• CRO Strategy vs. Tactics: What’s the Difference?

    How do you tell the difference between a conversion optimization amateur and Pro? 

    Here’s a free tip: The main difference is the mindset. 

    Amateurs are all about CRO tactics or best practices. They quickly diagnose what’s wrong with a website and offer solutions based on best practices even before conducting research.  

    Pros play it safe, and they never bet a lot on tactics. 

    They know there is a place for best practices in conversion optimization – but they understand that the best optimization tactics are born out of a strategy. 

    So, they first focus on building a well-researched CRO strategy aligned to business goals. Pros seek to understand the business objectives before embarking on any optimization work.

    Understanding the business goals is critical in conversion optimization. I mean, how do you intend to unlock new revenue opportunities when you don’t know the revenue target that a business wants to achieve? 

    Okay, we will talk about how Pros build a CRO strategy later – now, it’s important to mention that the process of creating the strategy is not a one-day or one-week thing. 

    We’re talking about 6 – 10 weeks here! 

    But, some clients don’t have the patience to wait that long. All they want to hear is that cha-ching sound in their bank. And this is the reason why some agencies end up falling into the trap of starting with tactics based on best practices. 

    What is a CRO Strategy?

    Before I take a deep dive into what a CRO strategy is, allow me to start by sharing two quotes by Sun Tzu, a genius strategist: 

    “Strategy is about winning before the battle begins, while tactics are about striking at weakness.”

    The second quote is: 

    ​​”Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” 

    A conversion rate optimization strategy is a detailed 6 to 12-month plan of improving a website’s conversion rate, user experience, and the business itself. To make it easy to understand, you can think of CRO strategy as the foundation of CRO tactics. It is a CRO strategy that determines the action plan you will take to optimize the website. 

    If you’re following the above definition, you’d know that all I’m saying is: 

    In an ideal world, CRO strategy begets CRO tactics. 

    Creating a CRO strategy takes between 6 to 8 weeks for an expert CRO team. The whole process entails doing a multitude of activities: 

    FigPii Heatmaps

    All these activities need to take a certain amount of time, and not one of them has to be skipped. Analyzing all those activities and synthesizing the results to create insights is the tricky part. 

    I mean, anyone can launch a heat map. Anyone can start session recordings on their site. Your analytic tools can generate tens of thousands of reports. So what? 

    Drawing insights from all those activities, highlighting problem areas and revenue opportunities is not for everyone – if you know how to do it, you are halfway done. 

    The other important aspect of creating a CRO strategy is prioritizing the action plan you intend to take. Let me explain…

    As you conduct your conversion research or all of those activities listed above, you’re more likely to uncover 100s of possible issues to fix on your website. Realistically, you can’t fix everything in one go. So, you need to prioritize those issues based on the conversion impact. 

    Although there are prioritization frameworks you can use to score those issues, the task is not easy. Once you have prioritized the conversion issues, you now have a conversion optimization strategy.  

    ALSO READ: Creating A Conversion Roadmap – How to Prioritize Conversion Problems on Your Website

    My dear friend, one crucial thing to note here is that a CRO strategy should be based on the qualitative and quantitative research you do on your website. That means that a CRO strategy will vary from one company to another – even though the process of creating one remains the same. 

    Although the process of creating a CRO strategic plan sounds so daunting and unsexy, it’s worth it. A business that starts investing in a robust CRO strategy can set itself up for a win in the long run. 

    Developing a CRO strategy is probably the best thing you can do for your CRO program

    What are CRO Tactics? 

    If your CRO strategy is your game plan, then your CRO tactics are the specific activities you use to accomplish the goals highlighted in your CRO strategy. That indicates that your tactics have to be driven by strategy. 

    Conversion optimization has hundreds of tactics that experts can implement on different websites. Examples of CRO tactics include: 

    • Changing the position of a CTA
    • Changing the website copy 
    • Using micro-commitments to engage customers 
    • Direct your website traffic
    • UX optimization

    Now that you know what CRO tactics are, it’s also important to mention that they are not always based on strategy. 

    Yes, you can have CRO tactics without a CRO strategy…but remember, Sun Tzu refers to this approach as the noise before the defeat.

    Tactics with strategy are usually based on best practices. But such tactics can sometimes be toxic because not all best practices are best for your site. Some of them may do more harm than good on your site. 

    I can only recommend that you start with tactics if you have a CRO expert in your team who has thousands of experiments under their belt. 

    What’s the Relationship Between CRO Strategy and Tactics?  

    The success of your CRO program lies in how well your strategy interconnects with your tactics. If there’s a disconnect between the two, your program will go down like a lead balloon.  

    Remember, the whole idea of a CRO strategy is the application of optimization tactics against a potential /conversion revenue opportunity. 

    As you execute your CRO strategy, you select specific conversion optimization tactics – from a pool of over 100 – that will help you achieve your goals. 

    Think of the relationship between CRO strategy and tactics this way: 

    Suppose your goal is to increase product page conversions by 20% over the next eight months. To achieve this goal, you’d need to conduct conversion research and develop a strategy specifically for that goal. The tactics you’d choose should help you achieve the established goal. These tactics might include: 

    • Leverage user-generated content. 
    • Changing the product descriptions.
    • Adding more than one high-quality image. 
    • Sharing customer reviews and testimonials – make them easy to read.  
    • Creating product videos. 

    Here’s where it gets tricky, some of the tactics mentioned above might require strategies of their own to achieve the strategic objectives.

    For instance, the tactic leveraging user-generated content requires its strategy that will help you capture user-generated content – and that might include the following tactics: 

    • Taping into influencers.
    • Designing a contest. 
    • Hosting an event.
    • Creating a buzz for your brand.

    Another essential point to keep in mind when optimizing a website is, you’re more likely to come across desirable opportunities along the way. Still, not all of them will be worth pursuing. 

    My dear friend, I encourage you only to pursue those that align with your long-term strategy.

    Final thoughts…Strategic CRO vs. Tactical CRO

    When we talk about strategic and tactical CRO we’re referring to two different types of CRO programs.

    When companies come to us, they typically come with a specific problem. They are trying to increase their website conversion rate, or at least that’s what they think. 

    But, in reality, they’re trying to achieve two goals. 

    The first goal is to increase the revenue that they are generating online. And the second goal is to improve the visitors’ online experience. 

    FigPii Heatmaps

    To achieve those two goals, we run several experiments that are a mix of tactical and strategic CRO. 

    When I think of tactical CRO, I think of the set of experiments or actions intended to make it easier for people to buy online. Something like removing the friction space, encouraging visitors to take action, and adding the right triggers to help visitors take some action. 

    When I think of strategic CRO, what comes into mind is a different set of activities. Strategic CRO focuses on the business and seeks to answer the following questions. 

    • How do you grow the revenue of the business? 
    • Are there any revenue opportunities we can explore?
    • How do you think about the positioning of that business in the mind of its target audience? 
    • How do you communicate the messaging of the business to its audience?

    A good CRO program is a combination of both strategic and tactical CRO. Depending on the client we’re working with, 75% of our work can be tactical CRO. The remaining 25% is on strategic CRO. 

    Sometimes it’s the other way round. 

Simba Dube

Simba Dube is the Growth Marketing Manager at Invesp. He is passionate about marketing strategy, digital marketing, content marketing, and customer experience optimization.

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