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For what feels like the last five years it has been predicted that "next year will be the year of mobile."

Well perhaps 2012 was finally that year in many aspects, and long live the multichannel shopper I say. So before I start seeing "2013 will be the year of the tablet", I'm hoping that 2013 will finally be the year of conversion optimisation.

To be more precise this is actually profit optimisation, but let’s not muddy the waters too much and just focus on the big C for now.

Here are the predictions from me and my team at PRWD for what 2013 has in store for the testing and optimisation industry. What do you think?

2013 Predictions

  • The growth of low cost and DIY testing solutions (e.g. Visual Website Optimiser and Optimizely) will accelerate as more brands take the plunge and start testing.
  • Retail brands will start to move towards greater cross-channel integration across platforms including tablet, mobile and Smart TV, putting the voice of the customer and conversion at the heart of service design.
  • More brands will start to talk about the concept of ‘putting it to the test' as a way of challenging assumptions, perceptions and perceived best practice.
  • More brands embarking on full redesign processes will truly adopt an agile, iterative, user-centered design approach and bring the voice of the customer in at the very start of the process. User research will be less of an afterthought when redesigning.
  • Companies will look to plug their analytics, UX, user research and testing gaps, and have a holistic view of cross platform and channel customer conversion.
  • More brands will realise that on-site conversion improvement is the way to build on a saturated acquisition strategy. If you haven’t read this before then here goes... “For every $92 spent acquiring customers, only $1 is spent converting them.” – Bryan Eisenberg, Conversion Conference London 2011.
  • Technology will continue to evolve to reduce the barrier to entry allowing more SMEs access to behavioural information, and connect this to on-site experiences and split-testing.
  • Companies that invest in a multichannel approach to their service, regardless of customer platform choice, will increase basket size, lifetime value, conversion and deliver a direct advantage over competitors
  • Brands will invest in more expertise to drive their testing programmes. Although many companies have invested in conversion rate optimisation (CRO), few realise the full benefits due to low testing throughput or a lack of skills or insight on where to test.
  • 2013 will be the year that CRO becomes a competitive advantage for companies.

You've gotta love a good quote or three...

Who better to provide some quotes than two of the PRWD team who have certainly been there and done it at Shop Direct and Belron in the last few years. If these two aren't enough, I've provided one as well - and you can quote me on it!

Paul Postance:

Organisational understanding and maturity will start to bring optimisation out of the shadows. It will be increasingly seen as a highly cost-effective way to increase performance while reducing acquisition spend - so it becomes a requirement not a 'nice to have'.

Craig Sullivan:

2013 is when more companies will start to deliver on the promise of conversion rate optimisation, by investing in the tools, techniques and staff to execute a conversion optimization strategy. Whether you are a startup or an established business, the maths is pretty simple; if you convert 10% of your site visitors and your nearest competitor only converts 5%, you’re going to grow faster, spend less and kill their ability to compete with you.

A lot of companies are finding that it’s really tough to push more traffic to your site and get a return on that investment.  Whether this is through SEO, social or advertising, to turn the dial on traffic means spending more money! And that’s why CRO is so important – because you can spend the same or less money, whilst getting more revenue, engagement and retention from the existing traffic you already have.

If John Lewis spent all its money on advertising but the retail experience was terrible, it would be wasting its marketing budget.  Yet this is precisely what happens with many online products – too much money is spent on acquiring customers, only to lose them when they arrive at a site that doesn’t work for them. 

In real life you’d be able to see this – queues at the tills, narrow entry doors, messy floors, unhelpful staff, bad signposting – and you’d want to do something about it. Conversion rate optimisation lets you see these problems and fix them – so that you maximise the return from any footfall you’ve driven to your site.

Paul Rouke

CRO will become the new SEO. Businesses will eventually understand that the likes of 'voice of the customer' and 'testing and optimisation' aren't just name checked or for the select few.

On-site optimisation will become an on-going, integrated strategy for brands alongside their acquisition and retention strategy.  2013 will certainly see a continued progression towards this promised land, although there may still be years to go.

Useful links & resources

What do you think then?

  • Which of these do you agree or disagree with?
  • Do you feel that we have missed something off the list?
  • If not conversion optimisation, then what do you think 2013 be the year of? (please don't say the tablet!)
Paul Rouke

Published 19 December, 2012 by Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke is Founder & CEO at PRWD, author and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up with him on LinkedIn.

34 more posts from this author

Comments (16)

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Tal Shomron

Great article and very true!! What Brian Eisenburg said at the conversion conference in London is what companies are slowly starting to realize. No matter how good you do SEO,SEM, PPC and more, if all that traffic you're getting doesn't convert your company will eventually drown. The are many new players to watch in this CRO game, as you mentioned, players who make CRO more do-able. Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer, also Pluralis is another interesting one to watch (a crowd-sourced solution to the client's CRO needs)... Yes, 2013 is definitely the year for CRO- I couldn't agree more!!

over 3 years ago

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

2012 was the year of the tablet, 2013 is about getting more money from it!

One thing I'd add to the list, or at least expand in the list is in multi-channel conversion; specifically attributing browse on clicks but buy in bricks. Some recent consumer research showed that all of our customers had researched online before buying in store. These purchase conversions are currently invisible to us.

I also think funnels need to take in to account other conversion events like viewing store locators or checking store stock.

over 3 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & Director of Optimisation at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Tal - thanks for your comments. It sounds like there is quite a similar story being told here about the need to focus more attention to what happens when visitors are acquired. Thanks too for the mention of the business where you work, I hope you have a busy 2013.

@Stuart - I like your style! Always one step ahead... on a serious note you have raised a really important point on attribution for multi-channel retailers like yourself and some of our other retail clients. I can see another acronym coming on, the good old ROBO.

I presume it was a typo to say that 'all' your customers had researched online before buying in store though?

over 3 years ago

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Sudarshan

Great read, some excellent points made here. I work in the live chat space with ClickDesk, may be that is why I am surprised no one has made a mention of engaging users when they are on site, ultimately converting to a customer.

As you've acknowledged, customers are using multiple channels like never before; which offers retailers multiple avenues to engage visitors. Live support or pre sales support on sites has consistently delivered as a CRO technique and is seeing rapid adoption. The only counter argument that I've heard is the staffing,training and implementation problems with live support. If businesses can put in the effort, I'm sure they'll get utmost value out of it.

over 3 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & Director of Optimisation at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Sudarsham - thanks for your comments. Interestingly Schuh, where earlier commentor Stuart works, provide one of the most advanced and slick live chat facility in the retail space. We have had the pleasure of seeing their customer service operation first hand and to back up your point, yes this type of live customer engagement does help improve conversion rates for specific segments of their site visitors.

@Stuart is there anything you can add in to this? Thanks

over 3 years ago

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Ketharaman Swaminathan

As long as digital marketing agencies get paid by way of a commission on ad spend, they lack the incentive to "get more from less". While advertisers have every reason to adopt CRO, most CRO solutions involve publishing tracking code on websites, which is too complex for a lot of marketing organizations. Until there's a change in these ground realities, I don't expect CRO to become a priority.

over 3 years ago

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

@Sudarshan, as Paul kindly mentions, we do have good success with live chat, we use both text and video live chat. While text does produce a modest improvement in conversion, the video live chat has a much more pronounced effect. We typically see conversion rates at 4x the standard conversion rate where customers have interacted with video live chat, however that has been even higher in the run up to Christmas. We also see around a 20% higher AOV for these customers and the net promoter score is outstanding.

@Paul, sorry I wasn't very clear when talking about ROBO. We recently ran a 'consumer insight' evening in London (where we had selected Schuh high street customers), and it turned out that ALL of the participants had researched online before shopping. It was perhaps down to how the participants were recruited, but was interesting none the less. We've done this kind of research in previous years and not seen such a strong ROBO effect.

over 3 years ago

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homeworkfox.com

As it seems to me there will be very much many interesting changes and transformations in 2013! I hope all of them will bring good news only! homeworkfox.com

over 3 years ago

Heledd Jones

Heledd Jones, Head of Search Marketing at Confused.com

Based on recent agency pitches from existing digital marketing agencies we work with, and agencies we don't work with - then I would agree that 2013 will be the year of CRO!
As a brand we've already done a lot of work on it this year, using a mix of in-house tools and agency support and we're likely to focus on it more heavily next year. I'm guessing that agencies are making less profit from Search so they're realising that next year's profits are in CRO!? It's easy money for them if they get clients to sign up to the right performance-based deals :)
And for clients who can't run it in-house, it's win-win!

over 3 years ago

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Chris Anderson

Great article Paul! I agree that 2013 will be revolutionary in terms of CRO. Companies are hiring intelligent folks who are helping to foster the "testing culture" which ultimately drives their design. Its refreshing to see people take an in-depth look at their current user experience, and let users shape the optimal experience.

I also see the SEM landscape changing as the competition increases and only small incremental gains remain. Its time to look at LXO - Landing Experience Optimization, and truly guide the end-to-end experience.

over 3 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & Director of Optimisation at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Stuart - thanks for being happy to share your conversion and AOV increases for video chat, pretty powerful stuff for people reading I'm sure. Thanks also for the further information on the consumer insight evening. A great example of how consumer behaviour is changing - I wonder how many of the consumers researched on tablet rather than desktop?!

@Heledd - thanks for providing your insights from your existing agency relations and when you have are being pitched to. There's a common theme starting to come out here I would say!

@Chris - thanks for adding your comments. Helping to foster the "testing culture" is a really great line and one that is very much something that me and my team focus on when working with brands. Exciting times ahead...

over 3 years ago

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Philip Oakley, Web Optimisation at MaxymiserEnterprise

Cracking article Paul!

I like the point about profit optimisation and further still perhaps customer experience optimisation...get the experience right, the conversion and/or profit will be a by product of that.

I certainly agree site testing whether simple or complex will become more prevalent - our phone is ringing more :)

The Forrester stat of $92:$1, Brian refers to has been around for nearly 4 years for good reason. Companies spend so much money on getting people to their site but don't focus on helping them transact/convert/apply. In the bricks and mortar world it's your market trader busting his lungs to get people to the stall then not talking/listening to them...of course they won't buy and 'conversion' is low.

@Chris A testing culture is the panacea for success in this environment. It removes opinion and risk as well as placing the customer at the heart of every decision a marketing team makes. I've seen people get entire teams hired once a business at board level buys into this concept.

over 3 years ago

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Paul Coulter

I can definitely see CRO taking off. SEO has become more difficult to "game" and PPC inflation has made driving traffic through the funnel an expensive activity. Companies will have to focus on converting more traffic in the funnel instead.

over 3 years ago

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Helen Baker

I agree with Paul on PPC inflation. Google Adwords has become extremely expensive. I vote for content marketing. There will be more work for creative web designers, copywriters which will be working in cooperation with SEOs even closer than it was before.

about 3 years ago

Live2 Support

Live2 Support, Online Marketing Manager at Live2Support

I agree with title. Only true marketers will be success in 2013. Google adwords is more expensive day by day. Competition is growing rapidly. Traditional formula of SEO is vanished and effective less. Now who is winner, I think the WINNER is who approached customers immediately.Don't waste your time in mail exchange or fix appointment for phone call. Talk to your customer when land on your website or visit premises wisely. Reply only what they want. Customers don't like when you use polished marketing language to describe features of your product or services. Be more specific and reply only asked questions....More genuine ..more conversion. Live chat is an effective tool for one to one instant customer communication. You should definitely try it. For live chat, try Live2Support, Boldchat etc.
Thanks.

over 2 years ago

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Mike Stewart, CEO at www.newstudentoffortune.com

well...great article, thanks! 2013 was though for www.newstudentoffortune.com

over 2 years ago

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