CRO: What Is Holding Businesses Back?

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What is stopping businesses from leveraging CRO and unleashing its full potential? Dr Dave Chaffey reveals all.

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) should have great appeal across different types of businesses. 

E-commerce businesses can increase sales to improve their add to basket or sale conversion rates by applying A/B testing across different pages in the customer journey, while businesses involved in lead generation can increase lead volume by improving profile capture forms and the calls-to-action linking to them.

Yet, it seems that many businesses are missing out on the full potential of CRO and regular structured experiments on their website to improve the website. This research by Smart Insights into the popularity of conversion optimisation techniques shows that only around 50% are using AB testing.

This represents a good rate of adoption, but there are still many businesses who aren't using it and other techniques like personas and customer journey mapping. So in this article I'll be asking why is this case and how you can implement CRO.

If we think of CRO as any changed business or marketing process, that can help us consider it. The McKinsey 7S business change model gives a simple way to review how CRO activities can be introduced. Let's take a look at each of the 7Ss.


As you'll know, this is defining strategic initiatives to help an organisation to achieve its goals. To gain focus on CRO initiatives requires you to have SMART marketing objectives, such as targets for increasing conversion rate and average order value or lead volume in quality. With these objectives in place and regular review of performance against target, it's unlikely there will be sufficient focus.


This is the organisation of resources within a company into different business groups and teams. If the marketing team is of sufficient size, then there may be a group or part of a group focusing on scheduling regular structured experiments. This is often the case in larger organisations, so for example, Zalando the largest clothing retailer in Europe has a product analytics team which focuses on tests which help create a compelling experience around products to boost conversion.

Of course, smaller businesses won't find it practical to have a dedicated team or even role for CRO which brings us on to...


This is the capabilities to complete different activities. Since CRO is relatively new it may be the lack of internal skills which can hold you back. Despite the claims of the vendors, CRO is not straightforward. For it to be effective it needs knowledge of a process for identifying and defining tests and most important, using statistical significance to assess the results for whether they should be implemented.


Closely related to skills, this is the type of employees, remuneration packages and how they are attracted and retained. Certainly you can look to hire these skills in, but a single CRO specialist may not be warranted. Instead it may be best to outsource these skills to an agency or consultant who is experienced in the techniques.

Potentially you can arrange knowledge transfer such that skills in CRO are passed on.


These are the business processes and the technical platforms used to support operations. There is certainly no shortage of AB testing systems. This analysis shows the 40 most popular AB testing tools.


Systems also refers to having repeatable processes. The recent Econsultancy - Redeye report on CRO showed that many businesses who are testing are only completing 1 or 2 tests per month.

Number of AB tests per month

If you think about the complexity of the customer journey with many page template types and page elements, then this suggests a missed opportunity compared to the businesses who are completing tens of tests each month!

Style and Shared Values

These are culture of the organisation in terms of leadership and interactions between staff and other stakeholders. Shared Values are often shared in a vision and or mission. These types of statements can be used within testing teams to show intent and commitment to CRO initiatives.

For example, Zalando's call-to-arms for the future is:

It’s our vision that every product decision – be it the discovery or rollout of a new product; be it on the customer-facing, brand, core platform or intermediary side – is backed by analytical insights and rigorous impact testing. Thereby, we’re building a solid foundation for the next big learning curve in analytics: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

Want to know more of Dr Dave Chaffey's thoughts? Read his previous post: Opportunities For Using Web Development To Improve SEO

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