Many companies have seen CRO as the silver bullet to generate more revenue overnight.
Few companies understand that CRO comes in to fix bad conceived websites, which are a part of the digital customer journey, which is a part of the broader customer journey.
Our vision is that CRO will merge into a more comprehensive, strategic method to craft better customer journeys, making sneaky agencies and freelancers that promise to deliver silver bullets a thing of the past.
So, our CEO, Valentin Radu, and Juliana Jackson, decided to ask the most tenured & well-known global experts in digital marketing about this.
And this is me writing the story. ?
An international consultancy that scientifically optimizes the profitability of online businesses
Many people can only play Chopsticks on the piano. However, that doesn’t mean that “playing piano” = “playing Chopsticks”.
Similarly, some companies restrict their CRO activities to button colors, but that doesn’t mean “CRO = golden buttons”.
So, yes, we absolutely agree that conversion rate optimization (CRO) encompasses customer journey optimization. In our article, Beyond Landing Pages, we describe many areas to which we have applied CRO, to encourage companies to broaden their scope.
To remind ourselves of what CRO should be, it helps to revisit its definition. CRO is the systematic process of optimizing “conversion rate”, and we define conversion rate as “the percentage of your visitors who end up reaching a given goal.” In other words, for every 100 visitors who arrive at your content, how many actually reach the goal for that content. Your goal might be for them to place an order, subscribe to a newsletter, to use an online knowledgebase instead of contacting a call center… or whatever you choose it to be.
Two things are worth noting:
- The “content” can be any item of messaging or any user interface. Of course, it can be a landing page, but it can also be a checkout page, an explainer video, the warranty application card that comes with a product, an email asking customers to refer their friends, the sales script that a customer service operator uses, a radio ad, a whole website… you get the idea. We have optimized all of the above and more. If you restrict yourself to landing pages, you’re going to struggle to triple a company’s sales.
- The “goal” is often to maximize sales—but not always. The goal of an early-stage social network, for example, may be to acquire new non-paying users. The goal of a knowledge base article may be to minimize the number of customers who need to call customer service, so the call center operatives are less overwhelmed. Always, the goal is to optimize the content for whatever it was created for—its raison d’etre (that’s French for “raisin for eating.” Who needs Google Translate?). The content exists to do a job, so it must excel at that job. You may think it’s obvious to optimize something for its entire reason for existing. Incredibly, in the world of marketing, it’s vanishingly rare.
The above is taken from the best-selling book, “Making Websites Win”. It sells for $20, but you can get it for free today via this page.
CRO Marketing Manager @ Gartner
Take a step back – realize experimentation gives you the power of a tool which literally can tell you how impactful something you’re about to do will be, or if you’re making a huge mistake which will cost thousands of dollars. How many people wish they had the power to validate literally every decision they’re making? It’s a tool that is extremely powerful – yet, in the market, the adoption rates are mind-blowingly low (at least, lower than I would’ve expected).
There’s a misconception that CRO is tweaking websites to improve conversion rates, only. While not incorrect, it limits the scope of what CRO and experimentation can actually provide from a business perspective. Experimentation and CRO can influence so many other business units – limiting the scope to just web design is like buying a Ferrari just to keep it in your garage.
- Experimentation can be used to test marketing principles: Think about running a test where you test the positioning of your value prop on your landing pages. When you have hardened data that one resonates far more than the other, your marketing team can lean in on that and continue to use that messaging in the market
- Experimentation can be used to test the value of core business units: Something as simple as hiding live chat vs. displaying live chat on your site, and you’ll immediately know how much value live chat drives to your site
- Experimentation can be used to enhance post-login experiences: A lot of testing can be done to improve user experiences post-login. Streamlining customer service, making task completion easier for users on the back end (paying a bill, requesting service, etc.) are two examples of this.
- Experimentation can help identify how new tools/technology will impact your site: In today’s day and age, we all know how important site speed is to our site. We also know how important data collection is to our sites, too. There’s a balance – many tags on our sites can give us a lot of data but at a potentially significant cost of user experience. Using experimentation, we can know exactly the cost of a new tool/technology by a/b testing having the tool implemented vs. not, to know what impacts are to our sites.
There are countless other ways we can use experimentation creatively besides the above examples, of course. To the original point – if you’re not using experimentation beyond the scope of the user interface, you’re doing it wrong.
CEO & Founder @ Omniconvert
It is unhealthy for a company to acquire customers that never come back:
- A – because there are high chances to be unprofitable: if the margin is lower than the customer acquisition cost & COGS
- B – because that means the company will not benefit from the network effect from that customer – it means the products & services are not generating word of mouth
Conversion rate means new customer acquisition rate and also customer retention rate.
So, in order to improve the conversion rate, companies must also understand the big picture: the customer lifetime value, the customer experience & all these hidden aspects that make the company profitable.
The paradox is that without understanding these aspects, a higher conversion rate that is solely relying on new customer acquisition rate, is actually harming the company.
CRO was and it is a part of the whole customer journey optimization.
The danger is to focus too much on the tactical optimization and squeezing more revenue per visitor, neglecting the overall customer journey, that needs to be optimized, as well.
CEO & CMO @ Enrich³
Conversion Rate Optimization should already be part of the Customer Journey Optimization. Businesses that are not improving their conversion rate, in most cases, it means that they are not improving their customers’ experience. Indirectly, this also means that they are not improving their customer journey, because any touchpoint should be optimized. And as your website, or other digital touchpoints, is part of your customer journey, you need to make sure that it’s optimized to.
The reason you need to optimize your website is that your website is your virtual “store” that is open 24/7. If you’re like most businesses, you are spending lots of money training your employees to make sure that you offer good customer service. But, if you’re not putting as much, or even more, money on your other point of contact to improve them too, you’re probably missing out on a lot of sales.
You know it, unless someone has a burning need that must be fixed right away, this person will more likely leave and maybe, hopefully, come back to maybe buy from you. The same thing happens on your website. That’s why you need to have every micro and macro interactions on your website to be optimized, so you can make sure that it’s moving the person down the sales funnel.
Beware of “hacks”! There’s no such thing as a simple quick fix like changing the font or color of a button. Yes, it could help or be part of the solution that helps you increase your conversion, but the real root of the problem is usually much deeper than just a quick fix like that. You have to research, hypothesize, test, and repeat, in order to optimize something. There’s no “one size fits all” solution to optimize your website. Your business is unique, so, why wouldn’t the solution to optimize your conversion be unique?
Digital Strategist @ arjenkoedam.com
Will Conversion Rate Optimization become a part of Customer Journey Optimization?
When thinking about how to optimize the customer journey, most people think about how to get the customer down the funnel as fast as possible. The primary focus is on CRO: how to convert a lead or visitor into a customer. This approach theorizes about the customer journey in a linear way, while in practice it is not.
I would suggest a more customer-centric approach where the goal of the conversion is not a direct line towards a sale, but customer satisfaction. Euros or dollars are easier to measure than customer satisfaction is. But it is my strong belief that it is a lot more valuable to help a visitor of your website with content that actually solves a problem for him than it would be to sell him a product that does not solve his problem.
When you help people to solve their problems they will remember your brand in a positive way. Satisfying your customers by helping them solve a problem will not always involve a sale, subscription or trial of your product, but when they run into a problem that is solved by your product they will remember you.
To make CRO a long-term strategy we need to make sure, we satisfy the customer in every stage of the customer journey. At every point where your company touches the customer, the goal should be customer satisfaction. This means conversions should not be measured in euros but less hard numbers such as in NPS, SCAT, CES, Retention, brand loyalty and brand image.
To accomplish this CRO should be a strategy that should be part of a company’s DNA. Just like with SEO, you cannot have a person, department or agency take care of CRO for you. CRO is a mindset that should be shared by product development, marketing, sales and logistics.
CRO has always been part of optimizing the customer journey, but to make it a sustainable strategy customer satisfaction should be at the core of it.
Product Manager @ Vinculum Group
I think, consciously or otherwise, businesses are already optimizing conversions across their funnels. Business leaders don’t look at sales and marketing funnels separately, but a single consolidated business funnel as a whole.
Businesses today need to optimize the experience for each funnel segment – from data that’s just noise to MQLs, SQLs and Customers.
So it’s not enough to just create high converting landing pages, but to ensure the pre- and post-submission experience remains consistently good – eg. well-written sales emails, well-designed thank you pages, seamless onboarding, regular check-ins, helpful and prompt support, intuitive product UI/UX. And finally, effective customer success that cares about customers’ business and not just their own expansion metrics.
CRO, in the modern business sense, doesn’t just mean increasing conversions on your lead gen forms. But plugging gaps throughout your business funnel. Be selective of your audience and then create an experience that sticks.
Integrated data analyst @ Escape
If you are a digital marketer, CRO is your daily task. But, don’t be a squirrel to test everything and anything – you should be smart and have your priorities in line. Don’t be among those, that work themselves to the ground. Test smart and first catch the low hanging fruits.
Where can you find the low hanging fruits? Where are they? How can you use them in your daily tasks?
Did you know that you can achieve an IAC (Incremental Ad Click) of over 100%? That means you can spend eg. 100U$ on ad clicks and achieve results like you have spent 200$?
Use the phenomenon of user behavior, the SEO position and the Google Ads contribution in the best way possible. If you are not a physiologist, statistician or data scientist guru, you can still use their knowledge to achieve extraordinary results.
But you have to put some effort into your daily tasks. Therefore you should read this article. And you should use Google’s AI free tools, like Sentiment Analysis. If your Ad has a high sentiment score, my experience is that there is a strong correlation between high sentiment score and higher conversion rate (this doesn’t impose causality! You should test this!!!). And if it works for your ads, you can use it for your emails, blog content and website meta description.
This simple and easy to use tool make the difference between an average and high result delivery expert in CRO. Please, try it, use it, and share your results with the community. I can’t wait for your results. I was blown away with the results in our tests ?
But, before any testing protocols or efforts check your usability and user experience according to this paper.
eCommerce manager @ Trackpack
I believe they go hand in hand if we consider that CRO involves improving the user experience through testing in order to remove obstacles and objections from the visitor’s path. So CRO means improving the user experience to obtain better conversions. Moreover, in my personal experience generally, the user is willing to overcome any type of user experience if the offering meets the user’s requirements.
Head of the eCommerce Department @ Wakacje.pl
CRO is a process. It’s not like you do one ab experiment and the job is done. I’m working with one product for more than 6 years and I have all the time a lot of work to do. Situations, trends, your personas are changing and you have to have CRO built-in your product development strategy all the time.
Chief Optimizer @ Blanki Creative Business Optimization
Conversion rate optimization should be the core activity of every business. Every aspect of the business including the whole journey can be and should be optimized. Think about as the bottom line of buyer journey and experience eventually comes into conversion. As you do it better you’ll increase the conversion rates. By the way, it works the same for online/offline activities and any process, you win by optimizing first and later you can increase budgets and act.
Founder & CRO consultant @ Fathom Fuel
Okay, so this is one of the irks I’ve got with the term CRO fundamentally. CRO is a vast, interdisciplinary process. This inevitably leads to a large number of people being exposed to the parts of the process, but very little – comparatively speaking – have had experience with anything close to the full scope of it. I mean, some people slap Google Optimize on an ill-tracked website, change the page layout (at best!) and call it CRO.
Some run a redesign that’s been already approved with the management as a variation in an A/B test and – if the redesign wins – claim it as their CRO achievement. If it doesn’t – they sweep it under the rug and call it a day.
Even folks who can be bothered to conduct research and test hypotheses based on valid data sometimes fail to understand basic statistics. They rely on calculators without really grasping the meaning behind the output, ending up stuffing their reports with pretty numbers and metrics and hoping their bosses/clients won’t be wanting an explanation.
I’ve written about this years ago and I still stand by this today – CRO is not about the conversion rate. It’s about helping businesses understand their users. That’s why most founders and CEOs are the best at ‘getting’ CRO – it’s the essential method of running a successful business, which they were doing all along but just didn’t have a word for.
Still, CRO is a crappy term. The suggested notion of CRO becoming a part of Customer Journey Optimization doesn’t sit well with me, either. Mostly, because what we call CRO is a subset of running a successful business.
Because unless you do research, listen to your customers, take in the market insights, apply critical thinking, and balance hunch with data, you’re unlikely to have a business to speak of. And there’s a spectrum between doing it intuitively and consciously, but the core is still there. Business owners have been doing this for centuries, they just didn’t know they were doing CRO.
I am – as much as the next person – guilty of using this term to describe what I do to my clients. This is because unfortunately, I don’t have a better word for it yet. Maybe you do.
What I hope will happen is a gradual shift from shoving this concept into a single-metric simpleton token box of a term (CRO) and hyped-up attention-grabbing buzzwords (growth hacking) towards embracing the holistic nature of this interdisciplinary thing.
Head of Digital Marketing & Growth @ Headrush
I agree that CRO must become a part of Customer Journey Optimization. I know a lot of companies that employ dedicated research agencies for mapping customer journeys, but still treat CRO as an isolated exercise, taking a mathematical approach to measure and benchmark it against industry standards or competitor metrics. To them, ‘website conversion’ is a mechanical process that can be studied with superficial data collection and optimized by applying boilerplate tactics, sometimes even at the cost of customer experience.
For instance, many eCommerce websites deploy pop-ups on landing pages that often overlay useful content and incentivize a user to sign-up. Options to dismiss such pop-ups are designed to have low visibility and a user does not bother to find it. A sneaky agency takes credit for capturing another loosely defined “conversion”, with a tactic that always seems to work. But does it?
Going back to customer journeys, as companies understand the expectations and behavior of customers at a macro level, they should be able to identify the specific stage in the journey where a website or app visit becomes relevant, and then use that to define the conversion action. To demonstrate with examples, the journey for someone buying a new car would probably begin by looking at an ad, then visiting the website for more information and booking a test-drive and end with an offline sale. Compare this to a customer journey for buying concert tickets, which begins with liking an artist and following them on social media to know about upcoming concerts, reducing the role of the website to just facilitate the transaction for a decision already taken.
Having visibility of the customer journey helps to understand that CRO tactics cannot be the same in both these examples because the user’s expectations from the sites are not the same. However, if CRO is happening in isolation, it would probably be tempting to apply standardized best practices, which may not be the most effective conversion optimization measure.
I recommend the integrated approach and believe that CRO should not be limited to mere placement of CTAs or addition of social proof, but should even contribute to the creation of a likable customer journey. The evolution of martech allows us to conveniently map non-linear and omnichannel customer journeys and CRO must become a part of optimizing the entire customer journey to deliver an enhanced CX while also clocking better revenues.
Founder & Marketing Consultant @ Monkey Blocks
Absolutely, in my opinion, CRO is already a crucial part of customer journey optimization, but it’s so underused and undervalued by companies. I see companies all the time hiring huge acquisition teams, spending millions of dollars, and constantly tweaking ad copy, images, testing and learning…but not on the website. The part which actually has to do the work is just left as it is, or with a long development roadmap of features that the business wants to make.
A properly implemented CRO strategy is so much more than just A/B testing landing pages, call to actions, and images. It’s a closely-knit part of the entire customer journey through your website, app, SaaS business, whatever. It involves huge amounts of customer research, data analysis, and experimentation, with the end goal of converting traffic at the cheapest cost, which provides the highest value.
What a lot of people get wrong is they focus on getting the cheapest conversion. You can do that with any amount of tricks, manipulation and discounting. I can guarantee conversion with an overpromising landing page, a 30 day free trial with no credit card, and 50% off your first 6 months, but will this get you valuable customers in the long term? Of course not.
There’s always an end to a customer journey, but the key thing is to make sure its not your fault. The journey should end because a new hire has a preferred supplier, or (regrettably) a business is going out of business, something that is out of your control. Otherwise, the experience at every single touchpoint, from day 1 to day 1,000, should be constantly optimized to give the customer what they want, ensure they see the value and have a great experience, and are retained as a long term customer.
President & Founder @ The Good
Over the past decade, since conversion rate optimization was invented as a term, marketers have increasingly used the term to mean optimization of more than the single conversion point of a website.
The term has also become increasingly more about optimizing for several metrics beyond the namesake metric of conversion rate.
Due to these changes, if one were to ask 10 marketers what the term “conversion rate optimization” means, one would get 10 different answers.
This has led to an industry full of unspecialized, inexperienced, and undifferentiated “experts” touting conversion rate optimization as a silver bullet to the unsuspecting marketer’s website woes.
In reality, the seasoned experts of conversion rate optimization are keenly aware there are no silver bullets. Instead, they understand that to properly optimize for conversion rates, brands must optimize the digital customer journey.
Taking this wider customer journey view is the only sustainable way to grow conversion rates.
Head of Growth at Inevo
I think for the businesses who succeed with their CRO efforts and have been for years, it has always been about the user and optimizing the customer journey. However I still find CRO to be one of the most misunderstood fields and this is partly due to inexperienced practitioners, sensationalism in poorly documented so-called case studies, and unrealistic expectations of the outcomes of CRO efforts.
It’s a field of expertise unlike any other because there is no algorithm to play, there’s hardly any universal best practices, it’s not a switch you can just flick and it’s not easy. If you think about it, there’s not a field within digital that has so much room for human error than CRO. Sure, there are more tools than ever to help you tweak your website to sell more, but it’s almost always dependent on human input like, What data are we looking at? How do we interpret it? How do we prioritize it? What do we do about it? How do we validate it? How much risk are we going to take? How confident are we in the results? This is where a lot of businesses derail in their CRO efforts.
It’s a complex field where almost every case is unique, as you have to take a deep dive into your own data in order to start making sense of it, and know how to utilize it in order to improve the customer experience and by default lead more people to become customers. As CRO tools max out their functionality in regards of testing capabilities, the research and data gathering functions become more important as it all starts with data, the quality of it and how we choose to use it.
I’m convinced that anyone involved in digital business these days should have a basic understanding of CRO. As broad as the term may be, it’s all about doing research, digging into your own data, finding problems, solving problems, creating smooth experiences and leveraging the right psychological triggers at the right time. Who wouldn’t benefit from knowing more about this? Whether you’re exclusively working with Google Ads, Facebook or email this is pure gold to have in your toolbox.
I strongly believe that CRO is best viewed as the overarching approach to create better customer experiences – both on-site and across channels. It shouldn’t be viewed as an activity to boost revenue in the short-term, but an approach to understanding your customers that should be at the very core of your business and influence all the intricate parts of the customer journey. That’s when you go from optimizing a metric to optimizing experiences.
Principal & Founder @ Bucket Studio
I think it’s inevitable that a systems-based approach trumps a tactics-based one, time and again — and that’s what I foresee with customer journey optimization. I come to a discussion like this recognizing that CRO has been indispensable to my career, but its playbook feels inadequate in delivering lasting business benefits.
I’ve shared a few further thoughts by video:
Founder and CEO @ Bean Ninjas
It is generally far more expensive to acquire a new customer than to have an existing customer purchase again. o if you’re not increasing repeat purchases by improving your customer journey you are leaving money on the table.
As the founder of a bookkeeping and financial insights firm for sellers, it’s fitting that I love numbers and data! However, running a successful brand isn’t only about data it is about empathy and providing an amazing customer experience… the kind of experience that will lead to repeat buys.
To me, the customer journey is all of the touchpoints and interactions a customer has with your brand.
I purchased a new phone recently. I checked out the store’s website and social media accounts, read reviews online and asked a question via live chat. They were very friendly and helpful and the website was easy to navigate. So far this was a great experience. Once I placed the order I received an automated response that I could expect the phone to be shipped within two days.
Five days after my original purchase I received an email informing me that the item could no longer be shipped. This email was not in the same friendly tone as my initial interactions with the brand. This store was not able to deliver on their promise, so I will probably buy my next phone somewhere else.
Spending time on CRO would not have helped me to become a repeat customer.
In this case, the operations team could have benefited from some training on email writing and an inventory management system that could provide accurate and real-time inventory information.
I would be surprised if you couldn’t find a few quick wins for your brand (and your profit) by reviewing your customer journey map and identifying areas for improvement.
Chief Operating Officer @ Bean Ninjas
LTV over CAC
It sounds simple, but in our experience working with eCommerce entrepreneurs, it is easy to overlook.
When you focus on optimizing the full customer journey and increasing the average customer lifetime value (LTV), you can think holistically about every touchpoint that your customers have with you from the first time that they land on your website to when they add something to their cart, buy a product, enjoy the unboxing experience, get pulled into and more aware of your brand through your post-purchase sequences and ideally buy from you over and over again.
The more that you invest in increasing the average lifetime value of a customer (whether truly for the customers lifetime experience with your brand, or as measured within a defined period, such as 60 or 90 days post-purchase), this also tends to have a nice trickle-down effect of higher satisfaction ratings, more word of mouth referrals, and running a more profitable business.
You are not having to spend tons of money on acquiring customers who will buy one product from you and never buy from you again.
The only word of caution on focusing so intently on this key metric is for newer businesses. If your business is less than a year old, we recommend optimizing for average order value (AOV) instead of LTV. That’s because your business is too new to have accurate LTV projections. At this early stage of business, you simply can’t wait a lifetime to receive this value from your customers. Cash Flow will be tighter and decisions need to be made with shorter focused metrics.
Product Owner @ Rohlik.cz
I’ve always seen CRO as a long term discipline. Indeed, in the past, I wished I could get great results in the short term. Many “case studies” are all about button color changes with fabulous revenue growth results. Guess I’ve been very unlucky my whole career…
Conversion Rate Optimization as a term can be misleading in several ways. Can increasing conversion rate lead to better business results? Yes. And no. You can cut off some ineffective traffic, increase conversion rate, but have the same business results.
Customer Journey Optimization is in my opinion very similar to CRO. It is not very broader. I believe that our job as CRO professionals is to be business optimizers.
In the end, you want the company to have better business results. More revenue, fewer costs, more profit. You can, and you should, think of ways to increase Average Order Value, to increase margin, to be more effective and spend less money on any external and internal resources.
It will require cooperation with departments that you might not have worked with much yet. Like Finance, Warehouse Operations or Supply Chain. However, you can improve margin dramatically by helping the Supply Chain with decreasing a shrink ($ value of goods which are out of date and can’t be sold). E.g. you can explore better ways how to promote goods with a close expiration date. Or you can get in touch with finance and find out that some of the payment methods are much more profitable for your company than others and start thinking how you can make customers choose the more profitable ones. The business is just more complex than just the set of few customer journeys. And you can have a dramatic impact when expanding your horizons.
This is the way where CRO should be evolving. By using data-driven decisions, analytics, controlled experiments, customer-centric design and research we are more than capable of expanding our conversion rate/customer journey scope to a broader whole-business scope. We have the right mindset and skills. So let’s have a bigger impact on our clients’ bottom line!
Digital Performance Consultant @ Conversion Boosters
Why CRO is a Continuous Revenue Optimization approach and not just a simple bullet points checklist!
Of course, there are classical types of websites (editorial, corporate, landing pages, eCommerce…) and everybody can use best practices to improve the performance,
but: each announcer or editor’s digital strategy is unique!
Whereas your aim is to drive traffic to your retail store or to achieve online purchases, your digital strategy won’t be the same.
Whereas you sell cheaper daily goods like pens or expensive luxury cars, the customer journey won’t be the same.
The first reason why each CRO analysis is specific is that we must replace the website or mobile app in an editor specific context (strategic goals, market, competitor…) and the point will be to check if it matches its digital customers’ journey.
There is not just one customer journey but as many as you have visitors.
In order to identify key paths on a web site, a CRO expert must study the traffic (analytics audit) and will be able to create segments of users regarding the global performance of each audience and for each traffic channel. At that point, it can be possible to answer: where the visitors exit the website or the payment funnel?
To answer why they do it is another challenge that a simple checklist just can’t do: It can be caused by the web-design, the content, the offer… The CRO process uses here the UX audit (session recording, heatmaps, eye tracking…) and user insights (survey, polls…) to identify painful steps.
With analytics and UX data specific to the website, CRO experts can build a roadmap of optimizations, some with quick wins that can be rapidly integrated to the website, and other ones with A/B or personalization tests who needed to be evaluated – regarding their performance – before integration.
Another challenge with optimizing a website is the temporality: as time goes by, the context changes (technology, competitors, seasons, behaviors…) so optimization is not a one-shot operation: you need to continuously measure and improve the performance of your actions (like with SEO for instance)
In a word, CRO is a methodical and qualitative process to optimize the performance: the process is always the same, but: the data that will drive your optimization roadmap are unique and very specific to your business.
CRO & UX Consultant @ De Nieuwe Zaak
Yes! If you are optimizing single touchpoints of the customer journey, like webpages. How do you monitor overall the impact on the end-user? By looking at the complete customer journey. CRO experts always need to check what the impact of the changes they’ve made are on different phases of the funnel and customer journey.
Therefore, the next step would be to combine CRO and Customer Journey Optimization more and more. Or at least, make sure that these two are learning from each other.
Founder & Podcast Host @ Diggintravel
No, conversion optimization shouldn’t be part of customer journey optimization. Why?
Because conversion optimization IS customer journey optimization!
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is all about understanding your users and building relevant, data-driven user experiences and products – removing friction from your customer journey.
Unfortunately, experimentation CRO is often mistaken for simple A/B testing or growth hacking. We still mostly experiment and test on our websites, on our landing pages, or in our online ads. So, on channel level
However, experimentation and CRO really makes the difference when we go from channel (UX) level to product level. When we develop (digital) products that solve our customer problems. The more user research you do, the more you look at your data, the more you’ll understand your customers and their problems along the customer journey. And once you take that knowledge and build solutions and products for that – it’s when CRO really is customer journey optimization.
CRO Director @ Merkle EMEA
If we think about Conversion Rate Optimisation, although the name lends itself to conversions only, the objective has always been, and should always be, creating a better customer experience for the end-user. When the term was coined back in 2007, it was meant to describe the process of optimizing the business and not just website conversions. So, shifting the mindset (and perhaps the name) towards Customer Journey Optimisation or even Customer Experience Optimisation is the way forward.
When there are sudden drops in transactions or leads, CRO professionals are sought out to concoct a mix of sure-fire ways to iteratively improve this decline. But I have news for you, CRO is so much more than an elixir for fixing bad websites. Yes, of course, CRO can increase conversions if done well. We’ve all seen case studies in which conversion rates or lead gen has been spun up by “X” percentage. But that in itself will only take you so far. Because it’s not the full picture.
If we come out of the website world for a second and think about your favorite coffee shop, why is it that you choose that particular one over the one across the street? Great coffee of course? Yes, but what if that great coffee came with a horrible barista who could never get your name right or was dismissive towards you every morning? Would you really go back? Probably not. The experience is just as important as the product. The better the experience, the more likely you are to frequent the shop and hence the more ‘conversions’ for the business.
And this is where businesses need to focus: better customer experiences. In order to shift that mentality towards a more strategic method to craft better customer journeys, we need to first concentrate on two culture shifts: Experimentation Culture and Performance Culture.
The culture of experimentation needs to penetrate every business unit in the organization. Testing, or experimentation, should be the basis of all business decisions. Whether that’s in marketing, product or even customer service, any changes should be tested with the aim to understand the effect of these changes on the customers’ journey, to alleviate any pain points and make that experience seamless.
Of course, the culture of experimentation can only thrive with an effective performance culture. Measurement exists in every business unit, but if you take a closer look at your KPIs, are they focussed solely on your particular silo? Are you measuring just email open rates, just product usage, just number of calls answered or are these KPIs synced up to measure the entire journey? To create an effective performance culture, it’s important to understand and measure customer-centric metrics across the different touchpoints in the users’ journey.
Cultural shifts are difficult and take quite a bit of time, but as we all know, they are worth it. Keeping the customer at the center of everything we do is a win-win scenario, both for the user and the business.
Director of Marketing @ Wayflyer
Truth is, making series of small changes to already performing sites (adding a CTA here, shortening a paragraph there, changing color over there, A/B testing this landing page) DOES have an impact in revenue, and it happens to be the approach most people think about when fielding the question of CRO.
I continue to be impressed by the amount of CRO consultants and companies that continue to push this approach. To my experience, the actual conversion rate improvement of taking that hyper-specific approach to CRO is so small that it is not even worth spending the time designing, pushing and measuring them, and it definitely does not deserve my budget.
We’ve all heard the quintessential CRO story about Google’s 50 different tests on the exact hex code of their blue hyperlinks. That only worked for Google because they field billions of visits a year, through which minimal variance in conversion rate can mean millions in revenue.
You and I, alongside the overwhelming majority of marketers that do not have that luxury, we need to dig deeper when it comes to developing CRO tactics and ask more of the CRO agencies and partners that try to get their business.
My best results in CRO have come on the back of a deep exploration of my customers’ buying patterns, as well as their hopes, desires, and expectations for my product. By reverse-engineering the customer journey my customers would have liked to have, I can ensure I can deliver that experience for future customers. That means everything from the cart experience, the checkout process, the way I talk about the benefits of the product, what I choose to show or not show on the product page, whether I offer financing options or not… All things that are not usually thought as CRO tactics, but deeply affect my conversion rates.
So absolutely, you can decouple CRO and customer journey optimization, but if you do, and if you don’t happen to be Google, my money is on you wasting your money, or even worse, your time.
Director of Client Strategy + Research @ Anvil Analytics + Insights
The best CRO practitioners already understand how important it is to create unique digital experiences. In fact, they’re already doing it. They may not have put a name to it, but they’ve at least been dipping their toe into using any available, relevant data to power experiences that delight their customers and drive additional revenue. It’s no longer sufficient to just test button colors. Your customers deserve more.
Co-Founder & COO at CXperts
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) – AND the larger idea of digital experimentation – can (and should!) be used to understand and optimize the entire customer journey.
We’ve all come across marketers who make grandiose promises of doubling conversions overnight with CRO, but these are often follies for a few reasons. One thing to consider is the baseline CVR performance; with some sites that have conversion rates that are lagging behind the norm, there is a greater chance that proper experimentation can greatly improve metrics. Second, without substantial traffic, controlled A/B/n testing or other experimentation tactics will take too long. Lastly, by focusing only on sales but not also on marketing, brands won’t widen the upper and mid-funnel, leaving money on the table.
Testing and experimentation throughout the customer journey can increase conversion rate along with paid and organic media performance, audience engagement, and increase net sales. CRO can start all the way in audience acquisition, like in paid media advertising and on highly trafficked entry pages to optimize that critically important first impression. The mid-funnel offers an opportunity for optimization to build relevance, reduce confusion, and encourage continuation. And of course, the sweet spot for CRO is bottom-of-funnel experimentation where it’s efforts can be closely tied to leads, sales, and sign-ups.
I challenge digital experimentation professionals to do the following:
Be cautious yet optimistic about CRO. Yes, in theory, experimentation can double conversion rates, but if that happens to be the case, there were probably serious problems with CVR in the first place. Testing takes time, iteration, strategic planning, and of course traffic to achieve results.
Retrain marketers (and clients). There are certainly some marketers who are tempted to tout exaggerated claims of transformative site metrics, but sometimes that’s just marketers being marketers. We also need to turn the table and warn clients not to expect this of their experimentation team. If you have a client say “this test needs to win or you’re being fired” you have two options: educate or walk away.
Widen your view of CRO. Test, retest, reiterate, and reinvent it all and across the customer journey. From paid media campaigns to rolling out features, remarketing emails and customer service touchpoints, it can all be improved and optimized, for the brands’ and end-users’ benefit.
Business Developer @ Inventory Planner
Yes, optimizing stock levels is part of the customer journey. Forecasting customer demand ensures that customers can get what they want when they want it. For merchants, this means avoiding missed revenue and liquidating dead inventory to create better cash flow.
Customer Marketing & Community @CXL
Long ago are the times when a few tweaks on the website could count for growth. CRO is not disappearing, CRO is transforming. The new buyers are looking for unique experiences tailored to their needs and to their desires.
Your role as a merchant is to make sure you are aware of their behavior by constantly looking at your data and using that Customer Data to transform your business, always having your customers right in the center of it.
The new buyer does not forgive or forget bad website experiences anymore so unless you consider metrics such as RFM scores, CLV, NPS as part of your growth strategy, your eCommerce might not survive in the next years.
Now that you have acquired more knowledge on how CRO is transforming, it’s time to go out there and apply these learnings into growing your business by putting your customers in the center of all your growth strategies.