Conversion Rate Optimization Maturity Model

Conversion Rate Optimization Maturity Model

Over the years I have seen some companies doing very well in terms of improving conversion and getting solid results from testing activities; but I have also seen many companies struggling to get good results. This disparity led me to think about what are the success factors that will make the difference between those two types of companies. A maturity model of conversion rate optimization came to my mind as a potential way of defining what are the core assets of a successful conversion rate optimization company.

I have been inspired by Stephane Hamel's Web Analytics Maturity Model. Stephane did a fantastic job transforming a complex Web Analytics discipline into a maturity model which helps companies to understand better the reality of big data and how they can take advantage of it. By using the model any company can identify where it stands, where it wants to be and how to get there.

The same goal drove me to put together a Conversion Rate Optimization Maturity Model. In the last few years I have identified 7 key pillars of conversion rate optimization. I will briefly introduce them in this article and over the course of next few weeks I will focus on each of them in separate articles.

Conversion Rate Optimization Maturity Model

Conversion Rate Optimization Maturity Model - full size

1. People

Both quality and quantity of your team is essential. The 90/10 rule by Avinash Kaushik can be applicable on the conversion optimization area as well. For every $10 spent on tools, you should spend $90 on your staff. Without a good team your fancy and sophisticated tool is useless. The scale usually goes from Online Marketing Generalist to a large Conversion Optimization team including analysts, testing managers, interaction and visual designers, front-end developers etc.

2. Knowledge

Knowledge is aligned with People. In fact, it is part of People, but I wanted to give it more space and describe what knowledge is when it comes to have a conversion optimization mature company/team. It starts with online marketing basics, having an overview of what ecommerce is, how traffic generation works, what web analytics is and how to read reports and take actions. Then you add online testing knowledge, principles of user experience, web analytics knowledge & copywriting skills. It is impossible for a single person to be an expert in all those areas. Therefore at some point a company needs to have a well-acting team.

3. Activities

What do you do on a regular basis to increase your conversion rate? There are various quantitative (purchase funnel analyses, traffic sources overview etc.) and qualitative (usability testing, customer surveys, personas etc.) analyses and activities you can run and which can help you to understand better your customers and how to improve your online business. There are two important factors regarding those activities: quality and frequency. No need to be an expert to understand that the higher quality & frequency the better.

4. Tests Strategy & Frequency

One of the main CRO activities is certainly A/B and Multivariate testing. The testing strategy, quality and frequency of your tests say a lot about your conversion maturity level. Maturity of your testing processes is extremely important: your tests can be executed on a ad-hoc base. Or if you are more mature, you plan and execute in a testing roadmap. Or better, your tests are run in an iterative manner.

5. Processes

The overall CRO processes in your company is another important asset. Do your key departments cooperate smoothly? How about communication and politics within your company? Do you use deliverables like testing roadmaps, testing summaries and learnings overviews? All of these are variables which influence your conversion optimization results significantly.

6. Sponsor

A sponsor is usually a high-ranking employee who has a trust in you and optimization and fights for budget. He supports the conversion optimization efforts and shares the plans and results if you can't do that yourself. It is an important person particuralrly in corporations where traditional business hiearchy takes place.

7. Tools

And in the end we can't miss tools. Although the right people are more important than the right tools, you need to have tools in place to be able to conduct your analyses and tests. For every area there are many tools available today. Various web analytics vendors, heatmaps, surveys, feedbacks, targeting and testing tooling. In general the more mature you are the more sophisticated tools you use.

Closing Thoughts

As I mentioned in the beginning later on I will give every pillar a detail focus by describing all levels and key aspects. What it takes to get there, what are the benefits and possible problems.

And now it is your turn. Do you believe a conversion rate optimization maturity model can help your organization to improve your optimizitaon activities and in the end improve the results? Do you agree with the seven pillars I have outlined? How the maturity model should look from your perspective?

Post Scriptum: if you read Dutch, also check out Janco Klijnstra's Conversion Rate Optimization Maturity Model.

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Janco Klijnstra | January 2013

Hi Michael,

Great model. Looks kind of familiar to me as well :-) http://www.emerce.nl/best-practice/conversion-optimization-maturity

You've added some valid points!

Regards, Janco.

Michal Parizek | January 2013

Hi Janco,

I do remember your model and I do like it. I just wanted to add few other pillar I consider important as well. Thanks a lot for posting the link in the comments! It is my bad not mentioning it in the article itself :( I could maybe add a link in addition somewhere.

Regards,
Michal

Ralf Haberich | January 2013

Nice overview.

Two comments:
- Testing is an important possibility/feature to analyze in detail. Segmentation is rather more important, so adding "Segmentation" would enrich the model
- 90/10 Rule really is not realistic, unless using a low-end/free tool. No one ever made a serious calculation here (maybe here (in German)): http://www.web-analytics-blog.de/2009/07/28/glaubt-web-analytics-90-10-r...). Knowing companies that spend around or even more than 500.000 Euro per year in an Analytics solution it would mean you gave them a budget of 4,5 Million Euro for Analytics-manpower. Wrong- By the way, it would mean you have an Analytics Department with 75 employees (given an average yearly salary of 60K Euro). 70/30 is much more applicable here.

Thanks,
Ralf.

http://www.web-analytics-blog.de
http://future-digital-business.org

Michal Parizek | January 2013

Hi Ralf,

thank you. Appreciate your feedback!

I am having "segmentation" in "Activities" and "Knowledge" pillars and I agree it is important in testing and also prior analysis. I think it is belong rather there..

To the 90/10 rule your right that for the companies running that expensive solutions it would mean having very large teams. And (thought I would wish that) it is not much realistic. But I hope the point is clear and that's not relying only on tools and assuring companies have also good people to run it.

Bobby Hewitt | January 2013

Hi Michal,
Great breakdown of the maturity model of CRO, I'd like to feature it as one of my Friday conversion links worth reading in my blog which will go live on Friday 2/1/2013.

Out of the 7 pillars I feel process is the most telling of an organization. By looking at what CRO process is in place you can instantly know what level they are at.

Thanks for posting this and thinking it through.

Bobby

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