GrowthFit Interview series

How Impactful Personalization Optimizes Conversions

Sumantha Shankaranarayana
Founder and Chief Optimizer

Highlights of the talk:

  • Learning from successes and failures in experimentation
  • Studying and removing the hurdles in Conversions
  • Experimenting with personalization at small and big level
  • Building a competent team over relying on tools

What prompted you to start a journey in CRO? Tell us about your journey in marketing and CRO so far.

Understanding buyer journey and user psychology excited me. I had experience working in growth for startups. Thanks to being in the field of CRO, I got a lot of exposure from various companies across the world. It’s interesting as you can impact various areas of the business. You need to check-mark multiple problems that people are experiencing. 

I am thankful to my mentor, Krupesh Bhatt because of whom I turned to CRO. Prior to that I was big on data analysis. Even before I knew what conversion optimization was, I was conducting experiments. For me the most exciting part is that it’s all about what solutions we need to bring to the fore. That’s where all of it started. 

What are your learning from your successes and failures in experimentations?

First and foremost, it needs to be ingrained in any CRO professionals that experiments can go both ways. Experimentation is all about insights whether it’s a hit or miss. You need to understand what is not doing well. You need to streamline your customer experience. My biggest win was on a firm optimization exercise. 

I spent a lot of time on user research and figured out that our audience was 50 plus. They couldn’t fill the form. So, I brought in a phone based lead capture. I brought in an easy lead capturing system. This led to a 500 percent spike overnight. The leads were in thousands which we were capturing. We had removed a particular friction factor for end users by understanding them better. 

That was one of the good experiments. It’s all about how strong your hypothesis is. It’s also about your customer’s motivation. Users are at different stages of the funnel. Understanding those levels and breaking down the hypothesis. Additionally, their pain points, demographics etc are also a key to understanding their behaviour and what motivates them. 

Considering that everybody is being bombarded with a lot of messages and you may be competing against the likes of Amazon, you’ll have to match up to that. Brainstorm on what are the engagement steps so the experience matches up to the benchmarks. 

In terms of losses- if you are part of the large enterprises, getting the buy-in from stakeholders. It’s difficult to convince them about experimentation. In certain parts of the world, conversion optimization is nascent. There’s less awareness and acceptance about experimenting. You need to bag a particular budget for your experimentation project and prove that it impacts ROI. 

You need to convince them in numbers and demonstrate how you can impact your ROI with CRO practices. It’s obviously a lot of hard work. Sometimes you need to kill your own ideas. Learn, iterate, go back to user research. It’s never a loss but learning. 

What are the biggest hurdles on a website? What stops visitors from converting? 

All of it boils down to awareness levels. Let’s say you are a new brand. Your SEO team is doing great work, your PR and marketing team is pitching in. Let’s say you are an online survey tool. It might be a crowded market and you are getting good traffic too. If the message on the website says- “We are the best survey tool,” there may be a disconnect if I’m seeing it for the first time. It may not create trust. 

You need to create trust. There should be a social proof. People are trying to figure out what problems you solve for them. So, you need to define the value proposition in the best way possible. That’s why you need an impactful narrative to be laid out across different touch points. 

Do you suggest showing the relevant personalized data to visitors? 

Yes, but I wouldn’t suggest over complicating it. Even copy and designs can help. Textual changes that bring engagement metrics help. Let’s say there’s a repeat visitor. A personalized message with his name puts a smile on his face. There needs to be conversational messages leading to micro conversions that lead to bigger conversions. 

The end user will come from one stage of the funnel to the other. Try various copies to create more engagement. You may already know what works. You can use videos, however text is more malleable.  

What is your methodology to increase conversion rate?

Everything depends on context. Different websites with different motivations have different conversion rates. If you compare the adaptability of various platforms like radio, apps like facebook and Pokemon, it’s all about the end user’s perception. If you are aware of the end user’s motivation, you will struggle big time. 

How do you use personalization to optimize your conversions?

I would think of having two tracks. One is minute changes, copy changes and the other approach is radical changes. It’s about figuring out what impacts your users’ behaviour and has it improved your clarity. How one can fill in all those gaps. If you are going after a particular audience segment, what do you know about them, what motivates and hinders them. What helps them accomplish in their day to day life. By understanding these, you can be more relevant. At the end of the day, you are optimizing for their attention. Be it at any stage, if they may not be willing to buy right now. Even if they dont buy, they did come to your site. Were they comparing, what they were trying to achieve? You need to backtrack and see. That’s the job of any experimenter— making life easier. 

What are the experimenting tools that you recommend?

There are many tools for experimenting and they are really great. Let’s say I’m using a tool, but I also need to have a great infrastructure in place to make the best of the tools. You’ve got this particular tool, but how’s your research, content, product management, QA team. You need to have a great team to string all the things together. You need to have the people and methodology behind the process. Tools are only a small part, it’s the team that makes the difference. 

What’s one piece of advice for budding marketers?

Across all industries, you need to ensure that the mindset for testing is there. It’s an exciting field. You will learn a lot. It’s an infinite learning curve. You will figure from your learning that experimentation is a potent tool for a brand to achieve great things.