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Conversion Rate Optimization Principles

If you’ve run any kind of successful website test, whether it be a headline change or a redesign of page structure, you’ve seen the possibilities testing can offer for business growth. Testing doesn’t only produce incremental wins, however; it can drive foundational business growth. 

Building a high-performing optimization program is the #1 way to grow a business.

While running one test is relatively simple, turning testing into a full-blown experimentation program can be overwhelming. Seemingly even more difficult is unifying testing efforts throughout your organization into a cohesive strategy that increases revenue and customer growth rates.

Luckily, the benefits of implementing an optimization strategy far outweigh the work you and your team will do to make it happen. But before you can start building an optimization framework in your organization, you first need to change your mindset.

The Benefits of an Optimization Strategy

Optimization strategy has traditionally looked to increasing conversions, for instance, turning more website browsers into loyal customers. The truth is, conversions—while critical—will only get you so far. A true optimization strategy leverages data-backed insights to grow a business.

Here at Cro Metrics, we call this an optimization growth strategy. Through testing and initializing a coordinated strategy across an organization (no siloes here), we turn customer insights and data into a competitive advantage for our client partners.  That is the ultimate goal of optimization.

Experience Increased ROI & Lower Costs

More conversions equals more revenue, right? While true, conversions can be costly. SEO and pay-per-click costs are continuing to rise due to the competitiveness of the field. If you can optimize existing assets like your website instead, you can gain those business-changing conversions faster and cheaper.

Check out this case study to see how Metromile lowered customer acquisition costs via continuous testing.

Gather Data-Backed Solutions

Data doesn’t lie and ego has no place in decision making (more on that later). An optimization strategy enables you to discover data-backed solutions through testing. It takes the costly guesswork out of the equation, instead allowing you to increase your ROI based on fact, not opinion.

Get to Know Your Customers

You can’t have a successful business without your customers. You must understand what they want so you can convert and retain them. Sure, you can interview your customers as much as you want. You can also accept feedback on a specific web experience. But even though these initiatives are helpful, they don’t result in concrete evidence of how customers behave on your website.

The insights gained from an optimization strategy gives you a clearer indication of your customers’ intent, what they want to buy and where they’re getting hung up. As a result, you can make the necessary changes to improve their experience.

Mitigate Risks

Launching an update to your website may result in unintended consequences. Every web project comes from a place of assumpted positive intent. Yet, we’ve seen many times that it doesn’t always end that way.

For example, a change may negatively impact users and result in less money coming into your business. Or you may lose cash by having your team work on something that doesn’t positively impact your business.

In addition, moving forward with a change based on trends or what your competitors are doing can actually lead to a decrease in customer growth. By testing and creating a culture of experimentation within your business, you decrease the risk of the negative and the unknown.

The 5 Main Tenets of a Successful Optimization Framework

These benefits may have you chomping at the bit to get going. And while motivation and evangelism are required for success, there are five tenets or principles you must accept before jumping headfirst into optimization.

1. Decisions Must Be Based on Data

Your opinion doesn’t matter here, even if you’re a member of the C-suite. Many times we’ve worked with companies who had the data pointing them in the right direction, right in front of them. They overlook it, instead making decisions based on their own opinions. The result: Loss of conversions and growth.

Don’t let this happen to you. Allow optimization to remove human-based opinion and replace it with data.

“Decision-making tends to be a battle of ‘this is how we’ve always operated’ or ‘I’ve done this for many years, so I know the right way to go.’ Ego gets in the way. Through optimization, the new train of thought is, ‘Hey, our data shows we have an opportunity for optimization. Let’s strategize several different potential solutions, run a test, and let our results help direct the final decision.”
– Grant Tilus, Sr. Growth Product Manager

2. There’s More Than One Potential Solution

When it comes to any change, there’s always more than one potential solution. The idea of deciding which direction to take during a one-off meeting is an idea of the past. A culture of experimentation means taking a few solutions and running a test to see what works best. It also means using those insights to inform future tests.

3. Great Improvement Ideas May Come From Anywhere

Don’t silo your improvement efforts—great ideas can come from anywhere. They can come from the expertise you gathered from what’s worked elsewhere or known improvements. They can come from analysis or by identifying areas of opportunity. They can also come from members of your team or those who spend time with your customers each day.

It’s important to keep your eyes and ears open. When it’s determined that a specific improvement is worth testing, do so. You might be surprised at the results.

4. Tests Require Quick Prioritization

Which tests should you run first? You may have a laundry list of ideas and recommendations ready to go. Yet, you can’t test everything at once. You must quickly prioritize, and there are many different frameworks for doing so. At Cro Metrics, we prioritize based on objective factors that are quick to answer, including: 

  • Potential business impact
  • User analytics
  • Previous test results
  • Technical complexity
  • Alignment with primary business objectives

Perhaps the most important aspect is learning from each test you complete. One test may give you insights into another test, which may suggest re-prioritization. Remember: Don’t let prioritization analysis paralysis slow you down. Move fast, learn and make adjustments as you go.

“We learn as we go. The best way to continue to test through your backlog is to learn from previous tests. Even though we’re experts, we’re often surprised. This is why we test. Every business is different, every website is different. That’s why we iterate and re-prioritize based on the results of each test.”
– Ann Devens, VP of Business Development, Cro Metrics

5. Tests Require Proper Experiment Design

Tests must be designed properly to achieve actionable insights. Although it sounds obvious, design often goes wrong. For example, businesses may choose test metrics that don’t fit, resulting in a lack of detectable change. Unfortunately, these outcomes push your team to start questioning whether results are effective or not.

Eliminate the guesswork by designing your tests to gather specific customer insights. Don’t just test based on the CRO strategies of your competitors. Start by gathering data about your customers and their specific objections to your website or sales funnel. From there, you can formulate an educated hypothesis and build out a useful test.

What Often Gets Overlooked When Building an Optimization Strategy?

When organizations decide to start building their optimization strategy, there are a few issues that often get overlooked. And, unfortunately, they can hurt the success of your strategy.

  • Audience effect: Many businesses get hung up on ideas or recommendations that won’t move the needle because they aren’t highly visible to customers or won’t actually impact their behavior in a meaningful way. Always be sure you’re identifying the highest value opportunities.
  • Time investment: When it comes to CRO, you want to move quickly. Yet, building and implementing a strategy requires coordination and communication. It will take some time to build and scale, but it’s more than worth it.
  • Amount of resources required: It takes time and tools to make optimization happen. Many tools used to execute an optimization strategy are great for simple tests, but complicated for others. You’ll require trained experts with specific knowledge to use these tools effectively.
  • Need for a culture of testing: Successful business optimization requires more than just a single team conducting one-off experiments. It requires an entire organization adopting a culture of testing. As a result, everything is tested and often to ensure you’re following customer data, not opinion.

The bottom line is this: Decisions driven by data will help you reach your goals faster. To prioritize data in your organization and move the needle towards growth, you must design and implement a strategic optimization program.

Start Creating a Culture of Experimentation With Cro Metrics

Whether you’re new to optimization strategy or have been working in the trenches trying to scale an optimization program, we can help. Send us a message to discover ideas to start or accelerate your testing velocity.