growth-strategy/

Paul Rouke

Published 29 April, 2015 by Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke is Founder & CEO at PRWD, author and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up with him on LinkedIn.

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