The key to selecting the right conversion optimization software is to start by designing a conversion optimization strategy--then find the tool or set of tools that best support that strategy. Once a CRO strategy is in place, there are some general factors to consider.
"Marketers run into the trap of looking for tools first, before thinking about strategy. That can really hamstring you. You can't know if the features solve your needs without identifying your needs and strategy first."
Some vendors, such as Adobe and IBM, offer the option of an entire marketing software suite, spanning capabilities from analytics to testing to email marketing to customer experience management. Some companies, often enterprises, choose to use a suite because they say it offers better integration between the various components. Others opt to use standalone, best-of-breed solutions, which usually offer integration options with other complementary software.
"The suite option can be good for organizations because there are different counting methodologies with different testing and analytics solutions. As the testing solutions get more deeply integrated with analytics, organizations will be empowered to make use of historical data."Analytics and Testing Consultant
"The challenge of the software platform option is it's unlikely to be best at everything. It may seem easier to work with one tool. However, we find the best results by using the best point solutions and integrating them into a best-in-class toolset."
"As marketing becomes more sophisticated with personalization and highly advanced segmentation, there might be a greater push to converge analytics and testing technology into one solution. But for now, the integrations typically offered are sufficient for most organizations."
"Generally, companies who want a single provider use Adobe. Those who want to pick and choose various components of marketing technology often use Google Analytics."
Some companies choose their optimization software based on the breadth and depth of features available, whereas others place a greater value on ease of use. Often the more complex tools that offer a more comprehensive feature set will require more resources to implement and maintain--both in terms of cost, as well as employee headcount. The most sophisticated software products will require employees with specific knowledge and experience. The amount of IT support needed to install or use a tool also varies.
"When you evaluate software, don't just look at its functionality. Also, consider how easy it is to use. The best analytics software is like the best vodka: you get great results with fewer headaches."
"Instead of looking solely at the feature set, think about your ability to use the tool. What's your objective? What's your team skillset? Are they more marketers, data scientists or IT-oriented? What's your process and methodology to handle analysis requests or communicate insight?"
The complexity of CRO software needed largely depends on where a company or marketing team fits in the CRO maturity model. An organization that is just beginning to explore conversion optimization can easily get started with a free web analytics tool, a way to engage with customers or website visitors for feedback, and a low-cost, easy-to-use A/B testing tool. Such an organization will probably focus first on optimizing landing pages, and likely has one or a few CRO enthusiasts, but does not yet have multi- executive support and certainly not organization-wide buy-in. A few quick wins are needed to help the organization establish more definitive CRO processes and gain further support.
A company with moderate CRO maturity might have enough web traffic and testing ideas to run multivariate tests, as well as experiments that span multiple pages of the conversion funnel. The organization might also begin to identify traffic segments that exhibit different behavior patterns. In this case, a more complex testing and targeting feature set is required, as well as tighter integration between analytics and testing software.
A highly mature CRO company is continuously innovating its website and is able to do more advanced profiling and targeting of different traffic segments. The CRO program enjoys organization-wide support as well as a dedicated team of IT and marketing staff responsible for its execution.
"CRO requires a cultural shift inside the company. You might have the latest tools, but what good is the Ferrari in the garage if the mechanics don't talk to the drivers? IT and marketing have to get along and there's got to be a dedicated IT team embedded under marketing that is there to support CRO initiatives and bypass the normal software development roadmap."
In a mature CRO company, testing and analytics tools might integrate with other marketing technologies such as business intelligence, email service providers and customer relationship management to enable direct action based on real-time data. Machine-learning and predictive analytics software might also come into play.
"There is an analytics journey that companies go through. First, it's what happened. How many people visit and how many people buy? Second, it's why it happened--gaining some kind of understanding of behavior through insight gathering, including testing. Third, what will happen? This is where you use predictive tools and start creating models based on past purchases. Finally, how can I make it happen? This is where machine-learning tools automate tasks and make actions happen on the data with limited human oversight."