George Ioannou, a Partner at experience design company Foolproof

UK adults are now spending more than a quarter of their waking day online – the highest on record – according to Ofcom’s latest survey into the nation’s online lives. This means for businesses, digital channels are more important than ever before for customer acquisition.

With digital channels, we hear about conversions from left, right, centre and the talk has been here for years now. Digital marketers had dollar signs in their eyes when online retail jumped more than 70% in March, but…many of them have been missing a trick. The pandemic has changed customer behaviours in many senses and marketers have been spending hours looking at data, trying to identify trends and drive conversions. But there is something using data only won’t tell you – the why. Why are your customers suddenly interested in this or that? Businesses which don’t understand what drives their customers’ actions will never make the most of their conversion opportunities.

There is a solution to understanding your customer in the post-pandemic – and any – world and making your sales fly. Insert CRO combined with human touch.

What is conversion rate optimisation?

If you’re confident and familiar with the term ‘CRO’ then go ahead and skip this paragraph. But for those who would welcome a little refresher… CRO is the systematic approach to increasing the percentage of web or mobile visitors who take and complete a desired action.

In a B2B world, that goal could be a: product purchase, brochure download, account opening or any other value-generating action that you want your visitors to take. In short, it’s all about improving the things you want people to do more of by making them as simple as possible to do.

Why your data might not be giving you the full story

Data from analytics and testing tools such as Google Analytics and Optimizely have traditionally been the mainstay of many digital optimisation initiatives. However, agencies and businesses alike depend on these too far often.

This reliance becomes slightly complicated when we consider the vast increase in people going online – some for the very first time. Such behavioural changes wreak havoc with the data used to power CRO initiatives, especially at a time when businesses cannot afford to pick the wrong thing to focus on. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to focus on generating insight from data because with the right insight, it’s much easier to paint a picture of where your digital experience hits, or perhaps falls short of the mark.

Businesses without insight on human behaviour, the ‘why’ someone carried out an action, or missed another, may fail to produce innovative solutions. That’s because all of the richness that drives innovation in optimisation is contained in the ‘why’.This means whatever you A/B test as a solution based on data alone may fail to produce the results you need. This is because you don’t know anything about ‘why’ an action was performed, nor enough about what return it will make – forcing you back to the drawing board. To design right the first time around, you need to give designers all of the tools available.

Pay more attention to customer insight

To complement the data and tools businesses have access to, whilst gathering deeper insight on the problem they’re working to solve, businesses should turn to insight gathered from one-on-one qualitative user research to create innovative design solutions for optimisation.

To put this into context, an enterprise software provider wishes to increase the amount of tool subscriptions. By looking at analytics, which can be as simple as observing users perform a series of tasks connected to a conversion goal, combined with talking to customers about the experience of purchasing new licences, they will gather far better insight which typically cannot be obtained by data alone.

This insight forms hypotheses and recommendations that can then be visually designed and A/B tested. One of the tests could be experimenting with a new layout of subscription options for the software.

Once completed, businesses will have a validated solution for their current subscription journey that can be put live and will result in increased conversion and improved revenue.

Qualitative research is going to be far more helpful than quantitative because it will unearth the specifics required to implement change and secure ROI –  like Evernote who increased user retention by 15% having gathered customer insight.

Similarly, AliveCor increased revenue by 28% after A/B testing CTA designs and copy variants according to VentureHarbour. When conducting this kind of research, it’s important to consider today’s extraordinary circumstances, and emergent consumer behaviour(s).

We all vow to exercise and eat better come January, but this is rarely sustained. Most newly adopted trends wane after a while. At the same time, emergent behaviours could stick, we know people are now less likely to interact with public tech in light of the pandemic.

So is the customer behaviour you’re seeing a panic response or a long-term trend? The answer is important for creating a customer journey which will bring conversions and build loyalty – but you won’t get the answers just from looking at your dashboards.

When designing products and services, businesses must remain mindful of behaviours, the context in which they emerge, and how they can skew/colour data.

What business value does an insight-first approach to CRO offer?

For many businesses, small incremental upticks in conversion rate can mean big financial gains. By watching and listening to your customers closely, you can make changes more effectively, resulting in more revenue.

CRO provides you with a richer understanding of your customers, their lived contexts and how they make decisions. Information about exit pages, time spent on pages, and even recordings or heatmaps from analytics and tools don’t provide you with this.

Moreover, the insight gleaned from assessing customer behaviour beyond tools might be useful in other contexts, whereas the data alone often struggles to provide solutions to broader problems i.e. issues with business strategy.

Spending on CRO is also economical, when compared to other means of marketing and advertising spend. For every £100 spent on advertising only £1 is spent on conversion. That seems ludicrous when you consider that the top thing generating revenue is enabling customers to do what they need to – and what you want them to do.

If you flip the marketing spend model on its head and focus spending on optimisation, the kind of return businesses can expect to see – for even slight percentile shifts – is huge. This money can be reinvested to grow audiences, improve your digital estate further and double down on crucial innovation which will set you up for future success.

It’s now or never – add the human touch

There has never been a better time than today to get started with CRO. To focus your efforts and maximise ROI, businesses must complement data and tools with the things that real people do and say when attempting to perform revenue-generating actions.

Without this, you’ll be designing solutions in the dark and losing out on monetary gain which could prove invaluable to propelling innovation forwards in your business.

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