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Converting the customer IRM51

Conversion has always been at the heart of a retailer’s business. After all if you aren’t going to convince your customer to buy then no retailer will survive for long. Research Editor Liz Morrell investigates CRO.

For too long, the practise of Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) has meant one thing – the focus on optimising conversion online rather than looking at the practise business wide. With the research for InternetRetailing’s first report in our new Connected Commerce series it was a misconception we aimed to put right. With more than six pages of the report dedicated to explaining what leading retailers are doing in this field there are lots of lessons to be learnt.

Our ‘spotlight on’ section of the report is the biggest section of our CRO report and provides great insight into exactly what the retailers we interviewed are doing within their business and how they are doing it. If you only read one part of the report then ensure it’s this one since it includes valuable lessons and reading for those wanting to be inspired and who need to prove the importance of CRO to their business heads. If these case studies don’t get you excited about the opportunities for CRO in your business then perhaps nothing will.

Our research showed that conversion rate optimisation mustn’t stop at the door of online but instead be embraced across the business with everyone sharing in its goals, methods and results. Such projects must be led from the top – ideally at board level – and with a clear CRO lead. Most importantly it is something that should be examined across all channels rather than just online.

This is no easy task – the challenges of a single customer view, top level management buy in and a thorough understanding of the practise aren’t easy to overcome. But our research shows that it is something that retailers are increasingly moving towards.


We carried out in-depth qualitative interviews with more than twenty retailers for the report. These range from niche online businesses such as Country Attire, Walls and Floors and to cross-channel retailers such as Bathstore and high street giants such as New Look, Schuh and Office. Huge thanks has to go to everyone who gave up their time to take part in the research and provided such great insight into their own strategies.

The interviews proved that CRO is a hot topic for retailers as they look at how they can increase the conversion of the traffic they already have rather than having to chase and invest in attracting new traffic.

Our report was supported by three great sponsors who are all experts in their field and help retailers to maximise their conversion efforts in different but complementary ways, again supporting our Connected Commerce approach.

PRWD works with a number of retailers on optimisation projects and usability and points out in the report the challenges – but necessity – of implementing the cultural change that truly allows a CRO strategy to work in the Connected Commerce environment.

Our second sponsor iAdvize helps to not only aid conversion but to ensure that purchase sticks with its customer service click to chat, click to call and click to video solutions. The company has reported some fantastic results from retailers using such functionality within their business.

And similar results have been found by Klarna who, by tipping the checkout process on its head to a buy now, pay later process has helped retailers see massive increase in conversion as it helps solve one of the most frustrating friction points of the customer journey.

As well as the wider focus across the business our research also found that retailers were consistently thinking wider than simply conversions – with an increased focus on analysing and measuring, where possible, the rate and value of micro conversion as well – such as Facebook likes.

Our retailers had some interesting views on CRO and much of this was around its definition. Our report showed that Shop Direct, for example, uses the term ‘experimentation’ to better define what it does in this area since it says that is what should lie at the heart of a CRO strategy. Others call it simply optimisation – of fine-tuning across the business to obtain the best results.

Our research showed that CRO was quite differently at some retailers and whilst definitions varied so did the practises. Testing obviously featured highly but our retailers warned that testing doesn’t necessarily throw up the nuances of human behaviour, citing numerous instances where what had been suggested as a proof point in testing fell apart under real customer use. Because of this, retailers are increasingly using real life user observation to understand how and what a customer thinks with the likes of Shop Direct having an in-house lab dedicated to the process.

Problems faced included simply the scale of tests retailers often required and maintaining the momentum of CRO within a business once the initial enthusiasm and first low hanging fruit results had been delivered. However, our retailers pointed out that often the proof was in the pudding with the results – though perhaps less staggering as a CRO strategy develops – at least proving their importance and providing a business case for further investment.

The research revealed some great results – all of which are highlighted in the report – and which sometimes really can be the most simple but yet effective of steps.

Equally, the importance of our Connected Commerce report series is to also embrace the results of the IRUK Top500 research, revealed earlier this year.

We therefore looked at CRO not only through the eyes of a retail business in general but also by analysing the six key areas, or performance areas, identified in the Top500. These include Strategy and Innovation, Customer, Operations and Logistics, Merchandising, Brand and Engagement and Mobile and Cross Channel. This wider view picture allowed us to understand how retailers were pulling CRO into each strand of their businesses to deliver a truly optimal performance.

Finally, having examined the here and now of CRO we also asked our interviewees their strategies for CRO for 2015 and beyond. For almost all of the retailers involved this means a continued and strengthened focus on CRO – using successes already delivered to encourage further investment and adoption of the strategy across their portfolios and particularly across channels. Mobile and cross device and cross-channel optimisation is THE major focus for retailers currently. In truth it’s something that no-one has yet cracked but it’s one that retailers are putting a lot of effort into doing so.

Our research highlighted the challenges and opportunities offered by CRO but also showed the need for a hands-on approach day in and day out. It showed it is a strategy that can’t be undertaken lightly or rushed. Effective CRO requires work, experimentation and an acceptance that there will be failures. The benefits though can be staggering returns on investment. Read or download the Connected Commerce CRO report from to find out more.

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