The top 7 conversion optimization trends for 2015

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What will be the most important changes in your business next year?

Have you thought about it?

At the end of each year the WiderFunnel team, including the other blog contributors, and I like to reflect on the previous year, gain insights from the successes and failures, and anticipate what may happen in the next 52 weeks.

Fortunately, I can report that last year was great at WiderFunnel. We brought on a record number of new clients, ran more tests per client and, most importantly, produced the highest conversion rate lifts, ROI and revenue for our clients.

With Conversion Optimization now embedded as a must-do practice for any company producing revenue from web or mobile, the industry is stronger than ever. There are more testing tools each month and almost every content management and e-commerce platform has embedded A/B features.

Check out the Google Trends for A/B testing, for example, showing solid growth in interest (notwithstanding the seasonal December dip):

Now that the tools are ubiquitous and knowledge continues to increase, we are embarking on the golden age of Conversion Optimization.

I worked with our strategy team to compile the top trends we see emerging in the next year. Below, are the top 7 trends WiderFunnel is looking out for in 2015:

1. Seamless in-app A/B testing

In 2014, a variety of testing tools started to offer the ability to run A/B tests natively in mobile applications, opening a new avenue of conversion optimization opportunities and specialization in our industry.

Many companies are doing In-App A/B Testing, and one good example is the ‘A View From My Seat‘ Android and iOS app. They used Artisan Optimize Mobile App, a tool that helps understand your users experience, activity and behavior by continuously running tests and pushing different interface options.

With 2 months of testing, the app was able to grow usage by 22%, increase time spent in the app and generate more engagement via photo sharing from their user base.

mobile

An example of a mobile A/B test, where a ‘View from my Seat’ learned starting users on the “share” tab results in more photo uploads.

The traditional testing tool providers are jumping on the trend too. Optimizely released their mobile testing platform in 2014. Visual Website Optimizer (VWO) has a mobile feature, and Liquid is another recent mobile-specific tool.

This trend opens new doors for CRO to generate more revenue opportunities for mobile apps and mobile browsing.

2. Tested personalization

Personalization tools use rules, geo-location, search terms, referrers, and lead scores to automatically categorize users. Once in categories, marketers deliver personalized messages to these segments creating more relevant experiences for their users. While personalization has been around for some time, it is only recently that software vendors like Evergage have included A/B testing features in their products. This has allowed conversion optimization experts like WiderFunnel to build progressive new testing methods to take advantage of personalization opportunities.

This trend is most visible when comparing vendor offerings. Traditional Content Management System companies like Sitecore and Kentico have add testing and A/B Testing companies like Adobe Target are adding personalization. This has spawned a new industry category called Customer Experience Management.

Something to test in 2015 is where is the line for “over personalization”. This is, showing content that is too personal, borderline private, which can become creepy and disengage your users creating lower conversion rates.

3. Cross-platform testing

Because tools like Optimizely have enabled cross-platform testing, we’ll be able to plan experiments that go beyond a single device.

In the past this just hasn’t been possible. But in April 2014 Google Analytics Universal came out of beta and made it possible to track visitors across devices. Then in November 2014, Optimizely released their mobile testing tool, making it possible to test across devices. What we like about Optimizely is that in the past, all changes to your iOS App would have had to go through Apple’s approval process, but this tool however bypasses this so you can make changes in real time.

mobile with desktop

Marketers can now deliver tested UI/UX without having to differentiate between web and mobile. This is a trend that is here to stay!

4. Video marketing

Video marketing had a large presence in 2014, but it will become even more popular in 2015.

Watching a video is more time consuming for visitors than scanning page text. This is why we’ve seen video generally under-perform on landing pages when it’s used as the leading content.

However, we have seen sites successfully use video as supporting content to increase clarity around their products, build credibility and show personality. Why is it popular? In the intangible online medium, video can help make a product more tangible and reduce the perceived risk of buying.

Autoplay video has also spread in 2014 (not to be confused with a message carousel!). It is a dynamic tool that grabs visitors attention and is effective in very select circumstances.

Examples of this are on Airbnb, and the Dropbox Tour. Don’t you want to book your next get-away instantly when watching the autoplay video on the Airbnb? The Dropbox Tour video was also a perfect example of video marketing too. They now use a book to explain their process which offers a similar experience: it tells a story, is dynamic and controls the order in which the user will see and process the information.

We tested adding videos to explain a product process in action for a few of our clients. The addition of a video in some situations increased conversion by up to 25%!

At WiderFunnel we are excited about this trend on desktop as well as mobile. We tested the addition of a video on mobile too and, surprisingly, the results were sometimes as effective as on desktop.

5. Online shopping personalization

Users expect freshness every time they return to a site. They often don’t have time to figure out what they want, what they need, or what new features on the site may be of interest to them. They need to be welcomed with suggestions that make sense to them and be provided with a personalized experience from the Homepage to the Thank-You page.

According to a research from Invesp:

  • 56% of online shoppers are more likely to shop on a site that provides personalized recommendations
  • 57% of shoppers will give personal info if they benefit from it.
  • Personalized ads convert 10 times better than ordinary ads.

In other words, personalizing your e-commerce site (and the ads that get users there) will generate more new customers, increase loyalty and ultimately drive more revenue.

Amazon has an elaborate personalization strategy that starts on the homepage where the user sees different sections such as “Related to Items You’ve Viewed,” “Inspired by Your Shopping Trends,” Recommendations for You”, etc. Most e-commerce sites don’t need to have as much personalization as Amazon to see a lift in revenue. And, the last thing you should do is copy Amazon without testing your changes.

Another good example is Julep. Julep sends their users a customizable beauty box every month. Customers have the option of completely customizing their boxes or letting Julep pick the products based on a quiz they filled out when signing up to determine their style profile.

juelp

Julep users can pick the products that will make up their box.

This is an awesome trend. As research shows, users expect personalization and 74% get frustrated by seeing content that doesn’t match their interests.

To take advantage of e-commerce personalization, companies need to track their customers’ preferences, previously viewed items and latest purchases to better predict what users are most likely to buy in the future. Geo location will also help personalize the experience based on location, local weather, etc. At WiderFunnel, we predict that online shopping and personalization will make huge gains in 2015. If you’re thinking of implementing personalization into your existing e-commerce site, be sure to test it. Untested personalization features can have a dramatic decrease in revenue that you may never be able to recover. Tread softly!

6. The optimized home
(as in where you live, not your home page)

The move to optimize the work and mobile worlds have inevitably permeated our homes, opening up entirely new avenues of testing based not on how we work or buy, but on how we spend our “off” time and how we manage our home on the go.

2014 has marked the transition from simply adding computers to appliances (who really needs to update their facebook on their fridge?) to a complete home optimization. This change was catalyzed when Nest acquired Dropcam in the summer of 2014. With Nest’s partnership, if your carbon monoxide sensor goes off, the dropcam you’ve placed in your kitchen will automatically start recording. Sending you a live feed of your kitchen while you’re on the bus.

 

ipad
Nest isn’t the only player though, major cable networks also forged ahead with home optimization. Forgot to PVR your favorite show? Just schedule it from your mobile app.

Managing your home from your mobile device is a trend that simply can’t be avoided for 2015. The demand for mobile home-based apps indicates the market is there. Now it’s simply a matter of taking it from “novelty” to “essential”, a transition that will occur purely by improved experience design.

That is where CRO comes in to play. There will be opportunity to test and optimize where and how consumers use connected devices that are providing home automation. By leveraging a proven methods like WiderFunnels LIFT Model™ home automation home automation companies can make rapid iterative improvement to the customer experience that will accelerate adoption.

7. CRO moves to being an essential ongoing practice

In 2014, there was a tipping point that moved CRO to being a mandatory practice for all high-traffic websites and this trend will only be magnified in 2015. Most companies now understand that optimizing their website and app conversion experiences are just as important as optimizing their advertising.

Designers, UX professionals and marketers can no longer rely only on their gut instinct or intuition. They are being asked to prove that their ideas work through rigorous A/B testing.

Everyone knows that leading companies like Amazon.com and Booking.com have been split testing their customer experiences for years. Now, that practice has spread throughout all industry categories and is the driving force behind fast-growth companies.

BuildDirect.com, for example, didn’t rely on a flawed traditional website redesign process to update their website. They knew how risky it is to make untested changes. Instead, they used a pre-planned series of site-wide A/B tests on their website templates. And, they continue to test and optimize their sales so their website will never become out-of-date again. It’ll always evolve through iterative, split-tested changes.

The dramatic before and after home page screenshots show that conversion optimization can lead to an improved design as well as sales lift:

build direct
BuildDirect.com original home page in Jan 2013

build direct 2
BuildDirect.com’s A/B tested homepage as of Dec 2014

Since BuildDirect has adopted CRO as an ongoing mainstay of how they manage their web operations, they have not only made vast design and UX improvements to their website, they have increased monthly revenue by 1 million dollars.

To get more details on this BuildDirect Case Study
view the webinar Chris Goward’s presented on January 21st, 2015. 

Years ago, when we were hired by a client our fees often came out of a project budget or the champion within our client’s organization had to make a business case. Today, almost every new client we bring on have a budget allocation within their operations line (often taken from a former SEO practice), If you are entering 2015 without a budget allocation for CRO, you are probably a step behind your competitor because the table stakes have changed. If you need help demonstrating a business case, take a look at all of our case studies. Need something a little different, WiderFunnel can definitely help. Let’s start a conversation.

These are the top 7 conversion optimization trends that will outpace others this year.

What are your 2015 CRO predictions?

Want to know why we left something you see trending off the list? What are your thoughts? Please add your comment below!

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  • Hi Chris,

    Interesting blog post – I concur with many of your predictions – and particularly like in-app optimisation as a conversion opportunity. My view is that there will be a better understanding of how merchandising affects conversion and what opportunities voice-of-customer data provides to improve the performance of the buying team in developing the 'new' bestsellers.

    Have a good 2015

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Dan.

      I agree with both your points about the importance of both merchandising and voice-of-customer as opportunities.

      The A/B/n tests we run at WiderFunnel often show significant gains from merchandising hypotheses. And hearing from customers can provide good fodder for creating new ideas to test too.

      The question of which trend will be most important to a particular business totally depends on their situation and conversion optimization maturity, too. In some cases, those will be the top priorities.

  • Atopos42

    Hi Chris,
    I agree with Dan. Interesting post :-).
    But regarding Tested Personalization, I think this will be a trend for 2016 and not for 2015. Of course a couple of the large sites with high test maturity are already doing it. But before it will become a trend, more companies will first need to implement and/or learn using personalization tools and their business rules.
    Furthermore, more personalization also means smaller test segments and more complex tests. So I think this will need more time to mature……
    Regarding 2015. I think this will also be the year of the quality of a/b tests data. A lot of companies will start looking at their test-significance and power – is 95% high enough? And how many conversions per test variation is enough? 150, 250, 300? And how long do the results of a single a/b test contribute to the total results? Etc.
    I would image this will eventually lead to higher quality tests, more need for statisticians and to a higher adoption of CRO on board level.

    Exiting times! 