Often, marketers don’t focus on conversion rate optimization. Why?
Some say they don’t have time, it’s too expensive, or their priorities are just driving traffic.
But if you’re focusing on driving traffic without optimizing your website to convert it, you’re going to miss the mark on your ultimate business goals.
And increased revenue aside, in our opinion, the best thing about CRO is that it forces you to focus on the people who are already paying attention to your business.
To inspire you and get you thinking about your website's customer experience in 2019, we’re continuing to roll out fresh CRO Hero interviews! If you missed our first couple spotlights on UX and growth marketing professionals, you could check them out here:
Tips on thinking strategically, building the right tech stack, and gathering inspiration
Today we’re sharing wisdom from Christopher Nolan, Conversion Optimization and Growth Manager at BigCommerce – an eCommerce software and shopping cart platform.
CE: You’ve helped B2B, and B2C companies optimize their conversion funnels. Do you recommend the same general strategy for both? If yes, what is it? If not, what is the difference?
The majority of B2C companies I’ve worked with have been direct-to-consumer, eCommerce brands, so their funnel structure is generally pretty straightforward:
Homepage/Landing Page -> Category Page -> Product Page -> Cart -> Checkout -> $$
You identify where users are abandoning that funnel and at what rate, and you optimize accordingly.
Cart and checkout are typically going to show the most immediate impact on revenue, so it’s the “sexy” place to start your testing. Top of funnel optimization can focus on findability and navigability, and that should translate over time to more users lower in the (hopefully optimized) funnel.
B2B optimization – where I’m currently focusing – is a little trickier. The typical user journey is often across multiple sessions. It isn’t quite as linear as a B2C funnel, so you need to be more thoughtful with cross-session tracking, attribution, and CTA presentation.
You can’t ask a high-value, B2B lead to marry you on their first date (or visit) with your site, so there’s a lot of optimization towards lead gen and email capture strategies for retargeting.
I rely heavily on tools like Segment and our internal data warehouse to understand the most common user journeys to lead and, more importantly, which leads convert into paid users over time.
Unlike B2C, you don’t always see an immediate revenue impact of your optimization efforts, so proper attribution and persistent tracking are crucial.
CE: In a CRO expert roundup by KlientBoost, you wrote, “I tend to shy away from best practices when it comes to page optimization” – why is that?
Put, sometimes ugly wins:
- Sometimes, black or grey CTAs get the most clicks.
- Sometimes, a CTA above the fold on mobile underperforms a CTA below the fold.
- Sometimes, more form fields are a good thing.
I shy away from best practices as a strategy because it doesn’t cater to your particular user and those particular users' favored behavior patterns. And most importantly, it’s not data-driven.
I tend to only lean on best practices when data is unavailable, and that’s rare.
That said, best practices are great for hypothesis formulation and “dropping a line in the water” tests, mainly because they often uncover more granular, more meaningful insight about your users.
For example, if you remove the navigation on your paid landing page and see no impact on conversion, but an uptick in logo clicks in the top left corner, it’s likely that your page doesn’t have the content users are looking for and that they’re seeking more from your homepage. You can then augment the page content accordingly to understand the impact.
CE: What tools do you view as invaluable for improving website conversion rates? What does your stack look like, and how do all the elements work together?
I am an absolute sucker for event instrumentation and complex cohort analysis, so the combination of Segment, Google Analytics, and Google Tag Manager, and, of course, Crazy Egg is critical for my day-to-day optimization efforts.
Segment is great for comprehensive user activity post-first visit (in-product activity for SaaS companies, return activity and buying behaviors for eCommerce customers, etc.) and feeds nicely into most data consumption tools.
Google Tag Manager is an easy-to-use, relatively painless eventing system to push particular events (CTA clicks, link clicks, etc.) into Google Analytics.
I use Crazy Egg to determine CTA interaction and scroll depth, and then hop into Google Analytics to understand the downstream impact (lead, paid lead, etc.) of that particular click:
- Is your lead form's abandonment rate for one CTA greater than for another (i.e., Get Started v Start Your Free Trial)?
- Do people who click the CTA at the bottom of the page actually convert at a higher rate (i.e., are higher quality) because they’ve consumed all of the content on the page pre-click?
You can answer these questions with the combo above.
For A/B testing, it’s all about Optimizely X. Their integration with Google Analytics is seamless. They’re working towards a robust integration with Segment, so it’s the right tool for the job.
I know it seems silly to list the tool that actually allows for the testing last in my “testing” stack, but I find the data analysis and instrumentation tools to be even more valuable.
CE: What’s a common mistake you’ve observed growth professionals or companies often make when it comes to CRO?
You can hire a world-class UX/UI team, high-quality designers, a user research agency, an amazing product marketing team, and a suite of web developers, and you could still absolutely tank conversion with a redesign. Testing needs to be a fundamental component of any redesign effort:
- Can you validate what works/what doesn’t from a messaging standpoint pre-rollout?
- Have you optimized the funnels/CTAs you’re pushing your users towards as a function of the change?
- Do you have a rollout strategy that allows you to gauge the impact on a smaller portion of users before you let it fly?
- And lastly, have you devoted resources to optimizing your new site post-launch?
These are questions that companies should ask themselves before rolling out the new, hot website they’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars on.
CE: The best CRO practitioners constantly test new variations and elements on their sites. How do you know what to test next? Is there anywhere you typically go for inspiration?
Feature-flagging and establishing baselines help keep my optimizations efforts focused on high-impact opportunities, so that’s how I know where to focus. The what is the hard part!
That’s where I lean into competitive analysis pretty strongly. Whether it’s direct competitors (for us, eCommerce SaaS platforms) or just best-in-class funnel and onboarding structure (i.e., turbo tax), there’s typically something you haven’t thought of that can be a potential remedy to your funnel blockage.
I also am lucky to be surrounded by brilliant colleagues in marketing, product, web, sales, and support who offer up really thoughtful and impactful hypotheses.
Every idea I hear of or see or come up with goes into a stack-ranked framework (based on the aforementioned areas of opportunity, impact, LOE, etc.) and outputs a roadmap of sorts. We probably have a backlog of 100 good ideas right now across the site – whether we get to all of them or not before something new comes in remains to be seen!