Interest in the conversion rate optimization (CRO) tool marketplace is increasing at pace, according to recent research from TrustRadius, and it is clear why. We’ve heard many stories of businesses attaining sizeable returns through the use of CRO solutions.
But there remain many unanswered questions. What do you do about market fragmentation, if anything? Why do some marketers build projects with a multitude of suboptimal tools? Do some vendors even realize they’re part of the CRO space, and are they leveraging the growth in the marketplace?
That growth is clear to see in various reports and studies. TrustRadius recently noted that page views for A/B testing tools — one element of the CRO story — grew 30% between Q2 and Q3 of 2014. Unique page views on the TrustRadius platform are a good measure of how many people are running evaluations of particular products at any time.
I asked Vinay Bhagat, CEO at TrustRadius, why he thought interest in split testing tools had grown at such a pace.
“Some industries are highly competitive, and website optimization has emerged as one of the marketing levers companies can use to get ahead of their competitors,” Bhagat told me via email. “Acquiring website traffic can be expensive and highly subject to changes in search engine algorithms, so taking full advantage of the website traffic that you do get is paramount; A/B testing can be a key part of that.”
It is fair to say that this has always been true, ever since the dawn of the modern website. I wondered why there is more interest in A/B split testing tools right now.
“A/B testing tools are relatively easy to implement and use, enabling both large and small companies to leverage them,” Bhagat said.
Indeed, when it comes to this particular type of CRO tool, ease-of-use is a relatively recent concept, and it appears to be paying off. Even now, tools such as Google Content Experiments are still for developers rather than marketers, whereas products like Optimizely and Crazy Egg have nailed down how to put these solutions into the hands of everyone.
“The introduction of lower cost, free-to-try, easy-to-use tools has democratized access and encouraged more trial,” Bhagat said.
The most evaluated AB Testing software product on TrustRadius in Q3, by a fair margin, was Optimizely, followed by Adobe Target, Monetate, and Maxymiser. The next most evaluated products were Qubit, Visual Website Optimizer (VWO), and SiteSpect.
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As I’ve reported before, CRO is still a highly fragmented category in the marketing technology landscape.
My most recent State of Marketing Technology report shows us that 92% of the companies with under $25 million revenue — the target market for the easier-to-use CRO products — use up to seven separate marketing technologies per day as part of their stack.
TrustRadius concurs, and ran a survey recently to see if that finding was also true of A/B split testing products.
“43% of respondents in the survey use two or more A/B testing tools,” Bhagat said. “Often, it’s about ease of use. Some companies will use a more robust tool for complex testing and personalization and also have a tool that’s easier to use for simpler tests, which less technical marketers can leverage.”
That isn’t the only issue. Many of the available tools are not optimized for mobile apps, which means some companies have to add in additional CRO tools that deal with mobile measurement and testing.
This issue of using multiple tools becomes worse as companies better understand CRO.
“Organizations with more mature CRO processes tend to use more CRO tools, in both digital analytics and A/B testing,” Bhagat said. “This means we’ll likely see the use of more tools as companies gain more experience with CRO and move up in the maturity model.”
TrustRadius found that 43% of survey respondents use more than one A/B testing tool, but a whopping 91% use more than one digital analytics tool. Of course, those marketing technologies represent only two of the pieces of the CRO puzzle.
There are many more ways to use marketing technologies to aid a CRO process, and VB Insight is surveying user attitudes towards these tools in preparation for a future report.
Interestingly, while some vendors embrace the CRO space — especially those that supply A/B split testing tools such as those detailed and reviewed in TrustRadius’ latest report — others are less enthusiastic about being associated with CRO.
During the process of reaching out to companies we’ve identified as part of the CRO story, I received tweets from Chartio stating clearly that “Chartio is a BI tool.”
Of course, Chartio is right to focus on business intelligence (BI) as a target market, but the fact that it can run analysis across Google Analytics results and other business data sources means its tool can be used as part of a CRO project.
The good news for vendors is that investments continue to pour into the CRO space. The 22 companies we’re currently tracking via VB Profiles have a total of $1.3 billion in investment thus far, with $146 million being raised in 2014.
Interest in the CRO space continues to grow. The latest surveys, reviews, and reports support that view. However, the space remains fragmented and confusing for many, with no clear all-in-one solution.
“There are multiple facets to CRO — insight gathering, analytics, testing — it’s hard for one tool to be best of breed at all,” Bhagat said. Some are trying to be that one-stop shop, as witnessed in Wingify’s recent acquisition of Concept Feedback, but the future of CRO is almost destined to live across dozens of products.
With a little help from those that use, implement, buy, and advise on CRO tools, I hope to make more sense of the CRO marketplace — and all its facets — in a future study.