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Conversion Optimisation as a Conversation Starter

Conversion Optimisation as a Conversation Starter: Building New Bridges, Embracing Change and Remaining Agile.
It’s been awhile since my last post on here and I just wanted to share my observations, thoughts of 2014 and some essential reading. This post focuses primarily on using CRO effectively in cross-functional teams.


The topic of Conversion Optimisation has been a much talked about subject matter this year with more companies adopting it as part of their wider digital strategy – according to this report,

 “60% of companies are increasing their budgets for conversion rate optimisation, reflecting a desire to ensure that budget spent on acquiring traffic is not wasted by poorly converting websites.”

This is visualized below:

from eConsultancy UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report 2014

from eConsultancy UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report 2014

However, an increased interest in CRO may not always translate into a shared understanding of its objectives. Usually involving test & learn mechanics such as A/B testing, the main aim of Conversion Optimisation is to make all traffic to a website (earned, paid, owned, social) work harder at driving the most revenue. Peep Laja of Conversion XL used the “leaky bucket” analogy and described Conversion Optimisation on websites as:

“Identifying where the leaks are & where the money is leaking out.”

By this definition, it would appear that CRO is led only by marketing KPIs. But the objectives of marketing and the objectives of say, branding, whilst similar, are not always explicitly the same. The challenge then is how does one achieve that perfect balance?

Building New Bridges: Getting Buy-in

Imagine you’re the new person at a house party where everyone seems to know each other. The only way you’re going to get people to engage with you is if you started talking to them first, like asking their names and finding out more about what they do. When compared to other services like SEO or Front End Development, Conversion Optimisation is the new kid on the (digital) block. The best way to break the ice and get buy-in (both internally and externally) is to SIMPLY ASK:  find out more about what the other teams / stakeholders involved are working towards and their challenges, then find out how CRO can be used to overcome these issues or at least uncover where CRO input can help provide additional value or insight.
Working together to achieve that much needed balance – who’d have thought!

As an example, Anthony Franco of EffectiveUI cited a widely discussed topic on marketing and UX in the SoDA Report:

“The primary function of marketing is to sell to the customer; the primary function of UX is to serve the needs of the customer. One campaign, one application or one digital product simply cannot do both.”

He went on to explore common grounds, case studies and methodologies between the two and concluded with advice to CMOs on the value of achieving the right balance:

“While marketing and UX are not core-value compatible, they are powerful assets to a company if managed wisely and held in proper balance. They will inevitably be required to work together because they share the common interests of understanding human behavior and building brand loyalty.”

Embracing Change

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” – Henri Bergson

The additional bonus with building bridges is that the different teams involved begin to learn from each other as new ways of working and new ways of thinking are introduced. This allows change to happen, and the only way to progress is to embrace change.

In this interview, Etsy’s iOS Software Engineer, Lacy Rhoades reveals how A/B testing has become part of Etsy’s internal culture, how it is co-ordinated within cross-functional teams and how this spurred the company’s mobile innovation:

“At Etsy, we’re really lucky to have product managers and designers who incorporate the idea of experiments into their plans. Oftentimes, product ideas and designs will rely heavily, from day one, on being able to test and run experiments.”

A culture of testing, learning, embracing change resulting in innovation!

Embracing change needs to be a 2-way thing. A great example of this was at a not-so-recent discovery workshop with the CRO, branding, development and design teams coming together. I came away from the session armed with new ideas from the other teams, like how sketches can be used to get feedback and stakeholder buy-in and learning about the Parallel Design Process which might prove useful during the conceptualizing stage of test variations.

from Parallel & Iterative Design + Competitive Testing = High Usability

You learn something new every day!

Here’s a pretty good one – in this slidedeck, Craig Sullivan discusses tips for blending Analytics, UX, Agile and CRO:

Perhaps the best example of showing how branding, design, development, marketing and CRO can all contribute and work together in harmony is epitomized in the UK government’s digital service design principles, the points neatly ordered in these 10 commandments:

1 Start with needs*
2 Do less
3 Design with data
4 Do the hard work to make it simple
5 Iterate. Then iterate again.
6 Build for inclusion
7 Understand context
8 Build digital services, not websites
9 Be consistent, not uniform
10 Make things open: it makes things better

Remaining Agile

With so many team’s input, how do we ensure we still deliver on time and keep focused? Dave Landis proposed how the experimentation phase might fit in a Lean UX and Agile process in this neat visualisation:

conversion optimisation ux lean agile

from Dave Landis

He explains:

“By joining forces with all cross-functional teams, you can realize the ultimate goal of creating experiences that customers love.”

Conclusion: Optimising Decisions

Suddenly, everything falls into place nicely. The creation of a testing and learning culture becomes so organic it’s almost accidental. This is when Conversion Optimisation becomes more than just testing the colour of a button, or experimenting a “stronger headline”.

Michael Aagaard from Content Verve could not have put it more succinctly when he said:

“Conversion Optimization really isn’t about optimizing web pages – it’s about optimizing decisions – and the page itself is a means to an end but not an end in itself.”

Now specialist teams truly understand the value of each other’s input and start sharing and exchanging tools and ideas, like this tool to help you design, wireframe, version control and present variations effectively, or this one for mobile, or this interesting one about the psychologists’ view of UX design and how it shares some similarities with the WiderFunnel LIFT Model used in conversion optimisation for landing pages. Suddenly the concept of developers implementing UserID tracking in basebuilds so that the marketing folks can analyse groups of sessions across devices to help optimise online campaigns is realised, and then the mobile team uses this information to build awesome apps which the UX team helped to architecture…

Now you achieve stakeholder buy-in, and your analytics ninjas can visualise data for an Impact Analysis to make the case for CRO even stronger. Now the joint powers of different teams are harnessed to create awesome test variations  websites  digital strategies, empowering clients to make better business decisions.



Tools to Explore

Featured image credit: Dinner Party by Oskar Schlemmer (public domain) on Wikimedia Commons by Anagoria


Want to find out more about what Analytics & CRO can do for your business? Contact us here.

Trent Y. is Head of Analytics and Conversion at twentysix. Analytics, usability and conversion strategies. Loves coffee, interested in how data and technology can positively impact our lives. “Learn fast, learn often.”

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