Have you ever wondered what conversion optimisation people do? Is conversion optimisation all about AB-testing? Does conversion optimisation really yield bottom line results? These are some of the questions I get from people interested in the topic. In this post I will give you some insight on my work as a conversion optimisation manager for a medium sized organisation. I will try to show you how conversion optimisation is a very broad field and that you are required to get extensive knowledge from all parts of your online business.
Building a rocket
Let us start with the major misconception that conversion optimisation is just AB-testing. AB-testing is a large part of it but it is just a methodology to gain insights. It is like if you were building a space machine. You want to know which engine is the most effective. You test your various engines. You gain some knowledge on which engine is the most effective and then you fine tune it further. This is what AB-testing process is and it might sound pretty straight forward. The problem is to gain the knowledge to build the right type of engines to test. That knowledge is hard to get and will demand hard work from many different experts.
Website optimisation is almost like rocket science
When you have your engines you also need to consider the design of the rocket. How does the engines fit in the rocket? How should the shell of the rocket be designed? How much workload can it handle? What is the optimal design of the cargo bay? I would say that online conversion optimisation is almost equally complex. You have the users, you have segments of users, you have your organisation structure, you have the knowledge level of your key co-workers, you have the sophistication of your tools, you have the strategically and tactical layers and many other things. All these factors ads to the complexity level of the optimisation work.
Two years of conversion optimisation
As I have progressed through the various organisations and their maturity phase I have come to realize that online success depends on many factors and that you continuously have to work on them or you will loose your competitive advantage.
The below figure illustrates some of the highlights of my work at PostkodLotteriet during a two year period. I created this illustration to give you an illustration of what type of work a conversion optimisation specialist does. Click on the image for a larger picture.
My journey started two years ago. Our first focus was to get clean data from our web analytics tool. We needed to capture the metrics that were driving the business. I view the web analytics data as my prime tool for conversion input. You need to be able understand what the data tells you and then react.
We moved on to start optimize our most important sales channels, email and ad words. In the same time we looked to create a high converting landing page. One of the important factors was to create a page where we could more or less copy every time we had a new campaign. This saved us many work hours and has effective our work tremendously.
Having a good landing page made a huge difference in our conversion rate. The optimisation of our emails continued for a long time. In the end we had found the right expressions, the right amount of text, the right form and the right headings. When we felt that further optimisation would only lead to incremental gains we stopped optimising. The process of sending out emails is now extremely effective. We have built the competence among us so the email process demands minimal of resources.
During the email optimisation we needed to dig more into the user behaviour. The web analytics data gets you far but deeper user data about your customer is a must. The business intelligence department was under construction and data was slowly sipping down to our fingertips, which gave us further insight on the user behaviour.
After a year
With the start of my second year at PostkodLotteriet a decision was made to redesign the site and add more products. While we were feeding knowledge to redesign consultants we kept optimizing further. We tried everything from external links on our landing page, the effect of a video, the effect of trust logos in the buying process, testing of payment options and many other things.
Releasing the new website changed the user behaviour. Most redesigns lead to a drop in conversion, but not ours. We hade built the sale structure in a way that the conversion rate was not affected. Further we placed a strategic function behind a log-in, which allowed us to identify the user. Information like this will in the near future be used to personalize our content.
With a new site and changed user behaviour my work has more or less started again from the scratch. I have analysed and put forward a conversion plan on how to optimize our website and equally as important how we work with the website. The additional products have added another complexity level and everything has to be reconsidered.
What you do not see
What is not shown in the illustration is what is happening behind the curtains so to speak. The hour’s put into analysis is substantial. You constantly need to monitor the data and depending on your activities you have to assure the right data is collected. Further you need to raise the competence level of everyone around you. After all your success is a direct correlation of your team member’s competence level.
Another aspect that is not discussed so much in the online forums is how much more effective your organisation becomes. This equals to huge savings in time and money. I have mentioned a few examples so far but we also have the direct effect on the marketing budget. We know which sources are profitable so we have saved a lot of money by placing our money on what works.
Is conversion optimisation profitable
The short answer is yes. I have seen though examples where a single test yield a conversion increase but when implemented on the site the conversion is not affected much. This is of course do to several factors but in the end of the year you should look at your bottom line. During the two years I have worked we have exceeded the sales targets every year. In the process we spend less money to get there.
Now the trick is…and this probably my most important advice…to see conversion optimisation work as a cross function within the organisation. Conversion optimisation needs to be on everyone’s mind. The organisation has to put emphasis around it, build the structures, ensure the knowledge is being used and transferred and be in it for the long run.
In short. Conversion optimisation is so much more than just AB-testing. If you want to become a cutting edge online department you have to put conversion optimisation in the heart of your organisation.