Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is an essential component of your marketing strategy. Any approach that you take to improve the conversion rate of your website falls under the category of “conversion rate optimization.” As much as 50 percent of businesses say that CRO is a critical part of their brand’s digital marketing strategy. We agree because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much new traffic your marketing team can drive with content, SEO, and lead generation if that traffic doesn’t convert to customers.
There are times when you have to give preference to conversion rate optimization over brand guidelines or vice versa. What exactly are you supposed to do when CRO stands face-to-face with your brand guidelines? Should CRO be your preference (as it leads to sales and revenue) or should your brand dominate CRO practices? Importantly, what is the relationship (if there is any) between CRO and your brand?
Let’s dig deep.
Optimizing your website for conversions requires continuous tweaks. It is an ongoing process where all the elements on your website and landing pages are tested to see what works best. Some of the tests might be changing buttons, calls-to-action (CTA) copy, header images, landing page copy, and more. Research shows that companies that use 40+ landing pages have the highest conversion rate:
More landing pages mean more conversion opportunities for visitors. A company with over 40 landing pages will need to optimize all these pages to improve conversions. A pretty big task, right?
Yes, it is.
When you tweak your website for conversions, there are several elements that you can’t change without the input from several departments. These are elements (font style, button color, form fields, etc.) that represent your brand philosophy.
CRO vs. Brand
Conversion rate optimization is focused on improving conversion rate and making sure visitors (and customers) convert when they land on your website and don’t just “bounce.” For example, you might have a landing page that has a significantly low conversion rate. Visitors land and don’t fill out the form to grab your lead magnet. This means you are losing potential customers.
This is where CRO comes into action.
You need to identify issues that leak visitors. There could be several reasons why visitors don’t fill and submit the form. It could be due to invisible CTA, long form, a low-value lead magnet, poor headline, etc. You need to create bounce hypotheses based on your data, and then test these hypotheses.
The data for the hypotheses can be collected via a survey, different CRO tools, behavioral analytics, web analytics, or a suite of possible online marketing analytics tools. For example, you can use heatmap and session recordings to see how visitors interact with the landing page.
After you identify that visitors, somehow, don’t know what they're supposed to do when they land on the landing page, you'll have to tweak the landing page based on data-driven hypothesis, run an A/B test, and see what changes increase conversion rate. A/B tests involve splitting different versions of landing pages and serving them up to website visitors to see which one converts better. The winner is the one you use or sometimes replace on your website.
When tweaking different pages of the website, you might end up creating inconsistent webpages, and that’s where it starts hurting your brand. Ninety percent of customers want to have a consistent experience with a brand across all touchpoints. And 64 percent of consumers say that shared values are the core reason why they stick with a brand and develop a relationship with it.
Change your brand value – you'll start losing your customers in no time.
Branding is related to perception, memory, emotions, and value, while CRO deals with data and numbers. CRO doesn’t measure consumer perception and emotions – it can’t. However, what CRO does is essentially covered by the brand.
CRO is a subset of your brand. And any change in your website with an intention to improve conversion rate should follow your brand guidelines. This is how your brand will stay consistent and deliver a consistent UX across all channels.
If the CRO team is set free to tweak pages in any way they like, you might end up having inconsistent pages on your website. When done right, CRO strengthens your brand.
How CRO Strengthens Your Brand
An important part of your brand is your brand style guide, which includes all the essential elements that are used for brand differentiation and identification. These are visual elements such as color palette, logo, typeface, and others.
Here is an example of Spotify’s branding guidelines:
These guidelines are used to avoid inconsistencies in visual communication that might hurt brand identity, vision, value, strategy, and philosophy. The brand guidelines should be in a document that is shared with all the employees and teams, including the CRO team (or the marketing team, which performs CRO tasks). CRO campaigns that follow and stick with the brand guidelines will eventually strengthen brand credibility and identity.
For example, if the CRO team wants to tweak an image on the homepage, it needs to refer to the brand guidelines and check imagery specifications. If the proposed change falls within the guidelines, great. However, if an image violates imagery rules, the change must be revoked as it will hurt brand communication.
When hypotheses are developed and validated based on branding guidelines, your CRO campaigns will lead to brand credibility. Here are some practical techniques that your CRO team can use to improve brand credibility:
Work together with the brand instead of working against it.
Follow brand guidelines no matter what. Share it with all the team members.
Use CRO techniques that are independent of brand guidelines such as site load time, customer feedback, social proof, etc.
Focus on retaining customers as the golden rule is: 80 percent of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers.
CRO Must Also Work with UX
User experience (UX) is focused on improving engagement such as time spent on a webpage, bounce rate, social shares, purchase frequency, etc. These metrics are more geared towards brand credibility as opposed to CRO techniques that simply focus on conversion (e.g., CTA button color, number of form fields, imagery, etc.).
CRO techniques that are focused on testing and improving UX deliver a more consistent brand image and don’t collide with brand guidelines. For example, if a blog post has low social shares, you can run an onsite survey to figure out why readers aren’t sharing this blog post. Or, you can compare the blog post with other posts with high social shares and see what’s missing.
This experiment doesn’t require any changes that are against brand guidelines. The same is the case with other UX optimization techniques.
Conversion rate optimization must start with UX optimization because it's least likely to go against the brand. In fact, CRO needs to work together with all the marketing areas, not just UX. For example, understanding why a specific referral has a significantly low conversion rate and why different backlinks from the same domain have different conversion rates are also the domain of CRO.
Here is an overview of the CRO techniques to improve UX:
Improve site load time.
Use a responsive website design.
Use white space to improve comprehension and to guide users to the important elements on your landing pages.
Maintain consistency in design and layout.
Remove or fix 404 pages. Make them user-friendly.
Minimize choices for users so they can quickly and conveniently make decisions.
Improve readability and make content scannable.
Use Google Analytics to improve engagement metrics.
CRO or Brand: Who Wins?
The brand should guide CRO because this is the best approach to website optimization without losing what your brand stands for.. When the CRO fails a brand, it has lost sight of brand guidelines. All the market players — from CRO and lead generation to content and SEO — should work together for brand growth so that a consistent message is communicated throughout the funnel and across all marketing channels and customer touchpoints.
In a war between brand and CRO, both will lose eventually. Both should join hands and work together and compete against competitors. If your company needs support to help guide your CRO and brand ship, we can help. Contact us to learn more.