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Guest blog Conversion optimization: ‘Not optimizing is discriminating’

02 August 2018 | Blog
Leontine van Geffen

June 2018 marked the tenth edition of the Digital Elite Camp, organized by ConversionXL and Dreamgrow. A three-day event in Estonia that every year is dedicated to Growth, Conversion and Traffic. Translated into Dutch, Growth, Conversion and Traffic, although here in the Netherlands the English terms are now doing better business than the Dutch ones. I was invited to attend on behalf of the Digital Marketing department of the Commerciële Economie study programme of the Hogeschool van Amsterdam. My goal? We see more and more students from our department doing internship and thesis research in the field of Conversion Optimization. Conversion optimization – or CRO, Conversion Rate Optimization – is traditionally (if the word is at all appropriate here) something that the (interaction) designer and data analyst deal with, but which is at least as important for a commercial economist these days. Because: conversion optimization ensures higher conversion and thus more revenue. So it was high time to get updated on the current state of affairs in the field of conversion optimization and to learn the latest tips, tools and tricks.

Here are three lessons that stuck out to me:

Lesson 1: There’s no such thing as a diet pill for conversion optimizationes

Conversieoptimalisatie les 2 _ Hoop is geen strategiePeep Laja of ConversionXL kicked off the event with an inspiring story about finding repeating patterns in conversion optimization. Everyone wants that diet pill, that pill that will make you slim without you having to do anything at all. If you can find repeating patterns, maybe you could skip conversion research? But just as there is no diet pill for getting slim, there is no diet pill for doing conversion optimization research. We can’t skip conversion optimization research or stop doing it because the color red of a button happens to work at the competitor. Basic things like “avoid unclear error messages” or “avoid unnecessary fields in forms” can’t be called repeating patterns, they are just best practices. Applying Machine Learning and Artficial Intelligence is also on the rise in this, something Jonathan Epstein also talked about in his session on the impact of AI on effective Customer Journeys. Evolutionary Optimization allows you to run an A/B test with several variables simultaneously, so you’re not testing 1 variable at a time, but letting the computer test and measure what the most optimal combination of variables is.

In short:

  • You can’t haphazardly copy what market leaders or key competitors are doing, research what will provide the best conversion for you.
  • Basic knowledge of conversion optimization is not a repeating pattern.
  • Can you skip conversion research if you do discover repeating patterns? So no. There is no such thing as a diet pill for conversion optimization.

Lesson 2: Hope is not a strategy

Another speaker who impressed was Karl Gilis, one of the top 3 most influential CRO experts in the world. His message was clear: know those basics that Peep Laja also talked about. Hope is not a strategy, hope is not a strategy. No dog clicks on the right side of the site, so don’t put important stuff there. Video in the background is distracting and a conversion killer. Do your homework and know the basics. Netflix, which sells moving pictures, does not have a slider or video in the background of its homepage. A website is not a work of art. It’s something people use. So make sure they can do that optimally.

  • Hope is not a strategy. Know your basics what things work and don’t work.
  • Video or moving images in the background are the new sliders: conversion killers.
  • A designer is not a decorator. Make sure your design and copy enables people to use your site/app.

Lesson 3: Not optimizing is discriminating

Ok. Quite a statement, but if you don’t test and don’t do conversion research, you will exclude (potentially) whole groups of customers from doing what your website is meant to do. During his session, Craig Sullivan showed many examples of large companies whose websites work badly or are unreadable on cell phones, don’t work on Macbooks, don’t work optimally on IE11 or Android. I found his statement that by doing so you put people with bad eyes or working in a certain industry where they work more with IE or Macbook at a disadvantage to others, interesting. Not optimizing is discriminating. Another important one: data-driven marketing doesn’t work if the data doesn’t come in properly, so during his session he also discussed, for example, performing a Google Analytics audit. First, make sure your data is coming in properly so you can make decisions on correct data.

  • We all have things that don’t work in our products or services, we just don’t know what those defects are and what they cost us. So test, test, test.
  • If customers don’t complain, it doesn’t mean everything is working perfectly. Every business needs a conversion optimization process.
  • Make sure your data is correct

I gained many more interesting insights. Like what the advent of Voice Search is going to mean for websites and apps and therefore for the conversion optimization industry. Or how to optimize mobile apps using a Strategic Mobile Growth Framework. Or how to set up a Growth Hacking team. To use Peep Laja’s words: there is no diet pill to keep up with this interesting field.

Where to next?

Guest blog by Leontine van Geffen, lecturer Digital Marketing – Hogeschool van Amsterdam

Leontine van Geffen
Docent Digital Marketing aan de Hogeschool van Amsterdam


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