8 Reasons Why Brands Don’t Invest in CRO

In this Insight we confront the eight major reasons why brands don’t (or are afraid to) invest in CRO.

Over the last several years, conversion rate optimization (CRO) has grown to be a ubiquitous term in the ecommerce world. It’s widely recognized as one of the most important aspects of the digital marketing industry, second only to AI. And with only about 22 percent of businesses being satisfied with their conversion rates, there’s certainly a need for it.

Here’s the problem: with the increased awareness of CRO, there’s also been an increase in skepticism surrounding its effectiveness.

We get it. With the high price point and difficulty in measuring short-term/immediate results, CRO can appear to be a risky investment, but we’re here to put that notion to rest. If you’re one of the many that are still unsure about CRO, we’re writing this for you.

The goal of this article isn’t to sell you on our services. It’s to identify and address the misunderstandings surrounding CRO that hold companies back from investing.

We’ll walk you through the eight most common reasons why companies don’t invest in CRO. By addressing these doubts head on, we hope to encourage those that are hesitant about investing in CRO to finally take the next step toward improving their ecommerce site. 

The 8 Reasons Why Brands Don’t Invest in CRO

1. Lack of understanding around what CRO is

This is almost a given, but it’s important to mention because the definition of CRO can differ greatly depending on who you’re talking to.

Many companies come to us with a skewed perception of what conversion rate optimization is. This is in part due to many full-service marketing and traffic-generation agencies claiming that “they do CRO”, but that can mean a variety of different things. Companies that simply tack on CRO as a way to bolster their service offering are rarely doing anything close to what a real/full conversion optimization program entails.

Anyone can show up to a court, but actually playing ball is a bit different. These agencies will likely do a bit of A/B testing, redesign a handful of landing pages, maybe even engage in a site audit, but rarely will this approach drive impactful, long-term, results for your business’ conversion rate.

A true conversion optimization program revolves around one thing: data-backed decision making, applied in an iterative manner. CRO is the business of understanding how customers see, engage with, and navigate a website. The goal is to increase the percentage of website visitors that convert into customers, or more generally, take any desired action on a webpage.

Each website test is carefully developed using multiple inputs of data (heatmaps, eye tracking, screen recordings, user reviews, etc) to form hypotheses. Like any scientific process, there should be no guessing involved.

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2. Lack of understanding around what CRO involves

Many ecommerce companies interested in optimizing their websites have the impression that because they’ve read a handful of best practice articles online, they fully understand what goes into a successful optimization program.

Here’s the problem: reading these articles can give you a misrepresentation of how conversion rate optimization is actually done.

These are a few of the common misconceptions that we’ve noticed around what’s involved with CRO: 

  • “Optimization” is a single person’s role vs. requiring a team of experienced strategists 
    • CRO is a complex, multifaceted process that requires collaboration between various specialists to achieve desired results. You’ll need data scientists to collect and make sense of the clicks and movements on your site, user researchers to help identify the problems from the data, UX strategists to develop solutions for these problems, and web developers to create and implement the tests to prove out the hypotheses.
  • It’s perfectly fine to optimize your website based on best practices, not concrete data
    • While “best practice” articles can certainly provide you with great ideas for your site, it’s important to remember that because one tactic may have worked for someone else, it’s not guaranteed to work for you. Your audience is specific to you. 
  • There’s a certain amount of guessing involved in CRO
    • While this may be the case for some of the full-service agencies that offer optimization services, any CRO specialist will tell you that every test implemented on a site should always be backed by prior research that supports a hypothesis.

3. Budget 

Categorizing CRO as an expense rather than an investment with a measurable ROI is a misconception that we unfortunately see very frequently. Especially for smaller ecommerce companies, CRO is believed to cost “too much” and/or there isn’t a line item in their budget for it, so they have to create or find the money to finance it.

It really pains us to see this happen because the truth is, CRO can have the greatest ROI compared to many other marketing strategies you may utilize (SEO, traffic generation, social media, etc). 

Still don’t believe us? You should try out our in-depth ROI of Conversion Rate Optimization Calculator to help estimate the potential ROI you could be receiving from conversion optimization.

4. Traffic over optimization

A common misconception for ecommerce managers is that generating more traffic will translate to immediate revenue gains and a higher conversion rate. While increasing traffic to your site may look good on paper, it doesn’t provide the sustainable, long-term solution that CRO offers. 

For every $92 spent acquiring customers, only $1 is spent converting them. Before you start sinking money into traffic generation, it’s important to make sure your site is optimized to get the most value out of the traffic you’ll be paying for. While CRO can often be a larger up-front investment, the value that it provides is long-lasting and outweighs the importance of getting more people to your site.

The chart below illustrates a common pattern we’ve noticed among ecommerce brands that struggle with distributing their budget between CRO and traffic generation. The dotted line represents the ideal path if spending for CRO remains constant, the blue line represents the path that we tend to see ecommerce brands follow.

Note: Each numbered point on the chart corresponds with an explanation listed below.
  1. This is the point at which brands begin to allocate more of their budget towards traffic generation. Most of this traffic naturally has to be unqualified or less qualified.
  2. This is the point where brands think they can reduce their budget for CRO. Reducing CRO spending is typically met with a rapid decline in their conversion rate. 
  3. This marks the point of re-engagement with CRO. The company realizes that driving unqualified traffic to their site has a negative impact on their conversion rate, and decides to renegotiate their budget.

5. Concern that the ecommerce manager will look like they’ve failed

It can be a bit uncomfortable to have every aspect of your site — that you had direct input in designing — torn apart and scrutinized by a team of strategists. While we understand it’s never fun having your work critiqued, it’s a necessary step in improving the usability of your site. The overarching goal of CRO is to make your customers’ shopping experience as frictionless as possible, not to make the ecommerce manager look like a fool. 

I can often be heard saying: “It’s hard to read the label from inside the jar.” This is incredibly true for ecommerce managers who know their site inside and out, and have a strong hand in defining the user experience. Nothing compares to having an outside perspective – fresh eyes – review the clicks and movements of your site’s visitors.

When we conduct a full site audit for a client, we comb through each webpage to determine where customers may be getting stuck. Each Stuck Point™ we identify is a new opportunity for you to improve the user experience (and conversion rate) of your site. 

6. Don’t understand why hiring a specialist makes a difference 

Many ecommerce businesses believe that they can just hire their traffic or marketing agency to “do CRO”, because they’ve been pitched that so many times as an up-sell from their current plan.

You wouldn’t hire a general practitioner if you had to have knee surgery. The same concept applies to optimizing your website. Sure, a full-service marketing agency might be able to identify a handful of problems with your site, but they won’t have the tools or experience necessary for developing a long-lasting solution.

By hiring a specialist firm in CRO you get the benefit of their deep experience and pattern matching that turns into expertise. And that expertise is where real, sustainable, results will drive your ROI.

You simply won’t get the same results from hiring a non-specialist to work on optimizing your website. 

7. Don’t meet the traffic requirements

We’ve found this one to be one of the most common barriers to investing in CRO. In order to carry out proper testing on a site, certain traffic requirements need to be met.

This is a problem for many smaller ecommerce businesses that recognize the value in optimization, but may not draw the 15,000+ monthly visitors that we require to enroll in The Good’s Conversion Growth Program™

Up until recently, there have been limited options for those that are interested in CRO, but may not have the traffic or budget to invest in a comprehensive “done for you” optimization program. This prompted us to launch a lower-priced offering, the Conversion Growth Assessment™, that’s essentially an audit of key pages in a website’s conversion funnel. 

Another alternative we offer to anyone that may not be ready to pay for CRO services yet is our Stuck Score™. This is a free assessment we provide that scores your site based on a variety of criteria. At the end of the assessment, you’re able to download a PDF of the report to share with your team. 

8. Takes too long/onboarding challenges

Understandably, many ecommerce managers are concerned about the onboarding time for optimization services (especially if they’re signing up for a long-term contract, which The Good’s Conversion Growth Program™ does not require). 

When you’re paying 5k a month or more for CRO services, you want to start seeing results as soon as possible so you know you’re getting the most from your investment. If you see an agency offering immediate results, that should be a red flag. CRO is an iterative process that requires a little bit of patience before you’ll be able to see highly impactful results. 

The onboarding process involved with CRO is another concern that seems to turn people away. Onboarding should start with a comprehensive conversion audit, to ensure that data-backed decisions are being made.

Here’s what you should keep in mind: if the agency you’re looking to doesn’t provide a comprehensive onboarding process that ensures the recommendations are based on the clicks and movements of your site’s visitors, this is also a red flag. 

Onboarding is a crucial step in the optimization process because it also establishes specific goals to keep in mind over the course of the project, so progress and return on investment can be tracked.

CRO is here to help. 

The truth is, we understand why companies would be timid to invest in a service that they may have misconceptions about. We hope that this article will help put your reservations about CRO to rest. 

If you’re having a tough time convincing your team that CRO is the best marketing strategy for to invest in, refer them to this article and hopefully it’ll be able to resolve any misconceptions they may have about conversion rate optimization. 

At The Good, we’re committed to finding the best CRO solution for your business, no matter the size. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help convert more of your website visitors into customers, contact us and we’ll work with you to figure out the best solution for your specific needs.

The Good President Jon MacDonald
About the author: Jon MacDonald is founder and President of The Good, a conversion rate optimization firm that has achieved results for some of the largest online brands including Adobe, Nike, Xerox, Verizon, Intel and more. Jon regularly contributes content on conversion optimization to publications like Entrepreneur and Inc. He knows how to get visitors to take action.

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