Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a hot topic among marketers, with strategies and best practices the subject of much debate.

Every year, Econsultancy publishes a report on the subject, surveying hundreds of ecommerce and marketing professionals to establish industry trends. Yet while the report offers extensive detail about how marketers increase conversions by improving marketing, websites and ecommerce journeys, new techniques are always emerging.

To find out more about recent CRO innovations, Econsultancy, in association with Magento and eWave, recently held roundtable discussions in Hong Kong and invited dozens of client-side marketers to share their views. Highlights of the challenges, trends and best practices discussed on the day are summarized below.

Before we start, we'd just like to let you know about our upcoming roundtable events in Bangkok on July 10th and in Mumbai on July 12th - both of which will include CRO roundtable discussions. Senior client-side marketers interested in joining at these locations should click on the appropriate link and request a seat at the table!

Definitions of CRO

Participants began their sessions by letting us know what conversion rate optimization means for them in 2018. Apart from the usual points about improving website user experience (UX), attendees mentioned that CRO also involves improving both the upper and lower parts of the funnel.

This means that CRO specialists are now assisting marketers with targeting, positioning, and messaging. And, because they have considerable experience with A/B testing, CRO professionals are also involved in testing channels and offers to help brands find the right combinations of both.

Ultimately though, one delegate added, CRO must have increasing sales as its main goal.

Getting started with CRO

For brands who have not yet started optimizing the customer journey for conversions, participants suggested that they start gathering website, channel and point-of-sale data immediately.

Then, brands need to assess whether they can optimize the whole journey themselves or whether they need to align with a partner, such as a distributor.

Finally, one participant suggested that brands looking to optimize their funnel need to take a 'holistic' view of attribution including both online and offline touchpoints. In-store campaigns, another added, often boost ecommerce sales.

CRO best practices

Attendees offered numerous examples of CRO initiatives which had significantly improved conversion rates. Here are a few of the suggestions:

  • Simplify checkout as much as possible. Think, "what user info do we really need?"
  • Analyze user sessions and mouse 'heatmaps' to see how individual consumers use the site. The technology to achieve this is now widely available.
  • Use A/B testing extensively. But only run tests on specific segments, if traffic allows. 
  • Automate abandoned cart lifecycle emails. Doing so delivered great results for one attendee's site.
  • Use retargeting on search, social and display. Marketers agreed that retargeting is a very effective tactic. One participant added that apparel retailer Zalora does it very well.

Participants also had a few words to say specifically about mobile CRO:

  • Make sure both mobile and desktop experiences are optimized. Mobile is often where last-minute purchases happen.
  • Use responsive design on the website, but only for small browsers and tablets.
  • Smartphones require a specific site which leverages mobile features such as geolocation for store finding, click-to-call, and augmented reality (AR).

Challenges in conversion optimisation

Attendees also spoke about some of the frustrations they face when working to increase conversion rates.

First off, specialists struggle with data. Some said that they had trouble accessing data due to cultural and backend legacy issues; others bemoaned recent EU legislation (GDPR) which hinders their ability to track and serve customers more effectively.

Participants also noted that increasing levels of cross-border trade is making CRO more difficult.  Ecommerce conversions, they said, now have as much to do with tax, inventory, and shipping as they do with website performance.

Finally, CRO specialists struggle with offline conversions. One delegate indicated that it was difficult to find one system which integrated offline point-of-sale systems with online tracking data. Without this integration, the path leading to an offline conversion cannot be captured or, indeed, optimized.

The evolution of CRO

Marketers felt that CRO will have to evolve to remain useful. The most important change will be new systems which can reconcile customer journey data across all channels, including offline, and deliver more accurate attribution reports.

Going further, participants are optimistic about using artificial intelligence for CRO. AI, they explained, will improve personalization, increase offer relevancy, and help sites drive conversions - and upsell.

Perhaps the most significant trend for CRO is that despite two decades of using ecommerce, consumers still prefer face-to-face transactions by a wide margin in most categories. Thus, measuring offline journeys is key to the future of CRO and, as one particpant noted, means that conversion optimization is still an ongoing exercise.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank the table moderators for helping us better understand how marketers view conversion rate optimization (CRO):

  • Tan Rahman, Global Marketing Leader
  • Cedric Delzenne, Head of Hong Kong office, 55, the data company
  • Melpo Wong, Head of Digital, BLYNK

We'd also like to thank our sponsors, Magento and eWave, as well as all the marketers who openly shared their views in the roundtable discussions.

We hope to see you all at future Econsultancy events!

Jeff Rajeck

Published 6 July, 2018 by Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck is the APAC Research Analyst for Econsultancy . You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.  

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