GrowthFit Interview series

Applying Psychology and User Research in CRO

Applying Psychology and User Research in CRO

Highlights of the talk

  • Applying educational background of cognitive psychology and economics in CRO
  • Prioritizing user’s psychology in CRO
  • Focusing on profit, market share and customer satisfaction
  • Comparing online and offline purchases and overcoming barriers

What made you join CRO and how is it going for you? 

I started my journey in college by studying applied cognitive psychology which is more about the usability of things and cognitive economics. It’s about how people of different cultures and languages understand and use things. I’ve always applied this to e-commerce and business. It was a foundation for me to start with user research. 

I've worked on both the agency side and the client side for CRO for the past 15 years. In the last couple of years, I’ve been focused on building teams that do the billing, CRO and growth. I currently work with Spryker Systems. It's a bit of a different job, not necessarily about A/B testing, it's about gathering feedback from the community for the e-commerce platform. Previously, I had been heavily involved with the e-commerce platform Magento.

CRO CAFE Podcast

I have a lot of fun hosting CRO Cafe. It’s a perfect opportunity to stay up to date with the current trends in the industry.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I really enjoy going to events and talking at events and going on stage. That really helps to structure your own thoughts. I mean, if I want to give a presentation about something you need to have a structured way of thinking about the topic. It helps you to take a step back and think about the things a bit further when you're at the events.

Communicate the value of CRO with various teams and management

Would you like to share some wins or your failures in experimentation?

I think the biggest learning when you're starting is that you learn to handle failures. You need to be very comfortable with that otherwise this is not going to be the job for you. In the beginning of my career, I focused way too much on the experimentation side and the process itself. Because of my background in psychology and usability, I always included usability and combined that with validation and experimentation. That was to my benefit, I guess. 

But I focused way too much on that process alone and totally forgot to focus on communicating this within the company that I worked at or the client that I worked for. It's really important that you get buy-in from the rest of the company. Not everyone gets experimentation, not everyone understands what you're doing and if they don't get it you might not get some people to work there might even work against you.

If you are working with an e-commerce company as a CRO specialist, and there are a lot of people there like content writers and designers and other marketers. They might feel like we have this person checking our job. You need to help them understand you’re helping them improve their work. 

My other learning was that you also need to focus on profit or market share. My tip is- talk with your CFO or finance team or a BI team and learn from them, what are they looking at then translate that back to the website that you're working on, and then try to focus on those measures that management really cares about. 

How do you start your optimization efforts on the website?

As a psychologist and user researcher, I start trying to figure out where the customers are getting stuck on the website, why they are not converting, why they are interested in this product or in this company, why they are on this website, why are they buying into competitors and not at your websites? The why is really important there. Google analytics can tell you where people are getting stuck. It’s possible that people’s expectations are not met. I like to focus on doing some user research to figure out the reasons. 

What are the biggest hurdles for visitors who are not converting from the website?

I think there are many hurdles since we know that conversion rate on any website is only around 2% mostly. So when we compare that with offline stores, it's so low. There are always distractions when you think from the user’s perspective. The biggest distraction is they delay their decisions unlike in a physical store. If we can fix that by keeping the buying cart valid for longer periods of time and also prompting them with messages to complete the purchase, I think it can help them convert. That's a big thing you need to remember when you're designing those experiences.

Packaging CRO as Risk Management

What is your methodology to lift conversion rates as a CRO specialist?

We try to tackle all the usability issues by gathering user insights. We diligently go through the CRO process and validate and figure out what can I do to make that better. You need to make sure that you're working on the right KPIs. Again, conversion rate might not be the best one. It’s also about the profit that you make or the market share and also about customer lifetime value.

Those are a bit harder to measure, but there are way more important than just conversion rates. You can call it conversion rate optimization to begin with. But I suggest you call it risk management instead. People are usually more scared to lose something they already have than to potentially win something in the future. But if it's risk management, maybe some people in your company are against running experiments. You can tell them, well, you're actually already running experiments with the content team, design team and a development team. But the funny thing is you're not validating them, and that's what you can help with. If you succeed, they’ll give you some more budgets to validate things.

Learn from courses and experienced team members

What would you recommend to entry-level CRO professionals?

There’s very good training material on It’s definitely a really valuable source for anyone starting or experienced. 

What is an advice that you wish you should have got early in your career?

Join a team with someone who's already experienced. At the beginning of my career, I had to figure out the little things on my own, although it gives you a deep understanding of why things happen the way they do, if you can learn from someone, your learning will be much faster. If you want to grow in your career, do those courses, but definitely, get practical experience too, and then join a team where you're not the only one doing CRO.