From CRO to People-Based Marketing

The crucial shift in approach that needs to happen today

By definition, Conversion Rate Optimization is “a system for increasing the percentage of visitors to a website that convert into customers.” It’s a strategy that emerged in 2004 as a way for digital marketers to improve conversion rates following the dot-com bubble.

That was more than 10 years ago. And since then, I’d like to think there’s been another bubble — think data. We have more insight and visibility into the behavior of our traffic at our fingertips today than ever before.

We can see that people don’t shop like they used to. Their options for how to shop have changed and with it their behavior and their methods of brand engagement.

As a result, shopping journeys have become fractured and increasingly erratic, particularly with 26% of millennials reporting that they are most likely to “buy whatever brand they feel like at the time.”

There’s been a major shift from the originally linear conversion journey to an increasingly circuitous one. And I think it’s high-time we shift our business approach and marketing strategy to keep up.

Multi-Channel Shopping has become the Norm

The days of simple search > click > buy are over. No matter what your AdWords analytics report may tell you at the end of the month — due largely to ‘last touch attribution’ — it’s just neither true nor fair to fully credit AdWords with those purchases. What about all the touches that happened before that final one, that not only led up to but motivated that final one getting all the credit?

Multichannel shopping
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According to Salesforce, it takes a minimum of 6-8 ‘touches’ to generate a sales-ready lead. And, greater than 50% of those interactions happen during a multi-event, multi-channel journey.

So people aren’t just seeing a few ads and emails, they’re browsing in whatever way is most convenient for them — switching devices, channels (search, social, email), even switching between bricks and clicks — all of which leads up to their purchase decision.

So, what better way to keep up with this fragmented journey but to de-fragment it and create a cohesive strategy that unifies the various points at which users engage with your business.

Think Omnichannel (but the real Omnichannel)

‘Omnichannel’, a term that emerged back in 2010, has since become a heavily used buzzword across the the industry to describe experiences that are, in fact, not Omnichannel at all.

For many brands, Omnichannel simply means that brands are using social media; that they’ve created an adaptive mobile experience; or, as one marketer puts it, that “we have an e-mail program and we send stuff out to people, but I’m not really sure if we do or who owns it. If you’ll excuse me, I need to run to my 1:00pm and present a few slides about Facebook impressions from Q3.”

That is to say, brands have, thus far, mirrored the fragmented journeys of their customers, creating broken multi-channel experiences in response instead of omnichannel ones.

This lack of understanding about the true nature of omnichannel stems from the hard fact that, until recently, it’s been nearly impossible to create a truly omnichannel business. According to Marketo, true omnichannel, as opposed to the current multichannel state of marketing, should be understood as follows:

“Multi-channel is an operational view – how you allow the customer to complete transactions in each channel. Omni-channel, however, is viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated, and consistent. Omni-channel anticipates that customers may start in one channel and move to another as they progress to a resolution. Making these complex ‘hand-offs’ between channels must be fluid for the customer. Simply put, omni-channel is multi-channel done right!”

A simple but very clear example of a step toward true omnichannel marketing comes from Starbucks and their loyalty rewards program, which helped drive revenue to $2.65 billion. By adding a mobile aspect to the coffee shop experience, Starbucks leveraged a new channel with which they could engage with their traffic.

But the story doesn’t end there. A huge piece of their success stems from the fact that the mobile experience translates to the store experience — coffee lovers can scan either their phone or their rewards card to gain the those points. It’s an experience that functions across their wallets and their phones — the physical and the digital.

Starbucks Omnichannel

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Of course, lots of brands today have created similar apps; they have cross-device strategies in place, so that maybe a subway ad gives you a promo code to use online or an email newsletter gives you an in store discount. But the story shouldn’t end there, particularly considering that while 92% of purchases were still made in store in 2016, 49% of those in-store purchases were influenced by digital interactions.

Every touchpoint between a brand and its consumers should exist under a single cohesive strategy. In a world where there exist an endless number of channels and devices through which brands can reach and engage with consumers, marketers need stop looking at individual fragments of the consumer journey and begin to look at the big picture. While that big picture can seem like a lot of work, it’s actually a matter of just focusing on the lowest common denominator across those siloed channels and devices — the person.