5 Reasons Why Your Conversion Rate Optimization Efforts Are Failing

Why you may be hav­ing trou­ble get­ting big gains from your opti­miza­tion efforts.

Tim Ash By Tim Ash. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Does it seem that your con­ver­sion rate opti­miza­tion efforts (CRO) aren’t exact­ly deliv­er­ing the results you had planned? Do you even have a plan? While it’s pos­si­ble to get some quick wins by fix­ing your most glar­ing con­ver­sion killers, mean­ing­ful opti­miza­tion requires mea­sured steps and delib­er­ate actions to bring you to a place where you see steady improve­ment on a reg­u­lar basis.

Not see­ing the gains you’d like from your CRO efforts? You aren’t alone.

Here are five of the most com­mon con­ver­sion mis­takes that cause fail­ures for com­pa­nies of all sizes.

1. Your KPIs Focus On Traffic Generation & Branding

Many orga­ni­za­tions expend quite a bit of effort (and mon­ey) per­fect­ing the acqui­si­tion of tar­get­ed vis­its to their web­site, and the suc­cess of their mar­ket­ing efforts is mea­sured against this goal. And it’s no won­der: a sur­vey con­duct­ed by Adobe and eMar­keter indi­cat­ed that spend­ing for traf­fic gen­er­a­tion out­paces that of con­ver­sion rate opti­miza­tion efforts by a fac­tor of 92.

Nat­u­ral­ly, when bud­gets are devot­ed to traf­fic gen­er­a­tion, the suc­cess met­rics are like­ly to align around that goal. Imag­ine what a pow­er­ful shift in cul­ture would occur if bud­gets, key per­for­mance indi­ca­tors, and even com­pen­sa­tion were based on con­ver­sion improve­ment.

There needs to be a care­ful bal­ance between acquir­ing the right traf­fic and then mov­ing those tar­get­ed vis­i­tors through your con­ver­sion fun­nel. If you have one with­out the oth­er then you’re only reap­ing half of the rewards – and cheat­ing your com­pa­ny out of sales and prof­its.

In com­pa­nies that are suc­ceed­ing at CRO, the mar­ket­ing focus is not on traf­fic gen­er­a­tion but instead on increas­ing prof­its through­out the life­time of the con­sumer.

2. You Don’t Have A Dedicated CRO Team And/Or Lack The Necessary In-House Expertise

Con­ver­sion opti­miza­tion has matured as a dis­ci­pline with­in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing over the past decade or so, and many com­pa­nies still haven’t added full time con­ver­sion and ana­lyt­ics exper­tise to their mar­ket­ing teams. In fact, the Adobe/eMarketer report men­tioned above revealed that 87 per­cent of mar­keters feel their depart­ments lack the tech­ni­cal and cre­ative resources required to con­duct CRO and 82 per­cent lack the appro­pri­ate knowl­edge or train­ing in CRO. Sim­i­lar research con­duct­ed by Kampyle report­ed that 55 per­cent of com­pa­nies sur­veyed had no ded­i­cat­ed full-time employ­ees respon­si­ble for CRO.

Clear­ly, regard­less of com­pa­ny size or indus­try ver­ti­cal, orga­ni­za­tions of all types seem to be slow to ded­i­cate suf­fi­cient resources, exper­tise, and tech­nol­o­gy to sup­port a mature, ongo­ing con­ver­sion rate opti­miza­tion process. Orga­ni­za­tions that are see­ing the most suc­cess with con­ver­sion opti­miza­tion have a ded­i­cat­ed CRO team that con­sists of full-time CRO employ­ees that sup­port com­pa­ny-wide strate­gies.

Con­ver­sion team mem­bers should be con­stant­ly trained in new tech­nolo­gies and meth­ods, cre­ative teams should have some under­stand­ing of con­ver­sion-cen­tric design that can be mea­sured for effec­tive­ness, and the focus for ana­lyt­ics team mem­bers should be pro­vid­ing near-real-time dash­boards to inform agile mar­ket­ing deci­sion mak­ing.

3. Your Marketing Department Doesn’t Have Control Of Your Website

Is your web­site cum­ber­some to update, either because of an inflex­i­ble con­tent man­age­ment sys­tem or an unhealthy reliance on the IT depart­ment to make changes? A robust con­ver­sion opti­miza­tion process requires con­stant nur­tur­ing, and that means the mar­ket­ing folks must have the author­i­ty, abil­i­ty, and resources to make changes to the web­site con­tent, struc­ture, and func­tion­al­i­ty when­ev­er need­ed.

Con­ver­sion opti­miza­tion is a con­stant cycle of research, test­ing, adjust­ing, and test­ing again.

It’s absolute­ly imper­a­tive that the mar­ket­ing depart­ment is able to make site adjust­ments imme­di­ate­ly, so that they can respond to test results, ana­lyt­ics data, chang­ing traf­fic pat­terns, and myr­i­ad oth­er inputs. If the web­site is built on a com­pli­cat­ed or restric­tive tech­no­log­i­cal plat­form, or if requests need to be made to an exter­nal depart­ment (with its own goals and KPIs) before any web­site changes can be made, you can be sure your opti­miza­tion efforts will suf­fer.

In com­pa­nies with thriv­ing CRO pro­grams, the web­site strat­e­gy and main­te­nance is under the con­trol of mar­ket­ing, aid­ed by a flex­i­ble con­tent man­age­ment sys­tem that allows for rapid deploy­ment of tests, accu­rate and effi­cient data col­lec­tion, intel­li­gent analy­sis, and con­tin­u­ous improve­ment.

4. You Don’t Have The Support Of Your CEO Or Executive Team

If your orga­ni­za­tion’s suc­cess met­rics are focused on traf­fic gen­er­a­tion and you haven’t ded­i­cat­ed suf­fi­cient staff or train­ing to build a com­pre­hen­sive CRO team, it’s prob­a­bly due to lack of exec­u­tive sup­port. When com­pa­ny exec­u­tives are unaware of impor­tance of CRO, it’s always reflect­ed in the lack of strat­e­gy and bud­get ded­i­cat­ed to opti­miza­tion.

In com­pa­nies with mature and effi­cient opti­miza­tion process­es, con­ver­sion rate opti­miza­tion has become part of the com­pa­ny cul­ture from the top down. Com­pa­ny exec­u­tives are knowl­edge­able about CRO, they appro­pri­ate bud­get and resources for ongo­ing opti­miza­tion, and they may even set goals and com­pen­sa­tion bonus­es around key con­ver­sion gains.

When an orga­ni­za­tion’s exec­u­tive team is savvy about CRO, the whole com­pa­ny aligns on one objec­tive: to opti­mize the entire cus­tomer expe­ri­ence from branding/awareness through post-pur­chase. This includes under­stand­ing all the dif­fer­ent chan­nels, offline and online, a cus­tomer will use to inter­act with a brand, and per­son­al­iz­ing the mes­sag­ing each indi­vid­ual receives based on data col­lect­ed from his or her inter­ac­tions.

5. You Can’t Harness Data And Use It To Direct Your Efforts

One of the rea­sons many mar­keters find it so chal­leng­ing to opti­mize across the cus­tomer life­cy­cle is that they lack either the tech­no­log­i­cal infra­struc­ture or the exper­tise to put all of their vast web­site and cus­tomer data to use.

Big data has been all the rage for sev­er­al years, but even large enter­pris­es find it chal­leng­ing to merge dis­parate data sets like web vis­i­tor behav­ior, past cus­tomer pur­chas­es, email engage­ment, etc. so that it can be used to inform future mar­ket­ing deci­sions, more effec­tive­ly tar­get like­ly buy­ers at the moment of con­sid­er­a­tion, and per­son­al­ize mes­sag­ing.

Using data as an opti­miza­tion game-chang­er requires a will­ing­ness to:

  • Get rid of (or retro­fit) lega­cy infor­ma­tion sys­tems.
  • Imple­ment advanced web ana­lyt­ics con­fig­u­ra­tions.
  • Cre­ate data link­ages with a robust cus­tomer rela­tion­ship man­age­ment sys­tem.
  • Allo­cate suf­fi­cient resources (finan­cial, tech­no­log­i­cal, and human) to con­tin­u­al­ly improve data analy­sis.

Younger com­pa­nies are bet­ter posi­tioned to embrace this approach because they tend to be more nim­ble and less restrict­ed by “we’ve always done it this way” think­ing. But there’s no doubt that har­ness­ing data for mean­ing­ful mar­ket­ing opti­miza­tion remains a chal­lenge for many orga­ni­za­tions.

Stop Failing, Start Winning

If you’ve had trou­ble get­ting big gains from your opti­miza­tion efforts, don’t try to fix every fail­ure at once. Start where you think you can have the most suc­cess giv­en your com­pa­ny struc­ture and cul­ture. For some, that might be mak­ing the case for CRO with the exec­u­tive team; for oth­ers, it might be restruc­tur­ing KPIs.

Remem­ber, an infant crawls before it walks, and walks before it runs. If you try to start out at a sprint­er’s pace you’re more like­ly to stum­ble and fall than if you can take a planned, thought­ful approach to build­ing your opti­mal CRO process.

Are you hav­ing trou­ble get­ting big gains from your con­ver­sion opti­miza­tion efforts?

Tim Ash

Written by Tim Ash

Tim Ash is author of the bestselling book Landing Page Optimization, and CEO of SiteTuners, a firm that specializes in improving website conversion rates through diagnosis and redesign, conversion consulting, landing page test plan creation, and client training/mentoring. Over the past 19 years, he has helped hundreds of US and international brands improve their web-based initiatives. Tim is a highly-regarded keynote and conference presenter, and the chairperson of Conversion Conference a worldwide conference series focused on improving online conversions. He has published hundreds of articles and is the host of the Landing Page Optimization podcast on WebmasterRadio.fm.

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