Converting more of those visitors into buyers

by Johann Van Tonder: CEO at Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) agency, AWA digital.
When we opened our South African office in 2014, the team worked with UK-based brands almost exclusively.

Back then, there was limited demand for a specialist CRO agency in the local market. It made more sense to invest aggressively in buying “eyeballs”.

“Paid media is like a slot machine. It’s easy to keep throwing money into the slots,” says award-winning PPC specialist Jack Felstead. Inevitably, at some point, the focus shifts towards 
converting more of those visitors into buyers.

For many, that moment arrived last year. The question is no longer only how to attract more visitors to the site but also how to convert more of the existing potential.

Three main approaches we see in South Africa:

Website redesign

The riskiest and, frankly, dumbest of them all. Research by Stanford PhD Ronny Kohavi shows that this is an almost certain way of wasting a lot of money, and ultimately making the situation even worse.

We knew that because it is a common trigger for new clients to reach out: “Help! We redesigned our website and the conversion rate tanked!”

Site audit

“We want an agency to review our website and give us a list of things to do to improve online conversion rates.”

To be honest, this could be easy money for us. We get many of these - only in SA, never in developed markets. The most recent one came from a well-known furniture brand. We turned down the opportunity, as we always do.

Someone will sell you this as CRO, but to be clear: this is the antithesis to CRO. Anyone with even limited experience in CRO will know that it’s impossible to predict the impact of a change. The only way to isolate the impact is by doing randomised controlled trials or A/B tests.

CRO programme

Increasingly, serious players are building proper CRO programmes. I can say this with confidence; our client list includes many of the top retail brands in SA.

CRO involves really understanding your customers, for example, what makes them buy - and what makes them bounce. Conversion Rate is a metric that reflects user behaviour. So to change that metric, you have to shape the underlying behaviour.

It typically starts as a pilot project, outsourced to a specialist CRO agency working closely with an internal team. Over time, the skills are embedded in-house, and eventually the optimisation initiatives spread throughout the organisation.

One of the best local case studies is Woolworths, one of our long-standing clients. The CEO wrote in the 2021 annual report about “a culture of ‘test, learn, and scale’ becoming central to how we operate.”

This has been the trend around the world: start with a small group of people, get the systems and skills in place, roll out across the organisation. It is the only way to demonstratively improve the user experience, increase revenue per visitor and weed out changes that would’ve hurt conversion rate.

Useful resources:
AWA Digital
Reach out to me on LinkedIn for free guidance regarding your personalisation strategy and/or software selection.
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