The Typical CRO Process
The purpose of conversion rate optimization (CRO) is to understand what customers want, what they need, how they make decisions, and how they take action. This understanding is then used to create an environment that entices customers to convert — whether it’s to buy a product, use a service, sign up for a newsletter, fill out a form, or whatever action a business wants them to take.
No two Conversion Rate Optimization strategies are the same, because no two businesses are the same. This means that there is also no set template on which to build a CRO strategy. Many business owners make the mistake of approaching optimization without a plan. They throw some ideas at the problem, test random things, then see what works. This is not only a massive waste of time, but it’s also an unnecessary waste of money. However, many businesses and conversion rate optimization agencies follow a similar 13-step CRO process.
To ensure that this process is most successful, it’s important to have a so-called ‘attitude of an optimizer’. This means that you need to forget about what worked before because it is highly likely that it won’t work again; you need to check your ego at the door because just because it’s your idea, doesn’t mean it’s the best idea; and most importantly, you need to focus on finding solutions for problems you haven’t noticed.
Here’s a look at the 13-step CRO process, how long the process takes, and when optimization ends:
1. Establish business objectives
Think about what you’re trying to achieve, then set your objectives. Do you want to sell more products, do you want people to sign up to a newsletter, or do you want people to contribute to a crowdfunding effort?
It doesn’t matter how many objectives you have, it matters that you have them. Your objectives will determine which metrics you want to improve.
2. Ask questions
Look at your objectives, then ask as many questions as possible from the user’s perspective. What do people want? Is our product or service solving a problem? What do people think when they see the offer? How did they land on the page? Is the page easy to use? What do people look at most when they look at the page? Ask questions that will lead you to understand what data you need to collect, and why you need to collect it.
3. Collect data
Data won’t just stream in, you have to actively collect it. You need to set up analytics tools in such a way that it gives answers to the questions you asked in the previous step. Don’t just measure for the sake of measuring. If the data you are collecting doesn’t answer a question, don’t waste your time collecting it.
4. Get insights
Data by itself is meaningless, it’s the insights you gain from analyzing it that’s important. Analyze data from all the different sources, then identify key trends and patterns, and draw conclusions from them. Study them carefully, then interpret what it’s telling you.
5. Identify problems
After gaining insights into the data you collected, study them to see if you can identify potential opportunities and problems with your website. List both to see what’s working and what’s not. Then ask yourself why what works is working, and why wasn’t working, isn’t?
6. Develop hypotheses
Take these questions and think of solutions, then develop hypotheses to see if these solutions will work. While it is important to develop hypotheses on why there are problems, it is also helpful to understand why certain things do work, because you can learn a great deal from both. Remember that there might not be one single solution to a problem, so test all of the solutions you can think of.
7. Design wireframes & treatments
A wireframe is like the skeleton of a website. It is the structure around which the site is built. Designers will flesh out wireframes into treatments of how the page will look like. Look at the designed pages and identify issues with the copy, visuals, usability, and any other problems, so the designer can make the necessary changes.
8. Technical integration
Once all the design kinks have been ironed out, it’s time to build or integrate the changes into the site so it can be tested.
9. Proper testing
One of the key elements of CRO is testing, testing everything. Run simple A/B tests to determine which designs or treatments perform better. You don’t necessarily have to develop and run your own tests from scratch, testing tools like VWO, TestRail, and Evergage make the process easy.
10. Analyze test results
Once you have the test results, measure them against your goals and objectives to see if they are putting you on track to achieving them. See whether they qualify your hypotheses. If not, look at them closely to determine where you might have missed something, then think of possible changes and/or solutions.
11. Learn from the analysis
What can you learn from the test results? Why does something work with one group, but not another? What is important to users, and what isn’t? Learning from the test results will help you see where to focus and where not to.
12. Archive results
Take the results of the tests and what you’ve learned, and document it so you can share it with stakeholders, and anyone involved in the process. Archive these documents so you can access them in the future.
13. Repeat the cycle
Finally, repeat the cycle. The more you repeat it, the closer you will get to true optimization.
How long does the optimization cycle take?
There is no set time for how long an optimization cycle will take. It can take a couple of weeks, a couple of months, or even a year. How long it takes will depend on the following:
- Complexity: The more complex the site or page, the longer the process will take.
- Data: How much data you have available, how much still needs to be collected, and how long it takes to analyze it.
- Traffic: The amount of traffic a site generates will determine how long the tests will need to run to achieve a statistical significance.
The faster a cycle can run, the more experiments you can do within a designated period, the more you can learn, and the higher the potential gains. However, you should never compromise on quality.
When does optimization end?
Optimization never ends, because no matter how perfect you think your website is, no matter how well it is converting, there is always room for improvement, you can always do better today than you did yesterday, this month over last, and year on year. The business environment is always on moving and evolving, whether it’s due to new technology, new competitors, or new challenges. Continuous optimization lets you keep up.
The steps laid out in this article are by no means set in stone because there is no right or wrong way to go about the conversion optimization process. The steps serve only as a guide to help you, or the conversion rate optimization consultant you employ, through the process. It’s a checklist of sorts that ensures that optimization efforts stay on track.
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