Conversion rate optimization (CRO) emerged in the early 2000s in the wake of the dot-com crash and has undergone radical changes over the past decade. Now more than ever, marketers are focusing on CRO to help prospects, leads and customers move along the sales funnel – and maximize their return on digital investments.
CRO continues to evolve. Agencies and clients alike need to know not only what’s available now, but also to see what’s coming around the next corner. In this blog, we highlight the five trends we believe will be most likely to impact CRO strategies in 2019.
1. To improve CRO, marketers will be even more focused on quantitative as well as collaborative approaches
Hard data has driven business intelligence and marketing for decades, but many of its intricacies have been tricky to implement when it comes to web design and other digital markets.
We’ve seen A/B testing grow increasingly popular over the past couple of years, and we expect it to become even more prevalent in 2019. The same is true of surveys, which have been problematic due to their “intrusive” nature—leading to low response rates and frustration for the audience. Thankfully, A/B tests and surveys are becoming even more customizable, easy to implement, responsive and adaptive regardless of the devices used by the audience.
More importantly, we predict that unified testing and research methods, as well as CRO best practices, will gain decisive traction. As more conversion studies emerge and the industry gets smarter about itself, experts are beginning to agree on what works and what doesn’t—and how to proceed from there.
CRO experts will work towards making their data both more understandable and actionable. Better data discovery and visualization tools will be key here, but we also believe that Data Quality Management (giving priority to certain processes rather than seeing all data as equally relevant) will come into play. Furthermore, CRO data will become increasingly shared across the organization, enabling better and more collaboration between sales/marketing stakeholders and CRO practitioners in return.
2. More interactivity with users and personalized experiences will help improve CRO
Social media platforms like Facebook and Tumblr are unavoidable parts of the digital landscape, but they’ve recently shown hints that they may be losing steam. As a result, marketers have realized that companies also need to engage directly with their users rather than primarily through third-party platforms.
Not only will brand identities and content increasingly be informed by user feedback, we also believe 2019 will be all about engaging with the users as individuals and doing so in a one-on-one manner. Look for new ways to create conversations, forge bonds between brands and consumers, understand the customer-life cycle, and give customers compelling reasons to return to specific platforms regularly.
Of course, big data still matters when it comes to crunching numbers and establishing patterns, but it’ll be supplemented by individualized approaches. “Value”, from a user perspective, can no longer be seen as monolithic. We expect to see more customized newsletters, loyalty programs, tailored layouts, unique journeys, and adaptive recommendations.
As for content, look for campaign interactions that are more transparent. Drawing from the expertise of digital ethnographers, we expect to see insight-driven approaches that will not only consider areas of friction but also areas of satisfaction. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s all about your audience. We will see more and better ways not only to learn from them, but also to understand why personalization benefits them as much as it does us.
3. AI and automation are here to stay – also in CRO
There’s a lot of talk about AI and machine learning, and for good reason. However, when we think of AI, we tend to focus on its more science-fiction aspects rather than what it will actually look like in 2019: background processes that will again become exponentially smarter and better at solving practical problems for us.
2018 has seen dozens of major websites deploy customer service chatbots. These bots will become even smarter, more responsive, and helpful in 2019. But we’ll also see an increasing reliance on predictive analysis and predictive targeting and modelling.
What will all this mean in practice? Websites will start tweaking user experiences in real-time for both design and content. Static content will make room for personalized, “winning” experiences based on machine learning rather than cookies and traditional analytics. Important metrics will be improved with more machine learning processes running background tests. Predictive targeting will seek conversion opportunities without the need for any marketer input other than a simple click to implement new tactics.
4. CRO will begin to deal with the new ways users are searching and engaging with web sites
The first major revolution (and challenge) in digital marketing and CRO appeared with the arrival of smartphones. In a matter of months, marketers and UX designers had to drastically adapt and answer crucial questions: How can we account for touch screens? What about mobile interfaces? What do limited bandwidth and image sizes mean? Do people on smartphones browse differently than desktop users? In fact, are they the same users at all?
Tablets, using touch-based interfaces, were a fairly painless transition—but 2019 has another revolution in store. While VR and a slew of IoT devices are on the horizon, voice assistants (including Alexa, Siri, Google Home, Cortana, and many others) are already here and they’re getting more popular by the minute. In fact, 50% of all searches are likely to be voice-based by 2020.
Developing effective CRO methods for voice assistant-powered searches has been difficult for two reasons. First, users are now interacting via voice and “conversational searches” rather than textual inputs, taps, clicks, or scrolls. Not only can this invalidate the tools we currently have at our disposal, it also changes the very nature of searches, interactions, and web design.
Second, these voice assistants are often tied to the company that sells them—and their search engines or promotional algorithms. While we’ve had a decade to wrestle with issues such as attribution and touchpoints, voice searches via third parties will—for the short term—magnify those problems.
There are no easy solutions to this challenge so far. But we know the way forward involves natural language (or natural-sounding language), long-tail keywords, topical optimizations, and a renewed focus on search intent—the core reason why people conduct searches rather than the specific words they use.
5. GDPR, PECR, ePrivacy Regulation, and other digital ethics/privacy legislations will impact CRO
Finally, CRO will have to adapt to more privacy regulations. While such regulations sometimes make our lives harder, they shouldn’t be seen as negatives—especially in an age where data privacy, digital ethics, and trust between corporations and consumers matter more than ever.
The juggling act that started with the GDRP and PECR will become trickier in 2019 once the new European ePrivacy Regulation comes into play. Among the list of changes, two major points stand out:
- Cookie consent will be handled by the browser, which should allow websites to move away from the dreaded-yet-needed cookie banner. However, there remains some question as to how this will affect analytics. For example, how do companies customize a user’s experience when the latter has chosen, through the browser, to block all cookies? Thankfully, first-party consent should not be an issue, but third-party analytics (such as Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, or Leadfeeder) will definitely be affected.
- Soft opt-ins (rather than opt-out) measures will be set in place, especially when it comes to selling or recommending products and services. This will have a direct impact on marketing emails and newsletters, and what data marketers will use to gauge their audience’s response.
It is possible that these legislations will go through more drafts, of course. The final product could be radically different from what’s been presented so far—especially because numerous EU bodies need to reach a consensus. However, regardless of the specific outcome and legislation set in place, digital privacy is not going anywhere and should remain at the forefront of every CRO practitioner’s mind.