CRO: Making the most of your existing data
This article has been co-written with Further’s Matthew Eastaugh, Senior Performance Analyst and Tabby Farrar, Senior Outreach Specialist. Matthew manages Conversion Rate Optimisation for clients in a range of industries, at Further Digital Marketing.
Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is all about helping your website to achieve more success in a particular goal – selling more products, eliciting mailing list sign-ups, confirming subscriptions or another business aim. That might mean making the site easier to navigate, changing the size and placement of certain calls to action, or adding and removing different types of content.
Something as simple as a frustrating image carousel, or a button that’s too hard to find, can be the difference between a new conversion and a site user who simply closes the page. But without evidential data, finding and prioritising these problematic features is merely guesswork. Things like heat-mapping and session replay tools are invaluable – with brands who use CRO tools seeing as much as a 223% increase in ROI.
A CRO specialist with a suite of industry tools can offer a valuable depth of insight into the hits and misses on your site, and the best next steps to take. However, that’s not to say that you can’t work on CRO without big budgets and professional help. There are ways in which you can find some actionable data without much investment at all.
Surveying, rather than surveilling, site users
With so many tools and services out there for watching visitor sessions, tracking clicks and observing the most hovered-over areas of your site pages, it’s easy to forget that the users you’re hoping to surveil are often people you can simply survey.
Not everyone who visits your site will want to offer feedback on it, and not everyone in your email database will respond to questions in their inbox. But if you give people the option of feeding back on their site experience, you will often find that annoyances and frustrations quickly come to light.
A few places to start, which we’ll look at more over the course of this piece:
- Send out an email survey to your existing email database
- Update contact forms and contact pages, so that they encourage people to send site feedback
- Use social media channels, like Twitter and Facebook, to ask for opinions
- Create short feedback surveys on the site itself.
There are many options for professional site survey tools out there, but you can create simple customer feedback pop-ups with either the help of your web developer or a free SurveyMonkey login. Alternatively, stick with an unobtrusive feedback form, clearly signposted from a range of places around the site.
Keep your survey short, asking only a small number of questions in order to achieve a higher response rate – just as ecommerce shoppers are less likely to make it to the checkout if there are too many steps in their way, a survey respondent is more likely to move on to something else if there are too many questions. The average person has an attention span of eight seconds, so it’s important that both your site and your surveys are designed with that in mind.
Calls to action
Does your site have a contact form which includes a drop-down list of reasons for getting in touch? Does it have a contact page, listing different email addresses to reach out to with different concerns? Whatever routes you’re giving site users to reach you, solicit feedback on things like your site’s usability and visual appeal by highlighting that there is a way to get in touch specifically for this purpose.
If a user can only see contact options for customer support, sales teams or further information, they may not be motivated to tell you what they like or dislike about your site. But with the option to select ‘send site feedback’ or similar, someone who has found a broken link or who is irritated by a feature will be more motivated to let you know. Optimising contact forms is a CRO task in itself, but this small change can make all the difference.
If you already have forms and emails for this purpose, ensure that someone in your team is dedicating regular time to actually checking people’s responses. It can be tempting to brush off form-fills about your website when prioritising new business enquiries, or complaints about a product or service – but these are valuable insights. For every one site user who notifies you of an issue, there may be dozens more who are abandoning their site visit without ever getting in touch.
Using social media for CRO insight
It may not be the first thing that springs to mind, but social networking can come in handy if you’re trying to optimise your site and don’t have access to specialist help.
Twitter has become as much a way for consumers to contact brands as it has a way to spread the news, while anyone familiar with Facebook knows that it’s an online space where people are more than keen to share their opinions. As well as trying email surveys and site forms, quiz your social audiences. It can be nerve-wracking to put yourself up for judgement on a public domain, but you can get valuable feedback from asking simple questions like which new features users would most like to see.
It’s important to remember that social is a two-way tool. Listen to what people are saying about your brand and your website, engage with people online and be responsive. As well as being good for brand perception, and audience growth and retention, encouraging engagement encourages ongoing feedback.
Taking research into your own hands
As well as site users and social followings, look to people within your business, and to family and friends for their views. While the former is arguably biased and the latter may be unfamiliar with the territory, in any case these are additional pools of insight on user experience.
Large organisations house large numbers of staff, many of whom may be using your website regularly, and are therefore more than able to identify problem areas. Avoid looking only to those who have worked on creating a website and its content; instead, seek views from people who can give a more objective opinion.
On the other side, your personal networks might never have used your site before. Though they provide only a small sample, these people are an easy source of insight on first impressions and navigability. Ask people to try and find a particular site section, or to carry out a transaction. Look for hold-ups, the features people are drawn to, and get views on the overall look and feel of different pages.
While the experience of a few people may not be as comprehensive as having a session replay tool, which can view every site session and highlight all common areas of user struggle, problems highlighted in this small-scale testing can be a starting point to make improvements.
Making next steps
Once you’ve collected useful feedback on your site as it stands, it’s time to look at putting suggestions into action, and fixing highlighted flaws. The trick here is to ensure that any changes you put in place won’t wind up making things worse than they were before.
For this reason, A/B testing is a real must-do before making any major changes to your site. 82% of marketers say that knowing how to conduct CRO tests effectively is a challenge, and you may wish to take a look at the money you saved on data, and invest it in professional CRO help.
Just as best practices and fashionable web design trends won’t always suit every audience, patterns in feedback and data can be interpreted differently by a novice, when compared with the knowledge of a seasoned expert.
Whether you’re running user experience tests, design tests or both, pick one variable at a time to evaluate. Work with an expert to determine the optimal outcome based on your goals, and to decide how significant the results need to be in order to justify choosing one variation over another.
Even a small increase in conversion rate can create a noticeable return on investment, and on top of this, your CRO insights can also influence other areas of marketing. User preferences and habits offer valuable information that can be used to shape content strategies, brand awareness initiatives and more. Gather as much data as possible on how people interact with your site, act on it, and you can boost conversions, brand trust and user engagement – just to name a few.