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The future of CRO

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CRO was core to strategy in 2014 but how will retailers be ramping up their efforts in 2015 and beyond?

All the retailers interviewed for this report stressed that CRO was key in 2014 and for the vast majority of them it will be even more central to their strategy going forward. Lee Howard, head of analytics at Practicology, said that CRO delivered some great benefits for retailers his company worked with last year. “We had some good results for clients during 2014 with multiple five-figure sales uplifts off the back of changes we tested and clients then implemented,” he says.

But just because retailers may have achieved great results in 2014 doesn’t mean they should sit back in 2015. “CRO is an ongoing process because trading and content evolves as online retail matures. CRO helps drive uplift in revenue but it also reduces risk by providing a vehicle to test ideas on a segment of traffic, avoiding a big-bang approach that may or may not work with often sizable consequences,” says Howard. Having worked hard on CRO in 2014 we asked some of the retailers we interviewed what their plans were for this year.

Some of the smaller retailers are just ramping up their CRO journeys. Men’s accessories retailer Swaggerandswoon.com is one of those. “We’ll be using CRO a lot more in 2015 than we’ve probably done before and if we do it well it should have a significant effect on our business this year. The challenge will be to ensure that ultimately it is optimised across all devices,” says founder and managing director Gary Baker.

Bathstore.com head of online Kevin Sears says that retailers can’t ignore the benefits of CRO since for his business CRO has helped to contribute towards a 29% year on year growth in revenue and similar growth is expected this year. “We invest heavily in user testing and it is very rare for a week to go by without a test in place. The feedback we get is invaluable as there have been several Eureka moments and some very minor changes that we have implemented that have positively impacted conversion,” he says.

Office was another retailer to have delivered strong growth last year according to multichannel director Robin Worthington. “Conversion rates were significantly up across all devices, and the multichannel business recorded high double digit growth on the year,” he says. “We are continuing to invest in CRO, and also build our internal skills in this area, having put a number of the team through further training in MVT for example. We are focusing on mobile in particular, which continues to grow exponentially compared to other channels, but will also continue to work on improving performance across all our channels. CRO is part of an ongoing process, not a single event, and we have a robust plan of improvements for this year that we will continue to build upon,” says Worthington.

Having delivered a payback of roughly £14 for every £1 it spent on optimisation in 2014 NotOnTheHighStreet.com’s optimisation manager Ollie Scheers is more than happy with his company’s ROI on optimisation in 2014 and will ramp up its efforts this year – aided by a new optimisation process that allows it to launch tests quickly onto the site. “We didn’t want to wait around for development resource (third party and internally) to answer important questions or deliver business benefit. Therefore we ensured that our chosen software for testing allowed us to build and manage tests quickly and easily,” says Scheers. “In 2015 we expect to continue the volume of testing we delivered in 2014. We aim to use as much traffic as possible for test and learn opportunities and expect that the ROI will increase further as our testing becomes more focused on the areas we know deliver the most benefit based on our learnings from 2014,” he says.

Majestic Wine’s online optimisation manager Stephen Green says similar is true for his business. “The impact will only grow as we increase the scale and range of insight we gather and improve our internal processes to accommodate this,” he says.

It’s an opportunity he says all retailers and all functions should be embracing across their business as they realise the benefits such a connected commerce strategy brings.

“Ecommerce Optimisation is rapidly evolving and I am excited to see how existing knowledge within business optimisation, management theory and marketing integrate with and inform ecommerce and multi-channel optimisation,” he says.

And Paul Postance, most recently head of digital conversion at EE, says it’s an evolution retailers must keep on top of. “The thing about conversion is that it exists in a dynamic environment, with internal and external competitive pressures. It’s always relative,” he says. “One way to visualise this is to imagine a business making no digital changes during one year. Conversion rates will decay, because competitors and consumers are always changing and updating not to mention when disruptive innovators burst into the limelight. Doing nothing is the worst option as friction will appear to customers to increase even though it’s exactly the same.

ShopDirect’s head of user experience Sam Barton has four words of advice for retailers: “get on with it”. But it isn’t necesarily as easy as that. “Retailers are struggling to change when thinking about optimisation,” says Paul Rouke, founder and director of optimisation at full service conversion optimisation agency PRWD. “It can be a challenge to get the research and data insights to begin feeding your hypotheses for testing. Some retailers have a testing tool in place and think that’s the answer but it’s not just about the tool it’s the brains and strategy behind it. You need to get the right foundations in place and look to do things properly from the start to get the greatest returns from optimisation,” says Rouke.
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