Brian Massey is a Conversion Scientist™ at Conversion Sciences. He is a highly rated international speaker and author of the best-selling marketing book, “Your Customer Creation Equation: Unexpected Website Formulas of The Conversion Scientist.”

Like a microbiologist eager to find the cure for a disease, Brian uses science to look for the “impulses to act that are hidden in your site,” as he wrote in his LinkedIn bio.

We invited Brian Massey to our “Top 100 eCommerce experts” interview series to share his thoughts on: 

  • The misconceptions and struggles eCommerce businesses still have around CRO;
  • What CRO implies as an ongoing process;
  • What eCommerce companies can do in 2022 to improve their conversion rates.

Leaving behind the CRO misconceptions and struggles

Alexandra Panaitescu: How did the CRO landscape change since you’ve started Conversion Sciences?

Brian Massey:

The biggest change has been that businesses are now asking for conversion optimization. In contrast, when I started in 2007, I had to explain what conversion optimization was, why they needed it, how it worked, and how it would help their business. 

After 14 years of educating the marketplace, I think they’ve come around and understand conversion optimization and why they need it. Now, we just have a conversation around what the best approach is.

A.P.: What is the biggest misconception around CRO that you still see in the eCommerce industry?

B.A.M.: Probably the biggest misconception is that conversion optimization is about quick wins. 

People come saying, “Hey, we want to do a little conversion optimization to find some problems with our design, and then once you fix those problems, we won’t need conversion optimization anymore.” 

The truth is that conversion optimization is the collection of skills and disciplines that allow you to understand your business, visitors, customers, or prospects through the lens of data and experimentation.

A.P.: What struggles do eCommerce stores face when asking for your help?

B.A.M.: Store owners budget for product development, marketing, social media, SEO. When they come to us, the biggest barrier is understanding that they need to use customer data to improve their website and products. 

The main struggles are time and resources. Most eCommerce stores don’t budget for research time and experimentation time. They don’t invest budgets in understanding the amazing amount of data they are collecting. You don’t get that beautiful behavioral database in a brick-and-mortar store unless you’re the one tending the register or helping customers.

> Are you struggling with your Google Ads campaigns? You might be making one of the biggest mistakes Brad Geddes observed among eCommerce businesses.

CRO is not a quick fix. Get ready for an ongoing process.

A.P.: You mentioned earlier that CRO is not a quick fix. What else should eCommerce store owners understand about CRO before engaging in this process?

B.A.M.: CRO is about transforming their business as much as transforming their website.

Yes, we can test the suitable layout for their category pages and how many columns they should have. We can make various changes to their product pages to make them more communicative, compelling, and helpful. Stores can test pricing, bundling, new features, or products.

But we can also test some of the fundamental things about the business:

  • What is the value proposition when somebody comes in?
  • What is the reason they should stay? 

Conversion optimization is really about collecting data on their business, as much as it is about collecting data on their website.

A.P.: How does the CRO process start? What are the first steps that you take with your clients?

B.A.M.:  We want to ensure that we measure everything about the visitors’ journey on the website as accurately as possible. We call this “setting up the digital laboratory.“ We make sure that there are no blind spots in Google Analytics, and we’re seeing all of the interactions that a visitor is taking.

We also want to ensure that we have access to great tools, such as heat map and scroll map reports, session recordings, tracking phone calls, etc. Our data should be flowing all the way through into the CRM because it helps us track sales and the value of activities we’re doing.

All of this gives us the tools to do our various experiments. It can be simply analyzing what’s in analytics, looking at a heat map, watching some session recordings, or it can be driving AB testing.

A.P.: What advice do you have for companies with significant differences in conversion rates between their desktop and mobile versions?

B.A.M.: The most important thing is to experiment on your mobile site as if it was a completely different business. 

When people use a desktop device, they have a physical keyboard and mouse, so completing a purchase online is much easier. People shopping on a small mobile device screen, like an iPhone, are in a different context, maybe waiting in line at the bank or for their latte in a coffee shop. It’s less of a lean-forward device. 

When we optimize for mobile, we often create a different user experience. For example, if your business will accept phone calls on a mobile device, we may optimize for phone calls over online purchases through the phone. Your decision depends on your audience. Many of our customers have a 3 – 10 times higher close ratio when they get somebody on the phone.

> Find why Theodore Moulous believes eCommerce managers have a lot to learn from SaaS managers in terms of optimizing CLV.

Improving conversion rates in 2022

A.P.: Should an online store hire an in-house CRO specialist, a consultant, or use a mix to eliminate biases? 

B.A.M.: The correct answer is that whoever is managing the business needs to have the skills of a conversion optimizer. So, instead of whether you should hire, the question is, should you hire someone to teach you, and that can be an employee, or that could be working with an agency, or are you going to learn alone? 

Every online business should have conversion optimization or behavioral data analysis capability. They should have someone who has the time to imagine and perform the experiments, and understand which experiments they shouldn’t run or investigate. Ultimately, whoever is the decision-maker for products, features, website, etc., that person needs to have the skills and the tools to get curious and figure out how they can improve their business, to learn and understand what’s going on with their audience.

They need to be the primary receiver of the data. If they decide to hire somebody in-house or an agency, it doesn’t matter as much as that initial commitment to being a data-driven business owner.

A.P.: What areas should online stores invest in to improve conversion rates in 2022?

B.A.M.: The worldwide pandemic caused everybody to go online, and the numbers are pretty astounding. Before the pandemic, online commerce was about 10-11% of commerce. Within a few months, it had gone up to over 23% of commerce. As the various strains come and go, that number hovers, but it has never gone back down to 11%.

Many more people are shopping online, and businesses are getting online to take advantage of this trend, so you’ve got competition. The areas that I would focus on are: 

  • What is unique about your products and your store?
  • How do you communicate this? 

You need a great product. Then you need a great way of talking about that product and emphasizing why you’re different, including everything from your unique selling position to what your return policy is and what your guarantees are. 

> Learn from Jeffrey Eisenberg what is the biggest obstacle to achieving customer-centricity.

Takeaways

Although many businesses are familiar with the principles of CRO and the process behind it, Brian Massey emphasized that CRO is not about quick wins; it needs time and resources. Our guest believes that CRO knowledge is a must for decision-makers, and they should be curious and learn from CRO savvy people. He encourages online stores to experiment with the mobile versions as if it was a completely different business.

Stay tuned for more expert insights and advice on everything eCommerce and digital marketing. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

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