March 15, 2018 By Nick Powell, Optimization Architect

March is right about the time when New Year's resolutions start fizzling out. Faster than you can say “please cancel my gym membership”, companies start realizing that many of the grand plans they made post-Q4 performance reports are not going to happen this quarter... or maybe even next quarter.

The problem is that without proper planning, initiatives either get kicked down the road (ahh, we’ll do it next year) or they don't get properly executed. Perhaps they fall into the “do it because we know we should but don’t really understand it and everyone else is doing it” type of projects. Sound familiar?

Well, don't worry, because at Digital Operative (DO), we're determined to make 2018 different. We're here to help you stick to those New Year's resolutions, or at that very least, get a couple of quick wins under your belt before we head into Q2. Here are a couple of initiatives that we recommend getting serious about in 2018 (if you haven’t already), and really committing to in order deliver your very best ecommerce experience.

Initiative #1: Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

CRO is not a shiny new bicycle; it’s not as fun to look at as new site designs or a brand new analytics suite. Many companies just can’t seem to put a CRO framework in place to get started, or maybe they've tried and just haven’t been able produce results.

The big reveal is that many decision makers don’t actually know what “CRO” really is and what it takes to implement and run an effective program. I commonly hear, “oh it’s testing right?” or “can we try it for a month or two to see how it works?” Experimentation is just one tool in the CRO toolbox, lying alongside behavioral analytics, experience, and customer/market data and insights. When all of these tools are are used together, a well-executed CRO program is born, and can lead to sustainable long-term growth through learning and optimization, and yield substantial return on investment (ROI).

Sure, I can increase conversion rates with my wits, some best practices, and a few quick win tests in the first few months. However, that isn’t a CRO program. Headline and button color tests will stop yielding returns before long and then it's back to square one (which puts a sour taste in many decision makers mouths). A solid CRO program involves planning a logical pattern of discovery and optimization through analytics and testing to learn about customer behavior, and then adapting the experience accordingly. The idea is to consistently optimize and improve based on this ongoing cycle of knowledge. Essentially, the more we learn, the more we sell. Who could argue with that?

So what’s the difference between testing and CRO? A quick-win strategy tests variations to find the one that yields the highest conversion rate to a pre-determined key performance indicator (KPI). CRO programs utilize analytics to build and test customer theories and hypotheses that systematically uncover valuable insights about visitors to your site. This powerful information is used to improve site performance, inform decision making, and provide confidence measures that guarantee long-term success. If you’re not realizing the benefits of CRO, it’s time to put a plan together. And, if you’re not sure where to start, give us a call.

Initiative #2: Personalization

Personalization is not a new concept; we do it everyday. The foundation of it is personal interaction, which is why it is so effective. Stop me if you’ve heard this one... A guy walks into a pub and orders a Guinness. 10 minutes later, the bartender sees that his glass is almost empty and asks him if he’d like another, to which the man agrees... PERSONALIZATION.

Let’s call the man Luke. Perhaps Luke frequents this particular pub and always drinks three pints of Guinness. Over time, the bartender probably doesn't even ask Luke anymore if he’d like another, and just pours pints two and three when Luke’s glass is almost empty. The bartender has learned about Luke and how to best serve him as a customer. Perhaps the bartender also learns that Luke is a Browns fan, and starts putting the Browns game on when Luke comes in. (And maybe to pour a fourth Guinness each time they lose again.) Luke is more likely to choose this bar over another as a result of motivational consistency and the personal attention.

So you’re probably saying to yourself, I get all that, but wasn’t personalization the big 2017 trend? Well yes, many companies made grand plans to personalize. Some successfully executed, many only half-executed, and many did nothing at all. To be fair, it’s not exactly easy or cheap for internal teams to juggle all of the instruments necessary to market and acquire traffic, effectively run, continuously optimize, AND execute personalization tactics on top of it. As a result, either budgetary or resource constraints have stymied many personalization efforts.

Even though you're probably battling all of these constraints, the benefits of personalization cannot be ignored, so take a look at these easy ways to get started.

Using analytics, we can define audience segmentation by demographics, behavior, interests, etc. Most companies already have this data, but don’t use it. Industry data shows that personalization increases the likelihood of a conversion, however, what to do next is where it gets tricky.

Personalization tactics use customer information to customize various aspects of the user experience based on what we already know, just like the bartender. For example, if you have a product line that would make more sense in one area of the country versus another, personalize the display by geographic location. Another example could be by behavior. If a user adds products to their cart and abandons it, on a subsequent visit you could display the abandoned products in a prominent location or in a pop-up window.

You can personalize by interests as well. If you have a large segment of users that share a common interest like “travel buffs”, create a custom target group and if it makes sense, associate brand and product value based on those common interests. Users are much more likely to make a purchase from a session that matches their interests and motivation.

A great way to get started is by using an A/B testing platform to split your audience and test hypotheses that are focused on how displaying personalized content impacts your targeted audience behavior. This will help you understand:

  • Which audience segments are the most susceptible to personalization
  • The best location for personalized content
  • What is an effective amount of personalized content
  • Most effective type (brand value, product value etc.) of content to personalize

Don’t let another quarter go by without adding CRO and personalization to your digital experience playbook. To realize the benefits of both CRO and personalization, research and planning are absolutely necessary, and internal discussions are a good starting point to determine program goals and the scope of these initiatives. Put pen to paper - it's just an idea until you write it down!

Want to learn more? As a full-service digital agency, we specialize in CRO and personalization! Check out some of our recent work or contact us to set up a time to chat.

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