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How to build and structure a CRO team: people and platforms

Words by: Nick So Last updated: March 31st, 2022 11 min. read

  • A/B Testing
  • Conversion Rate Optimization


Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is one of the most valuable business investments that your organization can make. Even seemingly minor changes to your company’s sales funnel can deliver massively impactful results for your bottom line.

But how do you build a CRO team? Although there are many CRO tools available, simply picking a single tool and using it won’t have the effects you’re looking for. What your business needs instead is a robust, mature, long-term CRO strategy that takes into account the importance of the right combination of people and platforms.

In this guide to building a conversion rate optimization team, we’ll discuss the importance of optimizing team structure and the most crucial things to consider when selecting a conversion rate optimization tool.

The experimentation supplement

Conversion rate optimization is the methodology of running marketing experiments to see what works and what doesn’t to increase sales and learn about your customers. There are a wide variety of experimentation tools on the market—but are you actually ready to use them?

Experimentation is kind of like a vitamin: it works best when the underlying structure is healthy. If your team isn’t ready to utilize it properly, adding an experimentation tool to your technology stack will just create more cost and overhead and stifle your ability to prove ROI.

However, once things are running smoothly and you want to supercharge your CRO performance, that’s when experimentation should come into play. For example, developing A/B tests requires just as many resources as a traditional dev team. Once you have the testing infrastructure in place, though, you can gain new insights and discover which ideas attract customers and which are underperforming.

Choosing and implementing reliable CRO tools

How can you choose the best CRO tool for your needs? Here’s a quick CRO tool buyer’s guide.

Key features of CRO tools

A/B testing: A/B testing is a crucial functionality for conversion rate optimization, giving you cold hard data about which design your users prefer. All legitimate CRO platforms will include A/B testing functionality so you can rapidly iterate and get results. This is par for the course.

Personalization: Personalization is a key tactic of marketing teams: 80 percent of consumers say they’re more likely to buy from brands that use personalization. Your choice of CRO tool should make it easy to personalize the user experience in ways that you know will get results. Most tools will have personalization capabilities for additional cost, but some do not and require integration? Evaluate how important this is for your business and whether you are ready to pay for the additional functionality.

Integrations: The best CRO tools will connect seamlessly with your existing marketing stack. Whether you are sending data to Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics or another platform, ensure a seamless connection is possible.

Advanced Capabilities: For advanced experimentation programs with high-velocity testing, some professionals may choose tools that include mutual exclusion, multi armed bandits, advanced targeting and segmentation, Single Page Applications (SPAs), and API’s to name a few.

Server vs. Client side capabilities: One key question is whether you will require the code to be executed in the browser, or on the server. Some changes are only possible with server-side testing. Check with your developer to see if this is necessary for your case. Client side testing is how most testing is traditionally done.

How much do CRO tools cost?

Asking “What’s the cost of a CRO tool?“ is like asking “How long is a piece of string?”. You’ll find CRO tools at prices to suit every budget, from free of charge to hundreds or thousands of dollars per year.

Instead, think about what kind of pricing model suits your business. Do you want to pay monthly or a one-time fee? Should pricing be based on the number of users, consumption rates, etc.? Will there be overages? Can you carry over from month to month? – These are all questions to ask the technology provider.

The benefits of CRO

When you’ve chosen the best CRO tool, you’ll see results such as:

  • A higher return on your marketing investment
  • Greater insight into your customers’ thoughts and behavior
  • Improved user experience and stronger conversion rates

Choosing and implementing the right CRO Tools is a great step in unlocking the benefits of CRO for your team. However, optimization tools truly are only as powerful as the team that uses them. Without the right team in place, the tool will go to waste, or even worse, potentially give you false insight when misused.

5 roles needed when building a CRO team

Every CRO team structure should have a few key figures, including:

CRO strategist (or specialist): The strategist is responsible for understanding your overarching business goals & objectives, and disrupting the status quo to design impactful experiments. Strategists must be involved in project management, but also have a deep technical understanding of your CRO toolkit. If you are set up as a “Product Org”, an organization that is centered around product, then the product owner acts as the strategist but needs sufficient training. In these cases a CRO Consultant should still exist to support multiple product owners in an expert role.

Data analyst: The data analyst interprets the information you collect and communicates their findings, revealing any insights and telling the story in numbers. This role is critical for linking raw data to your broader business objectives. It is critical to find an analyst with strong story-telling capabilities who is able to turn data into interesting pieces of information for executives.

UX designer: The UX designer takes the strategist’s ideas and uses them to create an excellent user experience for your customers. Depending on how your team uses experimentation, there may be a significant overlap between the roles of designer and strategist. When hiring, be cognizant of understanding the difference between a ‘creative’ and a ‘designer’. The latter is a much stronger choice for a CRO team because they will focus objectively on creating the right experience for the user. Afterall, experimentation is an activity of testing minimum viable products (MVPs) that solve real human needs.

Developer: The developer makes changes to your website in order to evaluate them using A/B testing tools. Effective developers on a CRO team need to approach everything with a creative problem-solving mindset.

QA tech: Last but not least, the quality assurance (QA) tech makes sure that your website experience is working as intended. QA testers help resolve any complexities in development and provide the polish your CRO team needs.

Of course, you may not be able to hire all of these roles at once when building an optimization team. As the de facto leader, the CRO strategist is likely the most significant role, followed by technical developers and data analysts to build and interpret the testing pipeline. The key is to start small, and then scale your CRO team as your operations expand in scope and importance.

Building an effective CRO team

There are three key categories we can group each of the roles within a CRO team. They are either 1) Sponsor 2) Specialists or 3) Technicals. CRO teams and experimentation programs grow over time as the culture of experimentation matures, and as more experiments are run. New team members are then added in a “best practices” order to ensure the optimal use of resources and greatest impact.
The easiest way to look at it is that experimentation programs mature from a “crawl”, to a “walk”,and then towards a full on “run”. The compounding nature of the hiring order can be seen visually below:

The key roles within a maturing and effective CRO team.

When creating a CRO digital optimization team, getting buy-in from an executive sponsor is critical. The right executive sponsor will help spread a culture of experimentation throughout the company, allowing your CRO team to have a greater impact than if experimentation is siloed within the group. Your executive sponsor can serve as a liaison between your CRO team and the executive suite, telling the right stories about your work.

In addition, your CRO team will need to coordinate and synergize with other parts of the organization—including your product team, your marketing team, and your user experience and design teams—and even external third parties. Some of your CRO team members may even play double duty in multiple groups or departments, making it easier to win over key decision-makers.

Challenges when building a CRO team

Despite your best efforts, you may encounter a few problems and challenges when building your CRO team. Below are some of the most common issues:

Friction and resistance to change: Adding another team to your organizational structure may not be received warmly by the rest of the business. For example, dev teams can be threatened by having another team or agency “mucking around” on the website, while brand teams might be concerned that other teams are too focused on conversion and losing sight of the brand experience.

The fear of failure: Your CRO team will inevitably release underperforming experiences into the wild—and accepting and embracing this fact is essential. Failure brings with it lessons about what doesn’t work, so that organizations can better refine what does. Casting aside the fear of failure, and adopting a culture of experimentation, will allow your CRO team to challenge the status quo and even lead to new ideas and opportunities.

The importance of an agency partner

If you’ve never built a CRO team before, joining forces with an agency partner can be the smartest move you’ll make.

Think of it like driving a car: you can have the fastest car out there—or the best CRO platform—but you still need a skilled driver who knows how to operate it. Conversely, even a slow car can perform better than expected in the hands of the right people.

There are many benefits of working with an agency partner when building and structuring a CRO team. For one, agency partners excel at helping you accelerate your CRO program and efficiently acquire fractional expert resources. In addition, agency partners have already seen and addressed the common pitfalls and mistakes that occur when implementing a CRO program, and can help you avoid the same problems.

Are you looking for a trusted agency partner for your CRO team? Widerfunnel is here to help. We are a leading CRO agency with the right skills and experience to help deliver powerful results for our clients.

Ready to learn how Widerfunnel can assist your CRO efforts? Get in touch with our team today for a chat about your business needs and objectives.

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A guide to what marketing executives need to know about A/B Testing and CRO.

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