The growth of conversion rate optimization (CRO) has been driven by an increasing desire to better understand the usability of e-commerce websites. It is now a known route to improving overall performance of stores through strategies such as A/B testing, personalization, retention programs and more. This area of specialization now stands at such a point where agencies and consultants in the field have refined their processes down to what can only be described as a scientific art.
CRO is all about using data to create the best customer experience. But this customer experience isn’t limited to one channel. In fact, the more channels a CRO strategy encompasses, the better. Suffice to say, educating all members of your e-commerce team on the value of CRO is hugely beneficial.
While the concept of CRO continues to grow, still not everyone in the industry has come across it or understands how it can benefit an e-commerce team.
Let’s take a look at four ways you can encourage your team to approach a successful CRO strategy.
During Swanky’s leadership training program, participants learned about Dweck’s theory of a "Growth Mindset." This theory notes that while in a growth mindset, employees enjoy challenge and strive to learn and develop. This ultimately fosters a culture of inquisitiveness to address customers’ needs. To enable this pursuit of challenge, employees must be given permission and encouraged to take risks and innovate. This mindset is fundamental for CRO because experimentation sits at the heart of optimization processes.
This is exactly the type of environment that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos aims to create. He’s quoted addressing his workforce, “I believe [Amazon is] the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!), and failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment. Most large organizations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there”.
And he’s right. We all know if we keep doing the same things, we should expect the same results. This is as true in e-commerce as in any other industry or area of life.
In order to overcome this barrier, your team must be comfortable with the founding principle of testing; that it’s ok to fail. It’s not the failure that counts when it comes to e-commerce testing, but how we adapt and learn from this to go on and achieve success. This "test and learn" approach is covered more in-depth in an article explaining why ecommerce testing isn’t just about winning.
Let’s look at an example of experimentation with Swanky client and luxury fashion brand, Needle & Thread. As part of an ongoing CRO strategy, we were testing the impact of replacing static images with video content on product pages (PDP).
Initially, the results were very mixed. While fewer items in total were added to cart, we noticed the intent to purchase and reach checkout was stronger because users displayed more investment in the products they progressed with. Seeing dips on mobile in particular, we hypothesized that prioritizing loading a video could be problematic for some regions and devices. Taking this test result into account, we iterated a design for the PDP which allowed more video prominence, but not a default load.
Testing in this way allowed us to release an initial minimum viable product (MVP) solution which was quick to deploy. The initial test results demonstrated where we should invest time in the PDP redesign. Taking the learnings from this first test, the second design iteration saw a conversion rate increase of 17.54% for the variant vs. the control.
This exemplifies how a “bad” test result can lead to an opportunity for growth – and higher conversions – if approached correctly.
When it comes to opportunities for encouraging conversions in e-commerce environments, there are many elements at play. Of course, a business’ website must be compelling, engaging, and seamlessly navigable in order to push customers to the checkout page.
Oftentimes, however, retailers overlook underutilized or completely unconsidered avenues to nudge folks toward the “buy” button. A highly-personalized experience based on user behavior, deep analysis of product data and attributes, and deployment in a plethora of customer-facing locations can unlock even more conversions.
Starting with an audit of product tagging and attributes to ensure the data is as clean and robust as possible is a great kick-off point. Why? Because the more accurate the data tied to items is, the easier it can be discovered by customers who are searching based on their own preferences or needs rather than hoping it matches arbitrary or messy product descriptions and properties.
Once the data enrichment work is completed, it’s much easier to deploy uniquely personalized web experiences and product recommendations, and in more places within the customer ecosystem – including homepage carousels, PLPs and PDPs, cart view, email and SMS, and more.
When high-end boutique clothing store Mohawk General Store chose Crossing Minds to help enhance its personalization efforts, this step to CRO strategy was employed to understand all the opportunities in which the retailer could be increasing conversions across the customer journey. Mohawk’s primary objective was to reduce the need for manual merchandising and instead streamline the ability to launch new product offerings and collections to customers sooner.
Using the Crossing Minds AI platform, built on complex machine learning principles, enabled them to vastly reduce the pressure on its merchandising team by serving personalized experiences and recommendations based on both users’ behavior as well as what made its products uniquely appealing to those customers.
One unique and untapped source for conversions that was identified through joint collaboration of the Crossing Minds and Mohawk teams consisted of displaying personalized recommendations on 404 error pages. Because Mohawk’s products and collections are limited-run and frequently refreshed, the potential for customers to land on a PLP or PDP of a product that was permanently sold out was significantly higher compare with other apparel retailers.
Instead of a generic 404 error page that might prompt a frustrated customer to bounce off the site, the product recommendations on this page – based on the similarity of other products to that of the now sold-out item – created an opportunity for customers to remain onsite and make a purchase. This, in addition to highly-personalized recommendations on the homepage and checkout pages, broadened the opportunities for conversions across the entire site.
CRO and experimentation are often seen as add-ons, a "nice to have." It’s common for one individual to be responsible for CRO and within that to focus on an individual element of the customer journey – the website. Typically this is because testing is too often only concerned with conversion rate. However, a site’s user experience (UX) is not the only driving factor which will influence this.
At Swanky, we recommend testing all customer-facing facets of a business. This ranges from branding, pricing, advertising channels, scope of personalization, customer support and overall site UX. Rather than focusing purely on your bottom-of-funnel users who are more likely to convert, this opens up testing solutions and learnings across the customer journey.
The ability to glean learnings about brand new customers – including anonymous ones – and their tastes through AI technology is a great CRO strategy in terms of pushing top-of-funnel customers down the pike sooner.
When working with Belgian earplug brand Loop, we found this approach especially beneficial. By reviewing the intent of customers at the top-of-funnel, acquired through campaigns, we noticed that users were arriving at the store through a number of situational landing pages. These pages weren’t fully optimized and didn’t meet the needs of the user in their "discovery" phase of the brand.
Further research found that conversion rates on these landing pages weren’t as high as the site average. This highlighted an opportunity to improve UX and consequently see an uptick in conversion rate.
Through the process of A/B testing these pages we saw a 6.4% increase in transaction revenue. From here, we learnt from the data how users would shop based on different pain points and use cases. Firstly, this allowed us to add more on-site touch points to better serve users. Secondly, this process highlighted an opportunity for the marketing team to expand their strategy and reach new target audiences.
The benefit here is that learnings from one area of your ecommerce strategy can feed into solutions in another area. By involving marketing teams with CRO, and vice-versa, you can create more impactful testing solutions and enhance the learning and development that follows.
In the case of Loop, we could have assumed – based on previous testing experience – that marketing campaigns for situational audiences were less effective given their performance against the site average. However, by spending more time and involving a broader range of expertise, we were able to discover the untapped potential of these campaigns and optimise them further.
We often hear that key business decision-makers find it difficult to sign off on CRO programs due to the uncertainty of testing outcomes. This is understandable, however, we suggest that the long-term benefits of a growth and experimentation culture far outweigh the risks of losing tests.
To explain this further, let’s look at three pivotal things you will notice about the impact of CRO testing:
By creating a culture of growth, increasing cross-team buy-in and putting decision makers’ minds at ease, you’ll be well on your way to encouraging your e-commerce team to embrace your CRO strategy.
Crossing Minds' best-in-class AI platform is designed to help your e-commerce brand scale its success through effective personalization and data enrichment. Similarly, at Swanky, we harness an evolving ecosystem of data and analytics tools to craft ever-more valuable insights. This opens up the opportunity to improve performance across the customer journey through our effective CRO services – services thatsaw us win the title of European CRO Agency of the Year in 2022.
Start a conversation with Swanky about how you can use these services today.
Kate Prior is a Senior Digital Strategist at Swanky. She is part of its Growth Accelerator team, leveraging data and experience to drive rapid digital growth for ambitious brands through services such as conversion rate optimization and digital marketing.