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Performance area reviews: Brand and engagement

If a retailer’s senior management aren’t engaged in CRO then there is little chance of a retailer getting positive results from the engagement of their customers in CRO either since any efforts will naturally be a little half-hearted unless CRO is driven with conviction from board level.

At ShopDirect its commercial goals for its CRO programme – which it entitles experimentation – and the volume of tests it undertakes are all set at board level. “Our board have bought into the process and methodology and benefits it drives and it’s communicated throughout our strategy. That’s huge for us,” says Sam Barton, head of user experience at ShopDirect. “The key thing is to engage people in the programme and bring them along with the journey – getting them to define the test, understand the results and understand the process. It’s all about engagement,” says Barton.

At optimisation manager Ollie Scheers says companywide engagement and buy-in as to the value of conversion rate optimisation within the business is vital to success. “Optimisation is discussed throughout the whole organisation,” says Scheers. “We have worked hard to create a culture of optimisation where everyone feels they are informed about what we are testing and how they can contribute to our conversion rate optimisation roadmap.”

He points out that to truly win engagement of staff they must feel involved in the process and therefore keeping them up to date as to what is happening is vital. “We send updates on our tests, voting competitions on which tests won (or will win) to our whole company. We also make sure our testing roadmap is easily visible for the whole company in an engaging and easy to consume way. We built our own internal timeline site to display test plans, results and galleries of the test experiences,” he says.

A similar process is evident at shoe retailer Office – which ensures it involves staff and customer across the business when planning CRO objectives. “When we are approaching a major project affecting CRO, such as the redesign of a website, we usually begin with a cross department workshop, inviting people from various different backgrounds, including stores, to comment on different aspect of our online proposition,” says Office multichannel director Robin Worthington. Such an attitude not only increases learning across the business but helps to ensure that everyone within the business feels engaged in the process rather than simply being a bystander to the project.

Whilst pretty much everyone interviewed for this report existed in a culture where CRO was – in general – being embraced companywide there are others that are not so lucky since CRO as a concept is one that’s still maturing in many organisation and can often fall behind other priorities, according to Paul Postance. “We will still find the scenario of one motivated employee championing the cause without wider business support for a while yet,” he says.

However he advises those that do recognise themselves in the latter category to keep pushing. “If that’s you, don’t give up. There are some good techniques to push the doors open. Understanding office dynamics and negotiating with different stakeholder needs is far more important than doggedly setting up a lone split test that will get ignored,” he says.

Retailers need to generate enthusiasm for the idea, find support and set the vision. Once you have some clear test results as proof of concept it’s much easier to ask the business for more funding or resource. “Solid commercial numbers always win people’s attention,” says Postance.

“Our board have bought into the process, methodology and benefits and it’s communicated throughout our strategy. The key thing is to engage people in the programme and bring them along with the journey – getting them to define the test, understand the results and understand the process.”

Sam Barton, ShopDirect

He suggests going so far as setting up a team with an identity and even perhaps a logo. “That really helps with perception and can be further leveraged by running competitions based on guessing test winners for example,” he says.

But of course even more crucial to conversion with regards to brand and engagement is how onboard customers feel. In the Top 500 research it was Marks and Spencer who came out top here, accompanied by the likes of ASOS and TopShop in the Elite category ranking. All are interacting heavily with their customers – particularly via social media – so that their customers feel as much a part of the brand as their staff do – with conversion naturally following as a result.

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