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What cultural changes should retailers make to ensure they fully embrace CRO within their business?

An introduction from Paul Rouke, Director of optimisation,

For any retailer serious about delivering revenue growth through optimisation the following three areas are crucial cultural changes that will need to take place; focusing on data driven decision-making, cross functional teams and expertise and challenging “the way we’ve always done it”.

We find a challenge for many businesses is to ensure their decisions are based on accurate and valid data and consumer insights. With optimisation, hypotheses for testing need to be based on data analysis and consumer research rather than based on who shouts the loudest or simply testing everything and anything. The latter haphazard approach will yield poor results, lower test success rates and result in a lack of confidence and buy-in for optimisation within your business.

It’s commonplace to make ecommerce site changes by committee, the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion), getting a junior to update content or simply copying what others in the market are doing. However all of these approaches are ignoring one important stakeholder– the customer. For many businesses it will be a cultural challenge to change the way decisions are made. The upside is that data and insight driven testing can drive out emotional and political decisions that are harmful to performance.

It’s crucial however that when you start to make decisions based on data and insights that you take a holistic approach. Not only does this strengthen your ideas for testing by triangulating your insights from multiple sources, but it also ensures that you’re making the right decisions. For example a test that focuses on increasing conversion rate may also impact other metrics, such as average order value or return rates, and might negatively impact overall profit. If a holistic view isn’t taken you might not pick up on this and implement the change to the detriment of the business.

Retailers also need to involve a wide-ranging group of staff who may not traditionally work together, to bring in insights from across the business. These can range from customer services to development teams. But they also need to be prepared to provide the skills and expertise required to deliver optimisation, including data analysts, UX, neuro-marketing, copy experts and user research expertise, whether they provide that in-house or externally.

For those retailers who want more than just short-term increased revenues, optimisation has the potential to deliver transformational business growth. However, they’ll most likely need to challenge some existing beliefs and ways of doing things. For example, most retailers will go through website redesign projects every three to four years or so. They go out to creative agencies, debate the details with a room of stakeholders, and hey presto they’ve got a brand new website.

Those championing CRO will need to challenge this approach to show that changing so many elements of a website introduces a huge range of unknowns, which are really hard to measure. We routinely see these types of retailers being disappointed on launch day when they see a massive drop in performance.

Instead testing and optimisation can be used to redesign your website based solely on the impactful, revenue driving changes that are proven to work, before they’re even put into development.

To really challenge existing ways of working such as above, the importance of optimisation really needs to be recognised from the top tier of the business. This, with the right engagement and communication strategy will give employees the confidence to pick up and run with this approach.

Some ways we’ve helped retailers do this in the past include ensuring data and learnings are visible companywide, running collaborative sketching or ideation sessions with a cross section of the company or gamifying the testing process by running competitions involving peers.

Only by tackling and embracing these cultural changes, alongside using a well-defined, structured optimisation methodology, can businesses fully exploit the growth opportunities created by developing a CRO strategy.

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