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Posts Tagged ‘conversion rate optimization’

Marketing 101: What is CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization)?

September 1st, 2017
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

Conversion rate optimization, often abbreviated as CRO, is the practice of improving the conversion rate in any advertising, marketing, sales or other business practice that has a goal of getting a person to take an action. (The conversion rate measures the number of prospects who take an action that you’re requesting.)

For example, let’s say you have an email that asks people to click to a landing page to buy a product. CRO would focus on getting more people to click on that email (improving the conversion rate of clickthrough), in addition to getting more people to purchase on the landing page.

CRO (or at least elements of it) is sometimes also referred to as marketing optimization, website optimization, landing page optimization (LPO), growth hacking, optimization and testing, customer experience (CX), usability (UX) or marketing experimentation.

Despite the prevalent use of the word “optimization,” it is a very different discipline from search engine optimization (SEO). CRO is focused on optimizing for human behavior, and SEO is focused on optimizing for machine behavior.

Web design, copywriting and analytics interpretation are key skills that go hand-in-hand with CRO. This is because many CRO changes are either to design or copy. Also, the ability to understand analytics will (1) give ideas on where in the conversion process you should make CRO changes to have the biggest impact, and once you’ve made the changes, (2) how impactful they have been to your conversion goals.

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E-commerce: Why a forced checkout registration is never a good idea

October 8th, 2013
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“If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding.”

  • Pink Floyd, “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)”

The song was an outlet for bassist Roger Waters to express his dislike for the forceful approach to learning that was popular in the British education system during his youth. This serves as a great analogy for why forcing your customers to register for accounts is not always a good idea.

In today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post, I want to demand that you allow your consumers to have their pudding, even if they don’t eat their meat.

But in some cases, I know that “required” just can’t be avoided, so I’ll also share two methods you can try when your company just won’t budge on “leaving the kids alone,” as the song goes.

 

Make buying easier for users with low motivation

Unless your brand has the near cult-like following of Apple or Coca-Cola, then it’s likely your website will play host to visitors with low motivation.

Now, what will chase away users – and metaphorical British schoolchildren – with low motivation faster than a 12-inch ruler?

Having to submit their information to yet another website!

If a new visitor – most likely an important demographic to your business’ revenue – is forced to commit to an account before they make a purchase on your site, then you could lose this new customer.

 

Avoid cart abandonment by keeping new users moving through your checkout

Another reason to avoid a required registration is the dreaded cart abandonment.

Combine a visitor with low motivation and subject them to a rather lengthy checkout process, and you are just adding another brick in the wall.

But sometimes, registered accounts simply can’t be avoided for whatever reason …

What do you do then?

Well, it’s all in how you approach a customer with your demands for their data. While I discourage required accounts, consider these two account registration methods from our research that you can test to hopefully increase your sales and minimize cart abandonment:

 

Method #1. Front-end option

Provide an optional account registration option at the beginning of the checkout process for users with high motivation or brand loyalty.

However, you may need to provide some incentives to convince that user the registration option is in their best interest.

 

Method #2. Back-end option

Most businesses still need to ask customers to fill out billing and shipping information during the checkout process.

Why not offer customers an opt-in to a registration after their information has been submitted?

This only requires one action from the visitor (a “yes” or “no” answer) and can be placed before or after the completion of the order.

You may also need some additional value copy to convince users that a registration option is in their best interest, but the beauty here is that you’re not making them jump through the same hoop twice.

No matter which option your pick, the goal here is testing your sales funnel to discover the most strategic place for a required account registration if you can’t avoid it.

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Testing and Optimization: Radical website redesign program improves lead gen 89%

October 1st, 2013
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I’m live blogging at MarketingSherpa Lead Gen Summit 2013 in San Francisco, and attending a brand-side case study with Jacob Baldwin, Search Engine Marketing Manager, One Call Now.

To begin a testing and optimization program, Jacob launched a test on the website with a radical redesign, attempting to improve lead capture. The program was executed sequentially as opposed to A/B split testing.

Jacob said each new homepage version replaced the previous – the marketing team created new treatments and “flipped the switch” to learn how the page would perform.

An important insight from this testing approach  is there isn’t necessarily a need for a complex A/B or multivariate testing program.

The testing program was run on the homepage, and there were several objectives:

  • Increase conversion rate
  • Increase traffic
  • Reduce bounce rate
  • Provide niched messaging via enhanced segmentation

Here is the test control and original website:

 

And, here is the radical redesign treatment:

 

There were several key differences with the treatment:

  • Restructured navigation
  • Consolidated calls-to-action (CTAs)
  • Single value proposition – no competing headlines on the page
  • Trust indicators
  • Color palette
  • New tag line
  • New content

The original homepage, the control in this test, achieved 2.40% lead capture, and the radical redesign treatment pulled in 2.85% lead capture – an 18.75% lift over the control.

Jacob says the radical redesign was based on a revamped segmentation model.

“The new segmentation model drove the basic navigation structure and information architecture of the new homepage,” he explained.

This test with an early “win” was part of an ongoing optimization program. Not every test uncovered a lift, but every test did garner a discovery. The testing protocol involved taking the “winning” treatment and then refining the webpage layout, calls-to-action and length of the sign-up process for lead capture.

Through optimization, the sign-up process was shortened, and free trial sign-ups increased 55.3%, and the overall redesign of the entire website garnered a 89% lift in lead generation.

For the big takeaway, Jacob says, “Never stop improving. Complacency is lead capture optimization’s worst enemy and perfection is impossible. Complacency is conversion rate optimization’s worst enemy.”

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Customer Relevance: 3 golden rules for cookie-based Web segmentation

September 13th, 2013
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Over the years, the Internet has become more adaptive to the things we want.

It often seems as if sites are directly talking to us and can almost predict the things we are searching for, and in some ways, they are.

Once you visit a website, you may get a cookie saved within your browser that stores information about your interactions with that site. Websites use this cookie to remember who you are. You can use this same data to segment visitors on your own websites by presenting visitors with a tailored Web experience.

Much like a salesman with some background on a client, webpages are able to make their “pitch” to visitors by referencing  information they already know about them to encourage clickthrough and ultimately conversion.

Webpages get this information from cookies and then use a segmentation or targeting platform to give visitors tailored Web experiences.

Cookies can also be used to provide visitors with tailored ads, but in today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post, we will concentrate on your website, and how segmentation can be used on your pages to provide more relevant information to your potential customers.

 

Test your way into cookie-based segmentation

At MECLABS, we explore cookie-based segmentation the only way that makes sense to us – by testing it.

It’s fairly easy to identify the different variables you would want to segment visitors by, but how to accurately talk to them should be researched. It’s also easy to become distracted by the possibilities of the technology, but in reality, the basic principles of segmentation still apply, as well as the following general rules.

 

Rule #1. Remember you are segmenting the computer, not the person

There are more opportunities for error when segmenting online because multiple people may use the same computer.

Therefore, online segmentation has some mystery to it. You can tailor your message to best fit the cookies, but that may not accurately represent the needs of the specific person sitting in front of the computer at that time.

Many segmentation platforms boast a 60% to 80% confidence level when it comes to how accurately they can segment visitors, but I think a better way to position this information is there is a 20% to 40% margin of error.

That is pretty high!

Be cautious with how you segment. Make sure the different experiences you display are not too different and do not create discomfort for the visitor.

For visitors who do not share a computer, error can still be high. They may be cookied for things that do not accurately describe them.

I bet if you looked at your browser history, it may not be the most precise representation of who you are as a person. Therefore, don’t take cookie data as fact because it most likely isn’t. It should be used as a tool in your overall segmentation strategy and not serve as your primary resource for information about your customers.

 

Rule #2. Be helpful, not creepy

People are getting used to the Internet making suggestions and presenting only relevant information to them.

Some have even come to expect this sort of interaction with their favorite sites. However, there is a fine line between helpful and creepy. Visitors probably don’t want to feel like they are being watched or tracked. Marketers should use the data collected about their visitors in a way that does not surpass their conscious threshold for being tracked.

For example, providing location-specific information to visitors in a certain region is alright, but providing too much known information about those visitors may not be.

Cookies can tell you income level, demographic information, shopping preferences and so much more. Combining too much known information could seem overwhelming to the visitor and rather than speaking directly to them, you risk scaring them off.

Instead of making it blatantly obvious to visitors you have collected information on them, I would suggest an approach that supplies users with relevant information that meets their needs.

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Marketing Concepts: 3 telltale signs your homepage is not customer-focused

August 9th, 2013
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As a research manager, when I look at a homepage, I always ask myself two questions …

  • Who are the customers?
  • Was the homepage designed with those customers in mind?

I often find a homepage design makes perfect sense to the company’s executives, but not to the most important audience, the customers.

As homepages increasingly become the center of a company’s marketing and sales universe, making sure your focus is on the customer is more important than ever.

In today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post, I wanted to share three common telltale signs your homepage is driven by company-centric marketing.

I’m sure this post is likely to raise a few eyebrows, but my goal here is to help you raise revenue by helping you see your marketing efforts through the eyes of your potential customers.

 

Sign #1. Our homepage is a collage of department products instead of popular products

I generally tend to hope the most popular products and services offered on a homepage within direct eye-path, which is also prime real estate on a homepage, are what customers came to your homepage to find, versus products and services the company wants to sell.

However, it is not always that simple when you are in a large company with various departments with different sales goals all competing for that prime real estate on the homepage.

The big issue with this is when departments become only focused on the product or service, and marketers lose sight of what the customers want.

If a product or service that is not the primary driver of your sales traffic is overtaken on the homepage by a minimal interest product or service, should it really be placed within the customer’s direct eye-path?

The obvious answer is no, and I understand it is more complicated than that.

I also understand the chances of success for a business model that tries to force the sale of products or services to people who don’t need or want them are also slim in the long run.

So, if you find yourself in this position, I encourage you to take a step back and develop a strategy to work collaboratively with other departments to build a homepage that improves the overall customer experience.

 

Sign #2. Our value copy talks “at” our customers instead of “to” our customers

Have you ever read about a new product and still had to ask yourself, “What is this thing and what will it do for me?”

Unfortunately, this happens frequently.

Sometimes, we try to impress our customers with creative copy, hoping to sound professional and intelligent. This is great as long as it makes sense to the customer.

Remember, you understand your products/services inside and out and your potential customers are more than likely just learning about it for the first time.

The value copy from a customer’s perspective should answer one essential question – what is in it for me?

 

For example, I did a quick search online about cloud services, which is a complex product, and the first homepage I found left me even more confused.

Some of the cloud’s value copy explained this company’s service features“Open architecture based on OpenStack technology with no vendor lock-in.”

That may be an awesome feature, but I have no idea what it means.

Some of this company’s customers may understand this terminology, but the majority of customers are likely left just as confused as I am. Failing to provide clear and digestible information for customers could induce anxiety, increase frustration and ultimately leave visitors with no choice but to exit your page.

So, when I looked at the next cloud service homepage in my search, here’s what I found …

 

This homepage makes no assumptions about my level of IT sophistication.

It offers a short video and even lays out copy explaining what cloud service is and how it can help me.

And, there’s more …

 

Further down the page I found links to the options available that offer additional short videos combined with value copy explaining what cloud computing is and how the option can help me.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to optimize on this homepage as well.

The overall point here is to understand that I left the first homepage confused about how a solution could help me and I left this one with a clear understanding of what cloud service is and how it could help me.

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Online Marketing: 3 website optimization insights I learned from baking

July 26th, 2013
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Ever since I was a little girl, baking has been a hobby of mine.

There has always been something satisfying about attempting to master the complexities of baking.

Although the realist in me knew I wasn’t going to hit the big bucks through baking, I have found a few ways to apply some of the lessons I’ve learned from baking to my work as a research manager at MECLABS.

In today’s MarketingSherpa blog, I wanted to share three insights into how I think about testing and marketing as a result of my baking attempts.

 

Don’t stick with the directions on the box

Some of my best cakes have come from getting creative and literally thinking outside the box by adding different ingredients, or from asking friends what kind of crazy cake ingredients they’d like to try.

When working with one of our Research Partners to create a testing strategy, I often find myself confined to my own thought track – which I’ll admit can cause the creativity of test ideas to become stale and truthfully, can even get a little boring sometimes.

So, brainstorming with others in our peer review sessions is a great way to add those “new ingredients” to a test design to hopefully help our Research Partners learn more about their customers.

 

Beware of offering coupons in the Sunday paper too soon

Betty Crocker’s coupons excite me every time, and it’s a marketing tactic that stretches all the way back to 1929.

That’s when the company first decided to insert coupons into the flour mixture part of the box mix. And, I’ll admit the tactic works on me because I often find myself staring at the Save $1.00 off TWO boxes of cake mix coupon and debate a trip to the store.

But, here’s the big question … am I being motivated to buy more because of my aggregate experience with the product, or because of the value proposition offered in the coupon?

Before I even saw the coupon, I wasn’t planning on buying cake mixes, but now I’m thinking about it – why should I buy more cake mix from you?  It will cost me more regardless of the coupon savings.

Now, I understand the idea of incentives and they can work – people have a hard time letting savings slip through their fingers, but offering incentives right off the bat isn’t always the best answer to increasing conversion and here’s why …

At MECLABS, we generally stress incentives should be the last resort in your testing efforts to see a quick win. The reason for this is offering incentives can skew your understanding of true customer motivation, as you can tell from my coupon example above.

My need for cake mix is why I initially purchased, and a coupon incentive may not be the optimal solution to keeping me as a return customer or attracting new customers.

So, before you worry about the coupons and other incentives, try to make sure you have the basics covered first:

  • A website that visitors can easily navigate and find what they’re looking for.
  • A simplified purchase flow for potential customers.
  • Easy, accessible support for your customers when they can’t figure things out.

If those items are in place and you’ve tested for the optimal user experience, then you can begin to explore incentives.

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Search Marketing: 3 questions every marketer should ask when starting an AdWords campaign

July 9th, 2013
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Google AdWords campaigns are a terrific way to target specific audiences.

Unlike advertising on television or billboards, which tries to convince consumers they have a need for the product, search advertising tries to fulfill a need the customer already has.

The only problem is figuring out exactly what searches your customers are performing to express the need your product is the answer to.

Answering the following three questions is a great start to understanding your customers a little more, and will help you fulfill their needs and provide them with solutions.

 

Question #1.  What phase of the sales funnel are our targeted customers in?

Understanding where your target customers are within your sales funnel will help you know how they are searching for your products and what kind of queries they will be using to find them.

Here are a few points to consider when creating a Google AdWords campaign based on what stage of the purchase decision process a potential customer is in before they buy:

Initial – Very early on in the funnel, your potential customers may not even know your product exists. It is up to you to make them aware of your product, and to let them know what the benefits are of using it. For example, if a customer is just beginning their search for a new computer, they’ll probably start with general keywords like “laptop deals” or “cheap desktops.”

Intermediate – Even if your customers have a good understanding of what your product is and are interested in it, they are going to do more research on your product and compare it to similar products. This is where search queries will become more specific for products like “lightweight laptops with dual-core processors.”

Also, keep in mind at this stage, customers may begin to query brand names in their search efforts as well. This is where your keywords should become more specific about the details of your products.

Advanced – This is the stage where a customer has done their research and has reached a decision. In keeping with our computer example, it’s where search terms will likely be brand or name specific as the focus has now shifted to buying.

So if you are aware of what stage in the purchase decision process your customers are in, you can alter keywords to meet their specific needs.

You can even create different ads to match specific keywords customers will search for during each of the different phases as shown above. This will also help you discern which phases you should focus your paid search marketing efforts on.

For example, if most of your keywords are targeting customers in the early stages, you may want to concentrate on adding keywords they would use later in the funnel to make sure they follow through with the buy as ultimately every phase has the potential to turn into a buy.

 

Question #2. How are customers searching for us?

Potential customers generally search the Internet to find answers to questions or solutions to problems.

So, how will customers search for the answers and solutions your products can provide?

There are an infinite number of possibilities considering their queries may be an actual question, a symptom that they have a description of their problem or the cause of their problem.

For example, if someone’s air conditioner is broken, they may search “broken ac” or “how to fix a broken ac,” “why is my ac freezing over?” or  “ac repair in [anytown USA].”

Your ultimate goal is to answer those questions and solve those problems.

And, in order to do this successfully, your AdWords campaign should consider as many of the different search possibilities that relate to your products as possible.

It’s also worth mentioning whichever search terms customers use will also set certain expectations that your landing page or process needs to deliver.

So, when conducting your keyword research, you should list as many search query possibilities customers would likely use to search for your products, and match those searches with keywords that offer the most relevant solutions and answers.

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Customer Connection: Does your entire marketing process connect to your customers’ motivations?

July 2nd, 2013
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For roughly the last six years, my focus has been customer research – specifically how and why people behave the way they do when they come to a point of decision online.

After directing hundreds of real-time online tests and conducting a number of brand-side marketer interviews, I’ve discovered there’s simple a secret to using the Conversion Heuristic of MarketingSherpa’s sister brand, MarketingExperiments, to unlock some of the double- and triple-digit gains I’ve witnessed first-hand over the years.

I’ll explain with a recent story of my own.

 

There’s a story behind everything that’s bought

On January 2, my wife went from happily seven months pregnant to becoming a new mom two months early – in less than 48 hours.

She suddenly put her career on hold and committed to meeting the challenges our daughter faced from premature birth. We were in the hospital every day for a month and brought our bundle of joy home a month earlier than expected.

It’s safe to say my wife’s recent journey has been one of rediscovery with little notice. And, with her birthday coming up soon, I wanted to find a way to delight her and confirm her talent as a person. So, I went to build a custom gift presentation focused on one of her most promising and enjoyable hobbies: baking.

 

A company becomes my cornerstone

The first place I went to buy products for this presentation was one of the e-commerce stores she visits most – King Arthur Flour. Over the last year, she has mentioned things she would love to have from the site, so I decided to fulfill those requests all at once.

The added bonus here is it would excite her to have all of the new tools and special ingredients she wanted and would confirm my belief in her baking talents … one delicious confection after another.

So, from the homepage to checkout, I processed every piece of marketing content in context of what I was trying to do for my wife. If something didn’t fit my vision for this presentation, then it wasn’t for me.

 

My cornerstone gets cracked

It’s inescapable for anyone in e-commerce – some errors will occur. A potent baking ingredient came apart during shipment and also ruined two other key items for my presentation. Making matters worse … her birthday was in less than two days.

I quickly contacted King Arthur Flour to see if they could help. When I spoke with someone from the team about my situation, they agreed to process an overnight replacement of those items without question.

All seemed to be well again …

Until the package didn’t arrive the following day.

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Value Proposition: 4 questions every marketer should ask about value prop

May 21st, 2013
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You’ve determined if there is any true value in your marketing and you’ve taken the steps to craft your value proposition, when the one looming question hits you – what should I do next?

 

Turning theory into action was the key focus of Tony Doty, Senior Manager of Optimization, MECLABS, and Lauren Maki, Manager of Optimization, MECLABS, during the Industry Deep Dive session, “Value Proposition: How to turn that shiny, new value prop into a high-performing page,” here at MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments Optimization Summit 2013.

“We have a lot of great tools for developing value proposition, but often we find a lot of marketers asking us what to do next and that’s what this is all about,” Tony said.

Today’s MarketingSherpa blog post will feature four questions every marketer should ask themselves about what the next step should be for implementing value proposition development into marketing efforts.

 

 

Question #1: Who is my target audience?

Tony and Lauren explained before you think about where you will express your value prop statements, you need to first determine who your audience for that value proposition is and what their needs are.

“We should always craft a value proposition with a customer’s needs in mind,” Tony said.

 

 

Question #2: Do I know where my customers are coming from?

Tony also explained once you’ve identified the target audience for your value proposition, you need to understand the channels where your traffic comes from, and adapt your message as needed per channel.

Lauren brought up a good point that customers from different channels have different needs and motivations, so your value proposition placement should be strategic within each channel.

To do this, she explained you first need to identify not just who your target prospect group is, but also where that prospect group is coming from.

“There’s a lot more places than just your homepage for your value proposition,” Lauren explained. “Look at your data to determine if what you’re doing is effective once you’ve started putting your value propositions into place [in those different channels].”

Some of the channels Lauren highlighted in her example are:

  • Targeted email campaigns
  • PPC campaigns
  • Display ads
  • Referral sites
  • Landing pages
  • Product pages
  • Informational pages
  • Cart checkout
  • Social media

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Search Marketing: 3 common mistakes marketers make using Google AdWords

May 17th, 2013
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Through testing with our Research Partners, I’ve discovered a few common mistakes marketers make when crafting paid search campaigns using Google AdWords.

So, in today’s MarketingSherpa blog post, my goal is to provide you with a few fundamentals  to aid  paid search marketing efforts and, hopefully, help you avoid a few pitfalls along the way.

 

Mistake #1: Grouping all keywords into one ad group

Keywords are the heart of your ads and relevance is their soul.

So, if you lump all of your keywords into one ad group, the impact will be some keywords become highly relevant to the ad group while others are not.

This is a common mistake marketers make under the guise that the tactic will boost impressions. It will – but this approach is more expensive and those less relevant keywords that boost impressions are also likely to underperform.

Think of it this way … would you run an ad for plumbing fixtures in People magazine with the expectations that it will perform like an ad for the latest celebrity perfume line?

 

Mistake #2: Not testing ads

Another common mistake marketers make is not testing their ads.

Although testing is something we live and breathe every day at MECLABS, it’s important to understand in digital marketing, there are no sacred cows. Speculation on campaign performance is for the birds – unless you test, you’ll never discover what really works.

So, my suggestion is that you test. With AdWords, having two or more tests running is ideal as there is no other way to effectively benchmark an ad’s performance efficiently.

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