Research-backed Optimisation Will Become the Focus for eCommerce: Webtrends Optimize

Endless Gain

Despite eCommerce sales rising by over 98% in the past year (March 2020-2021), conversion rates have registered just around 10.64% growth in the same period (IRP eCommerce Market Data). The highest conversion rate growth was seen in the fashion clothing and accessories sector (35%), while rates declined by 24.6% in the food and drink sector.

eCommerce brands are realising they can do much more to improve their customer experiences and boost conversion rates. The attention is shifting to longer-term planning and a focus on research-backed, CX-focused, sustainable, and continuous optimisation, coupled with personalised experiences.

In this fourth post of our CRO Insights series, Sandeep Shah, Director of Product at leading experimentation platform Webtrends Optimize, tells us about the current trends and the future of conversion rate optimisation and how businesses can leverage the massive growth potential of eCommerce.


What new trends have you observed in the past year in optimisation?

The past year seems to have confirmed what we all knew—CRO is sexy! It’s the new hot thing in digital.

In the industry, we’ve seen huge investment in conversion optimisation platforms from VCs. There have been acquisitions of both platforms and agencies in our space, as larger companies look to bring optimisation into their current offerings. Existing digital agencies are also starting to “do CRO”.

Together, these highlight a widespread appreciation of what we do, which is excellent to see.

Alongside platform/agency growth, we’re seeing a more crowded market as new names appear and businesses pour money into advancing their tech offerings by taking on new customer data platforms, AI-led experience platforms, multi-channel communication tools, etc.

For our customers, there has been a huge focus on Digital, as it became their only sales channel with retail stores closing down due to Covid restrictions. Established brands selling lockdown-friendly items have used optimisation as a lever to ensure stronger success—making sure the best products are promoted, journeys are relevant, delivery statuses are accurate, etc.

All of these ensure both a great customer experience during a fairly new time for everyone and a subsequent increase in conversions and sales.

What do you forecast are going to be key for eCommerce in the next 12 months when it comes to optimisation?

Digital performance is the first. Most web-based businesses live in a world reactionary to Google, and as they focus more intently on Performance and associated UX-focused metrics (layout shifts, contentful paints, etc.), everyone will be hyper-critical of how quickly their websites perform.

Key decisions for web experience may well be driven by performance considerations—something we’re already seeing in anticipation of Google’s next algorithm update. For experimentation, this furthers discussions around server-side testing, tag performance, content flickering, etc.

Next, while mobile-first is certainly not a new concept, continual growth in mobile usage to over 50% of browsing experiences has led to eCommerce businesses prioritising the optimisation of mobile experiences over desktop—something fairly rare 3-4 years ago.

Given that these experiences are less complex, and we’ve so often heard “my mobile conversion rate is awful”, the potential for rapid growth is hard to ignore. Combined with the desire for people to use WYSIWYG tools for tests (we’ve seen over 500% growth in these in the last year), the way people are approaching experimentation is clear.

eCommerce companies have had a few years of picking commoditised tools for delivering experiences—pop-ups, social proofing, recommendations, etc. However, we so often see that they don’t really deliver sustained growth.

Instead, mature eCommerce companies are likely to return to improving customer journeys with solid research and design. By moving from one-size-fits-all experiences such as single PLP or PDP layouts to tailor-made journeys that are relevant to the audience, product, etc., companies can improve their competitive differentiation.

What common mistakes have you seen companies make or challenges you’ve seen them face in the field of optimisation?

There are some “usual sins” we see often, sometimes associated with immaturity in testing and a feeling that people need to prove themselves or sell experimentation into a business.

Stopping experiments at the first sign of validation instead of letting your customers prove the results over time, for example, can lead to results that don’t sustain over a longer period. Looking back at your analytics data 3 months later, you’ll wonder why you’re not seeing the uplifts you thought you had achieved.

Another somewhat related mistake is to only value winning experiments, and move quickly from one idea to the next. Instead, collecting large amounts of behavioural data could help you better understand what people did like about your experience, where they liked it up until, or perhaps better understand why they objected to it.

For example, did most people like it but one user segment absolutely hate it, thus dragging down the overall conversion rate? Could it be a browser that you didn’t test on, a section of the site that behaves differently, or a journey that you didn’t think too much about but that your idea conflicts strongly with?

Generalising findings is troublesome, even though most people want to report back a generic winner as opposed to a composite or conditional one.

However, in doing so, you’re falsely led to believe that something isn’t worth looking at, where in fact it might have been a group of people that responded poorly. This takes time and strong analytical skill or a powerful reporting suite, which isn’t easy to come by.

How is Webtrends Optimize preparing to stay ahead of the game in the optimisation landscape?

We view ourselves as a start-up, and despite having technology that’s proven itself over 20+ years, see everything as fair game to knock down and rebuild.

For performance, our JavaScript snippet/tag has been trimmed recently, but an overhaul will see it being the most lightweight around by a sizeable margin.

For research, we’re bringing together top companies in AI to support innovative research and design experiences in our UI.

For analysis, we’re already halfway through rebuilding our entire collection and reporting service. The quality of reports in our platform has always been excellent, but we’re due to produce reports that go further—higher quality and more automated analysis than you’ll have seen anywhere.

For experimentation, we’re driving no-code experiences for simpler users and advanced features that developers will love too.

Finally, for the industry, we have numerous educational streams including webinars and live-coding sessions. The latter seeks to show the industry that you can achieve a lot without having a massive price tag attached—something that suits our no-nonsense approach as a company.

This, combined with our strong social drive to address myths/misinformation and weekly training sessions, looks to drive up everyone’s knowledge and skill levels.

In short, it’s a comprehensive approach to try and bring the industry to the level we know we can all operate at.

This is the fourth of a series of posts where we speak with leading customer experience optimisation companies on trends and the future of digital growth. Check out the previous conversations with SessionCam, Fresh Relevance, and VWO here.

Stay tuned for the next one!