5 Reasons Why Your Conversion Rate Optimization Efforts Are Failing

Posted by Tim Ash on 1 October 2014 | Comments

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Does it seem that your conversion 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.

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This article originally appeared on Momentology September 15, 2014

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