What is CRO in marketing?

Kimberley Maunder

Jul 14 . 8 min

What is CRO in marketing?

CRO is the ultimate marketing money-maker and money-saver. *cha-ching* CRO is the process of enhancing website functionality, appearance and content, and increasing its number of visitors in order to boost conversions or, more generally, take a specific, desired action on a web page. In terms of what a CRO company is, it is a business that specialises in leveraging these strategies rather than adopting a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach like stretch fabric pants. It’s all about getting more out of your dollar, dollar bills ya’ll.

 

How does CRO differ from SEO?

SEO and CRO are two different mighty beasts that only trained Goliath’s can tackle. SEO focuses on getting your website pages as high as possible on search engine results to increase organic traffic. CRO is focused on improving and optimising website pages to increase conversions and bring in the sales.

 

What is a conversion rate?

A conversion is when a user completes a desired action on your website, so a conversion rate is the percentage of website visitors who complete a desired action, and therefore… converted! Wow, incredible. Desired actions may be signing up for a service, downloading a whitepaper or purchasing a product. Conversions can happen all over a website — on a homepage, landing pages, a blog or a pricing page (and the list goes on, and on, and on).

For eCommerce, a purchase is a conversion, while someone signing up for a free trial counts as a conversion for Software as a Service (SaaS) companies. Other businesses like ad agencies consider lead generation as the most important conversion, which is turning clicks into calls or enquiries. All of which gets totalled together and divided by the total clicks achieved, delivering you with your bountiful conversion rate.

Why is CRO valuable?

Online traffic can be unreliable at times, regardless of your best SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) efforts. The greatest sand castle builder can build the jazziest castle, but sometimes it still rains. If you can’t get a user to enter the sales funnel on your first attempt, the chances of them coming back (and performing the desired action) can decrease quite a bit. You are the fisherman and they are the fish, you gotta have the right bait.

If a website is optimised well, you can:

  • Increase Conversions
  • Maintain a competitive edge
  • Improve your ROI
  • Better understand your website’s visitors
  • Improve the user experience
  • Increase returning traffic and customers

How do you improve your conversion rate? 

When it comes to how to improve conversion rate optimisation there is no singular approach. CRO is based on UX principles combined with consumer behaviour, so you need to understand your audience — their desires, struggles, what problems they need to solve and why they would buy your product or service. It’s a process of examining the end-to-end user experience.

There is a pyramid structure that outlines what good UX is made of, think the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs equivalent for websites; we want your website to reach peak self-actualisation #PsychologyJokes.

Each step needs to be met before you focus on the next, because without the previous requirement UX crumbles, like a cookie, a tasty tasty cookie.

#1 – Functionality

Screw the purpose of life, what is the purpose of your website? A website without a specific function is wasting space. Decide what you want to achieve and adapt the website to this goal. Maybe you want product sales, bookings, downloads, subscriptions, to educate, social media follows, to entertain, whatever it might be, you must have a purpose. Once you worked out your purpose then start looking at the basic functionality requirements to start you off. If you said you needed bookings above, then your functionality is… You guessed it, a booking system. Simple as that.

#2 – Accessibility

Your site should be able to be easily accessed by everyone; so start installing the wheelchair ramps. It must be available on any device, browser, country, and visitors should be able to understand how to navigate the website and its resources. This includes adding alt tags for images, contrast between text/buttons and background, and a readability of font sizes. Your backgrounds matter people! White text on a light background is not a good look. Your website is for everyone…ish, so design it for everyone…ish.

#3 – Usability

Nobody likes a dumb website that doesn’t do as it’s told. Your site should be fast, easy to use and in a language that allows visitors to buy what they want the way they want. Just because you have the functionality and the accessibility sorted, does not mean they make a happy couple. Statistically speaking, most marriages between website functionality and accessibility end in divorce (not a real stat, but true). Make sure your website makes sense to the user without them having to work for it, don’t you dare use fancy wording that nobody will understand either. Language matters. And how on earth are they meant to buy a product if they can’t find it?

#4 – Intuitive

Your site needs to reduce any friction involved in the buying process. If there’s enough friction, you’re going to start a fire, and you aren’t a fireman. Make the process feel like it comes naturally. You do not want people to think about the process, keep them thinking about the purchase. Also, allow customers to ask questions and get answers quickly, beyond FAQ’s. Just don’t make life hard. K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupidhead.

#5 – Persuasive

This is where marketing efforts come along to spice things up, but they only play nice when steps 1-4 are best friends. Your site needs to convince visitors they need what you’re selling — this is the basis of sales psychology. Everything from feature tours, product comparisons, demos, case studies, white papers and testimonials are considered persuasive. Would you want the present in a paper bag or in the box with a bow? Sweeten the deal by providing value and using compelling copy. Time to get your charm on

What is the typical CRO process?

We don’t know if most agencies take this approach as well, but this is how we do it anyway. In terms of how to optimise conversion rates, like most marketing strategies, CRO has a process. Without it your testing may be inconclusive and will find it tough to track results. Generally, it’s broken down into four phases:

Research

In terms of your business, questions we will ask include (but are not limited to, come on we can’t give you all the answers… you might be a competitor):

  • What are your top three company-wide goals for this year? (Online and offline)
  • What are the immediate goals that you need to achieve through your website alone over the next 6 months?
  • What actions on the website are most important to you?
  • What are your key performance indicators for your website?
  • What are your USPs? / In what ways are you stronger than your competitors? In what ways are you weaker than your competitors?
  • Tell me about your different target groups: Who are they? Describe their key characteristics. Please share any persona research if available.
  • What are some of the scenarios that lead them to finding your brand and using your services or products?

We’ll stop there because if we told you anymore… we’d just be giving us our industry secrets. We don’t just get our research from our clients though, we have a complete user experience phase that our client’s websites go through to pull the best data you can imagine. We’re talking; user testing, surveys, focus groups, heatmaps, scroll maps, confetti maps (they sound more fun than they are), user recordings, you name it, we get real creepy about how much data we pull.

 

Hypothesis

After we gather the research, then comes the hypothesis, which is a proposed explanation of your research. These are built up of three elements:

  • A particular change – this is based on insights derived from qualitative and quantitative data.
  • A particular effect – this is a conversion metric or goal which needs improvement.
  • A particular reason – this is the thinking behind why a specific change can bring about your desired effect.

Best practices in CRO should be based on hypotheses that are backed up by data not assumptions. Leave your dang assumptions at the door. Testing a number of different variants and new functionality will then be able to tell us whether the new variants will get better conversions. But even if they don’t, it’s all valuable ~learning~!

 

Prioritisation

When conversion rate optimising a website you’ve got to look for the gold a.k.a the quick wins and the power-packers. A good framework to use to decide your priorities is:

  • Potential – finding out the pages that are performing the worst and can improve greatly (but have plenty of sessions flowing through, we’re not optimising an awful page that only gets 5 sessions a month here).
  • Importance – narrowing these down by choosing the ones that have the most valuable traffic and opportunity to growth revenue.
  • Ease – not all pages will be easy to optimise, so we will generally start with what is easiest and quickest, or even the things that can be a sitewide template change, but is something easy to implement. Like a USP on all product pages that had been missed originally.

Unlike SEO or PPC, CRO is something that can have quick returns for little fork out.

 

Testing

When it comes to testing and how to optimise conversion rate, there are three basic ways to test — A/B testing, split or A/B/C testing and multivariate testing:

  • A/B testing – When you test one page version against the original page, showing each to 50% of people – the ol’ half and half trick. One of its benefits is that you can see if the change makes an impact in a controlled environment. The better the traffic and the more conversions the less time the A/B test takes, the better chance you’ll get great results.
  • A/B/C testing – This is when you are testing more than one alternative version of a web page – for example, comparing two new call-to-action variations against the original. Here we have smaller sample sizes, and we split ‘em up into 3 groups, with this test taking a little longer.
  • Multivariate testing – This is when you are testing multiple variables on a single page. It is used to test which combination of changes works best for your visitors. This type of testing requires more traffic as there are multiple changes that require multiple combinations of changes to test all possible variations. Lots of moving parts, but the pay-off can be great if you prepare correctly.
  • Split URL – The classic ‘test this entire layout against this entirely different layout’. Great for testing large changes or changes that you can’t simply edit within a platform such as VWO without a load of custom JavaScript.

What can we test for?

CRO can be pretty complex so you have to know what you’re up to. A successful strategy uses data to determine hypothesis, runs multiple tests, makes adjustments based on results, and draws conclusions from the testing results. There are six main elements that can improve conversion rate optimisation.

#1 – Site navigation

This is the first step as the site structure must be easy to navigate. Generally, we’ll start with the home page and then explore categories and sub-categories — visitors should be able to complete their goals with as few clicks as possible. This isn’t Pan’s Labyrinth, so make the process easy.

#2 – Landing page design

The way pages are laid out is just as important as the information itself. Information should be clear and readily available …. aesthetics do matter!

#3 – Page speed

Even a one second delay in page response can result in a reduction in conversions. We need your website to be slick, quick & schmick. If your website is slow you’re just going to lose customers to your competitor, and that doesn’t seem very productive.

#4 – Copy

As Aladdin’s Genie once said, “come for the hummus, stay for the floor show.” and yes, you guessed it, your website’s design is the hummus. However, the real show is the copy. That is what is going to keep people on your website and turn them into a prospect. Copy should be relevant, engaging, persuasive, and show users a whole new wooooorld.

#5 – Call To Action (CTA)

A CTA is a request for customers to take a desired action, which they’ll do if you use your manners. The more clear you are with your CTAs, the more likely you will convert users. A landing page should also only be dedicated to one CTA to keep customers focussed and prevent confusion. A single, clear focus means that visitors have two options upon arrival, they either convert or leave — which can increase your conversion rate.

#6 – Forms

Form optimisation that works for one organisation may not work for another, sometimes short is better, other times long is more effective – less isn’t always more folks. This is partly due to compliance psychology, which is based on the theory that once we’ve made a choice, “we’ll encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment”. (Thankyou Dr Robert Cialdini for your book The Psychology of Persuasion). Basically, once you commit to something small, you’re more likely to move onto bigger decisions aligned with your initial decision. So that form fill could be the beginning of a new customer relationship, how romantic.

CRO go!

With digital marketing efforts becoming more expensive and competitive, CRO has become a valuable tool for increasing conversions and sales for organisations. CRO campaigns — leveraged with PPC and SEO — will allow you to better understand your website users’ pain points and gather valuable data in order to create new and even better digital strategies in the future. It’s a no-brainer!

Kimberley Maunder

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