If Living Coral is the 2019 Pantone color of the year, then the classic Photoshop “Blue, Red, Yellow” Gradient is most certainly the digital marketing pattern of the year:
Spanning the web, you’ll see digital marketing sites far and wide using this classic “Instagram” color scheme.
From the popular content aggregator, Zest.is
Sites all over are going gaa-gaa for gradients.
Find a prominent SEO influencer on LinkedIn and chances are, you’ll see a little rocket icon strategically placed next to their name.
The brightly colored classic rocket ship has become somewhat synonymous with SEO — a field that continues to skyrocket in popularity.
In fact, a Google Trends comparison reveals that SEO (blue) completely trumps CRO (red) in terms of interest and web searches. This trend has persisted, since 2004 — even though growth in both optimization fields jumped quickly at the get go.
So, why is it that SEO growth continues to outstrip CRO?
There’s likely many reasons, including the fact SEO has definitive optimization strategies, where as CRO is more vague. In SEO, follow best practices, and by in large, you can drive traffic to your website. But, in CRO it’s not as concrete. There’s few best practices that work well on ALL sites for ALL audiences.
And, since there’s no steadfast conversion strategies, it’s a harder practice to adopt and learn.
But, in 2019, I believe we can learn from from our bigger optimization sister, SEO. How? By considering keywords, as done in SEO.
In CRO, there’s no unified keyword, or phrase to label our practice. What do we call our craft? Conversion Rate Optimization? CRO? Just plain old Conversion Optimization? Or, it is Conversion Optimisation with an “S”?
There are so many variants and spellings that, from an SEO standpoint, there’s no clear keyword for the name of our practice. To grow, I believe we need to create a unified name for our practice so all people looking to learn more can find everything labelled under one roof.
What should our practice be called?
One clue to help point us in the right direction is to look at keyword value, a strategy we can, again, adopt from SEO.
Assessing the value of keywords, on Google through the free Chrome extension Keywords Everywhere, it’s clear the term “Conversion Rate Optimization” has the highest search volume, and is, therefore, the most popular search term:
But, interestingly, Conversion Optimization goes for a much higher cost per click (CPC), showing its more valued and companies are willing to pay more to “own” the term:
The variants Conversion Rate Optimisation and Conversion Optimisation — with an “S” — trail behind, perhaps because they’re primarily used only in countries that spell with British English:
So, in 2019, I believe our challenge as an industry is to be able to definitively assert what we’re called and what works within the practice. If we can spell these things out — both literally and figuratively — I predict we’ll see CRO grow to become both a term and practice as well-known, and as popular as SEO.
There are many other important aspects that will also contribute to the growth of our industry. Here’s what some of the top experts think will happen in 2019:
At the heart of conversion rate optimization and testing is better understanding the customer. Testing just to improve usability on a device is not enough.
We have gotten to the point where our society is now full of customers who are almost cyborgs – their phone is an extension of their commerce (and perhaps their very being).
As Ingrid Lunden said on TechCrunch in her article about Black Friday 2018 sales, “mobile overall is coming close to accounting for nearly half of all transactions, a major milestone.”
So a big trend for 2019 should be testing not just with the hope of a usability improvement on mobile, but with a hypothesis-driven curiosity centered around truly understanding the mobile user.
True understanding leads to better serving the customer on mobile. And that, ultimately, is the path to increase mobile conversion rates.
In 2019, marketers will search for more direct ways to talk to customers.
I predict that 1:1 Messenger marketing and bots will be at the top of the list of technology to explore and deploy.
Digital marketers will also begin to employ more personalized video messaging and content to help keep engagement up on all the social platforms.
More businesses and more competition are emerging every day – that’s not new. But, what’s happening as a result is that the differentiators between businesses (the reason a customer will buy from Business X over Business Y) is becoming less about the products and features (because they’re usually very similar between competitors) and more about who provides a better Customer Experience.
Customer Experience (CX), essentially, is becoming a conversion rate optimization strategy.
Customer Experience is a broad term. What I mean by CX is really personalizing the customer’s experience with your brand and customer service. The kind of personalization that happens when you use customer data to offer more relevant solutions, AND, the kind of personalization that feels like an interaction between two human beings (rather than a bot that knows your name). This might look like chatbots that trigger interactions based on user behavior – if they’re looking at a specific product, or act lost on a website, you could have a chatbot chirp in to ease any source of friction at just the right time. Or, this might look like collecting user data so when they contact customer service, the agent already knows what they bought, what problems they had in the past, and what solutions have already been tried.
Personalization as a trend in CRO hasn’t even crested yet. It’s still growing! Research is showing that personalization can reduce acquisition costs by half, raise revenue by 5015% and increase the value-per-dollar of marketing budgets between 10-30%.
Of course, the challenge of personalization is scaling it. Which means the trends in tech are going to be around customer experience tools that use automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to deliver increasingly relevant results.
The biggest CRO Testing Trend in 2019? I believe it will be that more people across every organization will pay attention to CRO and, as a result, pay attention to the customer experience.
Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) are up and it’s getting harder to acquire new customers. Most discussions on how to handle these growth challenges place focus on customer support and customer success, as primary growth drivers — I know. I spearheaded the strategy at Help Scout and authored our Support-Driven Growth Strategy.
But, you can’t grow only with the customers you already have. You can’t turn away from acquisition. Instead, you need to lean into it. And you can’t lean into it the way it’s been done in the past: spend more money, send more emails, post more on social, write more blog posts. That strategy won’t work anymore — actually, it’s why customer acquisition costs have increased.
The biggest growth driver in 2019 will be where you spend your time and attention. It will be about making the most of every person coming in contact with your organization. You will achieve growth by paying attention to the people who are paying attention to you.
There’s no better way to do that than through CRO — the highest ROI of any marketing investment which, coincidentally, according to a study run by Neil Patel Digital, only accounts for 1.7% of marketing spend.
CRO is the highest ROI way to combat rising CAC — which is why the biggest trend we’ll see in our space is more people doing more CRO themselves.
While it may only start to burgeon in 2019, I think the trend toward personalized website experiences will continue to increase over the next few years. We will eventually see websites that differ based on the user and their journey.
This trend will be similar to what we saw a few years ago when companies really started to segment their email lists to send different messages to different types of subscribers. The same thing is now happening on websites in real-time as companies get better at identifying who’s on their site and how those users are behaving.
When done well, it’s very powerful for increasing conversions and will only become more sophisticated over time.
I think the CRO trend I’ll be focusing most of my attention on is understanding your audience, based on location.
I’ve recently been focusing a lot of time this year really understanding what zipcodes and DMA regions get the most conversions and making sure I create specific landing pages for these regions/areas.
I think sometimes we tend to focus all our attention on a landing pages, based on a keyword theme, but fail to realize that different places have different ways of seeing things, or saying things, and those local differences need to be understood.
The best part also is that you can optimize your bids in Adwords and FaceBook using location-based information. So, you can create a test where you increase bids for locations you tend to convert better in, and drop bids in places you don’t — instead of removing them entirely.
It’s all about finding the perfect balance.
If SEO is really dead, CRO is its zombie!
The most clever SEO orphans will naturally transmigrate to Conversion Rate Optimization or will really die themselves (professionally speaking) ????
Testing and CRO are the future of our business. Not understanding that idea means hard times in the coming years.
Testing for lower traffic websites has always been an issue, yet considering that CRO is so ingrained in many organizations, I’d expect that 2019 will see a push for industry benchmarking of the primary actions most B2B websites focus on – asset downloads and lead gen activities.
There hasn’t yet been a great way to balance the desire for velocity in testing with lagging sales metrics such as Sales Qualified Leads and Pipeline generation (since testing tends to be focused on immediate actions whereas sales metrics tend to take time), but as CRO matures hopefully some company or individual will create the definitive attribution model that’s applied across the community.
Like SEO, CRO is a never-ending process.
With SEO, you can improve rankings with on-site structural changes and the accumulation of high authority links indefinitely. Given the opportunities granted by linguistic variation, there is seemingly no end point.
The challenge with CRO, and classic SEO tactics, is that they can be at odds with each other. One discipline is designed to optimize websites for machines, and the other for people. Sometimes it’s necessary to sacrifice some rankings to improve CRO. SEO keywords don’t always lend themselves to earth-shattering, arresting headlines, after all. At the of the day it’s important to remember it’s the customer you should be tailoring all your digital efforts to, not the machine. If you can improve your conversion rate by at least 10%, it’s probably worth losing 1-2 keywords in the top results – as momentarily painful as that might be.
Should you find a balance? Of course, you need to look at your digital marketing strategy holistically, tracking performance and results. You cannot succeed in SEO without constantly improving UX and conversion rates, nor can you perfect CRO without SEO pillars in place.
Looking deep into my crystal ball, the future is looking bright for consumers with CRO taking a more elegant approach to personalization.
The near future will see us utilize data more to our advantage, giving the end customer an experience more akin to a face-to-face interaction with every moment tailored, every conversation manicured, and every bit of content connected to the end customers intention.
Where do you see digital marketing and Conversion Rate Optimization headed in 2019? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.