CRO - How to tell an Optimiser from an Opportunist

19 Jul 2016

In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king, so the saying goes. If you’ve never had experience of CRO, anybody who bandies around terms like multivariate testing, usability studies and customer journey analysis might come across as an expert.

Conversion Rate Optimisation is a hot topic in digital marketing and eCommerce so you can see why it’s appealing. There are so many CRO articles available on the internet that it’s possible for almost anyone to do a bit of research and sound plausible. Sorting the optimisers from the opportunists comes down to the following factors:

  • Approach
  • Process
  • Tools
  • Track Record

Speaking or listening?

A genuine optimiser will start off by doing much more listening than speaking. They will want to discover as much as possible about your business, your products, your customers and the buying journey they take. 2_593

This is what we mean by approach. If somebody jumps in immediately to say they can see things that you need to change right away, all they can really be doing is regurgitating some generalised ‘CRO best practice’ advice.

What they recommend may or may not be valid. But it won’t address the main causes of visitors leaving your site without buying anything. 

What you are getting is (slightly) educated guesswork. What you need is a process. One that roots out the real causes of lost conversions, methodically tests improvements before they are implemented, and makes incremental long-term improvements to your conversion rates.

What’s really happening?

Finite optimisation budgets need to be applied where they will have most impact. To do this you need to know, with certainty, where your conversion process is failing. You can’t do this without data analysis, behavioural observation and user testing.

A survey reported by E-Consultancy illustrates how haphazardly many businesses are approaching CRO. 58% of respondents said they were using A/B split testing and a further 35% are planning to use it. Yet only 42% are using any form of usability testing. When it comes to expert usability reviews only 24% are using them and 41% have no plans to use them at all.


Similarly, only 46% are carrying out customer journey analysis. So what are they optimising? And what are those A/B split tests actually testing?

It conjures up a vision of eCommerce sites across the land where CTA boxes are shapeshifting, relocating, and changing colour more often that a chameleon, with no guiding logic or clearly defined purpose.

Stage one of the process is to understand the customer journey and to identify clearly where it is falling over.

Stage two of the process is to target the main roadblocks and sources of doubt and confusion with clearly expressed test hypotheses. If we make change X to the screen layout will it make it clearer what users need to do, and how do we prove it?


If somebody proposes conducting an A/B split test on your site ask them how they know the result will be statistically significant. In other words, can you implement that change for all users and know that conversions will definitely increase?

Which brings us to tools. We use Optimizely, which is the market leader for CRO test software. While you are running a test on two or more variants Optimizely shows you the net conversion rate for each. It displays each rate with a degree of certainty calculated according to accepted statistical practice and based on the sample size.

A / B

When you’ve run the test for long enough the ranges of possible test outcomes don’t overlap. You then have a clear conclusion. You have a site modification you can implement with confidence.

We also make extensive use of the advanced goal and event tracking tools in Google Analytics. These all help us be crystal clear about what users really do and where they really drop out of the conversion process.


Any competent CRO business should have a track record of successful projects. They should be able to quantify the difference they have made to their clients’ sites.

A word of caution though. Any reasonably competent eCommerce developer would be able to take badly designed or highly templated site and make a difference. There’s no guarantee that making similar changes on your site would have the same impact. Your business is different and your customers are different.traffic

Also, without the process and tools there may be bigger opportunities that you will miss. You’ll never know whether the 30% conversion uplift an agency achieved should have been 100% or more.

Related to track record is the issue of certification. We are a certified solutions partner for Optimizely. To get this recognition we had to convince the creators of the world’s leading CRO platform that we have the expertise and processes in place to do CRO professionally and enhance the reputation of their tools.

CRO is intended to take the guesswork out of growing online sales. By looking at approach, process, tools and track record, you can take the guesswork out of choosing a CRO partner.

We offer a range of UX and Optimisation services to help improve customer experiences and increase conversation rates.