What CRO Model is Right for Your Business?

Neil McKay

A few weeks ago, we hosted a dinner for our clients to say thank you for their support and partnership. We had around 50 guests.

During the evening, one of our clients said it was really interesting learning how we worked with different clients. And I hadn’t thought about it until then, but yes, we do work differently with different clients.

We have clients who work with us as a full-service CRO partner—some who use us for a specific role within their CRO programme, some who use us as their lead design agency, and some who use us as their research agency to help answer specific consumer problems. And most recently, clients are starting to use our biometric technology to help test various physical prototype products.

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is evolving and it is answering real business and consumer challenges, to give consumers a better experience and helping businesses make more money. It is, therefore, very important to constantly optimise your website and stay on top of the game.

Which Is the Right CRO Model for You and Your Business?

Like with many things, deciding a CRO method depends on so many factors that are specific to your business. Generally, though, you’ll have three main options to choose from:

  • Do it yourself in-house
  • Employ an agency
  • Hybrid model (integrating an agency with your in-house team)

Do It Yourself In-house

Some advantages of doing it yourself in-house include:

  • Familiarity: The team involved (e.g. analysts, designers, developers) are already familiar with your website. They work on it day in and day out. Your team knows your business and so have a better and quicker idea of what is possible and what isn’t in terms of technical roll outs, etc.
  • Priority:Unlike an agency, your team’s sole priority is your site, which means you can roll out experiments as and when you want. The only things ahead of you in the queue will be your own work.
  • Communication:Internal teams will hopefully also be able to communicate more freely with other colleagues within your company, making the communication processes easier.

Some disadvantages of doing CRO in-house are:

  • Resources: The biggest challenge we have witnessed for retailers doing CRO in-house is that of resources. Whilst all the skills required are available in-house (analytics, development, design, QA, etc), these resources often have other primary jobs to do and CRO is an addition to their work. When things get busier, CRO is often one of the first things to fall down the priority list.
  • Cost: Most retailers we work with run 5 to 20 experiments a month. Employing a dedicated team to do only CRO can be costly and a long-term financial commitment. You’d probably be looking at approx. £330k per annum in terms of salaries, etc.The table below lists the roles that need to be filled to do your own CRO:
  • Time:An in-house team’s experience is often limited to your site; so new ideas, concepts, broader industry knowledge, and expertise are often limited. This results in businesses often taking longer to generate sustainable desired results, which often leads to retailers falling behind their competitors.

Employ an Agency

Some advantages worth considering of employing an agency include:

  • Track record of success: Agencies tend to outperform in-house teams by 21% in terms of getting a statistically significant uplift of more than 10%, as per the analysis of 28,304 experiments by Conversionxl.com1 in 2019.
  • Unbiased (external) point of view: An external highly experienced set of eyes looking at your website often brings new/unseen problems/opportunities. Often, internal teams are too close to their website, leading to missed opportunities.
  • Speed: Agencies generally have a scientific process for research and experimentation. They also have dedicated resources for building and analysing experiments. This combination of process and resource allows them to conduct robust experiments at speed often faster than in-house teams.

Some disadvantages of outsourcing to an agency are:

  • Flexibility: Often, as a retailer you’ll use an agency to build you a certain number of experiments. To achieve your goal, the agency will generally work in an agile manner, using ‘sprint’ planning to help deliver your experiments. Sometimes when you request changes in the middle of a sprint, your activity can get delayed until the next sprint. For some clients this method may seem inflexible.

The reality is that the agency is building x number of experiments for you and their other clients during the sprint, so changes requested to the experiment build after sign-off can cause delays.

  • Agency focus: Some agencies specialise 100% in something. Some don’t. When you use an agency that is 100% focused in their profession, you can gain some comfort in their dedication and experience. What they do for you is all they do. They live and die by their practice.

On the other hand, there are some agencies that provide a combination of services—from media planning & buying to digital marketing, right through to web build and CRO as extensions of their offering. They do this because clients’ needs often dictate the services they provide.

The challenge for retailers can be finding a full-service agency that has the appropriate level of expertise and dedicated focus needed for your business, when CRO is only a small focus for theirs.

Hybrid CRO Model (Integrating an Agency with Your In-house Team)

Some advantages of adopting a hybrid model include:

  • Strength in numbers: By dovetailing the in-house and agency teams together, retailers often get the best of both worlds. You can gain in knowledge transfer (both ways), expert resources plugging internal gaps, and advancing department skillsets and ultimately, the speed of test delivery.
  • Flexibility: A hybrid model allows for a culture of flexibility, with resources working together in whatever way is required to fulfil the company’s objective. You are not restrained by x number of tests or x number of hours from a certain skillset. You do what is required to achieve the collective goal.

Some disadvantages of adopting a hybrid model are:

  • Unclear roles: If roles and responsibilities are not defined clearly between the now bigger team (in-house and agency), things might get missed and fall through the cracks, resulting in inefficiencies.
  • Cultural fit: Often the thing that slows down a hybrid model is culture. The agency and in-house teams must gel together. They must be a good fit. Each team needs to bring something to the table that the other doesn’t.

For example, a client of ours values our ‘psychological approach’ to testing and our advanced ‘biometric’ customer research. Another values our in-depth research and another values our designs which are based upon research and insights.

These new and complementary skillsets bring new ideas, new ways of thinking, new knowledge-sharing, and competitor advantages. But alongside these complementary skills, you may also need duplicate skills. For example, having more developers and/or QA engineers allows you to code up and run more experiments faster.

As you can see from these examples, there are multiple options available to you when deciding how to run your CRO programme. Your business may go through various stages in its life cycle and during each stage you may require a different method of working.

Be flexible and be open to optimise your business, constantly looking to work in a manner that helps you achieve your strategic and trading goals, alongside continually improving your customers’ buying experience.

Any way we can help you, we’d be delighted to.

[1] 5 Things We Learned from Analyzing 28,304 Experiments