So many areas of digital marketing are concerned with drumming up attention about your brand or driving visitors toward your site. While these considerations are all important, they won’t mean much if you can’t close the deal.
This article will explore some of the most exciting changes and opportunities in conversion rate optimization that marketers have seen this year.
1. The Power (and Danger) of Leverage
The principle of leverage is one that most of us intuitively understand from a young age. You even see footage of monkeys on the Discovery Channel using sticks to pry bark off trees to get a quick snack of grubs. This very simple concept applies to the world of digital marketing as well; it just has a fancier name.
Conversion rate optimization is essentially the idea of making improvements where you have more leverage. Sure, you could try and drive ever more visitors to your site, but even a relatively large increase in traffic won’t mean much if most of these people don’t take the action you want them to once they get to your site.
CRO uses leverage to make the most of your improvements. Due to its proximity to the bottom of the funnel, even a small change in your conversion rate can lead to big changes in your bottom line. This makes it a potentially cost-effective way to spend your digital marketing budget.
However beneficial these potential improvements may be, they require a very fine grain approach. Marketers must exercise care and subtlety with how they tweak what is already working. This is because outsized reward for improvement is inevitably balanced by a large degree of risk.
In the same way that a small improvement in conversion rate can amplify the power of your other efforts, an equal but opposite
downturn can render the rest of your marketing all but useless.
2. Balancing Small Details and the Big Picture
The tactician tends to pore over very specific quantitative data and approaches problems with an arsenal of best practices informing his decisions. For example, the tactician might have read up on the latest resource regarding which color button works best or the optimal number of words to include above the fold.
Goward concedes that such incremental tactical improvements are important; however, he claims that the other CRO professional typically generates bigger wins and more actionable insight. The strategist, contrary to the tactician, focuses on much broader questions and tends to form hypotheses about why customers behave a certain way.
The strategist might employ tests that look similar to the tests a tactician might carry out, but there is a fundamental difference between the two. The tactician only aims to make a quantitative improvement based on general data, whereas the strategist takes a guess at why consumers behave in a certain way to see if this hunch can be confirmed and then inform further tests.
For example, let’s say both the tactician and the strategist implement a test to see whether changing a button color from green to red improves conversion rates. The tactician will be employing this test due to the prevailing knowledge that red buttons generally lead to more conversions.
The strategist however, will carry out the same test to see whether or not emphasizing the call to action over the value proposition will influence their target audience’s behavior more effectively.
In this scenario, if the red button did indeed lead to more conversions, the tactician would probably be quite satisfied and move on to the next incremental improvement. By contrast, the strategist would follow the hunch further.
If drawing attention towards the CTA by making it red increased conversions, would making the button bigger enhance the effect further? What about making the other elements less prominent?
The tacticians might eventually tweak these variables as well; however, having a clear guiding hypotheses not only ensures that your time is not wasted with pointless tests, but ensures that each and every insight contributes towards building a better understanding of why your customer behaves the way they do.
3. Understanding the Experiences Governing the Path to Purchase
The 2013 edition of the International Journal of Business Management included a lengthy and enlightening article outlining a comprehensive framework of the various factors central to CRO.
The authors of the paper contend that the main focus of most CRO is focused too much on simply understanding the stages of the funnel without placing the consumer’s needs at the center. While it’s certainly important to understand the path to purchase, the key to nudging consumers along this path is to have a clear idea of the considerations and details governing their decisions along this path.
The researchers outline five key elements that lie at the heart of the way a visitor interacts with each component of the funnel:
- Catalyst: This is the initial message, concept or idea that draws the customer in and sets the tone for further interactions.
- Value: Once the consumer arrives at your page, the next step is to communicate the value of your offering.
- Usability: Having communicated that your site offers something of value, the potential customer will want to search for more information or details. The usability of your site will govern this process.
- Persuasion: Effective persuasion that your product or service is worthwhile hinges on the clarity with which your argument is made and the quality of incentive provided.
- Credibility: The final component is credibility. Even if you rope the customer in and sell them on your product or service, if you don’t seem credible the customer will not trust even the most compelling claims you make.
These five core considerations place the customer, and an understanding of the motivating factors that govern their decisions, at center stage. The authors of the study then go on to show how this new framework can be combined with the prevailing concept of the consumer funnel to create a new more robust picture of the purchase process.
This graph may look intimidating, but it is actually illustrating a concept that is fairly easy to understand. The horizontal axis shows the classic customer funnel, while the vertical access shows where along this path to purchase each of the five new concepts just introduced influences customer behavior.
Approaching CRO using this framework will help you form more robust strategies about why customers are responding to you differently along different points of the funnel. By understanding what emotions and factors come in to play at each point in your interaction with consumers, robust hypotheses, and strategic tests to evaluate these hunches will be a lot easier to devise.
4. Reframing Quality Content as Catalyst
All of the concepts introduced in the previous section were interesting, but one in particular points towards a directional shift that will lead to more robust CRO and a greater degree of control and understanding of the factors that affect conversions.
Whether you’re a tactician or strategist, or even if you are considering many of the new consumer-experience dimensions mentioned above, nearly all of the CRO efforts occur once the customer arrives at the page in question.
When CRO professionals look at variables to tweak or questions to ask, most involve making changes to the pages the customer will land on. The scope of these questions doesn’t look beyond a single-frame snapshot of the factors effecting the conversion.
However, no customer will ever arrive at your landing page without a catalyst to drive them there. Not only that, but also the quality and character of this initial interaction will likely have an equal bearing on their response to your offering — and by extension on your conversion rates.
In other words, optimizing the experience that drives customers to your purchase page or pitch is just as important as optimizing the pages themselves.
It’s hard to imagine a better catalyst for positive brand interactions than relevant, high-quality content. Compelling content not only helps drum up awareness in customers, but it can prime them to have a positive experience with your brand and be more receptive to your final sales message.
According to marketing and conversion expert Bryan Eisenberg, there’s a secret to creating content that converts.
“Your content must help people buy, and to do that you must understand why they buy,” said Eisenberg. “For example, if you are a golf retailer, your business isn’t selling golf clubs, balls, and shoes, it is helping customers buy those things so they can improve and enjoy their golf game. While you could just publish golfing tips, the problem is that your customer’s golf score is not tied directly to your revenue,” he added.
“Instead, create content that helps customer understand why the products you sell will improve their game and their overall enjoyment of golfing,” said Eisenberg.
It is all about developing a process that helps your business understand the needs of your customers by combining the power of storytelling (narrative) with your customer data and then mapping and executing their ideal buying journey, added Eisenberg.
Content marketing can have just as much of an impact on conversion optimization as incremental tests if it is crafted and optimized to act as an effective catalyst for the customer’s trip through the funnel. Incorporating awesome content marketing into your CRO efforts has enormous potential to set the stage for more qualified (and therefore higher-converting) customers.
What’s your best strategy for converting your audience as they interact with your various forms of content? What have you learned the most about CRO in 2015? Share your questions in the comments below.