Do you know any conversion rate optimisation nuts? It’s likely you do, and that in itself is strange.

Why should improving the efficiency of your marketing online be an acquired taste, like rugby league or larping?

One of the alarming findings of Econsultancy’s Conversion Rate Optimisation Report (in association with RedEye) is a continued strategy vacuum.

Let’s take a look.

Is CRO stagnant?

The report surveyed 900 people, around two thirds from client-side marketing teams.

Of these client-side respondents, 69% had someone within their company directly responsible for improving conversion rates. In 2014 this figure was 72%.

While there has been an increase in those with more than one person responsible for CRO, the overall picture for staffing is fairly flat.

This shouldn’t necessarily be cause for alarm; tech and data improvement, as well as greater collaboration, should also be driving improvement.

However, when we look at strategy, clients seem a little stuck in the mud.

A lack of a structured approach

The chart below is fairly explanatory, showing only about a third of client-side respondents admitted to having a structured approach to improving conversion rates.

structured approach to cro

Dan Barker, a respected ecommerce consultant, sums it up nicely:

[This] is a big surprise, particularly as the vast majority of respondents told us they are personally involved in CRO within their companies.

This may indicate frustration from respondents at their wider organizations, or may indicate that the immaturity of the techniques, and the need to constantly push and introduce new technologies, mean that it has not yet been possible to embed formal processes.

Both technological and cultural gripes do appear elsewhere in the survey data.

Tech and culture, what else?

The chart below shows that companies see lack of resources as the biggest barrier to improving conversion rates, though this has decreased from 57% in 2014 to 45% in 2015.

As Matt Curry (head of ecommerce at Lovehoney) suggests in this post on ecommerce trends, 2016 may be the year when companies seek to rationalise third-party solutions, losing anything that doesn’t add significant value.

Perhaps this streamlining, alongside platform improvement, will reduce tech worries in 2016.

biggest barriers to cro

There are a number of barriers (in the chart above) that I see as falling within the broader category of leadership.

Conflicts of interest, lack of strategy, poor company culture and a siloed organization all represent challenges for around a quarter of respondents.

As these are not necessarily the same quarter, it may be that a majority of respondents have some form of organisational strife.

A definitive lack of strategy

Strategy doesn’t feature as highly in the list of challenges to CRO (in figure 71 above), but it’s likely that gripes about company culture also include dissatisfaction with company focus.

An open-ended question about improving CRO seemed to tease out strategy as a more definitive pain point.

Respondents were asked ‘What would make the biggest difference to your (or your clients’) company in improving conversion rates?’ 

Answers included dedicated staff, more collaboration, focused strategy, increase understanding through testing, and more.

Strategy, though, is what comes through loud and clear when we put all of the open-ended answers into a word cloud, shown below.

wordcloud - biggest challenges to CRO

Depesh Mandalia, head of digital marketing at Lost My Name, has the last word:

It is interesting to observe that ‘strategy’ was the most mentioned word from respondents; it goes without saying that the initial rush into CRO is followed by a period of chaos from which strategy is the missing component.

CRO is a multi-faceted discipline with no single blueprint for every business and so strategy becomes the overarching guide to bigger CRO wins.

Ben Davis

Published 16 December, 2015 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (5)

Peter Duffy

Peter Duffy, Chief Executive Officer at Mercanto

As has rightly been pointed out, every brand's programmes will be slightly different because their KPIs and business strategy will be different. That said, distinct commonalities can be detected by looking across billions of behavioural paths.

There are also strategic frameworks that can be employed to provide a structure for incremental improvement.

As a starting point, you'll need to be able to recognise realtime onsite behaviour and automatically trigger the optimal action to guide each visitor towards the most realistic, highest-yield action. This could be a conversion, but there are also many value-accretive actions ('micro-conversions') a visitor can achieve during a website visit.

If any enterprise brand would like a free strategy session, please just let me know. Happy to help.

Also, please be aware of the important differences between CRO, analytics, and testing platforms. They're different and it's like comparing apples with oranges.

over 2 years ago

Peter Duffy

Peter Duffy, Chief Executive Officer at Mercanto

...and CRO is not stagnant - there are oodles of opportunities for nearly all e-commerce brands.!

over 2 years ago

Phil Cave

Phil Cave, Founder, Lead CRO Consultant at People Shaped Marketing

Nice article, with some interesting findings.

CRO is definitely not stagnant - it's still the single most profitable activity a marketing team can undertake.

What I've found over the last few years of doing CRO consulting work is that it is no longer the current trend, the cool thing the 'new toy' for marketers to play with as it was a few years ago. Consequently, everyone I speak knows they should be doing it, many are in very simple terms (ie - a few split tests here and there), but very few have it high on their agenda.

The result of that is that there is little/ no strategy in place from a high-level stakeholder that can drive it through organisations. CRO doesn't just involve the marketing team any more - it's customer service, sales, tech, management, supply chains and there seems little appetite to really grab all of those bulls by their horns to make things happen.

Only the largest or most sophisticated businesses have dedicated CRO resource with a big enough remit to truly action these things through their organisation. Many agencies dabble in it as part of an ongoing retainer that was really put in place for other, 'more important' things.

But, from the projects I've worked on over the last few years, a pretty modest investment of £10-20k into CRO usually results in an increase of conversion rates in the triple figures if the people involved know what they're doing.

So, why aren't more businesses thinking that swapping a small-ish part of their budget like that for doubling their online sales is a good idea?

over 2 years ago

L.M.L. Beerthuyzen

L.M.L. Beerthuyzen, CEO at 1972

Don't forget CRO is a pretty young discipline. In a few years when e-commerce managers become CEO, CRO will be automatically part of the strategy. But we are still growing up :-)

over 2 years ago


Darren Ward, Director of Product Marketing at User Replay Ltd

I think one issue for organisations is they get fixated on the tools rather than the strategy. A whole host of technology vendors will be telling them they can make a big difference to their conversion rate and it is easy to get distracted. Sometimes, it is better to stand back and work out logically what is required and where the gaps are and then decide on a strategy to move forward.

Another issue is that companies get fixated on the top of the funnel - i.e. getting people onto the site and into the conversion process but neglect optimising the process itself. There is little point in piling thousands of potential customers into a broken process and giving them a poor experience.

over 2 years ago

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