For businesses of all sizes, the last few years have been a bit… difficult, a rollercoaster, you might say. With the recent economic downturn, many businesses are tightening their marketing budgets and focusing on techniques to get them a guaranteed return on their investment.
Whether you are focusing on SEO to ensure your business ranks with the best or investing in paid ads to drive revenue, you may be missing one key component to ensuring that the customers you attract become the customers you retain – a CRO Strategy.
Having worked in the digital marketing space for just shy of a decade, I have witnessed the shared frustration of seeing businesses, from small mom-and-pop shops to Enterprise companies, forced to reinvest their hard-earned dollars into the business expenses that take priority during a down economy such as running operations and employee salaries. What remains of their budgets tends to get pushed towards various marketing strategies focusing on efficiency and bringing down the customer acquisition cost.
However, according to a study performed by McGraw-Hill Research of over 600 companies from 1980 – 1985, companies who maintained or increased their advertising budgets during the 1981-1982 recession, on average, had slightly higher sales growth over the next three years post-recession than similar companies who cut back or eliminated their budgets.
While bringing down the cost per customer acquisition cost becomes a priority during slow times, ensuring that the traffic you are bringing in converts and brings in more revenue is where CRO, when done right, becomes an absolute priority.
So, I am here to tell you not to give up on your marketing plans, even if you’ve had to cut back! In this post, you’ll learn why dedicating your time and budget to an effective CRO Strategy with AB testing will pay off in the long run.
What Is CRO?
CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) is the art of improving your website’s performance and functionality to lessen user frustration and confusion and prevent user dropoff within your website’s conversion funnel. CRO uses data-driven testing methods to get behavior insights from your existing website traffic and turn them from visitors into qualified leads.
The tests we can run on your website can range in quantity and complexity, but we usually begin with analyzing how your users interact with your website and making changes to your brand messaging or website elements to ensure that your customers are experiencing your website the way you intended.
AB Testing is the most common CRO Test used to test incremental changes to a web page (more on that in a bit); however, we also utilize both multivariate and redirect testing for larger and more complex design changes.
Why Is CRO Important?
Now, if that sounds abstract and risky when trying to conserve budgets, that is understandable. For many decision-makers, cutting costs and finding efficiencies becomes the absolute priority. However, I often pose the question – do you fully understand how the changes in economic, social, and environmental conditions can affect your customers’ online behavior and, specifically, how their browsing habits have changed throughout the pandemic through the present day?
Environmental and economic changes can impact how many users view your website’s messaging. What may have been appealing in 2019 may be seen as negative today as brands shift to make their marketing messaging personally relevant to their situation rather than their demographics. Also, it is safe to say that many consumers have become price sensitive over the last year, but they may also be sensitive to the cost of using a product or service you offer. For example, the fashion industry has been affected by companies offering work-from-home policies and consumers cutting back spending on nonessential items.
It is important to be open to undiscovered possibilities and, most importantly, open to being challenged on long-held assumptions that may have impacted previous marketing strategies. Through CRO research, you can discover a new world of possibilities.
You may have designed what you believe is the best possible experience in the world, but watching real people interact with your site is often a humbling experience. Because you are not your user.Peep Laja
Get to Know Your Customers Even Better
CRO allows us to perform what is essentially a user study on how your consumers are browsing through your services or products. We can understand if changes to your brand tone or communication strategies may need to be made.
Make More Informed Decisions
For many businesses, the slowdown in activity provides the perfect opportunity for a CRO team to do a full website audit. The opportunity for a CRO to get data-backed insights on which of your pages are getting the most or least engagement or how cart abandonment rates may be affecting your bottom line can provide insights that you may not have noticed during your busier seasons. These insights, along with the slowdown, can allow your team the time to examine your conversion flow with a fine-tooth comb and make plans for improvements that will give you a head start when business picks up.
Steadily Increase Your Revenue
CRO can help you find long-term strategies to improve your conversion rates and save you the steep costs associated with website redesigns. Looking into how your website’s mobile responsiveness and site speed is of top importance as that may be responsible for users bouncing from your website prematurely.
Lower Customer Acquisition Cost
CRO often works alongside other marketing channels, such as paid advertising, to maximize user retention by efficiently directing them through tailored conversion channels. We can also expand on existing conversion paths by creating customized landing pages based on targeted traffic that can encourage additional conversions.
What Is AB Testing?
Now that I’ve outlined how CRO can work for you, let’s dive into one of the most popular CRO testing techniques, AB Testing, and how we leverage testing tools to get data-backed insights and improve website conversions.
As Portent, we often start our client engagements with a full website audit to identify potential improvement opportunities. From there, we formalize a research plan utilizing quantitative (site analytics, click/scroll maps, etc.) and qualitative (surveys, usability testing, heuristics) data to ideate, ask questions, and form solid hunches. After our initial research, we formulate a hypothesis based on what we’ve learned, which forms the backbone of what comes next – experimentation and AB Testing.
When executing a test, a CRO Strategist will use software such as Optimizely or VWO to set up both a control and a variable within the testing environment. We then designate that all users landing on your website are assigned to a control group or an alternative test group(s) in a randomized order. When testing an element on a website, such as a CTA on the home page, all web page components are kept the same except for the CTA being tested. This ensures we get clean data and allows us to attribute any observable differences in conversion rates to the change made for better or worse. While there is no official rule stating how long we should test an element, our rule of thumb is no less than two weeks and no longer than four weeks. A/B Tasty has an excellent write-up on how to determine testing duration.
Why Is AB Testing Important?
AB Testing is our go-to when testing a hypothesis, such as a dropoff in conversions, because it provides clarity in pinpointing what may be the exact cause, as the changes made to the variation are often very limited in scope.
Some common problems in the conversion funnel we test for include:
- Confusing CTA’s
- Complex Navigation
- Complicated Page Layouts
- Form Abandonment due to friction or poor UX
- Checkout Bugs or Frustration
- Too much or not enough targeted content
Now that I’ve outlined how CRO can be beneficial and why AB testing is our go-to for experimentation, how can an AB testing plan be translated into ongoing revenue for your business?
Narrow Your Focus
Often as CROs, we have hundreds of ideas for optimizing website conversions, and while we would love to pursue them all, testing on too many elements too often dilutes our efforts from focusing on the places that will move the conversion needle forward.
AB testing allows us to be more strategic in our approach as we are limited in the changes we can make to the variation page. This allows us to focus our testing incrementally on high-visibility pages or experiences closest to the point of revenue, such as:
- PPC Landing Pages
- Pricing Pages
- Demo Forms
- Checkout Funnels
Get More Accomplished, Quicker
Many AB Testing tools, such as VWO, allow us to run multiple tests simultaneously without breaking the user experience on the website or creating a flicker. This means that while we are testing a headline on your pricing page, we can also be testing how the CTA’s land to a completely different audience with no overlap.
This can help us save time in determining what may be causing conversions to drop and help us make more impactful changes to your website much quicker.
Innovate with Less Risk
With limited budgets, AB testing can give us the flexibility to make high-impact but well-thought-out bets on design changes, test them, and roll them out to your audience with a short turnaround. This allows us to constantly iterate as technology evolves without any guesswork on if your audience will respond well to these changes.
CRO Testing is a controlled environment; thus, there is no long-lasting negative impact. If a proposed change does not perform well with audiences, we can simply take those insights and apply them to another testing iteration. This methodology allows us to increase sales from your existing traffic and attract new leads in a more optimized timeframe.
Tap Into CRO’s Potential
So to tie all of this together, I encourage you to keep an experimentation budget active during these tough times for a few reasons:
- We are the keeper of customer insights. While Google Analytics can tell you what the data says about your customers, CRO can give you insights into the story behind the data. Since consumer behavior is unpredictable at best and constantly in flux, understanding why your users are making certain decisions on your website is crucial to keeping updated with the changing times.
- CRO is resourceful. We can use your existing customer base to drive growth and ROI.
- We are adaptable as CROs and work with a variety of channels. Whether you are focusing your marketing efforts on organic, paid channels, or e-commerce, we can drive your growth.
We at Portent wish you the best during these tough economic times, and our CRO Team is always available to assist you on your conversion journey!