Overcoming Institutional Folklore with CRO

You know Zach?  Zach from Sales. Zach’s been with the company for years.

Zach made his way up through the ranks, and now he’s a senior member of the Sales Team. If you want to know about how the company works, Zach’s your man. When it comes to what connects with website visitors and how best to convert those prospects to customers, Zach can tell you. Back in 2018, Zach was working with the website team and he came up with some stellar ideas – online sales were up and subscribers grew by more than 10%.

That worked, those were some good times.

But now sales are slowing, and no-one is signing up for the newsletter. But it can’t be the website? It can’t be the work that Zach did: that’s the high watermark in website performance, that’s how we do things here. Zach’s strategy was successful – we shouldn’t be changing that, as it’s what’s driven the most success?

The answer is: you might not need to, but what you’re experiencing is institutional folklore – the in-house, ingrained belief that something that was successful one, two, five years ago is still relevant and effective; something that produced results, when everyone got a slap on the back, drinks after work, yeah? Whilst it can be difficult to admit that the goose is no longer laying the golden egg there is a process and tools to assist in overcoming your institutional folklore and it is Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO).

Institutional folklore tends to fall into three main categories:

  • The Legends: Zach’s work on the website would fall under this category, an apogee of performance where it seems unthinkable to change. Whilst Juice WRLD would have you believing that legends-never-die, it’s a fact that they can fade and things that were once on a pedestal can end up lying in ruins. CRO and A/B testing give you the ability to tweak all elements of your website to understand if what used to work still does, or if a new approach is needed.
  • The Commandments: a commandment usually comes from outside of the organisation by a Moses-like industry-leader; generally adopted from the top down. A commandment is something that is accepted as a given for example: a specific type of user will always present a specific type of behaviour, mobile-first always, every website needs a gorgeous bit of photography on its homepage, etc. And whilst commandments maybe right for the majority, CRO and A/B testing allows you to check if it is correct for your website and audience.
  • The Fables: the fable comes from afar; a business legend but without the internal history. The fable comes from Naomi. Like a medieval troubadour, Naomi tells tales of when she worked for a successful multi-national and at that company they did this thing which increased sign-ups by 5% and saw LTV go up by more than a quarter. Now this external folklore is bought to you and adopted by rote; and Naomi’s fable may work wonders for you and it may be why she was hired, but by interrogating it with A/B testing you can test if it is right, rather just using it because you heard-it-worked-somewhere-else.

Having a strong CRO process supported by a testing programme as a baked-in part of your website’s life cycle is imperative to not only counter things like institutional folklore but to systematically enhance user experience, boost conversion rates, and ultimately drive meaningful business growth.

An essential part of your CRO process is to have four key elements clearly defined:

  • The Conversion: Defining what you're trying to measure may seem like a simple task, and often is. However, it's essential to ensure that what is being measured is clear, ensuring that all stakeholders are aligned, promoting more focused collaboration and working.
  • The Journey: Once where you’re trying to get users to is defined, you then need to understand how they got there. Mapping the user journey provides essential information on where blocker and enablers might be, making it a crucial step in the development of strong testing hypotheses
  • The Blockers: With the conversion and journey defined, you need to understand what is stopping visitors completing them. Identifying potential blockers is essential for creating effective A/B tests and can be the focus of continuous iteration within testing programmes.
  •  The Enablers: Whilst understanding what isn’t working is important, so is identifying what does. Through pinpointing the enabling elements of your site, A/B tests can be generated using the success as the backbone of a hypothesis.

With these four elements defined, generating hypotheses, scoping and iteration mapping become easier to execute, and communicate. Through using a tool such as FigPii to undertake A/B testing alongside the use of technologies such as SiteCore Personalize to tailor each user’s visit to their specific requirements, a robust programme of testing can be undertaken, all underpinned by statistically significant data.

What about Zach?

Sure, Zach still gets some credit. But his past successes need reevaluation, especially when woven into the fabric of a company’s culture and lore. A robust CRO methodology and testing programme is a means to interrogate new hypotheses and is ultimately the key to systematically enhance user experience, boost converting visits, and drive success on your website. Acknowledge Zach's contributions, but also recognise that tradition and past successes shouldn’t be a shortcut to thinking or trying things that oppose the status quo.

Sorry Zach.

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