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Posted on 12.31.2014

By Tim Ash

In recent years, conversion rate optimization (CRO) has emerged as a top priority for marketers across virtually every vertical.

Big data and myriad of technological advancements have made website testing and optimization available to companies of all sizes, and a growing percentage of organizations are dedicating marketing dollars and staff resources to this important discipline.

So with all this growth, what will conversion rate optimization look like in 2015? Here’s what some of the experts are predicting:

A Focus on Relevance

E-commerce expert Charles Nicholls, Chief Strategy Officer of SeeWhy, predicts that context will play an increasingly important role as marketers seek to present personalized experiences to visitors. “As more data becomes available in real time about individual consumers, the ability to glean what is relevant to visitors from their digital and offline footprints will lead to changes in the way marketers think about CRO,” Nicholls says. “Does she convert on this device? Where is she on her journey? What’s the weather like where she is? Is the item she’s looking at trending currently on social? Do we know enough about her to build a personal landing page?” Using data to answer these questions will allow marketers to present contextually relevant Web experiences to each visitor.

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Adobe’s Kevin Lindsay, Director of Conversion Product Marketing, agrees that the biggest trends in CRO revolve around the growing consumer demand for hyper-relevant experiences. He explains: “Hyper-relevance is that perfectly curated moment where ‘last millisecond’ targeting — delivering immediate, meaningful digital experiences — meets ‘last inch’ targeting — the moment the consumer walks through the doors of that (actual) store. It’ll be evidenced by activities like push notifications that steer consumers toward products and offers, made even more relevant through micro-location targeting and iBeacons.” Of course, figuring out how to create a hyper-relevant, individualized experience for millions of unique visitors presents some unique challenges, and not all companies will be able to take this leap. But even smaller organizations should be thinking about personalization on whatever scale they can manage.

Mobile Use Brings New Opportunities

Few events in history have caused as rapid of an evolution in consumer behavior as mobile Web devices. Smartphones, tablets and e-readers have allowed people to easily perform Web-based activities that just a few years ago could only be efficiently done on a desktop computer. This fact alone has changed the landscape of conversion rate optimization.

Conversion optimization pioneer Bryan Eisenberg says that “the collision of mobile traffic rising and the consumption of video is one of the biggest factors affecting conversion today.” His CRO prediction for 2015 is that “we will start to see a lot more people personalizing, localizing and testing video content to improve conversions.”

The rising use of mobile has also profoundly changed the way people search. With an increasing number of people using voice commands to search, it’s easy to see how the expectation for desktop search has changed. Rather than enter keywords and phrases in an attempt to “match” the results of a machine-driven search algorithm, a growing number of people are using plain conversational language in their searches, a practice called “natural language search.”

Jordi Torras, CEO of Inbenta (a company specializing in artificial intelligence and natural language processing), predicts that in 2015 and beyond, websites that are able to communicate with and understand visitors using their own words will enjoy significantly improved conversion rates. People expect a website to understand what they want. Enabling artificial intelligence features, like semantic search, will fulfill that expectation by providing results based on what the visitor intends, not necessarily what was typed.

Brian Massey, the self-titled Conversion Scientist, predicts a wholesale demise of what he calls “Mobile 1.0”. He envisions 2015 to be the year in which “concepts like the hamburger menu button, form fields, and even the thought that responsive designs are acceptable for small screens will melt away.” While not all marketers will agree, it is clear that companies that expect visitors to convert via mobile devices will need to approach cross-device integration more holistically than they have in the past. Conversions often start on one device and end on another, and it will be increasingly critical for marketers to ensure a cohesive experience that understands how people browse, shop and buy.

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Testing and Optimization Will Get Smarter

Technology is becoming more robust and less expensive, which will allow marketers to get savvier and more efficient in their approach to optimization and testing. Entrepreneur and analytics expert Neil Patel expects to see a growing number of companies leveraging existing technologies to boost conversion rates in 2015. “For example,” Patel says, “most marketers are asking for users to sign-up with an email address and password, when they could be getting that information from Facebook or Google authentication. From what I have seen this typically can increase a business’s conversion rate by over 10 or even 20 percent.”

Sandra Neihaus, VP of UX at Closed Loop, suggests that 2015 will be the year that “pre-testing” gains momentum. According to Neihaus, “CRO practitioners looking for an edge will start using UX and market research methods to narrow the field of test options before running a live traffic test. Why waste weeks or months testing bad options when a simple survey or eye tracking study could get you 20 miles further down the conversion highway in a matter of days? The advantages are too strong to ignore, and in 2015 CRO practitioners looking for an edge will increasingly turn to pre-testing approaches.”

In addition, “more test ideas will come from outside the organization than from inside,” predicts Closed Loop CEO and Founder Lance Loveday. “Savvy companies will realize that customers should have more of a voice in identifying and prioritizing test ideas and not just be used as guinea pigs.”

Breaking Through the Gate

The content marketing explosion has proven to marketers that people are attracted to quality, relevant content. Plus, sites like BuzzFeed have demonstrated how addicting and share-worthy quizzes, games and interactive experiences can be. That could be why Justin Talerico, co-founder and CEO of ion interactive, predicts, “In 2015, CRO will find its greatest successes in useful, interactive, un-gated content experiences.” Talerico suggests that un-gating content can build trust with website visitors and lead to higher conversions downstream. “The people we want to convert are in charge,” says Talerico. “They want more control. More transparency. And more access to information deeper and deeper into their journey. CRO will move its gates back behind interactive content that engages by giving people what they want — before asking for the conversion.”

More Tests Means More Jobs

Finally, Optimizely’s Head of Optimization Kyle Rush predicts that businesses will start running more experiments across all their channels, including mobile apps. “We will see many open job postings for conversion optimization positions,” says Rush. “More and more businesses will hire someone to do conversion optimization full time.”

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