Who doesn’t want to improve their conversion rates? In my last post I discussed onsite retargeting but if you haven’t started your conversion rate optimisation (CRO) journey then it’s going to be hard to test the impact of this. The thing is – everyone’s trying to convince you that they specialise in optimisation, CRO, personalisation, AB testing etc. so how can you really know who to trust?

7 years ago it was a lot easier as there weren’t many companies in the CRO space let alone digital marketing agencies trying to move into this area. Fast forward to 2017 and you’ll find that choosing the right partner for your optimisation programme is not as simple as it was and requires considerable research to make sure your CRO budget isn’t going down the drain.

I’m going to explore 10 areas to consider when choosing your next optimisation partner.

1. In-House Expertise (and Team Location)

Well this isn’t a good start. My first point is actually two points but as they are so closely entwined I’ll let myself off.

In my experience ‘In-House expertise’ always surpasses work (or a team) that is ‘outsourced’. I’d even go a step further and say that having a team all in one physical location rather than in different offices around the country/world benefits the client in a whole number of ways. Time isn’t lost waiting on colleagues in different time zones to reply to requests, important information isn’t missed as frequently as people are conversing face to face as well as over email and the team understand the culture that the client is operating in.

In recent years I’ve come across numerous digital marketing agencies claiming to offer CRO services or calling themselves ‘specialists’ in CRO. It doesn’t take much digging to find that they are simply a generic digital marketing agency who have got wind of this new buzzword and figure it’s worth a shot at selling this. When you research who would be their optimisation consultant it often turns out to be a digital marketer with a little SEO/PPC background but no real experience in CRO.

I’ll put this plainly. If you want serious results don’t skimp on expertise. There are two main aspects to this – consultants and developers. Make sure your CRO partner can offer you consultants who have multiple years of experience and have a proven track record of designing well thought out tests. If you’re also wanting the partner to build your tests then the same applies to developer expertise. A good CRO developer is not the same as a good JavaScript/jQuery developer. It takes time for devs to learn how to code AB tests in an efficient and robust manner. After all, you can have the best designed test but if it’s not tracking correctly and consistently then the results will be meaningless.

2. The User Interface

Even if you’ve opted for a ‘managed service‘ there will come a time when you and your colleagues will need to use the UI to check in on test reports. You may even want to create the odd test yourself using a simple to use WYSIWYG interface. Or perhaps you’re looking for a CRO partner that offers all of these things – an advanced editor for the hardcore devs building the more complex tests as well as a point and click UI for the less techie marketer. Other things to look out for are any additional out-the-box capabilities such as asset hosting and advanced segmentation. Make sure you get a demo or trial so you can view the UI for yourself – don’t rely on screenshots on the companies website.

3. Stability & Security

By putting an optimisation tag on your website you open yourself up to risk. You need to trust the company who owns the tag as you are essentially giving them the keys to your shop. A CRO tool can change any page that has the tag on, and assuming you’ve installed their tags across your whole site this means they could change/break any one of your pages.

Of course if things are managed correctly then the risk is minimal. You’re headed in the right direction if your CRO partner has page timeouts (used to ensure no page is prevented from loading if the CRO code doesn’t load), tried and tested QA processes and infrastructure hosted by reputable firms (we use Akamai) with excellent server uptimes.

4. Support

There are a couple of aspects to this one. Firstly, tech support. This should be a given. If something isn’t working then you need to have somewhere to turn to and you shouldn’t be charged extra for this. Different companies have different ways of dealing with this from live chat and email support to phone and onsite support. Make sure you know what you’re getting before you sign.

The other aspect is self serve support. Perhaps you want to build most/all tests yourselves but while your employees are learning the ropes you want to have some training and a place to turn to with questions if you get stuck etc. Again – make sure you know what’s included and what you might be charged extra for.

5. Cost vs ROI

“You can’t put a price on a good CRO solution”. Well actually you can! Find out what sorts of ROI other clients have received from the CRO vendor and make sure you’re going to get an acceptable return. Obviously not all tests will be successful (although you can learn something from every test) but there should be enough winners through the contract to make it worth your while. If in doubt ask to speak with other clients using their solution.

6. Flexibility

Everyone is looking for something a bit different. You need a CRO partner who is flexible and can move and change as your business needs change. Perhaps initially you’d like a managed service but then after some training you’d like more of a hybrid model where you handle the simpler tests and leave the more complex ones to your CRO partner. Or maybe you’re simply looking for a versatile CRO tool and you’d like to handle it all on your own after some initial training.

Of course, it’s completely possible that you are experienced in CRO and you’re looking to take your testing programme to the next level by expanding into app testing or server side testing. Make sure your CRO partner can offer all of these options if there’s even a chance you may want to explore these areas at some point. Chances are – if they don’t have these options now then they won’t in the near future either, despite what they may promise you.

7. Personalisation

Think about what you’d love to do on your website. AB testing should be the foundation of your CRO programme but it shouldn’t end there. An experienced CRO partner should be able to advise you on the best way to personalise your customer experience. If they tell you they can offer 1:1 personalisation from day one then they either don’t understand what they’re promising you or they’re simply trying to make a quick sale. Personalisation takes time and investment to build up customer data and to test that it actually works for you and your customers in the way you think it will.

8. Other Services

I couldn’t think of a clever name for this one but this point shouldn’t be ignored. CRO tools can often offer much more than bog standard AB testing. Many clients will use a CRO tool a bit like a CMS – to bypass their lengthy release schedules. It allows them to make quick changes on their site. There are also a whole host of other services that some CRO tools can offer including: exit intent, hello bars, urgency messaging, form tracking/capture, surveys and lots more. Quite a few times I’ve been chatting with a client only to find out that they are paying a large sum of money to a separate vendor solely to be able to offer an exit intent overlay on their site. They’re always happy when I explain that this is no longer required as they can achieve the same thing using Webtrends Optimize at no additional cost.

9. Trusted

Consider if the CRO partner/vendor you’re researching is trusted in the industry. There are numerous ways to do this but one of the best is to simply talk to others who use them. A trusted CRO partner won’t have anything to hide and will be more than willing to put you in touch with existing clients who can talk you through their experience of the vendor and results to date.

10. Size

Very large organisations are almost always slow. Slow to make changes, slow to deploy updates, slow to respond to emails and phone calls. On the other hand very small organisations are usually able to move much quicker and tend to communicate better with their customers. The downside of course is that very small companies carry a significant element of risk as they likely haven’t been around very long and may not be around in a years time if they don’t hit their ambitious targets. A small to medium sized company is probably ideal as they are smaller enough to care about their customers yet don’t carry the risk that a startup does.

So there you have it. Hopefully this has been useful and helps when you are next selecting a CRO partner.

If you want to know more about what we offer and how we can help you to create a CRO program please get in touch!