Econsultancy has published its new Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Report, in association with RedEye, for the ninth consecutive year.

This year, a combination of survey results and expert comment paint a picture of a misunderstood discipline which can deliver consistent value for businesses, but only with the right data, skills and collaborative approach.

Let's look at some of the more interesting findings...

The importance of CRO dips slightly

The 800 marketers and ecommerce professionals surveyed still attach a high level of importance to CRO (only 1% see it as unimportant), but as the chart below shows, there has been a dip in those admitting the discipline is 'crucial' to their overall digital marketing strategy (from 55% to 50%).

Back in 2013, 59% of respondents though CRO was crucial, so there is a trend here. It could be that as other online marketing channels and technologies have emerged, CRO is falling slightly out of favour.

cro importance

Marketers & ecommerce bods unsatisfied with conversion rates 

Every year since 2009, the CRO Report survey has revealed that more than 65% of respondents have seen conversion rates rise. Should we take such a stat with a pinch of salt, given the adoption of mobile in that time has seen a widely-accepted trend for lower conversion rates?

Well, the chart below suggests that indeed, whether conversion rates are rising or not, many respondents are not happy with them as they stand. Nine percent are 'very dissatisfied', 28% 'quite dissatisfied' and 35% nonplussed.

It's no surprise that more than half of companies (54%) surveyed plan to increase their CRO budgets over the next year.

satisfcation with cro

A/B testing is still favoured (should it be?)

A/B testing is the most commonly used CRO method amongst respondents (60% use it), and is also perceived to be the most valuable (72% say it is 'highly valuable'). This is a bit of a head-scratcher and could be due in part to the ease of implementation of A/B testing.

There's no denying A/B testing can be very useful, but independent consultant Dan Barker explains why its pre-eminence can be dangerous:

“A/B testing is almost synonymous with improving conversion rates. It’s important to remember that A/B testing is not actually a method of improving results, but a system for validating hypotheses. If you expand that slightly, you realize the important element is actually generating hypotheses, and therefore listening to customers, getting your tracking as sorted as you can, making sure knowledge flows okay within your company and scrutinizing your website/application for opportunities are big, simple levers to help you improve results.” 

cro methods

Beyond A/B testing, the survey finds that the more complex the testing undertaken, the more likely companies are to see improvements in conversion rates. This speaks to Barker's point about a hypothesis being crucial, and testing methods simply being employed to help provide evidence or insight.

Uptake of personalisation has stagnated – businesses need to rethink

Personalisation stands out in the CRO Report survey as by far and way the most difficult form of CRO to implement. Thirty five percent say it is very difficult to implement, way above segmentation, the second most challenging method at 18%.

Though the implementation of website personalisation for marketing has risen in previous years, 2017 sees the proportion of respondents saying they use it returning to 2014 levels (62%). Only 23% are using it for CRO.

The report postulates that website personalisation is perhaps the next 'big data' – taking a long time to come to fruition in marketing, but eventually being worth the wait.

Some of the challenges of personalisation and broader CRO are manifest across businesses and this seems to be a big challenge for the industry. Data collection and organisation has to be well managed, teams need to reconcile conflicts of interest and work together on a structured approach to CRO, and the right people and skills have to be present. The next two to three years could well be crucial.

For more on methods of CRO and business challenges, subscribers can download the CRO Report 2017 now.

Ben Davis

Published 12 October, 2017 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

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

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