Up until a few years ago, conversion rate optimization (CRO) was a niche skill set. By and large, designers were worried about a website’s aesthetics; search experts were concerned about information architecture and keyword targeting; IT was preoccupied with site speed and availability; and chief marketing officers were concerned about the overall brand experience.
For most companies, nobody owned A/B testing, much less multivariate tests. No one owned the iterative usability improvements that lead to increased conversions. No one’s head would roll if a form’s 18 fields were keeping form completes abysmal.
And then this happened: In 2013, CRO is tied with content marketing as the leading digital marketing priority. This marks a shift in mentality towards marketing accountability. Digital marketers are no longer just ambassadors of the brand, no longer just concerned with visibility; they’re co-owners of the bottom line. And while interest in CRO, testing and personalization is rising, most companies are just now learning about the ins and outs of the craft. Unfortunately, some companies may even be blundering their way about, unwittingly jeopardizing their optimization initiatives. Below are four ways to doom your CRO efforts (and your bottom line):
Segmentation has always been important — geographic targeting comes to mind as one of the early but useful things to consider — but there’s not been as much of it required in the early days. Before 2007, there was no expectation of a reasonably good user experience for mobile phones, so there was hardly any traffic to websites from them. This year, over 18 percent of visitors use some type of mobile device to access e-commerce sites.
Analyzing what visitors do on a website without first segmenting for mobile and desktop traffic is a futile game; the use cases are different enough to keep most observations moot. This, of course, is on top of search keyword segmentation to identify the phase in the buying cycle on your clickstream tool. On top of user tasks when you’re collecting voice of customer insights. On top of past behavior when you’re using remarketing.
Observing visits, views and general traffic information tells you nothing you can change about your website. Segment away, and don’t make the mistake others in the field are making.
You can tell a lot about the visitor before he or she gets to your website. As with segmentation, the type of device is a big deal. You can serve a mobile version to visitors who need specialized functions like click to call, you can use fluid layouts to deal with different screen sizes, or optimize buttons and hot spot sizes for larger devices. And device type is just scratching the surface. If your website is connected to a marketing automation system, you can use information you’ve previously collected to serve a more context-sensitive experience. You can target CMOs in the healthcare industry with a whitepaper written for them, while serving more general content for the rest. You can personalize by traffic source — e.g., people who come from social media sites want different things than your latest product campaign ad.
When the web was in the nascent stages of growth, there were hardly any standards. Buttons could be anywhere, site IDs in the upper left-hand corner weren’t a standard yet, very little thought was given into what should go into the top navigation menu, and even less thought was given to the left nav. At some point, the web matured a little, but there was that early dark age.
That’s where the mobile experience is now.
For companies that build apps as a part of the conversion process, no two function the same. You can’t tell what’s clickable. Even for more advanced companies, the disparity between the readable text size still not being big enough to click is proving to be a tough issue to solve.
The key thing to solve for is consistency. People spend a tiny fraction of their time on your website, so they don’t have a ton of time to learn the rules of how you operate. Make it boring, keep the interactions predictable and you avoid some of the worst issues.
The digital landscape has changed considerably, but the internal processes required to adapt are just getting there. You can stay ahead of the curve by segmenting heavily, respecting the context of the interaction with the visitor and keeping a close eye on consistency.
This article originally appeared in Tim’s Retail Online Integration column August 27, 2013
Tim Ash is the CEO of SiteTuners, a leading conversion rate optimization agency that has helped over 1200 clients worldwide. He is chairperson of Conversion Conference, the first conference focused on improving online conversions, and is a highly-regarded keynote presenter at conferences worldwide.