The Only Metric that Matters in Conversion Rate Optimization

21st Sept 2017

OptimizelyVisual Website OptimizerAB Tasty, and so on promise to enable marketers to increase the rate at which visitors to a website ‘convert.’ These conversions can be anything from booking a demo to entering an email address in a form. They can even be simple measures of pageviews and social media shares. Rarely however are they expressed simply as revenue.

CRO tools generally offer a visual (WYSIWYG) editor. Marketers can place a differently-coloured button here, a differently-worded slogan there, and then A/B test their variations against their chosen metric. As live results stream in, the conversion rate optimizer can watch the progressive rendering of data and anticipate the moment when one variation, announced with a satisfying visual cue such as a green tick, is declared the winner. At this point the A/B test has ‘passed.’

But, so what?

Increasing revenue through marketing is hard. Marketers under pressure to deliver quantifiable results are predictably drawn to intermediary metrics, such as page views and click-through-rate. However, the link between such metrics and revenue is not always simple.

Marketers often think about their job in terms of a sales funnel. This can imply that increasing the size of one part of the funnel will necessarily increase the size at the end. This is a dangerous assumption, particularly for conversion rate optimization. For example, an increase in the number of visitors who create accounts on your website is useless if they are the sort of visitors who will never come back or hand over any money.

Quality over Quantity

Conversion rate optimizers need to consider the risks of testing single intermediary metrics rather than journeys that result in actual revenue gains. While simple A/B tests of variant elements of the customer journey can indicate quantitative increases, they will not tell you anything about the qualitative value involved.

This problem of the quality as well as the quantity of the traffic through your sales funnel is one of the most important reasons behind marketers’ common complaint, described for example in this blog about Optimizely, that uplifts indicated by conversion rate optimization do not translate into comparable revenue gains.

An informative example is the common CRO tactic of reducing the level of commitment indicated on a sign-up or email capture button, i.e. clicking “Buy Now” seems like a bigger deal than clicking “Learn More.” This is great for boosting the number of button-clicks, but button-clicks alone are not worth anything to your business. At some point you want the customer to click the equivalent of “Buy Now.”

Achievement Unlocked

Flimsy intermediate metrics can be easily boosted through minor display changes. Their proliferation makes CRO tools attractive and satisfying to work in. In fact, at their best, CRO tools exhibit an almost “gamified” user experience. Where Duolingo gamifies language learning or Foldit turns researching efficient protein structures into an online multiplayer puzzle competition, Optimizely and its ilk gamify marketing.

The marketer has a score to grow and a pleasantly simple interface in which to grow it. There are some easy-to-use tools at their disposal and they are encouraged to find their own ways to best “beat the game.” Most importantly though, the interface will respond as frequently as possible with positive gratification, encouraging the player to try again for an even higher score next time.

Anything that makes working with marketing data less of an obvious chore is welcome, of course, and there may not be an inherent problem with gamifying marketing. However, as CRO tools currently stand, they often distract marketers from the real prize.

In a future blog, we will discuss some of the potential statistical pitfalls that marketers ought to watch out for when A/B testing. Even before these technicalities however, it is important for marketers to remember that when it comes to conversion rates, there is still only one metric that matters: profit.


Find out more about how Amigo enables marketers to increase profits faster by being agile and closing the marketing execution gap.

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