Conversion Rate Optimization - Trends for 2021

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Conversion rate optimization (CRO) can get a bit technical, so we like to break it down into simple terms:

  1. Get people to your site.
  2. Turn those site visits into tangible, revenue-generating outcomes.

With this in mind, we urge you to consider CRO from two perspectives:

  1. How people are getting to your website or digital experience (the journey from an ad, social media post, etc.).
  2. What people are doing once they’re on your site.


This gives us a bigger picture of all the key “touchpoints” along the journey, from awareness to conversion, each of which can be optimized to increase the chances that somebody makes it to the finish line. These include:

  • Display and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
  • Landing pages
  • Blog posts
  • Website copy
  • Site structure, navigation, and page speed
  • Email and text messaging campaigns
  • Calls-to-action (CTAs)
  • Forms

What’s so interesting about CRO is that the discipline is all about getting more out of the website traffic you already have. It’s an opportunity to test, tweak, refine, and rebuild so that more people make it to the finish line (a purchase, a download, etc.) when they reach your site. And the reward can be tremendous, both in terms of revenue generation and overall user experience.


Important CRO Trends for 2021

Optimizing these digital experiences can go a long way toward maximizing your investments in digital marketing, which will remain imperative now and into the future. We’re talking R-O-I. To that end, here are the CRO trends to keep an eye on 2021.


1. UX Will be the Undisputed North Star

User experience (UX) has long been an essential part of CRO. Ideally, we’re always designing digital experiences and customer journeys from the user’s perspective and for the user’s benefit, even if our ultimate goal is a conversion or sale. Google seems to agree. According to a May 2020 Google Webmaster Central Blog post, Google Search will now factor UX signals into its rankings, including new Core Web Vitals. Here’s more detail from the Google team:

“Core Web Vitals are a set of real-world, user-centered metrics that quantify key aspects of the user experience. They measure dimensions of web usability such as load time, interactivity, and the stability of content as it loads.”


2. Speaking of UX, Your Site Speed is a Big Deal

First, an anecdote: I was poking around doing some research about UX and I had to chuckle: it was a blog post touting site speed that took more than three seconds to load because of all the crap crammed onto it. In most cases, I’d bail if a site took this long, as would most users.

What does that mean for CRO specialists? The data overwhelmingly shows that, if your pages take too long to load, users tend to bounce before even considering your offer. Check out these stats from a recent Akamai study:

“A 100-millisecond delay in website load time can hurt conversion rates by 7%. A two-second delay in web page load time increases bounce rates by 103%. 53%$ of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.”

A 7% hit on your conversion rate hurts. A lot. Imagine that kind of hit on an eCommerce experience that generates $100,000 a month.


3. Don’t Forget Mobile-first Optimization

Seriously. Mobile optimization is critical. It’s up there with site speed in terms of top UX priorities.

Why? Because lots and lots of people will be interfacing with your digital channels on mobile devices. predicts people have been spending 23 additional minutes per day on their smartphones in 2020. According to Statista, there are more than 3 billion smartphone users worldwide, a number that is expected to mushroom significantly over the next couple of years.

The emphasis on mobile experiences isn’t necessarily news. But the pace of change and innovation seems to accelerate each and every year. Only a couple of years ago, optimizing for mobile responsiveness was on the top of the list for CRO experts. Today, the focus is optimizing for a proliferation of new mobile experiences, including voice assistants, augmented reality (AR), and mobile “Near Me” search experiences.

One area that CRO wonks are zeroing in on is the mobile checkout experience. Google estimates that the average mobile checkout experience requires 120 “taps” (mobile clicks), with a 27% abandon rate. That’s A LOT of potentially missed revenue.


4. Personalization Will be CRO’s Best Friend

One fast-growing approach is to give your site … multiple personalities. Meaning, you can plan and build digital experiences specific to a group of users. Using certain software solutions, such as Optimizely, you can load a version of your webpage for certain users. Maybe you have a location-specific lander for users from a certain city or country, with messaging and appeals tailored to that audience. You can even get granular and only show certain versions of certain page elements, such as images and CTAs, based on certain “conditions” (user data).


Identity access management (IAM) will be big in 2021, too. One common refrain we’ve heard from CRO specialists is, we’re losing them on the login. Meaning, they put users on a beautiful, connected journey to a purchase, only to lose them by a login/authentication experience that takes them to another page or interrupts the user flow. Finding seamlessly integrated ways for users to authenticate, then personalizing the content they see based on their profile, will be a key part of CRO moving forward.

Google and Facebook are probably the gold standard for these authentication experiences.


5. Trust Will Come with Designing for Transparency

Trust can impact conversions. This is why 2021 will continue a public and institutional call for “transparency in design” that’s becoming increasingly loud. Here are a few examples of what that might look like:

  • Disclose data usage loud and clear on your apps and websites. Don’t bury your data usage and privacy policy somewhere that’s hard to find. And if you make changes to it, be sure to update consumers.
  • Review default data usage settings and give users the option to opt-in (rather than making this setting the default). Most users are quite chagrined when they find out an app or website is automatically tracking their data without their consent or awareness.
  • Invest in secure systems and vendors. If you’re using IAM, for example (mentioned above), choose a vendor that meets high standards for security compliance and data protection to avoid leaking sensitive customer data.
  • Don’t surprise people with the price. This is especially important for eCommerce experiences. People who feel surprised by a price at the last stage of checkout will likely bail on the experience altogether. I know I would. Make it clear to the user each step of the way what they’ll be paying for your product or service.
  • Tell users which apps have been granted access. Twitter is a good example of this: within Twitter settings, users can find which apps have been granted access to Twitter for things like personal data, tweets, contacts, and so on. Facebook and WordPress have similar pages. Some people are surprised—or flat out forget—that they’ve given permission to third parties to access their data on a certain platform. Make this information well-known to your users.

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