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Performance area reviews: Strategy & innovation

Conversion rate optimisation, like many other pretailer strategies, is also increasingly creeping into other parts of a retailer’s business with huge benefits as a result. Where previously CRO was seen as purely an online metric it’s now evolving. “There are so many touchpoints within the customer journey now; a few years ago it was perhaps just seen as an online search, a click, a sale,” says Tom Murrell, web development manager at Walls and Floors. Now successful conversions depend on optimisation throughout the business and on a fully connected commerce strategy. In this next section we analyse how the retailers we spoke to in our research bring each of the six performance areas into their thinking around conversion rate optimisation and also pull in some of the findings from our Top500 research.

Strategy and innovation

For retailers to embrace CRO they need to put it at the heart of the business. Whilst pure play retailers have no choice but to do this – since they don’t have the luxury of face to face interaction with their customers — for multichannel retailers the challenge can be tough and the fight for the ultimate conversion – the sale – remains.

Retailers that are innovating in this field go above and beyond normal CRO practise to boost spend both online and instore and indeed across all channels. Sam Barton, head of user experience at ShopDirect, says that his company’s work in optimisation – or experimentation as the company terms it – is beginning to define strategy within the business.

This single view of the customer as an aid to boosting CRO is something that many retailers are working on, especially as they try to move towards to Holy Grail of truly understanding their lifetime value of a customer across ALL channels not just online. But it’s no easy task, admits Stuart McMillan, deputy head of ecommerce at Schuh. “We currently don’t measure lifetime value, if you are a multichannel retailer such as us lifetime value MUST include offline purchases in the shops, otherwise it’s practically useless. Customers don’t think in channels, and typically shop and interact across channels. Currently we have an incomplete picture of that multichannel customer but are working to improve that visibility so we can start to create a single view of the customer in a scalable way,” he says.

Some have got there sooner however. “As a multichannel retailer when looking at CRO we must consider the impact in store,” says Kevin Sears, head of online at which as well as its online business has more than 170 stores nationwide. “We have very sophisticated and cutting edge technology (DC Storm) which enables us to track store sales against the customers online journey even back to the search term they used before buying instore. This enables us to optimise our digital marketing campaigns not just against online performance but instore too,” he says.

The retailer also offers an online quote retrieval functionality on its site that allows customers to retrieve a quote made instore and checkout online – boosting the likelihood of full conversion in both directions. Sears says the importance of the store is vital for Bathstore since it provides extra advantages. “When we launched our new website in November 2013, we ensured that throughout the site we made it as easy as possible for the customer to find their nearest store,” he says. “Buying a new bathroom can be daunting but with our team of instore experts they will work customers to bring their dream bathroom to life using the latest in 3D software,” he says.

Paul Postance, previously head of digital conversion at EE, says it’s vital that the fundamentals of CRO are embraced within the deeper strategy of the business as a whole. “I’ve introduced CRO and pushed buttons myself to wider reach through building teams and airtime at board level more than once, so strategy is critical as is iterating an optimisation framework that flexes easily,” he says.

Having CRO embedded in the wider strategy of the business also ensures it is taken more seriously and is therefore more likely to be a success. “Without a strategy any testing is isolated and tactical, and enthusiastic amateurs can do more damage than good. So the biggest challenge is always how to gain just enough momentum to put a robust framework of tools and resources in place to deliver results, managing multiple unknowns until the first tests bed in and results begin to flow,” says Postance.

Innovation is also important and our Top500 report showed that customers prefer retailers that offer easy checkout facilities, clear and varied payment options that include easier options such as PayPal and market leading delivery options such as click and collect or stating delivery charges at the outset. By adding functionality such as this they increased trust, and by consequence, conversion.

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