Tag: cro
Shamir Duverseau

Is Digital Experience Worth More Than Conversions?

Digital excellence is about the experience.

Being a digital leader means shifting from a mindset of conversion rate optimization (CRO) to one of digital experience optimization (DXO). We’re not implying that conversions don’t matter but instead that a broader view is necessary. Growth-minded organizations must pay attention to each touchpoint between a customer and their brand—touchpoints that lead not only to the initial transaction but to an ongoing relationship.

In other words, the path to greater customer lifetime value (LTV) is a meaningful, actionable, and optimized journey.

Optimizing these experiences requires alignment among multiple channels and touchpoints. It also requires the right strategy, the right people, and the right technology. As complex and multifaceted as this may be, our Smart Panda Labs team left the Opticon 2018 conference feeling very clear on the three fundamental steps of DXO, all three of which are similarly fundamental to our own practice: 1) Measure, 2) Understand, and 3) Improve.


Good data is worth its weight in gold—and sometimes, more. But in order to capture the right data in a useful way, you need the right tools. Optimizely is currently partnering with other SaaS providers including Tealium, Salesforce, and FullStory to create the Digital Experience Stack (DXS). The goal of this platform is not only to create a robust view of the customer at all points in their journey but to make that data meaningful and actionable. For example, Tealium can stitch together anonymous and known visitor data and then leverage those audiences within Optimizely to generate more consistent cross-device experiences. Time is also a key component of capturing data in a meaningful and actionable way, and the open DXS platform allows you to lay out and execute a strategy of real-time insights and actions.


It’s only when the data can drive insights, and those insights can lead to actions, that you can effectively meet business goals, such as improved LTV. Thus, once you have integrated your data, you must derive meaning from it. Digital leaders, including many of the brands represented at Opticon 18, are making experimentation part of their DNA, pushing the envelope to understand the “why” behind test results and not just accept results as they appear.

One particular conference session focused on steps to create advanced customer theories that are iterative and transferable—theories that attempt to explain why customers acted or responded in a certain way. A theory might be as simple as a preference for calls to action that are above the fold, for example. They might relate to a customers’ state of mind or persona. Or you might even consider broader factors, like behavioral economics or laws of reciprocity. Intended as a team activity, the brainstorming should include diverse stakeholders who can lend unique perspectives to the exercise. Hypothesizing why consumers acted a certain way is a great opportunity to step out of analytics mode and into an empathetic state of mind in an effort to identify theories that warrant further testing.

The real goal here? To find those theories most likely to hold value—and to build a case around them. Before upgrading a theory to a conclusion, try to garner at least five experiments that support it. Then, use these insights as the basis for other enhancements to the experience, from email communications to marketing messages to personalization campaigns.


All of your measurements, tests, and the understanding you’ve acquired as a result lead to the real opportunity: optimization. How can you leverage your findings to improve the customer experience at every touch point? How can you offer a more concierge-like experience, one that make suggestions based on their interests or offers information in a way that is in sync with their preferences? Are there reviews or ratings that can support and enhance their purchasing decisions?

When it comes to moving customers through the funnel, an enhanced experience is more likely to boost LTV than the speed of the transaction. Think a little less about what will drive the purchase today and little more about what will drive multiple purchases over the long term. Because a leading digital strategy is the one that takes the long view.

Throughout this conference, my colleagues and I felt a rewarding sense of resonance between what we heard coming from the stage and the work we’ve been doing for our clients. We left Opticon with even more frameworks and tools to help brands shift from a sharp focus on CRO to a bigger picture view that puts customers and customer experience at the center of their digital strategy.

Key Takeaways

  1. Being a digital leader means shifting from a mindset of conversion rate optimization (CRO) to one of digital experience optimization (DXO).
  2. The three fundamental steps of DXO are: 1) Measure, 2) Understand, and 3) Improve.
  3. In order to capture the right data in a useful way, you need the right tools. Optimizely is currently partnering with other SaaS providers including Tealium, Salesforce, and FullStory to create the Digital Experience Stack (DXS).
  4. Make experimentation part of your DNA; push the envelope to understand the “why” behind test results and not just accept results as they appear.
  5. Ask yourself how you can leverage your findings to improve the customer experience at every touch point. How can you offer a more concierge-like experience, one that make suggestions based on their interests or offers information in a way that is in sync with their preferences?
  6. Think a little less about what will drive the purchase today and little more about what will drive multiple purchases over the long term. Because a leading digital strategy is the one that takes the long view.
Tag: cro
Shamir Duverseau

4 Methods for Improving Conversion Rates

Conversion rate optimization— it’s a mouthful. It’s also a science and an art … and frankly, a lot of work. But few aspects of your digital marketing strategy are more important than this cumbersome term.

Our crowd of friends at Wikipedia define conversion rate optimization (CRO) as, “a system for increasing the percentage of visitors to a website that convert into customers, or more generally, take any desired action on a webpage.”  If you just totally zoned out, or assumed this was just a fancy way of talking about split testing, we understand. At Smart Panda Labs, we define CRO a little differently—it’s a way of thinking about all the digital experiences you offer.

As with any strategy, the first step is defining a goal. Are you trying to sell more of a particular product, book more hotel rooms, register more participants, increase the number of leads or increase the quality of those leads? Once you have a clear goal in mind, you can work backwards from that destination, thinking through the various touchpoints along the route. And then the fun begins.

Here are four of our favorite methods for increasing engagement and conversion rates across your digital channels.

#1: A/B Testing

I’m sure you guessed we were going to say this—if you know anything about us, you know testing is a panda’s best friend (as we like to say, Always Be Testing). To determine the optimal experience for your consumers, you must constantly and repeatedly test every element, measuring and analyzing the results and leveraging those insights to inform your next test or segmentation. Testing should play a role in everything related to CRO.

Really, you can’t test too much. From entire web pages to a series of pages (like a checkout process) to specific sections (like the navigation) to page elements (headlines, images, and buttons), testing them against alternate versions will keep you busy …  forever. You can test one or more version against your current baseline, and you can show that test to all your visitors, a percentage of them, or even just select audiences (like consumers coming to your site straight from paid media). These tests should help you find pain points and roadblocks on your site—touchpoints where you can improve the experience, remove anxiety and influence people towards a specific action.

Tools tip: A key to testing success is to arm yourself with the proper tools. A free tool like Google Optimize is a great way to get started if you are new to this, or if you’re trying to get leaders to buy into a testing strategy. However, if you really want to do some fancy and exciting stuff, investing in an enterprise tool like Optimizely will enable you to generate insights capable of truly transforming your business.

#2: Targeted Messaging

People don’t often associate targeted messaging with CRO, but special promotions or social proof (such as a testimonial from an industry expert, or a message to the effect of “5000 people are looking at this hotel right now”) are designed to nudge people toward making a decision, right? These are tactics are intended to optimize your conversion rates.

The key here is to use the method that best aligns with your goals. For example, if your goal is to sell more products, book more rooms or generate more leads, then perhaps a cart or form-abandonment message would be best. When someone is about to leave the site without converting, try injecting a message that offers a special discount or gift for completing the process then and there.

However, if your end goal is to increase average order value, total revenue or lead quality, try testing the abandon message against showing social proof, like the number of people who bought in the last month or how many people have this item in their shopping cart at this very moment. While this may not get as many conversions as the promotion, it may be better for your bottom line. Again, it goes back to starting with your goal and working backwards.

Tools tip: A great tool for this method is Yieldify. Their platform offers a number of options, from overlays with forms to message bars with counters, and allows you to test them. You can also use tools like Optimizely to run these tests, but their experimentation platform is not designed to run targeted messaging 24/7/365.  So, if you don’t want to invest in another robust tool, use Optimizely to test what works and then a simpler tool to inject the winning messaging.

It’s also important that your tool allows you to show different messages to different audiences. While promos may work great on returning visitors, social proof may be the key for people coming via paid search. Test your messages to determine what works best for whom. Then get crazy and further target your messages. This is when the fun really begins.

#3: Personalization

The more you know about the people on your site, the more you can surface the content, products or services they most want. Remember, we live in a world of instant gratification, so the more you can reduce their effort, the more likely they are to convert.

Start by segmenting the people on your site, landing pages or mobile app into different audiences. For example, you can split users up by metropolitan area if you’re in real estate or by new vs. returning customers if you’re in the retail industry. The more information you have, the more personalization you can perform—and the more personal, the better. (As general rule, make sure your segments don’t get too small for what you’re able to manage and analyze.)

Once you have performance data for these segments, try to discern what the different drivers are for these audiences. Also be sure to review past A/B tests and parse them by those same audiences. Insights from these steps should drive your ongoing personalization campaigns.

As you continue to create and customize these campaigns, think about ways to personalize headlines, homepage messaging, navigation. And remember to Always Be Testing. Even once you know this personalization campaign works, you’ll want to continue to test against a control group to ensure you’re getting optimal results.

Tools tip: Optimizely has a specific platform designed for personalization. It can be fed data from a number of different sources, including the data it’s able to collect on its own. However, if it were up to me, I would use something like Tealium in conjunction with Optimizely for my personalization efforts. Tealium will gather mounds of data for your analytics, ad tracking, CRM, ESP, etc. It can be easily configured to send whatever data is needed to a personalization platform like Optimizely.

If you’re getting a flood of traffic and want to try personalizing to some very small audiences, Qubit is also a great tool to consider. If you’re in an industry like gaming, or you’re a large retailer, this may be a good way to go.

#4: Triggered Emails

People don’t often think of emails as an optimization tool, but they should. There are a number of industries, both B2C and B2B, in which people need time to make decisions. These decisions may involve multiple visits to your site or perhaps an online conversion that leads to an offline sales process. So how do you continue to influence your audience when they aren’t on your site or in your mobile app? Emails.

By determining proper trigger points, you can send targeted messages that help move people toward online and/or offline conversions, surfacing relevant information. Emails are a great way to remove anxiety, focusing on one singular goal with each communication. These communications start knocking down barriers at each touchpoint, giving a person the chance to make a decision and convert.

And, of course, test. Split test your messages, email designs and imagery, the points at which they trigger, frequency of the communications, subject lines, headlines and more. Remember, this is not a light switch, this is a journey. You have to help your audience in the right way, at the right time. If you were on a road trip, you care about the location of the closest gas station only when you’re low on gas. If you just filled up, a gas station is irrelevant to you. Figure out when your prospects need to fill up, and be there with the gas.

Tools tip: There are a lot of good email service providers out there that enable triggered emails, from Salesforce Marketing Cloud to Adobe Campaign. The key here is to use your ESP to do the triggering, not a third-party tool. Keep all things email-related in one place across the enterprise. You won’t believe how much easier this will make your life!

All together now

All of the above methods work great in and of themselves. But, if you really want to provide the best possible digital experience, do them all—and do them in concert with one another! Sync your A/B testing with your targeted messaging as part of a personalization campaign that includes triggered communications. Boom. Make every facet of your customers’ journey feel like it’s all about them.

To accomplish this, you need to understand who the person is—or at least which audience they are a part of—across multiple digital assets. Here again is where something like Tealium comes into play, serving as a central hub for all this information. Then, the data can be segmented and pushed to Optimizely and Yieldify and Salesforce Marketing Cloud, enabling these powerful tools to perform in harmony.

The methods above will help you provide a digital experience that removes barrier after barrier at every single touchpoint, reducing and removing one anxiety after another and significantly increasing conversions. If done properly, you won’t just have a one-time customer, you’ll have created a loyal fan who keeps coming back and brings others will them. And that is what true CRO is really about.

Tag: cro
Cheryl Myers

Small Step For Conversion, Giant Leap For UX

This is not our first public display of affection for testing—we love tests, and we love to talk about them. For example, we’ve shared a compelling testing case study on Optimizely’s blog.

Now, it’s my turn.

As a specialist in user experience (UX) and content strategy at Smart Panda Labs, I have developed a close relationship with testing. This invaluable strategy places data at the heart of digital decision-making, providing insights that inform all kinds of choices. For example, the test I’m about to share with you was not designed to focus on your typical testing metric, conversions, but rather to understand how design changes can measurably impact the way customers interact with a user interface.

50 (ok, 2) Shades of Grey

A large real estate client had a series of landing pages, designed by a third party, showing floor plans of available luxury apartments. The landing pages were clean and minimal, and a series of numbered circles indicated how many floor plan options were available to view. However, while a medium grey represented the active floor plan, the circles that represented the subsequent plans were presented in a lighter shade of grey. When the client asked us to improve the design to help increase user interaction, we immediately gravitated to the circles.

We felt that the lack of contrast between the circle that represented the floor plan being actively displayed and the other circles was not enough; the minimal contrast made it seem as if the circles weren’t clickable and instead merely visual cues of the number of available floor plans. We pitched a test to see if greater color contrast would achieve the desired goal.

It’s important for me to mention that we didn’t want to measure the effect this change had on the time users spent on the site, as time on the site can be both good and bad (they can be spending more time because they are engaged or because they are confused and searching!).  So, we focused purely on interactions—were they or were they not looking at all the floor plan options?


Variation 1Variation 1

Variation 2Variation 2

We tested the original floor plan module design against two new variations that each created more contrast, one using a slightly darker shade of grey and one that incorporated a maroon color. This test rapidly showed that the darker grey and the maroon were outperforming the original. Interestingly, the new variations were a dead heat with each other, showing almost a 12% improvement over the original. Users were clearly more likely to view additional floor plans when there was less ambiguity.

Comparison of Baseline and Variation results

This test demonstrates how testing can be used not only to optimize for conversions but to help solve creative problems, like UX design and user interaction. A simple change, paired with a deliberate testing strategy, can help make the subjective objective and inform future design decisions. A test like this can also help make the case for simple and relatively inexpensive optimizations that help improve an experience, perhaps while other large scale changes are in progress or when there’s little time or resources.

CRO and UX Go Hand in Hand

The moral of the story: small changes are easy to test and can lead to significantly more engagement and, therefore, a better overall user experience. These improvements can make a site or campaign more intuitive to the user’s needs and a user journey more enjoyable. This approach, in turn, can prove to be a great supplement to your CRO efforts. In other words, focus on the person and all else will follow.

Key Takeaways

  • Use testing to help make subjective decisions. Allow the visitor’s opinion to carry the most weight.
  • People need to have a good experience before they can make a decision or convert. Use testing to optimize not only the decision but also the experience.
  • Make sure the goals of your test are clear and unambiguous—don’t test for results that could be misinterpreted.