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6 Min Read

Death by CRO: 4 Common & Deadly CRO traps to avoid (includes free survival tips)

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Mani Makkar
Product Marketing Manager @ VWO

Experimentation has always been the driving force when challenging the status quo – whether it’s the battlefield where a change in the strategy has altered the course of history or a product change which separates successful products from thousands of failures. For online businesses, this has translated into improving customer experiences thus leading to increase in conversions at the lowest risk possible. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your CRO programme too will not be.

So before you get going to prepare for the ultimate showdown using CRO in your organization; let me help you navigate the various challenges you might face during this journey.

  1. Don’t break the news, already!

Case 1: Omg! Just 3 days and my variation is performing way better than the control. Let me ring my CEO and tell her that I was right about this change.

If this is you, congratulations you just got killed by CRO. One of the most important ground rules for testing is to be patient. Initial test results might excite you to go out there and proclaim victory but wait for the test to conclude to clearly state it. Setting high expectations for the success of an experiment after seeing initial traction may do more harm than good.

Expectation setting may not directly be linked to website optimization but trust me when the results don’t come out as well as expected (thanks to your initial excitement), you wont get team buy-ins for bigger experiments.

Case 2: Damn! It’s been 5 days and there is no conclusion I can draw from this A/B Test. What will I tell my CMO if he asks me how the test is coming along?

Initial test result might put you on the backfoot if you see no or minute movement in your conversion graph to justify the CRO efforts. The answer to all worries is patience. Big changes or small, it takes some time for your results to reach statistical significance given a variety of factors such as the number of visitors being tested, number of variations, etc.

To help you not get excited or demotivated before time, we have built a calculator to help you determine the duration for your A/B tests here.

2. ‘This isn’t working’ syndrome

5 tests. But no major change in conversions. But company X whose case study I read did 2x better in conversions. What am I missing?

Let’s assume you ran an on-page survey for an ecommerce site and figured that people who were not completing the purchase were skeptical about the security of the checkout page (even though it may actually be safe). This stopped them from putting in their card details and abandoning their carts. As an obvious next step you form a hypothesis backed by solid data and create a test variation with more security certification badges, testimonials, etc. The result- no difference at all!

So, does that mean you crafted a wrong hypothesis?

The answer is maybe. But take a step back and think about how many ways can you improve security perception of your checkout page? Or make people trust your payment processes?

Answer: More than we care to count.

And this is true for your first successful test which may have got you a 10% lift as well. You still have to think of ways of improving that number. There are better alternatives out there. You just need to keep testing.

Your optimization army should be inspired by the losses to dig deeper and find richer insights to create that one victory which will change the course of your business. Ask yourself how many iterations did you try before arriving at the conclusion that ‘it isn’t working’!

3. Monkey see, monkey do

When our neighbors fought their first conversion battle, they just changed their website CTA color to green and camouflaged their way to get better conversion rates! Let us paint our own checkout CTA green!

They say ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’, but not when it comes to CRO.  ‘Best practices’ may not be the best for you. Hard data and ground reality on your website may be completely poles apart than the case study you read about. Do not expect similar results from the experiments run by others in the arena. Use quantitative and qualitative research methods to devise a unique hypothesis and then launch your test. Also choose the right weapons (A/B testing or multivariate testing) and a structured CRO plan to execute it.

All businesses are different, so are their visitors’ behavior and thus their experiments. What worked for one may or may not work for others, the idea is to always keep testing until you succeed.

4. The show must go on!

CRO should go on. I will make sure that when I retire or lose a limb in the battle for conversion throne, my army is ready to fight without me.

At VWO, we come across customers who suddenly stop testing and the main reason they cite is that the person who was carrying the CRO baton has quit. Find it shocking? Even we do!

We need to understand that CRO is not just a one-person or even a one-team job. Building an organization which thrives on CRO requires not just education and training, it requires a change in the cultural fabric of the company. A CRO-friendly culture requires the HiPPOs to take a backseat and invite the soldiers from different teams (product, marketing, design and so on) to draw up a battle plan. Don’t take anyone’s word on the face of it but test everything! Celebrate successes and publicize results to get a team-wide buy in for experimentation. It is an uphill battle and hence requires you to plan ahead and properly. Remember Rome?

Find some excellent tips to build a culture of experimentation in your organization here and build a CRO army to continue the battle for conversion even if someone calls it a day.

Parting words

While you wear your shining armor of a CRO catalyst, believe in yourself and don’t let ‘Death by CRO’ scare you because with the right attitude, you are going to win it not just for yourself but for future teams within your organization. Don’t take my word for it (you might, I have seen 5000+ customers across 90 countries succeed) but test it!

We also partnered with Hubspot to create an Advanced Guide to Scaling a Conversion Rate Optimization Program to help businesses supercharge their CRO initiatives which could help you overcome the above challenges.

PS: I hoped to save some lives with this blog. Tell me if you survived in the comments section.

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Shanaz from VWO

Hi, I am Shanaz from the VWO Research Desk.

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