It’s Not the Technology: Takeaways from ConvCon Boston 2013 Keynotes

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When FitOrbit was looking to optimize how they match people with trainers, they went after data. Their technology provided them with key demographics - their primary users were tech savvy females, around 37 years old. They were mobile users, and they earned $65,000 per year. 

Working with Fresh Tilled Soil, though, the company found that they needed to look at motivation, not just demographics, to tailor the solution to people. Given that the customers are weight-conscious and looking for a companion, the company built a “panic” button, something they can press when they are tempted by, say, cake - and the feature has since been instituted by Amazon as well.

In many ways, that little story is where the industry has been heading for a while. First, there’s a disruption: mobile phones are now able to serve as computers in your pockets. Some companies transition into the analysis phase: what data can we glean from this? And then, a select few proceed to tap into the human experiences and make something useful. There’s a natural transition from people who focus on the technology, to people who focus on people.

Wetware, Not Hardware

Disruptions can occur because there’s a breakthrough in technology, but responding with just technology solutions often misses the point. It is important to look at behavioral congruency - what does the technology solution allow for that matches the needs humans have had for a while?

Technology changes quickly, human behavior, not so much. That’s why it’s important to go after the biology.

With mobile, one of the reasons there’s a paradigm shift is that there’s a piece of technology we’re used to - computing - and it aids a natural human need - mobility. The same thing applies to sites or apps that build on top of the proliferation of mobile devices: those who start with intent and motivations will win.

Institutions Built Around Human Experiences

In many ways, conversion rate optimization is the math tied around human behavior. A culture tied around CRO is earned - you can rarely leapfrog from having an unoptimized presence to having advanced CRO practices; you typically have to move in a linear fashion. It is, however, relatively easy to tell how mature your CRO practice is:

1. Unoptimized

a. There is no conversion team
b. Web changes go through IT, content is essentially static
c. Different technologies are used for separate web properties
d. There’s infrequent reporting, and analytics tools do not cover all properties
e. Content is driven just by branding
f. Financials and incentives do not tie into online efficiency

2. Basic Optimization

a. There are some people whose functions include CRO
b. Content only has to go through IT sometimes
c. Analytics tools cover all properties but there’s no way to test winning content
d. Content is driven by a mix of branding and conversions
e. Some incentives tie into online efficiency

3. Intermediate Optimization

a. There is a formal CRO team
b. A commercial content management system is used for content and changes
c. It’s possible to perform split and multivariate tests
d. Granular ROI is reported from campaigns
e. Marketing is driven by online efficiency and conversions

4. Advanced Optimization

a. There is a formal CRO team, and the focus is on lifetime customer value
b. A lot of analytics resources are spent on “predictive analytics”
c. There’s no fixed marketing budget; it adjusts according to profitability, and moves between acquisition and conversion
d. Marketing is driven by CRO

What companies incent is typically what employees seek to improve, so having incentives around understanding the psychology behind the sale is ideal. Depending on where you are in this maturity model, your job is either to nudge your CRO culture one step up, or to maintain and defend your advanced CRO practice.

Humanity is Built Around Context

One of the key themes that bubble up to the top is what experiences are getting replaced. Is mobile cannibalizing PC not just in terms of sales, but in terms of use cases? When do people use use tablets for things that just two years ago they were doing on phones? Human behavior is structured around context, so this is not always easy to answer. Fresh Tilled Soil also worked with The Guardian to figure out if anything’s getting replaced as a reading device, and it turns out that for them, people use tablets to read during breakfast. People use mobile phones to view them at night, as they also use TV more. Nothing was essentially getting “replaced.” The challenge is to present the right content, the right way, at the right time, and to do that, you need more than demographics or traditional clickstream data - you need to study motivations, and adapt.

Read on for insights that resonated with the Conversion Conference Boston attendees here (for Day 1) and here (for Day 2).