What Is Digital Experience Optimization?

CRO is out. Digital Experience Optimization is in. Learn how this evolved approach can have a real impact on your business.

If you’re focusing solely on conversion metrics when analyzing the performance of your digital property, you’re probably leaving money on the table.

It’s also doing a disservice to your users and your optimization efforts.

To no fault of digital product owners, the industry has put an unproductive emphasis on conversion rates. But based on over 15 years of experience optimizing, I promise that websites and apps won’t reach their full potential under the current industry expectations and implementations of conversion rate optimization.

I am here to propose a better solution: digital experience optimization. This evolved approach brings together all the diverse disciplines and tactics needed to build a better digital journey and get us re-centered on what really matters: the customer.

Let’s talk about digital experience optimization, how it compares to conversion rate optimization, and hopefully answer if it is the right solution for you.

What Is Digital Experience Optimization?

Digital experience optimization (DXO) is the process of making meaningful changes to your website or app to meet the needs of its users and business. This is achieved through data analysis, research, strategy, experimentation, and other disciplines.

DXO is a foundational approach that involves looking at the digital journey as a whole to see not just how customers engage with you, but why they make certain decisions. It analyzes behavior from the moment they enter your app or website through post-conversion and finds/executes on improvement opportunities.

DXO is bigger than tweaking colors, copy, or images on your website or app. Yes, digital experience optimization will improve the look and feel of your digital product, but it can also change how you think about and address your customers, improve the culture of experimentation on your team, and skyrocket buy-in from stakeholders by using data to inform decisions.

Digital experience optimization crafts comprehensive user-centered journeys that address customer needs at every stage of their journey.

What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Conversion rate optimization is defined as a process that increases the percentage of users who perform a desired action on a website or app.

The desired action or conversion is typically a sale or high intent signal, for example, purchasing a product, signing up for a trial, or filling out an inquiry form.

When “optimization” is tacked on to the end of “conversion rate,” the process becomes synonymous with A/B testing. You will often hear “conversion rate optimization program” and “testing program” used interchangeably.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) vs Digital Experience Optimization (DXO)

When compared to DXO, CRO is very narrow and limiting. DXO practitioners are still excellent at A/B testing to validate or invalidate changes before implementation, but also:

  • Pull back from conversions to understand and improve the whole digital journey
  • Incorporate other research methods to supplement what can be learned from A/B testing
  • Leverage an array of expertise and disciplines to build ongoing optimization practices

Like the traditional definition of CRO, DXO is a process aimed at iterative improvement. However, DXO creates large-scale, sustainable impact that conversion rate optimization can’t achieve due to inadvisable hyper-focus on conversion rates and A/B testing.

While writing this comparison, I’m tempted to go so far as to advocate that conversion rate optimization (as it is currently defined and understood in the industry) shouldn’t exist anymore. Let’s simply remove it from our vocabulary.

I say this as the founder of one of the industry’s first conversion rate optimization firms. In conjunction with the industry’s narrowing understanding of CRO, we have seen the reality of user needs and what drives engagement evolve. Technology, users, the industry, and the world have changed, making conversion rate optimization a practice of the past.

Don’t get me wrong; we should all be measuring the conversion rates of our digital products and putting in the work to make sure they are consistently improving. But how that happens can’t be boiled down into one research method. One metric can’t signal the health of your digital product.

So, I’d like to invite you to expand your approach to website and app improvements with digital experience optimization.

8 Digital Experience Optimization Use Cases & Benefits

DXO empowers ecommerce leaders and digital product owners to make smarter, more effective decisions that enhance user experience and drive business success.

The goal of the practice is to unlock the full potential of a website, app, or digital product through research, strategy, testing, and implementation. Let’s take a look at its more specific use cases and benefits so you can decide if it’s a good fit for you.

1. Improve the Look and Feel of Your Website

There’s a certain degree of trust instantly imparted whenever we see a well-designed website with attractive visuals. In fact, half of users say that they use a site’s design to form an opinion on the business.

DXO is useful here as it goes beyond superficial changes, incorporating user feedback and behavioral data to drive design decisions that not only look good but also perform well. This is a great way to build those hard-to-measure qualities like trustworthiness, reliability, and safety that customers crave.

2. Prioritize Your Ideas And Improvements Effectively

You probably have hundreds of ideas you’d like to try, but each change comes with a cost of workforce, time, and money. How do you choose the ones worth exploring?

DXO helps by providing frameworks to evaluate and rank these ideas based on their potential impact on user experience and business goals. It zeros you in on the ideas that are more likely to move the needle for your organization.

“We are much more targeted and focused on what we can actually do,” says Justin Albano, Digital Marketing Manager at IDX. “We’re not sitting there wondering what we should be doing or what’s going to make a difference. We know what we need to do now, and we’re getting after it.”

By focusing strictly on research, data, and clearly defined goals, DXO simplifies the decision-making process. You can stay laser-focused on those improvements that actually help over the long term and avoid distractions from less impactful initiatives.

3. Form a Deepened Understanding of Customers

DXO can give you a more profound comprehension of your customers’ behaviors, preferences, and needs. This insight is crucial for developing more effective strategies, creating personalized experiences that truly resonate with users, and improving overall customer engagement.

These insights come through web analytics, user flow analysis, customer surveys, session recordings, and other techniques.

4. Build a Valuable Knowledge Center of Consumer Insights

Similarly, but a more tangible potential benefit and use case, is that DXO builds a rich knowledge center filled with actionable insights on your potential customers. This repository becomes an invaluable asset for the organization as it helps you with informed decision-making and strategic planning across all levels.

This library can include hard data as well as direct customer feedback. This type of knowledge bank helps you improve your digital touchpoints and customer interactions, meet customer expectations, avoid negative experiences, and ultimately improve customer loyalty.

5. Create A Culture Of User-Centered Data-Driven Decision Making

It’s no secret that data-based decisions are better than best practices or “gut feelings.” A strong DXO program uses real-world data from your ideal audience to guide decision-making.

DXO fine-tunes your decision-making by using comprehensive analytics and key conventions to guide decisions from the beginning. This ensures that every change contributes positively to the user experience.

Data isn’t the end-all-be-all, but practicing DXO creates a culture where decisions are not just based on hunches or past experiences but are informed by your customers. It ensures that your work aligns with the actual needs and behaviors of the users.

6. Save Time and Resources by Validating Design Decisions

DXO enables you to validate or invalidate design decisions before implementing them at full scale. This process saves significant time and resources by preventing the rollout of features that may not meet user expectations or business goals.

Strategic focus helps companies achieve more with less, leveraging their existing assets efficiently. For organizations looking to stretch their resources to their fullest potential, DXO ensures that every effort and investment is optimized for maximum return.

7. Grow Your User Base and Increase Conversions

If your goal is to expand your user base or convert more visitors into customers, DXO provides a structured approach. By optimizing the user journey at every step, your digital presence can meet more visitors’ needs and convert more into loyal customers.

Think of it like pleasing more people earlier in your funnel so more potential customers march down the conversion path.

8. Improve Stakeholder Buy-In

If internal politics or too many opinions are hindering progress for you, DXO offers a neutral, data-driven perspective that focuses on what’s best for the user and the company.

    Presenting roadmaps and strategies established by DXO can help drive changes that might otherwise be stalled by misaligned internal priorities or opinions.

    How To Measure Digital Experience Optimization

    Measuring the performance of your digital experience may seem like a tall task compared to just focusing on one number (conversion rate), but it’s sure to set you up for more success.

    Luckily, there are tools in place to help you gauge improvement of your program that are proven indicators of digital health, for example, a 5-Factors Scorecard™.

    The 5-Factors Scorecard™ is based on a study of hundreds of digital leaders’ optimization challenges to reveal the five factors that the highest-performing companies have in common:

    • Data Foundations: Goals, ownership, and good data form the backbone.
    • User-Centered Approach: A comprehensive roadmap and a high-context approach.
    • Resourcing: Resources support adequate capabilities and pace.
    • Toolkit: A variety of tools for planning, measurement, and protocols.
    • Impact & Buy-In: Tools and practices increase relevance and perceived efficacy.

    Research shows that improvement in these areas leads to measurable business outcomes. Get a 5-Factors Scorecard™ to highlight the areas of your digital experience that need work and use it as the baseline for your digital experience optimization measurement. To track improvement, re-take the quiz and compare the new results every three months.

    Remember, digital experience optimization is a comprehensive solution to complex and diverse digital challenges. Measuring its success should be similarly comprehensive.

    Ready To Get Started With DXO?

    The web and the way users experience stores, platforms, and media have changed. If you want to be successful, your thinking has to evolve as well. Digital experience optimization is a holistic approach to improving the user experience, and by extension, your goals and revenue.

    If you’re ready to get started, check out our Digital Experience Optimization Program™.

    We start with a full-funnel analysis of your digital experience, using methods like heatmap analysis, session recordings, and usability testing to diagnose your digital challenges and prescribe a solution. The goal is to understand, thematically, the biggest barriers and opportunities.

    When the audit is complete, we’ll build your custom Digital Experience Optimization Program™ including everything you need (and nothing you don’t) to complete an optimization puzzle, create an engaging experience for your users, and build a better digital product.

    Jon MacDonald smiling at the camera for The Good

    About the Author

    Jon MacDonald

    Jon MacDonald is founder and President of The Good, a digital experience optimization firm that has achieved results for some of the largest companies including Adobe, Nike, Xerox, Verizon, Intel and more. Jon regularly contributes to publications like Entrepreneur and Inc.