Welcome to Growth Interviews!
Welcome to Growth Interviews, the fun, stimulating and engaging series of conversations driven by digital business growth.
Our mission is to provide insights and ideas from world-class professionals on the topic of growth and to cut through the noise of so-called marketing tips and tricks, revealing the money-making strategies behind e-commerce.
Each episode is an intriguing challenge involving an insightful expert who reveals some of their best-kept secrets, which you can use right away to boost your business.
In this week’s episode of Growth Interviews, we invite you to join our conversation with Joe Doveton opening the gates of CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) for us. Joe is the founder of Binary Bear and the official CRO trainer for CIM, IDM and Brighton SEO in the UK.
One of the UK’s top consultants on cultural and international approaches to CRO, Joe has a long-lasting experience, being drawn to the digital world, especially to display advertising, social media, SEO, PPC and App Store Optimisation.
His work is renowned in Europe and the US for his holistic approach; last year, for instance, he talked about ways to optimize websites for SMBs with a small budget. This year, Joe is speaking at 3XE Search – The Search Marketing Conference.
During the interview, we had a chat about the huge benefits and little secrets of CRO in a business, from small to large. The full video is below, so get ready for 9 minutes of surprising CRO facts you might never have thought about!
The journey of a CRO
How did you get into the CRO space in the very beginning?
I’m quite unusual, because I don’t come from a traditional technology background. I come from a sales background and I started working for a testing platform called Global Maxa to sell the testing tool. It became apparent it was easier to sell services rather than sell the technology. This is before CRO was a thing. So, we came up with an audit methodology and it turned out that a few other people had a similar idea. This is what became the CRO industry. I sort of fell into becoming a practitioner by accident really.
What keeps you going in CRO?
There’s a great phrase that Tim Ash, the founder of Digital Growth Unleashed, uses: “CRO – the art and science of web marketing joined together.” I think that’s the key thing. You need good design, good assets and good creatives to make things work. You can’t work with assets that are suboptimal. But equally, you need a scientific approach, and statistical analysis – an analytical brain – which is thinking about design in a more analytical way and using data to inform your design process.
I kind of love that! You can take a design to bits and put values on pieces of the composition and then start putting it together in new and interesting ways that are better for the user.
Omniconvert is all about CRO, customer retention, user and customer journeys, and how to help your business grow and flourish.
We have countless insightful articles on these subjects, and here are just a few:
What does CRO do for businesses?
Tell us a few success stories that you’ve got from your experience in CRO.
I think most of the stories I’ve got are kind of nightmare stories about working with – not naming anybody – difficult clients. Obviously, it’s great when you get results that are interesting. We’ve got case studies where we’ve done things, like a one I did recently, with a 300 percent uplift on form fills for a business. I did another one a few years ago for a directory business with a 500 percent increase in ads placed. So, we’ve all got stories like that, but actually, it’s more about getting customers to think about a change of culture. It’s a different way of approaching design, rather than it being a legacy system where it’s all led by brand or by opinion, to data actually becoming a real currency and people speeding up their design process and dynamically changing their design based on what customers really want and what they’ve observed from tests or personalization.
What do you think about CRO adoption? Is it affecting you and your business?
I’ve been flogging this stuff as a salesperson for a long time and I’d say that maybe seven years ago, I couldn’t get arrested. In the digital space, we’re always in competition with something that’s sexier, more mode-ish, or a new innovation. Maybe three years ago, people started talking about big data: “What’s that?” At the moment, it is…what is it? Machine learning? AI? You’re always going to be in competition with some new buzzy phrase. The reality is that it is growing and is more mainstream. Most organizations, or certainly bigger ones, have an optimization manager, some level of optimization teams. We don’t have to explain what we do anymore, which we used to. We used to go out and educate people. Now, it’s better: we educate the market. And it’s a small space still. I think our responsibility is to grow a bigger pie. Let’s get everybody doing optimization. I think it’s still growing and there’s still plenty of space for growth in this business.
Tell us about your experience in mature businesses and their regard for customer retention.
You’re definitely getting more people thinking about the whole customer journey. CX, or customer experience optimization, is a thing across the whole journey, from awareness of a brand from a different form of media to first engagement online, through to conversion, and through to ongoing interaction with the customer through remarketing. CRO is a part of that.
I personally loathe the phrase CRO, because conversion rate to me is one of the weaker metrics that you should be optimizing. We should be thinking about lifetime value, retention, those kinds of metrics. I prefer to use the phrase optimization. This is where it kind of merges in with CRM and remarketing. In reality, I think most people are not there yet, but the whole industry has got to go in that direction. We’ve seen some of the speakers here at this conference talking about, for example, the value of repeat-customers or the second purchase, third purchase, fourth purchase, customer acquisitions going down hugely, and the value going up. So, that’s what we need to do: to think about optimizing over the longer term.
CRO is beneficial for any type of business. It is undeniably healthy for any type of business, and especially an e-commerce enterprise, to be aware of conversion rate optimization, together with its surprising advantages:
👉 You are more aware of your leads, prospects and customers
👉 You will increase your overall ROI
👉 You can take more market share than your competitors
👉 You could lower your cost per lead
👉 CRO tactics can bring incremental business returns
👉 You will definitely gain more visibility in SERPs
👉 People will have a positive attitude about your brand and share it
👉 Customer Lifetime Value will be increased
Shifting from small to large companies
What do you think is the most important thing for an established brand, as a data-driven company?
I think a big one is acknowledging that it’s a culture shift. You can’t flip a switch and suddenly become optimized. It’s a mindset change. That’s why I talk about, “You need a senior sponsor on board to do this stuff properly. You need to embrace the fact that you can imagine your design assets in real-time – or close to real-time – based on customer information.”
And yet, people still don’t get the fundamentals right. You still go to organizations in local power bases and not all teams are equal, so maybe the acquisition team has more influence than the merchandising team, or maybe the paid search team has more influence than a social team.
You need a structure that is flat, and a very strong senior sponsor on the board that’s going to run this whole process. I think that’s the big thing: people don’t recognize it’s not really a set of tools; it’s a mindset change.
What’s been frustrating you in this digital marketing landscape?
I think there’s a kind of general short-termism, a one-upmanship on a short-scale basis with people jumping on the bandwagon for a topic or an idea for a very short space of time. This is part of the way the world is now, with Twitter and LinkedIn and other kinds of social media platforms. People leap onto something and there’s a huge amount of debate in a small period of time rather than people taking a long-term view; people just want to be controversial for the sake of it. I kind of get that. The reality is that SEO is dead. It’s still there. CRO isn’t dead. It’s not going away. Personalization is a journey. It’s not the kind of thing that you just switch on like that. I think it’s maybe people having more of a long-term view come down a bit.
As Joe Doveton suggests, the phrase ‘CRO’ might be insufficient for what can truly transform your website and business for the best.
Another interesting approach could be the “culture of optimization”, in which every department of an e-commerce business has to continuously adjust and optimize.
CRO is a reminder that customers should be the center of attention for the long term.
What are the steps and best practices of conversion rate optimization?
What are the first things you look at in order to deliver results for a company?
The first thing is some kind of audit and some sort of benchmarking. This means, from an analytics point of view, having an analytics health check, and making sure that if you’re using Google or Adobe, it’s recording the right events. Most people who do this would say, “They can’t go into Analytics.” They usually find a lot of stuff that’s wrong. So, you’re probably reporting on wrong numbers. Get that fixed and start getting called feedback. There needs to be some sort of audit phase where you use tools like session recordings, heatmaps, scroll-mapping software or user recordings, user surveys, and so on, where you can get real user feedback.
A big gap I think most people have is in the strategy phase. It’s turning that stuff into actionable insight that they can really act upon, and organize things into items they don’t really need to test. They do need to test-write proper hypotheses and organize the properties so that you can act upon it. A lot of people struggle with this midsection.
Anybody can start testing straightaway, but actually, whether they’re going to get good results out of randomly tested stuff is debatable. At the same time, having said that, I’m not sitting on the fence. I do think there is a place for an experimental workflow. As well as these bigger tests with data-led changes, it’s always nice to have a workflow going where there’s just simpler stuff that’s good to do like different testing, different price points, or testing different kinds of anchoring on certain elements. This stuff doesn’t take very long to do. It’s not going to transform your business, but it might be nice to know. There’s still a place for that.
Joe Doveton sheds some light on the ups and downs of conversion rate optimization. In short, remember your customers for the long term and make their online journey pleasurable, fun and interactive, no matter the size of your business. And don’t forget to properly test, test, test!
At the end of the day, get ready to pick up the fruitful results of well-done CRO.
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