How to write a CRO strategy & setting CRO objectives

While Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) remains a relatively young discipline, there are signs that the industry is set to grow rapidly as over half of companies engaged in CRO in 2016 looked to grow their budgets. Despite this growth, it’s somewhat worrying that more than half of companies practicing CRO don’t have a formal strategy in place. In this post, I put forward what I see to be the key steps you need to take to craft a successful CRO strategy.

why a cro strategy is so important

There is a tendency among some marketing bloggers to discuss CRO within a narrow frame, as if it were a set of tactics and best practices to be rolled out ready-made. While it’s important to understand best practices and tactics, this zoomed-in view of CRO belies the importance of establishing a clear CRO strategy. Orienting your team around a clear set of business objectives will help provide structure to your CRO strategy and efforts from the outset.

Of course, these objectives will vary depending on the nature of your business. If your website promotes a SaaS product for example, an overarching goal of your program might be to reduce the length of the buying cycle or improve the quality of leads generated. Equally, as a hotelier, you might want to better understand how you could influence average booking value through an improved up-sell experience.

Although in each case the specific tactics and KPI’s will differ, both are oriented around goals relevant to the specific business, and not generic 'CRO best practices' or tactics.

Prioritise the right A/B testing ideas  

With tools available to help you map, analyse and test just about anything and everything on your website, choosing precisely which aspect of your website to focus on optimising can be a daunting prospect. Even once an appropriate test has been identified, gaining buy-in to follow through with your recommended approach can be difficult.

So how do you figure out what to test first? With limited time, resource and budget, testing everything isn’t realistic (nor is the ‘test everything’ approach advisable). Test prioritisation is a crucial aspect of CRO, and research shows that companies which commit to a structured approach to improving conversion rates are around 20% more likely to see improvements.

Using your original strategy as a guide, conduct analysis of your website’s key entrance points, device behaviours and user journeys to help identify weaknesses, leakage points and areas for improvement first of all.

This type of quantitative data is essential not only in terms of identifying CRO opportunities, but also when it comes to justifying those choices. Qualitative data analysis should also be used to dig into the why behind your data and help elucidate usability issues and sticking points.

To get to the bottom of why an issue might be occurring, consider conducting usability testing. There’s no better way of understanding a user’s experience of your website than to literally sit next to them and observe their challenge first hand.

Overcome resistance by using data persuasively

As Avinash Kaushik succinctly put it, “HiPPO’s rule the world”. That is to say, the ‘highest paid person’s opinion’ often rules over budget, strategy or in the case of CRO - what to test and when. While this analogy might not apply to your company, there is an underlying truth to this idea that applies to many. In a study conducted by Rejoiner, organisational resistance was the most commonly cited challenge faced by those conducting CRO and A/B testing.

How do you overcome organisational resistance? It’s crucial to frame your recommendations around what the available data can tell you about what is best for the customer (not you as an individual, team or agency).

The great thing about data, be it website performance data, competitor intelligence or user testing feedback is that it is objective and difficult to argue with. Customer data doesn’t show bias; but opinions tend to be built of the stuff. Use data to assert logical solutions to the challenge at hand; it can be an incredibly persuasive resource.

Manage expectations around your CRO program

In any CRO testing scenario, no one (including you) knows what the outcome of a given test is going to be. While hypotheses are necessary, oftentimes a given test will return a result that contradicts your hypothesis, or throws up a new set of questions.

For some stakeholders, this could be a bitter pill to swallow if their assumptions or hopes aren’t borne out, but as we know, data isn’t too forgiving. Data and statistical evidence, does however, carry objectivity, and that objectivity should leveraged your advantage when setting expectations around campaign performance.

While many will view CRO as a panacea to their revenue woes, the truth (as is almost always the case) is a little more nuanced. However, a structured CRO strategy will always enable us to challenge assumptions and to learn more about what our customers need and want, which in itself is valuable.