Takeaways from Conversion Conference Chicago 2014

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That’s a wrap. We’ve just concluded Conversion Conference Chicago 2014 and for those of you who weren’t in attendance, or those looking to read up on sessions you might have missed, we’ve got the CliffsNotes version right here.

Conversion Models

It helps to start with the big ideas before you drilldown to conversion testing and CTA effectiveness, and Sean Ellis, Brian Lewis, and Casey Cheshire covered quite a bit here. Sean notes that conversion is essentially desire minus friction - your goal as a marketer is to create a must have experience, to harvest the desire and turn it into action.

Casey echoed the model, and discussed the process of harnessing that desire. One of the ways you can do that is through smart marketing automations - capturing and nurturing leads, then automating for scale. In North America for instance, 16% of B2B companies use some type of marketing automation.

Brian notes the different things you need to study conversions: goals, user types, and characteristics. In particular, you need to understand roles and goals to properly analyze.


One step below the models, but still not quite into the nitty-gritty as testing, is design. Tim Ash and Talia Wolf covered the design elements that can significantly impact conversions.

Talia notes that brains process images 60,000 times faster than text, and Tim observes that visual embellishments often destroy the business purposes and usability of the web experience. Keep your page simple and boring - that usually means it is clear and effective.


As SEO and CRO get more enmeshed with each other; it helps to do a bit of untangling. Arnie Kuenn and Angie Schottmuller talk about search in the context of conversions, and there are quite a few tidbits to take away. For starters, did you know that rich snippets boost click-throughs to the site by 20-40%? Or that 93% of people search online before making a purchase, with 86% going through unbranded search?

The best place to start is your metrics - in particular, the ones that won’t make you act any differently. Get rid of them - you want actionable ones. Next, you need to think about the content, and what you need to highlight. Viewers read captions 300% more than they read body text, so you need to utilize those. Finally, you need to maximize your tools - pay attention to the click-through rate on Google Webmaster Tools, optimize the listings with low click-through rate, and make sure that when visitors get to your pages for those terms, that you are providing a targeted answer.

Channels: Emails and Phone Calls

It’s tempting to think of conversions in terms of only your web site, but in reality, emails and phone calls are very important in the mix. Hunter Boyle and Joel Harvey cover the least you need to know.

With email, the best place to start is the prospect - what is in it for them? You can’t start framing in terms of your business; you need to start with the recipient. The idea is to respect the inbox, ensure that you are not a nuisance, and to provide value with each email.

Phone calls are tricky - they can be seven times as valuable as form fills, but failure for phones are also more costly. Real people can help drive phone calls; stock photography can help drive people away.


If you ask ten marketers to identify five things that scare them and five things than excite them, mobile is one of those things that are likely to be in both lists. James Green and Charles Nicholls talk through the nuances of mobile conversions.

convcon charlesnicholls
According to Charles Nicholls, screen size matters for conversion. Conversion rate increases as the device screen gets bigger.

Let’s start with the context: James notes that 70% of consumers own 3 or more devices. 90% of consumers use more than one screen to complete a task. Charles corroborates: on average, consumers use 2.6 devices for converting online.

And it’s not a neat funnel either - journeys span multiple sessions, devices, channels and time, with consumers requiring five touches on average before converting. To deal with this, you need to optimize a few things. Consistency is one of them - the user experience on desktop needs to be optimized for the desktop, and the mobile experience should be optimized for that space, but users need to be able to feel that they are interfacing with the same brand. On mobile phones, you need to keep things snappy and simple - ask for less, and create a perception of effortlessness.


When you get right down to it, usability testing and conversion testing are two of the most important tools in the box. It’s very important to remember that they are not the only tools in the box, though. Tim Ash, Kyle Rush, and Charlie Claxton talked about testing’s various forms.

Usability Testing

One of the key deterrents to usability testing is the perception of cost. While some forms of usability testing are indeed prohibitive, there are ways to testing effectively without incurring too much cost. Charlie notes that you can use GoToMeeting for usability testing, and that samples don’t need to be huge - just 10 customers being asked questions for 45 to 90 minutes.

Conversion Testing

Tim notes that there are bigger gains to be had if you are testing experiences like the buying process instead of elements like buttons. It’s also more work to do that and process results, but the rewards are better. The other thing to note is that conversion testing is a valley - actual conversion can get worse before it gets better.

convcon timash

Kyle confirms that. He notes a sample: for every 400 tests, only 40 were not statistical ties. However, the winners justified all the time spent getting the losers and the ties.

There’s a ceiling, though; as your page gets better, ideas get worse, and gains get smaller - make sure you are testing on areas that can move the needle.

Conversion rate optimization is not getting any easier to tackle with additional focus on mobile and content , so it pays dividends to be efficient, and to keep the tools sharp.

Thanks once again to everyone who attended, and here’s to hoping we see you in Las Vegas next year.

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