What is CRO? Description and key concepts

Written by

Paloma García

UX · 24 / 10 / 2019

In our blog we have already addressed issues related to the CRO concept, as tools to optimize it, what is AB testing and design improvements to maximize conversions.

It is time to go back one step back and define in more detail what CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) is, as well as other key concepts related to the set of techniques and processes involved in improving the performance of a website to, finally, increase in conversions or sales. 

For example, we have launched an ad campaign that lands on a landing page designed according to criterias of Centered Conversion Design. And we observe that the success of the campaign is not as high as we expected or that we simply think that there is room for improvement or growth that we can adjust more. What can we do to improve? The answer is not to keep the initial design until the end of time, or the optimization of campaigns and much less to make changes because.

The answer is to use tools, techniques and objective criteria to detect exactly what weaknesses exist in our design and thus, to be able to establish changes that improve our conversion rate.

What is CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization)? We give you an example.

CRO is a set of techniques that, by defining a strategy, aim to improve the performance of a website with respect to the conversion rate.

It is usually an iterative process. This implies that after the different phases in which we can divide a CRO project, the process reaches a point where it can be repeated again and again. This occurs, especially, because when a design is proposed that is conversion-oriented, normally, there is always the possibility of achieving a certain margin for improvement.

We give a simplified example to easily understand what Conversion Rate Optimization is.

Starting situation

We have designed a landing page and created an AdWords campaign. The purpose of the landing is to promote an event and our main objective is for users interested in it to provide us with their data.

After a considerable time frame, we see that the conversion rate is 5% on average, but specifically in tablets and mobile phones the figure drops to 1%. This difference is significant enough that we want to improve it.

The analysis

We perform both a traffic analysis and an analysis of user behavior. Specifically in such devices, mobile phones and tablets.

We detected a couple of aspects that could have a significant influence on our mobile conversion rate, especially. In the first place, the form is very “under the fold”, that is, in a first glance the user will not see it and it will be necessary for him to scroll to access it. Secondly, certain information of interest and that may encourage the user to leave their data to attend the event, such as the logos of the sponsors of the event, looks too small, being virtually unnoticed.

Therefore, can a low conversion rate on mobile phones be due to these two aspects? Can it influence that mobile design is not adapted so that all the relevant information is visible at a first glance? The answer is probably affirmative, but in any case, we must use the tools to prove it.

The action

How can we demonstrate the causes of a low mobile conversion rate that we have pointed out above? Easily, we launched an A / B test with a variant of the original design in which the form is now higher, in our screen resolution with more traffic, above the fold.

We check through the test that the variant has 80% more conversions than the original design. We improve our conversion rate to 1.8% on mobile devices.

At this point it is when we can consider that this process is iterative, since although we have improved the conversion rate, we proceed to propose another AB testing for the sponsor logos.

As we see there are always points of improvement. We can always go back to the analysis step where we detect weak points.

Although it is not a particularly complex process, it can be more complex in most cases than the example we have set. The analysis we carry out must be thorough at both qualitative and quantitative levels; To raise hypotheses for improvement, one must have knowledge of UX, Centered Conversion Design and even frontend development.

The phases of the CRO project: concepts and tools

In a simplified way, we can divide a CRO project as follows.

Phases of a CRO project

Phase 1 of the CRO project: Analysis

If we have not installed Google Analytics on our site, Google Tag Manager, or any other detailed traffic analysis tool, we will not obtain the necessary data to detect how to achieve that improvement of our CRO.

We must keep in mind that all the measurement factors of a web page are related to each other. Therefore, the conversion rate can be affected by a very high bounce rate, for example. In this case, we must measure page views, unique users, bounce rates, etc.

Based on our KPIs (Key Performance Indicator) and our most significant audiences / segmentations, we can extract relevant metrics for our analysis and, therefore, detect weak points at a quantitative level. 

Defining our sales funnel and detecting abandonment rates at each step is usually highly revealing. 

On the other hand, it is essential that we perform not only a quantitative analysis as mentioned above, but also a qualitative analysis of our site. For this, through heat maps, scroll maps and session recordings, we will be able to reach relevant conclusions about the use that our users are making of the site. A great tool for this type of analysis is Hotjar, which we talked about in a previous post.

View of a Hotjar heat map

Finally, and also at a qualitative level, it is important to analyze our Landing Page following the LIFT (Landing page Influence Functions for Tests) model devised by Chris Goward. The LIFT model is a Landing pages analysis framework to optimize the conversion rate. It consists of 6 fundamental aspects that influence the conversion rate and that we define below:

LIFT Model® infographics. Developed by Chris Gowardproposition

  1. Value: This is the vehicle that provides the potential for the conversion rate, it is the most important of the six factors.
  2. Relevance: Does the site meet what your prospects expect? Does it match the needs and experience that you want to have?

  3. Clarity: How easily does the value proposition communicate? This includes eyeflow, images, content writing and call-to-action.

  4. Urgency: How do users’ urgency compare and create external incentives?

  5. Distraction: Is the website content diverting visitors from its main objective?

  6. Anxiety: What elements on the page could be creating uncertainty for prospects when taking action?

Phase 2 of the CRO project: Objectives

After the analysis phase, it will be important to establish what we want to improve, define our conversions and micro-conversions on our website. Defining the objectives will be a fundamental step in this whole process.

Phase 3 of the CRO project: Hypothesis

In phase 1 we have collected a lot of data and in phase 2 we have defined what the objectives for our site will be. It is time to establish possible improvable aspects that are “AB testing meat”.

Now we have to draw the conclusions that the analysis phase has given us, always keeping in mind the objectives of our campaign and our KPIs and the principles of the LIFT model.

This phase is of great importance. This should be the process and key elements of hypothesis creation:

  1. Define the direct objective (the indirect one is always the improvement of the conversion rate or the increase in sales) of our CRO project: increase micro-conversions, lower the bounce rate, etc.  
  2. Observe the weaknesses of quantitative and qualitative metrics of our website.
  3. To cross the objectives with the weak points so that this allows us to detect the possible aspects of improvement of our website.
  4. Raise, in a prioritized way, a series of hypotheses that could improve the performance of the website with respect to the fulfillment of the defined objective.

Phase 4 of the CRO project: Testing

We already have all the cards on the table. Let’s take action. One by one, let’s launch AB test with each of the hypotheses raised. There are theories about multiple AB tests, but if our site is not complex (see Amazon), the chaos that can generate launching several experiments at once can be great.

Tools for AB Testing There are many and we have already talked about them. Google Analytics makes it easy, does not allow very detailed analysis and is not very user-friendly, but it is free and fast. And if you already installed Google Tag Manager, better than better.

If we are looking for a more specific and advanced tool, Optimize or  Optimizely are options to consider. These tools will allow you to make “on the fly” variants and segment your experiments in detail. Another day we will talk more about Optimize and Optimizely.

Tool view Google OptimizePhase 5 of the CRO project: Development

This phase is characterized by the execution of the solution with which we have obtained a better CRO for our website.

It is important to keep in mind that the analysis phase after executing the solution remains crucial, especially if this process can be repeated iteratively.

CRO: Always iterative?

There are conclusions that we can draw from a phase of analysis of a CRO project that will not give rise to hypotheses but to affirmations.

An obvious example would be in the case of a button that is too small, whose clickable area is not enough and it is difficult for the user to press it, so there is no doubt that it is an improved aspect. Simply by making it bigger, we may solve a drop in the conversion rate (unless you make it so large that it does not fit on the screen, for example. Or it is aggressive, or unpleasant. It is enough that it is easy to press). 

Therefore, for this type of case, we go directly from the analysis to the development and it is probably not worth doing any AB experiment. Just don’t waste your time and change it.

CRO and SEO, a marriage with a great future

Making CRO projects on sites with a low volume of visits is complicated. Why? Because the final success of a Conversion Rate Optimization strategy will be determined by the results of the tests you carry out. And, you know, with low traffic, an AB test can be infinite. Infinite and inconclusive. So, in the end, you will have to trust your knowledge and instinct much more than you should.

The more traffic your website has, the more effective and objective a CRO project will be. And, we already know what the set of techniques is called whose objective is to increase the organic traffic of your website: SEO. Of course, not every type of traffic is worth it, we want quality traffic. But that is another topic we will talk about another time.

CRO and UX: reach perfect coordination

Users are at the center of both disciplines, CRO and UX (User Experience), therefore, both must work together and harmoniously.

On the one hand with the UX we guarantee that a user’s trip through the website is easy, intuitive and fluid, focusing on the user achieving their goals. On the other hand, the CRO will be in charge of providing all the necessary processes and tools to increase the percentage of users who get to perform the actions that we want to occur on the website, be it the purchase, a download, to facilitate their data, etc. Therefore, a synchrony between the two disciplines must be paramount.

Designing a good user experience should not simply be reduced to an aesthetically appealing experience, but should also be characterized as a simple, fast and easy experience to be executed by users. If we consider this, it will be easy to maximize website conversions. That is why we can say that CRO and UX are complementary.

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