How to build a world class online conversion department

Any smart online company should have one. I am talking about a conversion department. Unfortunately not many companies have realized the potential in optimizing the online traffic. The few companies that do i.e. Amazon or Expedia have a rumour to have the highest conversion rates within their field. These companies understand the potential of working systematically with optimisation since even small changes can yield great results. I am a first-hand witness that simple actions can yield a double-digit conversion increase.

Why you should have a conversion department

Successful online companies have analytics built in into their DNA but that is not enough. Analytics data is useless if you don’t use it to increase your revenue. Many companies have more data than they can handle but have a hard time leveraging this data into revenues. This is where a conversion department will come in hand.

The aim with a conversion department

The main task of a conversion department should of course be to increase your online conversion and hence your revenues but it should also make your organisation smarter by leading the optimisation of all your digital channels.

Further a conversion department should centralize all conversion knowledge, gather it in one place to ensure that the knowledge does not disappear when people leave the organisation. If you are a large organisation with offices all over the world it should also have the aim to overview the optimisation process save time by avoiding that the same mistakes are being done over and over again.

The conversion department together with the analytics department should also be the cure to the HIPPO (Highest Paid Persons Opinion) sickness many companies have. The HIPPO sickness is when decisions are based on emotions rather than facts. This will create a culture based on facts not guessing.

What a conversion department does

Many think that a conversion department just do AB testing. AB testing is a very important part of the tools conversion people at their hand but it is just a small part of the benefits your organisation can have. Here are some other benefits:

  • The conversion department bridges the gap between, design, analytics, marketing and technology. They give your analytics guys the understanding of what needs to be focused on and they give your marketing people the knowledge of what works and how to invest their money in a smart way. Further you designers will start thinking conversion, which will increase the quality in their output.
  • Your organisation is most likely already measuring everything. You have brilliant people getting you all data you need. You have more data than you can handle but you have hard time capitalizing on this data.
  • People working with analytics are good with numbers but not with online sales. Online sales are much more than just understanding numbers therefore you need people understanding the dynamic of how to sell online.
  • With marketing people it is the opposite, they might be good in sales ideas but they lack the discipline of numbers. Many times they also want to ignore numbers and to be able to some “branding”. Brilliant sales people understand the psychology involved in selling especially when you sell to consumers but still need the support of conversion professionals.

The building blocks

Building a successful conversion department demands more or less the same components as any other department you will build. Money, passionate people, structure and key competence.

  • First of all you need passionate people. People that love the online world, people who are prepared to be persistent creating your cutting edge conversion department.
  • You will also need people with analytics skills.  Since you will do a lot of ab-testing you need to understand what to test, which demands knowledge in web analytics.
  • Tools are a key part of any online business. Online conversion is no exception. Fortunately the tools now days are rather cheap so you can get really good tools for a fair amount of dollars. Usually it is not getting the tools that are the problem but rather learning how to use them that are the crucial part.
  • Without a budget your conversion department will be limping. You need to allocate enough resources so you will be able to have a cutting edge department. Today companies allocate 99% on traffic driving and only 1% on optimizing this traffic, which is of course ridiculous. Getting the traffic is more expensive than squeezing the conversion juice out of it.
  • Since the department will be doing a lot of cutting edge conversion work you need people that can convey the results in an inspiring way. Good presentation skills are a must and keeping a good documentation of all the knowledge you will generate is another important factor.
  • Keep in mind that before you build your conversion department you need to have clean analytics data. Your data must be correctly implemented data and if you have a BI department don’t hesitate to take their help.

To think of

As a final word when working with important projects like this you need to consider that there are many stakeholders within a company and you need some political sensitivity, of course without giving up your conviction that facts speak louder than words. Also you need to be prepared to be in for the long run. Transforming towards a conversion culture takes time but worth it many times over. You want to be a cutting edge online company, don’t you?

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