While all five major digital marketing forces will have an impact on CRO in 2018, we suspect the most dramatic impact will come from increased data security and transparency in the form of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), followed by AI/machine learning, personalization, and mobile.

Icon indicating data security and privacyThe GDPR protects the data and privacy of European Union residents, thus any website that collects personal data from residents of EU member nations must be GDPR-compliant. Note that personal data as defined by the GDPR includes personal or business email addresses and cookie data. If your company collects any of this data from EU residents, even if the company has no branches in the EU, the GDPR still applies. It’s backed by international law, specifically the effects doctrine, so physical distance doesn’t exempt your website.

The GDPR has been in effect since its adoption in April 2016, but it will be enforced starting May 25 of this year. If you’re wondering if there’s a grace period, the answer is yes, and we’re in it right now.

Enforcement of the GDPR is no joke: penalties for violations can go as high as $24M or 4% of a company’s global annual revenue – whichever is higher. The most expensive penalties are related to data breaches, and are only levied after a process of notifications and warnings, but this should give you a sense of how serious the European Union is about this law.

If you haven’t begun optimizing your website, landing pages, and lead forms for the GDPR, we strongly recommend that you start. Whether you’re offering a software demo, content resource, or email subscription, your lead form has to meet these guidelines:

  • Pre-checked boxes are no longer allowed; remember, consent can no longer be presumed
  • Users must be told exactly and specifically what they’re signing up for in terms of marketing communications: “We’ll send our blog digest email to you on the 15th of every month”
  • Each separate offer must have its own consent option. For instance, if a user signs up for a monthly blog digest email, you can’t also email them special offers unless they consent to those in a separate option

Pop-up or sidebar forms will change a bit, but will still be completely workable. Just be sure they have:

  • Simple, clear language outlining what to expect
  • No pre-checked boxes
  • A clear sign-up button (rather than a vague “OK”) that indicates affirmative consent
  • Link to privacy and data collection policy

Can CRO still be done under these restrictions? Yes, absolutely. In fact, many of the GDPR requirements align with best practices in CRO and marketing in general:

  • Under the GDPR, the less personal information you gather, the better. Conveniently, the less personal information you request in your lead form, the more you minimize friction between the user and completing the form
  • One of the principles of CRO is “fulfill the promise,” meaning that successful landing pages provide the information that a user is seeking when they click on a link. The GDPR requires marketers to make–and fulfill–additional promises to users, enhancing the sense of trustworthiness
  • It might seem tedious to request consent from a user to collect their data, but the users who do consent have very deliberately affirmed their desire to interact with your company—in a sense, to work together already

Advances in data

Icon indicating "AI and machine learning"

Neural network concept artAI and machine learning are poised to bring scalability and efficiency to CRO this year.

  • AI allows CRO tools to combine multivariate factors into millions of combinations and test them extremely frequently
  • Machine learning allows CRO tools to record user actions, identify patterns, and weigh the significance of those patterns. For instance, SessionCam has developed a “Customer Struggle” score that uses machine learning to identify which parts of a website cause the most user frustration
  • Perhaps most significantly, machine learning will allow CRO tools to find the optimal balance between “exploring” (testing to see which combinations of factors perform best) and “exploiting” (serving the most successful combinations to visitors to maximize conversions). By finding that balance, CRO experts can further demonstrate the monetary value of CRO

Of course, AI and machine learning won’t affect all aspects of CRO. In fact, the “offloading” of so many data gathering, compiling, and processing tasks to tools will give human experts more time to do what humans do best: analyzing, interpreting, theorizing, creative problem-solving, and throwing the occasional curveball.

Because every action—including inaction—has a value and a cost, more CRO experts are starting to augment the existing PIE (Potential, Importance, Ease) framework with qualitative analysis of how factors like time and incomplete data can affect the prioritization or even consideration of tests.

Icon indicating "personalization"Icon indicating "AI and machine learning"Icon indicating mobile digital marketingMachine learning will also enable marketers to personalize and adjust offers, calls to action, and push content based on context, including the day, time of day and a user’s location. Device context will be a factor as well: on mobile, attention spans tend to be much shorter than on desktop, which calls for simpler copy, images, and CTAs.

Icon indicating "personalization"The GDPR will in no way end the process of gathering user data; it will just push marketers and tool developers to find ways to collect and use that data more intelligently and strategically. Personalization is still very much on the menu for 2018, and as data gathering and processing evolves and improves, testing will become even more granular, moving beyond A/B and multivariate to account-based and personalized tests.

Icon for "a seamless marketing experience"Icon indicating mobile digital marketingDespite search and click volume comparable or greater to that of desktop, mobile conversion rates still hover below desktop CVRs for many segments. Our CRO team is planning strategies, tactics, and tests to improve the mobile customer experience in ways that encourage conversions.

We’ll be very interested to see all the ways CRO will grow and evolve over the next 12 months. We’ll also be developing special content resources regarding the GDPR and what it could mean for CRO, so watch this space – or sign up to get our blog content sent to your inbox the morning after it’s published.

The Top 5 Phenomena for 2018 in Digital Marketing

Icon for "a seamless marketing experience"Seamless, customer-focused marketing experience

A consistent brand presence across all channels and all stages of the buying cycle focused on what customers need, want, and expect when they choose to interact with a brand

Icon indicating "personalization"Increasing personalization

The sheer volume of customer data now available to brands is allowing them to personalize their messages, offers, and even experiences for customers with different needs

Icon indicating "AI and machine learning"AI, machine learning, deep learning

The increasing sophistication of AI continues to revolutionize almost every aspect of marketing, from search results and ad bidding to customer service

Icon indicating data security and privacyData security and transparency

As online security threats multiply, marketers have become more vigilant about protecting user data, especially as new requirements from the EU go into effect this year

Icon indicating mobile digital marketingMobile. Still.

Mobile’s impact and importance continue to shift, as it’s gone from a separate marketing channel to the central hub of marketing for many channels, industries, and segments.

For a more in-depth explanation of these five phenomena, check out our initial post in this series.