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How does… conversion rate optimisation work?

We've asked some of the industry's most knowledgable boffins to break down industry jargon to help you through those confusing meetings and indecipherable conferences. Here, New Republique CEO Nima Yassini explains how conversion rate optimisation works.

What is CRO?

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is the process of testing a range of experiences to find which combination provides the best results.

These results are usually related to increasing positive user actions such as newsletter sign-ups, memberships or donations, and improving site engagement, for example turning visitors into leads and leads into sales.

Whatever experience you want to boost or optimise, there is a place for CRO in your digital marketing strategy.

Media-led versus experience-led CRO

There are two main types of conversion rate optimisation: media-led and experience-led. Which is ‘best’ depends on how suitable it is for what you want to do. Start with defining your primary objective and then choose the strategy that will get you those results.

If you’re focused on converting traffic being driven to your site, for example to a designated landing page, then you would go with a media-led strategy. This is where a lot of agencies sit, working to maximise your media spend.

If, however, your focus is on improving the customer experience on your website – a process that involves understanding the psychology of your customer, how they navigate through your site and make choices – then you are better off with experience-led CRO.

Brand and UX design = CRO

You can start with qualitative or quantitative focus groups, but they will no longer be enough to give you an insight into the best possible experience for your customer online. Surveys or focus groups are a helpful starting point but in isolation they do not take into account a multitude of factors, most importantly the context in which your visitor experiences your website at the real-life time they’re making decisions on your site.

Let’s say your customer is a mum looking to buy some shoes on your site. She might be doing this while also helping her children do their homework, cooking dinner or on the phone to her friend. Another example is the guy sitting at his desk during work hours looking at televisions while switching between emails and answering calls. These are the real world purchasing siutations. Knowing this, you would design your site to accommodate these different browsing patterns.

Through CRO we can capture real-time data to track a customer’s purchasing journey, which then feeds better decisions about brand and UX design. And you would never capture this data on customer buying psychology if this person were in a room with five other people to answer questions on how they make decisions.

Failure creates learning

Fostering a culture of experimentation through CRO is also about managing – and celebrating – failure. When you’re conducting tests on your site or any other digital environment you will undoubtedly experience failure. Not only do you need to be prepared to fail, it helps if you celebrate failures to reinforce how much you value experimentation.

Failure is analysed far more than success and will therefore give you more detailed insights into how your customers are making choices on your site. You can then take those lessons and improve the user experience through design and functionality.

CRO is a specialisation

Many digital agencies offer CRO or something that looks like it, but not every agency has the depth of understanding of CRO or experience to give you expert service.

Before any testing takes place, they should ensure you have a solid plan that takes into account your category (e.g. retail, banking, education), your sales channel (e.g. omni-channel vs online only) and your vertical (e.g. electronics, home loans, lifestyle).

The most effective CRO strategy uses data combined with an understanding of the psychology of customer behaviour, which optimises the style of testing and experimentation that then provides insights for better user experience design. It’s a winning combination that very few agencies currently use to great effect.

Nima Yassini is CEO at New Republique. A version of this article first appeared on Linkedin.

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