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on Conversion Rate Optimization

Learning Conversion Optimization From Football: 5 Key Takeaways

The ball is round, the game lasts ninety minutes, and everything else is just theory.

— Sepp Herberger

In Portuguese, football is known as o Jogo bonito, which translates to The Beautiful Game. At VWO, we believe that like football, conversion rate optimization, or CRO, can be done beautifully.

When a person is introduced to a complex topic such as CRO, there is a lot of information to be processed, which can get quite overwhelming. However, according to Harvard Business School professors Jan W. Rivkin and Giovanni Gavetti, if a concept is learned with the help of an analogy, the process can be eased.

This post aims to highlight the similarities between Football and Conversion Rate Optimization. For those who want to learn about CRO from a technical perspective, please refer to The Beginner’s Guide to CRO.

Goals

CRO - Goals

Why Are Goals Important?

Goals win you matches—it’s as simple as that. Score more number of goals than your opponent, and the match is yours. It’s not just about the goals that are scored during a football match, but also about the goals or objectives that are set up for the season.

N’golo Kante, a midfielder from the English football club Chelsea, had this to say during a press interview:

For a club like Chelsea, we want to win everything, we’re going to try and win everything. It’s a new challenge for everyone.

All football clubs set up their respective goals at the beginning of the season, whether these include winning the trophy, a particular league, or just some number of matches.

Key Takeaways for CRO

Before starting with Conversion Optimization, it is important to set up goals that can be tracked and measured anytime during the process.

The goals created in an A/B test should align with your business objectives. The primary goal selected will be used then to decide the outcome of the test.

The results of the minor goals that accompany the primary goal can influence the final decision made just after the test has just concluded.

Research and Analysis

CRO with Football - Heatmap

Why Is It Important?

Every year, football leagues are getting more competitive. The stakes are getting higher, and the pressure is mounting. With the help of research and analysis by using modern technology, teams are able to plan and prepare better for a football season.

A manager can now watch heatmaps of players’ movements on-field. Players can now watch recordings of their own gameplay and more. The Guardian refers to this revolution as “datafication” of Football.

In their spare time, football players practice on PlayStation to improve their decision-making skills and to become better at their game. Former Italian footballer Andrea Pirlo was even quoted saying this: “After the wheel, the best invention is the PlayStation.”

Key Takeaways for CRO

After the baseline metrics are decided, it is important to research and analyze how you can achieve the desired goals.

Research and analysis includes viewing heatmaps, watching visitor recordings, or conducting on-page surveys that ask your visitors for relevant feedback.

With the help of research and analysis, you can get answers to the following 3 questions:

  • What do visitors do on your website?
  • How do visitors behave?
  • Why do visitors do what they do?

Plan

Why Is It Important?

After research and analysis, the next task for a manager is to plan for the season ahead. This includes deciding the squad, tactics, and formations.
Planning is not only limited to preseason. It is a continuous process that goes on during and after the season gets over.
On the training ground and during matches, managers have their diaries out, where they note down observations and try them out in the later part of the season.

Regarding observations, Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United for 26 years had this to say:

I don’t think many people fully understand the value of observing, but I came to see observation as a critical part of my management skills. The ability to see things is key or, more specifically, the ability to see things you don’t expect to see.

Key Takeaways for CRO

As you come across and analyze problems during the research phase, it is important to note your observations. Organize these well at one place.

The next part of the process is to create a hypothesis from these observations and prioritize these based on their importance. Validating the hypothesis is the most important part of the testing phase.

Testing

Testing Football formations
You can see that even the same formation (4-4-2) is tested with different position, source

Why Is It Important?

In the picture above, even the same formation (4-4-2) is tested with different positions. Football managers don’t get formations right in the first go.

They constantly experiment with their formations throughout the season and ultimately change it to the one in which all the players seem to fit in perfectly.

For example, Chelsea with their 3–4–3 formation—a much-favored formation in football—won the league.

Within formations, managers also rotate their players. According to football analysts, the key to Real Madrid’s successful 2016–17 football campaign was Zidane’s clever squad rotation.

Key Takeaways for CRO

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Every element of your website can be tested, from colors to text to images.

Testing is not just limited to plain A/B testing. You can create combinations of elements on your website and run multivariate tests.

By changing the complete layout of certain pages, you can also try out Split URL tests.

Learning and Deployment Phase

Why Is It Important?

Consider the example of Real Madrid’s manager Zinedine Zidane who used a 4–3–3 combination in the form of a sharp arrowhead.

He tested different combinations by playing Marco and Morata in a couple of matches but mostly stuck with the trio of Benzema, Bale, and Cristiano (popularly known as BBC) in the front. This combination led Real Madrid to glory in the champions league.

Real Madrid Formation
Source

It is important to test different combinations and learn from the mistakes to get the formation right in the end. With the combination of a winning mentality and experimentation, you are finally on the road to success.

Key Takeaways for CRO

It is important to learn from every test, the way a football manager does from every match. The best way to find out your winning combination is to have a well-structured conversion optimization process in place.

After you have successfully found the winning variation, deploy it on the website to achieve your goals.

Parting Notes

We hope you enjoyed reading the analogies we made between football and CRO. Next time, when you are watching a game of football, you should be able to notice and appreciate all the efforts that go into the strategy and preparation before the start of the game.

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