Companies with a structured and process-driven approach to conversion rate optimization (CRO) are significantly more likely than other organisations to improve their conversion rates and increase online sales, according to research published this week by Econsultancy. 

The Conversion Rate Optimization Report, produced in association with RedEye, also found that it is becoming harder to improve conversion rates, with 65% of companies seeing improvements in conversions in the last year, compared to 70% in 2009 and 2010.

The research, based on a survey of more than 700 client-side and agency digital marketers, found that the four variables most strongly correlated with improved overall conversion in the last year are perceived control over conversion rates, a structured approach to CRO, having someone directly responsible for conversion and incentivising staff based on conversion rates. 

The study found that these variables were more strongly correlated with CRO success than use of specific types of technology or methods used for conversion rate optimization. 

Techniques for improving conversion rates

A/B testing was the most popular method among respondents, with 53% using it compared with 44% last year.

The use of usability testing by companies has increased significantly, from 27% last year to 38% in this year’s survey. 

Further analysis of data showed that companies whose conversion had improved over the previous 12 months used on average 26% more methods to improve their conversion than those whose conversion had not improved. 

Which of the following methods do you currently use to improve conversion rates?

Elements of websites tested

Across the board, a higher proportion of companies are testing website elements than was the case last year. Call to action buttons (72%) and page layout (71%), are the most tested elements, closely followed by navigation (65%) and copy (63%).

Specifically for your website, what do you test?

Of those who carry out website testing, 75% say they do between one and five tests each month, while 11% carry out more than 10 tests per month, a significantly lower proportion than last year (19%). Companies who were happy with their conversion rates did on average 40% more tests than those companies who were dissatisfied.  

Conclusions

As the online environment becomes more competitive, it is becoming increasingly difficult to improve conversion rates. Most companies are not happy with their online conversion rate. Just 25% say they are ‘satisfied’ and we believe this figure is dropping because marketers are more aware of holes in their approach to CRO as they become more educated about best practices and the technology and tools available.

However, this research provides firm evidence that it is worth focusing on a structured approach to conversion rate optimization, with investment in people and incentives to help facilitate this. 

Commenting on the research, Econsultancy Research Director Linus Gregoriadis said: ”The tools for gathering insight and for carrying out tests are becoming more user-friendly and accessible, but organisations must have the right knowledge and expertise around CRO to complement this, both in-house and within their agencies.”

RedEye CEO Mark Patron added: “What we have learnt is people and processes are key. This report highlights just how important employing a structured process is. Companies that had a structured approach to conversion were twice as likely to have seen a large increase in sales. Yet only 31% had a structured process – a major reason satisfaction is so low.”