Last week I touched on what I believe should be digital marketers’ key priorities for 2016: conversion rate optimization (CRO), content personalization, and the mobile app universe. These are, hands down, the most pivotal topics right now and the ones that could yield the greatest impact on your business no matter what you do. Get it right and you’ll be in a prime position to knock it out of the park this year. Let yourself and your business grow stagnant or, even, plateau and you’ll wind up no better off in 12 months—or, worse, you’ll lose out to some of your competitors who prioritized pushing the envelope in 2016.
The first area to dig into? Conversion rate optimization. It’s good to start here because, In many ways, CRO is a foundational piece of content personalization and mobile apps, the other two game changers this year. Think about it: if you break digital marketing down to its most basic components, what have you got? An end goal of making the most of customer journeys and experiences.
The interesting thing about CRO is that it’s been around forever. When weren’t you trying to convert customers? But that doesn’t mean the conversation hasn’t grown and evolved. If you’re still playing in the old CRO sandbox you’ve probably leveled off or, even, seen your successes taper. I wouldn’t be surprised if, as a result of waning successes, you’ve moved on to other initiatives.
But we need to reset the conversation. We need to redefine what it means to “convert” someone. And we need to make sure that you, your brand and marketers everywhere recognize the new CRO path to success, and the multiple platforms, touch points, and considerations it entails. Here’s where to start.
Being Truly Data Driven
Adobe’s latest Digital Optimization Survey showed a clear split between the top 20 percent of successful conversion companies and the remaining 80 percent: the highest performers align testing with decision making. “The survey results,” the report explains, “show that companies who shift to a culture that embraces optimization to make decisions increase conversion 100 percent.” One hundred percent.
That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s elbow-deep in optimization. Today’s leaders are the ones who are using data religiously. They know what their audience and its segments look like right now, in real time. And, equally importantly, these marketers and brands embrace that even their most valuable consumer segments could change, shift and evolve overnight, even.
But for digital marketers on the optimization forefront, this isn’t a cause for concern—they’re deeply data-driven and, no matter how the consumer landscape looks in a few months, weeks or hours, even, they’ll be ready to pull in new profiles, drill down on the latest metrics and unearth the most valuable segments at that moment in time. It might seem intuitive enough but, surprisingly, nearly half of companies don’t have any real plans in place to scale their data-driven marketing initiatives.
To do this well brands need a companion to all that data. Today’s CRO relies on this vital data being woven into the DNA of your brand, as well as through various organizational niches. From my end I see the massive differences in those brands who have data companions and those who don’t. Companies that tap Adobe Target versus Target and Adobe Analytics have very different experiences because the latter has a companion to the data. By bringing together Target and Analytics you can choose from rich segments and slice and dice to your CRO delight—people who spend X dollars perform this way, while those who spend Y engage this way. It’s multidimensional, it’s highly actionable and it’s always at your fingertips. Integrating a data companion gives you the flexibility to reach up and out, to be nimble, to automate, to segment even more deeply. It’s having the data and using it—and doing it all in real-time, with incredible impact and efficacy. It’s the ultimate one plus one equals three. CRO ceiling smashed.
Here’s the challenge many organizations face, though: they’ve got the data and, maybe, they’ve even got the analytics machine raring to go. But then the magic happens after the fact, or by a team that doesn’t have the keys to the proverbial kingdom. By having key pieces, people or next steps too far removed from the conversion epicenter, you’re missing the mark—or, minimally, not making the most out of the data you’ve got. Gartner estimates, “85 percent of Fortune 500 organisations will be unable to exploit Big Data for competitive advantage.” As Forbes explains, that “means only 15 percent will be…using Big Data and analytics to uncover new insights and deliver a sharper competitive edge.” It’s, simply, not good enough—remember, CRO falls in the all-important need-to-have bucket, and that means Big Data jumps in right alongside. Not just having but actually using for the greater good . ..yours and your consumers’.
Dodge the Blind Experiment Trap
If you aren’t tapping into data effectively, blind experimentation is likely an issue holding back your CRO—and that’s a major misstep. Saying you “do CRO” but blindly poking around in a testing tool just isn’t good enough in this new conversion world order. Think about your own testing and experimentation efforts. Are you utilizing the numbers, being smart and strategic, and launching every test eyes wide open? Or is there some level of blind guessing and experimentation still happening? Guess now, analyze later won’t hold water when it comes to driving conversion value.
Adobe Target has taken great strides in this area and, now, is able to test elements within your entire campaign. Based on options that emerge from the rich data you’re already collecting, Target can pull in metrics from other solutions as well as critical success benchmarks to both test and deliver optimized experiences. Maybe it’s digging into fall out rates at one stage of the journey and conversion rates in another and identifying ways to do more of what’s working and ease up on what’s not—and, more importantly, unearthing the gems from those experiences that can inform other consumer touch points along the way. It’s a unique approach that turns valuable insights into actionable information and, with it, improves CRO—and, even better, it mitigates risk in a big way.
Adobe’s view of the customer and his journey is simple, holistic and looks at interactions as continuation of one ongoing conversation that starts with the first touch. By taking this approach we’re able to optimize a series of successful experiences that shepherd customers through the journeys we want them to take. Remember, conversion isn’t just the path from A to B—instead, it’s something marketers and brands need to observe across multiple engagement modalities, in most cases, to get a truly clear picture. If you aren’t thinking about CRO through this kind of a lens then you’re still stuck in yesterday’s definition of “conversion” and, as a result, you’re likely smacking your head against the CRO ceiling.
This is definitely an optimal approach to improving CRO and one that it’s essential to benchmark your brand against. Are you taking this same 360 view of the customer, or are you focused on the touch points and individual moments in time, and optimizing accordingly? If it’s the latter remember this: consumers don’t care about your channels, how they accessed your brand or the device they were using this time or that time. They see your brand—Brand X—as one experience in their minds. And, more importantly, they see it as an experience they can jump into and out of as needed. Ignore cross-channel movement or silo her experiences and you’ll no doubt curb your CRO efforts—if you don’t recognize her when she pops up somewhere else and can’t keep the positive momentum from your last engagement, she’ll likely abandon in favor of a brand that sticks with her through every twist and turn.
The industry has, effectively, re-benchmarked itself when it comes to CRO, and we’re coming up against seemingly sky high hurdles as result—hurdles that, in most cases, have left the industry a bit paralyzed. But that doesn’t mean we’re done with CRO. Far from it, in fact. Getting over this hurdle, though, isn’t going to be about fighting our way through—the brands that will ultimately be successful in the CRO game are those that can take a good, hard look at what can be done to shift, realign and keeping pushing ahead. They’re the brands that know CRO is a need-to-have, not a nice-to-have. They’re the brands that can be data-driven, acknowledge the conversion journey everywhere it takes place. And they’re the brands that can redefine what “conversion” means even when it doesn’t fit in the neat, clean little box we’ve assigned to CRO. Decide where you fall and get ready to dive in. We’ll be there to sprint right alongside you, every step of the way.