4 Pillars of Conversion Optimization Strategy [Plus 8 Tips]

Alexis Abadayan
Alexis Abadayan
CRO Designer/Strategist
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Have you ever tried to go out to lunch or dinner with a big group…without a set plan? 😅

Nobody can agree on where to go.

Then you finally choose a place and they don’t have room for a party that big.

So you start frantically calling around, only to find that you’re going to have to wait an hour for a table or to-go options.

Then it’s just a big group of hangry people who wasted an hour and didn't get to eat what they really wanted to eat.

Now that you’re stressed just thinking about it (sorry), know that conversion optimization is bound to end up exactly the same: with a big group of dissatisfied people and a bunch of wasted time—unless you form a strategy.

There are plenty of ways to carry out conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategies, but before you even start thinking more about the optimization process for testing to boost conversions and skyrocket your website conversion rate, you need to have a few essentials with you.

In this article, we’ll chat about the pillars that set the foundation for successful conversion optimization, the effects of poor conversion optimization, and the checklist you need to follow to make sure you’re pushing the best CRO strategies forward for your conversion funnel.

Pillars for a successful conversion optimization strategy

Paul Rouke, former Founder and Director of Optimization at PRWD, created an optimization model with four pillars: strategy and culture, tools and technology, people and skills, and process and methodology.

Rouke’s customer-centric strategy
Four pillars of Rouke’s customer-centric strategy – source

Rouke explains customer-centricity as “respecting, speaking to, and listening to employees and customers and adapting experiences to better suit what they are looking for, both now and in the future.” But Rouke isn’t the only person who believes in a customer-centric approach.

A Chinese steel manufacturer discovered first-hand how customer-centric operations can improve business performance, as the company has already generated roughly a 4% increase in gross profit to date.

Now, let’s dive into exactly what Rouke’s model looks like.

1. Strategy and culture

The priority of this area is to see how well customer-centricity is aligned with the growth strategy of a business or organization.

Bryan Eisenberg, Founder & CMO at IdealSpot understands this well, as he notes that “CRO should not be seen as a tactic, it needs to be embedded in the culture.”

2. Tools and technology

As it sounds, the second pillar focuses on what tools and technology you have to fulfill a comprehensive customer experience, oriented toward improvement.

Oftentimes, companies will invest in all the right tools. However, A/B testing falls apart when they don’t have the proper people and skills (more on this pillar later) in place.

As optimization expert Craig Sullivan puts it, “...so many companies end up stuck in the unproductive part [of testing], doing testing that doesn’t shift the needle or, more significantly, isn’t teaching you anything for the effort.”

This is why we highly suggest starting with getting the essentials into place before hopping into your optimization tools and testing.

If you want to know more about tests that truly move the needle, read this.

3. People and skills

Out of all the pillars, people and skills tend to be looked over the most.

This area centers around what investments a business is making in their people and their people’s skills to create a multi-disciplinary team that will drive customer-led user experience.

Think about those dreaded group projects that we’ve all had to do at least a few times. When they go poorly, it isn’t necessarily because the objective or the plan itself was subpar. 

In many circumstances, it’s because the group members’ skills and experience don’t quite match up against the roles they need to fulfill. 

When it comes to CRO, if there is a disparity in UX, copywriting, and psychology skills, there will be limitations to the business’s optimization, which makes it harder to move the business forward.

4. Process and methodology

The last pillar is concerned with the approach a business takes to deliver their customer experience improvements with a customer-led mindset.

Rouke observed that “many companies are talking the talk, but not walking the walk.” It’s easy to say a business is customer-centric but it’s hard to follow through.

Tests may be being implemented, but there isn’t much substance to them as they don’t procure meaningful results to learn from. 

In general, most businesses are missing some elements covered by these four pillars. The goal is to be as comprehensive as possible to be able to truly maximize your optimization strategy.

CRO strategy checklist and tips

Now that you know what makes up a solid foundation for optimization, let’s go into our checklist and tips for when you do start testing, including common CRO tools. 

checklist
Use a checklist to make sure you’re considering everything you should – source

Clarify business goals

Quite simply, if you can’t identify your conversion goals, you shouldn’t even be thinking about what tests to run, since you have no way to tell if you’re hitting benchmarks or KPIs.

When you’re testing, you need to make sure the tests align with business goals. Your conversion rate optimization strategy is about making more money, not proving your testing prowess.

Start by making sure that what you’re looking to optimize will not handicap any higher-level goals as you try to turn your potential customers into paying customers. 

For example, maybe your test finds that ad creative with a person in it creates more engagement. That’s awesome — but are those engaged users taking the next step? Are they quality users that are actually interested in what you’re trying to sell? Are they clicking the CTA?

If you’re measuring engagement through likes and comments, don’t forget to keep an eye on metrics further along the funnel such as leads or adds to cart to make sure they’re also benefiting from your efforts. 

An engaged crowd is nothing without conversions or sales.

Goal alignment for landing pages

On your landing page, everything should be centered on getting the user to take one specific action that supports your goal, AKA the call-to-action or CTA button.

CTAs
Starting saving, call now, view demo (AND a chat)

Make sure that you and your team agree on the highest priority action that you want users to take. Then, make that CTA the ONLY and most eye-catching aspect of your page.

CTA
Follow us on Dribbble to see more of our work

Usability tests are a great way to see what can be improved on the landing page to ensure they’re aligned with your goals.

Usability Hub is a “fast user testing” service where you can submit a snapshot of your page with your desired action. It helps you see the pain points that you can reasonably expect from a first-time visitor.

Understand users

It’s not an overstatement to say that you should become absolutely obsessed with your users, both existing traffic and new traffic.

It’s also not an overstatement to say that “making it work” with just demographics is lazy.

Why?

For example, think about your favorite uncle and your least favorite college professor. There’s a good chance that they’re in a lot of the same demographics, and there’s a small chance that they’re actually anything alike.

Demographics give you a vague idea of who you’re talking to, and you really have no idea what that person is like or how they’ll react to things.

If you want to run campaigns, you’re gonna need to become your customers’ best friends.

Who they are, what they want, and what makes them tick. 

Get analytics and data

Before you can figure out what you need to optimize, you first need to know what data you’re working with. If there’s no way to get data, there’s no way to optimize.

Google Analytics is a standard tool for checking website traffic metrics on your web pages. It can give you information like the number of visitors or bounce rate.

To learn more about the functionality of Google Analytics tips and tricks, read this.

Use heatmaps

Heatmaps can be your secret weapon to understanding website visitors, as they can reveal the actions, and more importantly, the lack of actions taken on your landing page.

Hotjar heatmap
Example of a Hotjar heatmap – source

Use surveys

Website visitors might have been coming to your website for years, a few weeks, or even just a few hours. But if given the chance, they would probably have something to say regardless of how long they’ve been around.

Offering a survey gives visitors a chance to talk. They might tell you something you haven’t even considered.

There are plenty of survey tools out there, but whatever tool you decide to use, create your survey with care. You’re going to want to set aside a good amount of time to create your buyer personas, get into the answers, and categorize them.

Conversion XL has one of the best guides for creating killer qualitative surveys and getting useful analysis from them.

Use testimonials

Understanding users also relates to showing them information that they relate to.

When it comes to an eCommerce site, 88% of buyers are influenced in their buying by reviews, and 73% of consumers claim that they have been influenced by a brand’s social media presence when making a purchasing decision.

These social proof statistics demonstrate how powerful it is to understand what your users may want to see, as those experiences may also be their experiences.

Emphasize value

You have an idea about what values your customers view as most important. Now, it’s time to monetize them.

Knowing how much your unique value propositions (UVPs) are worth to your business will make testing and achieving your goals way easier, so try your best to make an ordered list of what makes your business unique from your competitors.

Then, predominantly feature those items in your marketing content.

Okay, you can start testing now

There you have it.

You’re ready to think about how you want to create your testing strategy to impress the daylights out of your clients, your boss, and yourself.

Remember, conversion rate optimization is a tool to make more money. Plan your approach, and the results will come. Stay tuned. We’ll talk about our favorite techniques to help you max out your conversions next.

Chapter 3:
CRO Strategies

What You’ll Learn: You understand CRO, you know how to accurately test, now what tried & true strategies can you put to the test?

Chapter 4:
CRO Tips and Tricks

What You’ll Learn: Sometimes one new idea is all you need to get a new test to perform better. Here are some tips and tricks to take you further.

Chapter 5:
Optimize Your Landing Page

What You’ll Learn: Landing pages are created specifically for conversions so it’s where CRO can really take the cake. These are probably already on your landing page—but could be better.