Ayat Shukairy is the Co-Founder of Invesp, and has been doing conversion rate optimization (CRO) since before CRO was cool. That is, she started in early 2006, before it was a widely used term, and has been pursuing the perfection of her craft ever since. She's the unofficial (official) Queen of CRO.
She's worked on countless high-profile eCommerce projects, has raised conversion rates by as much as 65%, and has worked with companies like 3M, eBay, O'Reilly, and Rainbow Love.
If you have eCommerce clients or any clients who need a little help getting people to mash that "buy" button when they get to your site, make sure you catch today's episode of the Agency Ahead Podcast.
How CRO Has Changed Over the Years
Ayat says there was a time that nobody knew what she was talking about when she said she did CRO.
"It's become a lot more trendy now. People are a lot more engaged with the concept."
She calls CRO a form of post-click marketing.
"Trying to convince visitors, once they get to a site, to take an action."
She says her bread-and-butter is eCommerce sites, but they work with all sorts of customers.
"In 2010, 2011, A/B testing became a major thing. The unfortunate reality is that CRO became A/B testing. They became synonymous, and they're really not. There's a lot of that research, and that creative, persuasive aspect that's very important.
You want to drill down on them, come up with really great experiments you can actually test on your website, and if you can't test on your website (for example, some websites don't get a lot of traffic) it can be difficult to run an experiment.
But you can still do conversion rate optimization, and you should be doing CRO, meaning you should be understanding your visitors, trying to delve into analytics to see what their behaviors are like, matching that with qualitative research you conducted.
That way you can form that story, engage them, and provide them with what they're really looking for up-front in their experience on your site."
How does she do it? Ayat gives an example.
"When looking at analytics or conducting customer interviews or looking at heat maps or video recordings I can conclude some things about a site. I can look at a site and say hey, this is wrong, this information is incorrect, there's no continuity between my ads and my website.
I need to modify that because we're going to have a better user experience in the end. That's going to enhance and persuade and move people forward and that's really what we want to get to. What's really important is everybody should be doing all those activities, and all those activities really fall under that CRO umbrella. Even if you can't test it, change it!
It's really important you're addressing those needs, and sometimes again, through those different research opportunities we can conclude and find those areas that need improvement on the website to get people to actually take the action they came to the site for."
Performing CRO Experiments for Businesses
Ayat says what Invesp often brings to clients is a sense of structure.
"We bring a process that we have to do A-B-C-D. Before we actually make any changes on the website we need to understand, we need to conduct really in-depth interviews. We actually follow a process called Jobs to be Done."
They're looking for specific insights.
"What we need to change on the site, what type of copy we need to put there, the elements we need to be there in order to really provide a better user experience in the end. We provide the process, but we also provide a different perspective.
A lot of times when you're stuck in something, and you're just looking at the same thing every single day it's hard to figure out what it is that's going to really move the needle, but when you bring in an outside agency that has been doing it a long time.
They've run so many different experiments, and they understand how to look at customers and how to really address their needs. Then you're going to bring in that perspective and really change the way the website operates, and introduce new elements maybe you hadn't even thought of."
Getting Excited About CRO
Garrett then asked Ayat what really excited her about CRO.
"I love a challenge. Whenever I work with a new company I have to learn everything about that specific company. I have to understand their products, their value proposition, their positioning.
Being able to adjust some of that and making sure we're addressing different things as we talk about those greater strategic opportunities, those are all really exciting to me.
That is really where the bread and butter come in where you're trying to come up with this strategy for a company to help address the needs of the customer, getting into understanding customers and their motivations."
She says it's not just a technical exercise.
"I love that behavioral aspect, and the persuasive and psychological aspect you have to get into."
She also loves to see the work pay off.
"You see an uptick and it's an amazing feeling. You can always measure what you're doing and see the results. That always gets me super excited."
CRO in the Context of the Pandemic
Ayat says the pandemic has been an exciting time for CROs.
"Obviously a lot of businesses that were never operating or thinking of being online have completely shifted their methodology.
The DTC (Direct to Consumer) market has blown up completely. But it's also scary because you want to keep in mind what's happening, address that within the site experience, and are conscious of it. But you also don't want to overdo it."
She says there's a really thin line.
"People are really sick of hearing about the pandemic. All the marketing is trying to really pull people in when it comes to the pandemic. Well, people are getting fatigued when it comes to that.
There's always this really fine line you have to walk between trying to understand this is a pandemic, so I need to address these concerns people have, maybe the types of products they see, the type of experience on the product page could be a little different addressing those needs, but not being so over that it becomes a little bit of a turn-off to visitors."
She says that every client has very different needs, as do the clients patronizing each type of business.
"The way I positioned the copy, the wording, the elements, the images, they all have to reflect and be conscious of what's happening around that particular visitor."
One thing she tells clients is that best practices are not a thing, in CRO.
"I can't take what I've done for one client and apply it to you. Certainly, there might be some trends but that's different. Everything we do is very data-driven. I've linked things to a specific customer interview session, these JTBD interviews that I've conducted.
We know that visitors respond A-B-C-D, we know their motivations are A-B-C-D, we know they're concerned about whatever it is. It's all data-driven."
She says it's all research-based.
"And that's why clients trust us. This is the hypothesis. This is the experiment we're going to be running. Nothing is just launched without that explanation. They're very aware of why this is happening, what we're trying to test."
She gave an example of a client project where visitors would go to the site and use the "add to cart" feature as a comparison tool. She said that the process was then tedious for them. So they added a pop-up with a "continue shopping" call to action and improved conversions because they made it all less tedious on the customers.
Scoping Out Client Projects
CRO is an ongoing process, so Garrett asked how Invesp structures out projects.
"It's a monthly retainer. We always tell our clients in order to see results you need to be with us for 3-4 months. Typically the contracts I get excited about are the year-long contracts, because I know I'm going to be able to show them, quarter after quarter, those increases. But when I'm in such a limited, tight spot, it makes it a lot more difficult."
She says if a client only wants to sign on for a quarter they really have to prioritize which projects they're going to do.
The clients who get the 65%+ increases are the ones who stay with the company for over a year.
"If I'm running an experiment I might come up with 3,4 experiments based on that experiment that I'm running. So the process is lengthy, it takes time, you have to be patient with it, it's not a light switch you can turn on and off.
You need to take time with it to see results. Same thing with any marketing initiative. SEO, any type of digital marketing, Facebook marketing, Google advertising, nothing happens like that."
What's your right now cause?
Ayat got together with a bunch of professionals to form a Facebook group called Mix/ed Spaces in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
"We have conversations. We bring in different people of different backgrounds and we talk about some of those issues. It's been a great resource for me. If you can find people who are different, that are different from what you look like, they don't have the same perspectives as you, it's important to talk to people because you want to try to bridge those gaps.
If you look at the news, look at Muslims, you might think scary things. For me, it's always been important to have conversations with people. You have misperceptions. There are stereotypes, unfortunately. That's how people portrayed Muslims for a very long time. The same with Black lives, to understand the systemic racism and how it's affected Black people.
We only know the surface of it. I think of when you talk to someone who is Black and who has experienced some of it, you realize you're really ignorant. It's been very eye-opening for me. I've loved that and I really appreciated the group we've created."
Connect with Ayat Shukairy