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econsultancyredeye-marketers-use-of-conversion-rate-optimization-methods-oct2016A majority (55%) of client-side marketers (predominantly from the UK and Europe) believe that conversion rate optimization (CRO) is crucial to their overall digital marketing strategy, and a similar percentage (53%) plan to increase their CRO budgets in the coming year, according to Econsultancy’s 8th annual Conversion Rate Optimization Report [download page], produced in association with RedEye.

The study demonstrates that conversion rate optimization is growing in importance, with 82% of company marketers noting that the focus on CRO within their organization has become more important over the past 5 years. And while no company respondents feel very satisfied with their conversion rates, there has been a slight downtick in those quite or very dissatisfied, as 71% agree that their online conversion rates have improved over the past year.

Increases have been most pronounced for page views (73% reporting an increase) and sales (72%), while only a minority have seen an increase in downloads (34%) and information/brochure requests (35%).

Which CRO Methods Are Popular – And Gaining Steam?

The most commonly used method for improving conversion rates among client-side respondents to the survey is A/B testing, with 61% reporting use (see chart above click to enlarge). This is consistently near or atop the list of CRO methods, and is also one of the most used measurement and optimization tactics overall.

It may not be for too long, though. While fewer (48%) respondents said they use customer journey analysis, another 45% are planning to use it, with combined current and planned use (93%) of this method slightly edging A/B testing (92%). Still, usage plans are interesting in terms of potential future focus, but should not be relied on too much: current use of customer journey analysis has grown by just 2% points from last year, despite 47% of respondents last year saying they were planning to add this method to their arsenal.

Still, perceptions of customer journey analysis should drive greater adoption: 61% rated it highly valuable for improving conversion rates, putting it slightly ahead of A/B testing (60%) at the top of the list of all CRO methods.

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However, customer journey analysis is so last year… (It was the big rising star in last year’s study.) This year it makes way to a new rising force: website personalization. Not only is this method slated for the biggest increase in use, but its perceied value is also rapidly increasing, according to the report.

Delving Deeper Into Website Personalization

Currently only 1 in 4 company respondents use website personalization, such that it joins expert usability reviews as the least-commonly used CRO methods. Where it differs from expert usability reviews, though, is in its planned adoption: an impressive 55% of respondents are planning to use website personalization, making it the method with the broadest planned increase of all.

That won’t come without its own troubles, though. More than one-third of respondents rated website personalization as very difficult to implement, putting it way ahead of other methods in difficulty. (The next-most difficult, multivariate testing, was only rated very difficult by one-fifth of respondents). This isn’t the first time research has found marketers rating website personalization as difficult to implement.

Implementing website personalization may well be worth the trouble. Some 56% of company respondents rated it a highly valuable method for improving conversion rates, which was behind only A/B testing (60%) and customer journey analysis (61%). Significantly, the proportion of respondents rating website personalization as highly valuable jumped 10% points from last year (46%), the second-biggest jump observed in the report, trailing only event-triggered/behavioral email (48%, up from 37%). (More on triggered email here.)

econsultancyredeye-highly-valuable-conversion-rate-optimization-methods-2016-v-2015-oct2016

In fact, agency respondents pointed to website personalization as the method most highly rated by their clients, with the 53% calling it highly valuable being again a big increase over last year (40%).

So which website areas are company respondents testing? Currently, most are testing call-to-action buttons (72%) and page layout (71%), with these gradually increasing over the past few years. Copy and navigation are next, each tested by 66%, though moving in opposite directions, with navigation testing growing in usage this year as copy declines.

Not too surprisingly given the rise of visual marketing, there has been an increase in image testing, with the 56% testing images this year up from 39% in 2012.

Likewise, more respondents this year are testing checkout processes (53%, up from 46% last year) and search functionality (37%, up from 32%).

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In terms of testing frequency, about half of respondents say they carry out at least 3 A/B or multivariate tests per month on their website, with the largest proportion (33%) in the 3-5 range.

Looking for inspiration for testing ideas? Most client-side marketers turn to analytics to get their ideas for testing, with three-quarters doing so this year, up from about two-thirds earlier this decade. While less popular, a majority also turn to user research (56%), employee suggestions (53%), competitor website analysis (52%), and articles / whitepapers / industry blogs (52%).

Which areas of your website should you personalize? If you’re looking to go with the crowd, then the homepage (56% personalizing) and landing pages (54%) should be your first ports of call, with each of these increasing in testing activity from last year.

By contrast, there’s been a decrease in testing of product recommendations (42%), offers / promotions (34%) and customer account area (32%). Other areas being testing by those engaged in website personalization include specific journeys (31%), isolated content areas (30%) and post-purchase journey (20%).

Which data types are used to personalize website content? Browsing behavior is the most popular type of data used, led by web pages / categories browsed (52%) and followed closely by products browsed on the website (50%). Geographic (48%), transactional (46%) and demographic (43%) data are also popular, while fewer look at contextual data (21%) and preferences / interests / hobbies (20%). Once again, analytics emerge as a popular source of ideas for website personalization, though this time analytics comes second to customer data analysis.

While there’s a lot to digest about website personalization in the Econsultancy and RedEye report – and it’s clear that this is a difficult area to implement – there’s plenty to gain, also. As the study results indicate, 84% of company respondents have experienced an uplift in conversion rates through their website since implementing personalization. That includes 36% enjoying a major uplift, almost double the share (21%) from just 2 years ago.

About the Data: Econsultancy’s Conversion Rate Optimization Report is based on 889 respondents to its research request, which took the form of an online survey fielded in August 2016. Two-thirds (66%) of the respondents work for client-side organizations who are trying to improve their conversion rates. Some 71% of client-side respondents are based in the UK (56%) or another country in Europe (15%), and 61% come from companies with at least £10 million in annual revenues.

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