What is Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and Why Does It Matter?
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is how we make websites, landing pages, and mobile apps bring in more value (i.e. money). That’s a very simplistic definition. Even more simplistic — CRO is how we make websites, landing pages, and mobile apps better over time. Sometimes we can apply CRO principles and double, triple, even quadruple how much money a website makes, and this is all assuming no change in the amount of people visiting the website.
Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not. Have you ever visited a website and completely abandoned your visit without ever contacting the company you were visiting, purchasing a product, completing an eCommerce transaction, or subscribing to their newsletter? Of course you have. Have you ever thought about why you abandoned rather than engaged? This engagement or “conversion” is what CRO seeks to increase or optimize…and if a website has never been optimized, then it means that there is always room for improvement.
So, how do we optimize conversions? There is a science and an art behind the process. Let’s break it down into a high-level formula:
C = 4m + 3v + 2(i-f) — 2a ©
C = Probability of conversion m = Motivation of the user v = Clarity of the value proposition (“What’s in it for me?”) i = Incentive to take action f = Friction that prevents taking action
a = Anxiety present in taking action
This is a copyrighted formula from MECLABS, an independent research facility that focuses on how people make choices, that is widely used to describe how people “convert” or choose to take action. You can see that user motivation is the largest factor here — it’s the motivation that brought the user to your website in the first place. You can’t change a user’s motivation — all you can do is optimize the copy, visual messaging, experience, and design so that it is speaking to and aligned with with the user’s motivation in the best possible way, which, according to this formula, is the most important thing to get right.
The second most important factor is the clarity of the value proposition. It’s a difficult yet highly essential thing to get right. Think of the value proposition on your website’s homepage for example. Do you have one? Is it clear and front-and-center? It’s the text that, from the perspective of the user, answers “what’s in it for me, and why should I care?” Not only that, but it answers the question, “why should I choose you over an alternative?”
The third most important factors are incentive, friction, and anxiety. Incentives are little things push the user towards action, like “free shipping” or “discounts” or “get this item gift wrapped.” Friction is anything that psychologically or physically impacts a user’s ability to act. Examples include a bad or difficult checkout experience, long forms, forcing the user to create an account during an eCommerce checkout experience, website bugs or a bad user experience, copy that is confusing or unclear, and the like. Finally, there’s anxiety. There will always be perceived risks, costs, and benefits running through a user’s head before they complete an action, such as “Why do you need my phone number if I’m just downloading a product?” or “What happens after I give you my credit card?” or “If I fill out this contact form will I get hounded by a sales rep or will I get to talk directly to someone who has the expertise I’m looking for?”
So, we have a formula, but how do we actually do the work of optimizing conversions? First, in addition to having years of industry experience, we have to be trained on the literature about what makes people convert. We read literature on digital persuasion, neuromarketing, the brain and decision-making, user experience, and persuasive copywriting. Then we do a “heuristic walkthrough” of the website, landing page, or app, and take a look at data such as analytics, heat maps, user session recordings — anything to better inform our hypotheses. Then, we begin to form hypotheses about what will make things better; what will make users convert. We then test those hypotheses with A/B or “split” testing tools which, for example, send 50% of traffic to a version of the website with our change (version B), and the other half of the traffic to the original version (version A). If the version with our change does better, i.e. converts more, in a statistically significant way, then we permanently change the website to version B. Sometimes the changes are complex and have multiple versions — in that case we make little changes on the same page, and test which one works best. This is called “multivariate testing”, but does require more traffic for the test to complete in a timely manner. If the website doesn’t have enough traffic to give us statistically significant results, we can still make really good guesses based on our education and experience, and still have a big impact on lower-traffic sites.
In conclusion, conversion rate optimization is a very powerful tool to make websites, landing pages, and mobile apps work better. It helps businesses make more online sales and get more leads. It helps drive user engagement and brand experience. It can increase enrollment at colleges and universities. It can do a lot of extremely valuable things, but it’s a little tricky to understand and requires a specialized skill set and level of industry experience. It’s worth your time to find out more, to find out what CRO can do for you. Contact us today for a free strategic CRO consultation; let’s have a conversation.
Originally published at colibridigitalmarketing.com on January 18, 2018.