Conversion rate optimisation, or CRO marketing, as it is also known, is a complex discipline. However, there is one fundamental choice that will determine the entire approach you adopt.
I think what fascinates me so much about conversion rate optimisation, and by extension, CRO Marketing is the human psychology behind it and the mental processes that lead somebody to take action on a website.
You quickly learn that with a thorough enough understanding of people, you can encourage them to take almost any action.
Now there are obvious ethical concerns with that statement, and CRO marketing is a minefield of potential dangers in that regards. Is it okay for us to manipulate a user into taking an action they later regret? I would argue it isn’t.
However, the choice we all face working in the field isn’t solely an ethical one, and anyway, I don’t believe I have the right to lecture others on ethics.
Instead, the fundamental choice you need to make when working in CRO marketing is a choice about your objective.
What is Your Objective in CRO Marketing?
I am aware that asking you what your objective is in CRO marketing may seem ridiculous. After all, the clue is in the name. Surely the aim is to optimise your conversion rate.
However, in truth, your objective needs to be more specific than that. In particular, you need to decide on the sustainability of your goal. How long do you need to sustain a higher conversion rate, and what cost are you willing to pay to achieve that?
I realise that sounds kind of abstract, but answering that question will have a practical impact on the techniques you use to increase your conversion rate.
Why Sustainability Matters for CRO Marketing
The reason that sustainability needs to be at the front of your mind when considering CRO marketing is that many of the techniques available to you come at a high price.
For example, more manipulative techniques (often known as dark patterns) can be compelling in the short-term but damaging longer-term.
They can lead to buyer’s remorse, more returns and negative reviews online. These factors can cost the business in increased customer support, and more substantial advertising spend to counteract negative comments online. They will also lead to a sharp decline in repeat orders and average lifetime value.
In most cases, this kind of short-term thinking is counter-productive, and you should avoid them. However, setting aside ethics it may be appropriate in specific scenarios where there is a short window of opportunity for a business.
The real problem comes, not with the adoption of dark patterns so much as our unwillingness to be honest with ourselves.
Are You Being Honest With Yourself?
Many of those working in CRO marketing are under tremendous pressure to deliver results. Management has set targets and in some cases, our end of year bonus or even job depends on us delivering.
In such scenarios, we can find ourselves favouring short-term results for personal reasons, rather than considering the long term health of the business.
We adopt CRO marketing techniques that will bring results quickly, ignoring the long term consequences.
Of course, this is understandable when under so much pressure. A pressure that is often at least part of our own making. We often inadvertently create unrealistic expectations among management.
Realigning Managements Expectations
When we first start optimising the conversion rate of an existing site, we often see enormous success. There are so many opportunities that we are spoilt for choice and can quickly pick off the low hanging fruit.
These early days set managements expectations for growth, and that is dangerous as even the best CRO marketing expert cannot hope to maintain those initial levels of growth. As we have made the most obvious improvements, our work becomes more nuanced and slows, relying heavily on split testing.
Unfortunately, we are typically poor at expressing this early on to managers. By the time we have the conversation, management’s expectations have been set, and we sound like we are making excuses for slower improvements.
We need to manage management’s expectations from day one, making it clear that the initial gains will not be possible in the long-term.
That said, for many of us, that moment has passed, and now we have to make a decision, disappoint management or risk long term business impacts.
Put the Ball Firmly in Managements Court
It is tempting to succumb to more manipulative CRO marketing techniques to meet the target’s management have given us. However, to do this without at least discussing it with management is a mistake.
We should make management aware of the cost of endeavouring to meet aggressive targets over the long-term. It can then be their choice as to whether they are willing to pay that potential price.
If you don’t make them aware, you are ultimately doing them and the company a disservice.
That is even truer if you work for a CRO marketing agency and are attempting to achieve results for clients. Decisions of this nature ultimately have to be the client’s decision, even if you are willing to adopt more questionable tactics. It is their business that you could be damaging, and they need to be aware of the costs of their hunger for short-term conversion.
Even if an organisation is willing to pay the cost, it is unwise to rely on these techniques.
A Long-Term Tactical Mistake
Aggressive CRO marketing techniques will only have a limited shelf-life. Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy and resistance to the hard sell, and we are now reaching the point where even governments are intervening.
Ultimately, even if you work for a company who is willing to embrace dark patterns, it would be a mistake to rely too heavily on them from a personal career perspective. It won’t be many more years before they prove ineffective, and so you will need other techniques in your arsenal.