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UX, CX and CRO trends 2019: Digital Experience Management

Author's avatar By Robert Jones 10 Oct, 2018
Essential Essential topic

Predictions, trends and what to look out for in UX and CRO in the year ahead

More businesses than ever are running Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) programmes and User Experience research are going mainstream. With CRO and UX in the limelight, what do industry experts predict will happen next?

Good user experience is driven by user research and good CRO testing methods combined lead to higher revenues. The result of both higher sales and happier customers. But these worlds are huge, in the UX world there are designers, researchers, strategists and in the CRO world it’s not much different. This is why our trends post covers a lot of ground, from research, to operational trends and beyond.

Let's go straight into the trends, first with a prediction from myself, after that, we cover CRO, research, and content UX trends.

1. Quantitative user research becomes the focus

User research was founded in qualitative research principles and methods, but focused on understanding of human behaviour and how people use software and websites, rather than say asking someone's opinion on a marketing campaign. In-depth interviews have been around for decades and user researchers have created industry appropriate terms for such research methods in the context of UX research. Now the user research world which has fully adopted qualitative research methods (depth interviews, ethnography, and focus groups) it’s starting to take more interest in quantitative research. Of course, quant studies have been conducted by user researchers for a while, but in 2019 and beyond they will be more adopted.

UX researchers are starting to do more quantitative methods to understand how many people encounter problems on the websites and software they are testing and I predict quant studies will become more prevalent, particularly for persona research. I’m not referring to deep diving into a database, I’m talking large sample surveys of 100 people plus.

With tools such as Hotjar and other tools which support web intercepts such as Intercom, businesses have been asking quantitative questions such as Net Promoter Score, but the UX research world is largely built around qualitative deep diving methods. As the industry advances and as business needs change, all with a desire to continue to increase conversions, I believe that quantitative methods will increase in user research. Big sample instead of small sample will become ever more important to quantify results and make future decisions. Surveys are just as important as back-end data. The industry is starting to adapt to this already and just like the market research industry went through a few years ago, user researchers are trying to find ways of testing in a quantitative way that doesn’t break the bank and is fast. At the end of the day, bosses want to see percentages, they want to see data to make decisions and as quickly as possible, particularly in the tough world of e-commerce.

Whilst Hugo Froes agrees with me, he raises a very good point. He agrees that quantitive data will be a bigger seat at the table, but believes that many companies will realize that although quantitive data is very objective, it doesn't give us enough data about the drivers behind peoples behaviours. It gives us data on what happens with what is available and not what might not be available. It can predict some things, but to a limited point, as once again, it's limited to what the user knows or has available at the moment.

With Hugo's point in mind above, I strongly believe that like with market research, user research should involve both qual and quant methods for the best outcome, with each method used as appropriate. NNG provide a brilliant article on user research methods and when to use them.

Check out the persona research guide here.

2. AI-based CRO Tools Drive Quantum Conversion Leaps in 2018

Website personalization apps were all the rage during the early and mid 2010s. These technologies, ranging from product recommendation engines to chatbots, were based on cutting-edge machine learning algorithms, a principal part of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Now, in 2018, predictive modelling algorithms have moved upscale to inform and execute the split tests within a new era of Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) platforms and projects.

It used to be that humans had to design the creative for all tests. I have personally spent tens of hours doing Customer Experience (CX) audits to discover and prioritize the user experience (UX) issues that were most hurting conversions. But now automated tools can do much of this work. SessionCam, for example, developed an app known as the ‘Customer Struggle Score’. By running in the background and analyzing thousands of visitor sessions using machine learning, the app identifies visitor behaviors associated with UX issues that negatively correlate with conversion rates and revenues. The outcome of these analytics is a tactical CRO action plan.

A more exciting set of tools - from vendors like DynamicYield, Evergage and HiConversion - go beyond just assessing the experience to adapting the experience in real-time. The HiConversion platform, for example, uses predictive modelling to serve up e-Commerce experiences that work well together. Powered by self-learning algorithms, their optimization engine allocates visitor traffic to different creative treatments in real-time, driving more traffic to winners and downplaying losers. The tool also maximizes your most important metrics, like conversions and revenues, while collecting insights that inform hypotheses for further testing.

Tools like this exemplify my belief in the mantra, ‘The experience is the brand’. And I’m confident that these personalized and optimized experiences with build brand loyalty like never before. So strap in and hold on. We’re in for an amazing optimization ride in 2018 and beyond.

Mark Hall

Mark’s Conversion Insights

Seasoned Voice of Customer research and conversion optimization professional. Mark boosts revenues by making online experiences more intuitive and persuasive.


3. Customer-Centric & Process-Based Optimization

Some might say that the next big trend in Conversion Rate Optimization relates to AI, but I strongly doubt that’s the case. Why?

Because there is a huge knowledge gap in the industry and a trend can’t happen with such a small percentage of professionals ready to embrace it.

But one aspect we all have learned is that best practices or subjective AB testing don't move the needle. Optimizers are becoming more and more aware that an optimization strategy should be customer-centric and process-based.

What I mean by that is that it’s important to design a research process that uncovers actionable insights through both qualitative and quantitative analysis, while not forgetting that we have to see beyond numbers and behavioral patterns.

Strategic questions that help you understand your customers’ pains and gains along the way is the cherry on top.

Magda Baciu

Founder, House of Progress



4. Bottom-up Approach To CRO

The main thing we’re going to see, as competition increases and the cost of acquisition goes up, is more business owners and marketers focusing on the bottom of the funnel first, as well as on the business itself.

So for example, the old approach would be for a marketer to setup a campaign and a landing page, and do a lot of testing on these two.

They might end up getting more traffic for cheaper, and many new leads. However, they might find that these leads aren’t converting. Or maybe they have a low AOV (average order value).

So we’re going to see more business owners focus on their back-end (or bottom of the funnel) in the years to come. Things like upsells, cross-sells, post-purchase remarketing campaigns and a better sales process.

The higher the value of each new customer, the more these businesses can invest into acquiring new ones profitably.

Duraid Shaihob

Head Of Growth at ZeroToGrowth Agency and former Growth Hacker.



5. Creating engaging conversations

Grabbing attention is harder than ever. Engagement levels are decreasing as we scroll through hundreds of posts a day.

Likes aren't enough and businesses are having fewer meaningful conversations with their fans. After all, likes cost nothing, take no time to do and have very little value.

Platforms have introduced more ways to interact (Instagram polls for example) but this isn't enough.

Instead, focus on asking questions, sparking a debate and having a strong opinion. Not to cause offence, not for clickbait but because lukewarm posts will get scrolled past.

Go back to the good old days of social media where conversations were what sparked a community. Create a family and they will come back time and time again as you create strong bonds together.

Ask your followers to share a memory, a story they hold dear or a wish they want to make. Align your questions to your vision and purpose to reinforce these in your content.

It's called social media for a reason. Stop broadcasting and start a conversation!

So add in some of these posts into your content plan for 2019 and see the effect they have on your audience.

Paul Randall

Head of Strategy at Evosite

Paul's background in user experience puts his focus firmly from the customers point of view, allowing businesses to get the most from their marketing.



6. CRO is more than on-site optimization: it’s a mindset that can be applied to any platform in the future

I have been following CRO trends for a while now and genuinely believe that when all components of the digital marketing ecosystem are evolving - the customers, the tools and platforms; and the omni-channel environment in which they interact – CRO cannot be far behind. The trend I’m excited about in the CRO space is how as a concept it is going to evolve far beyond on-site optimization. There are a couple of reasons for this.

  1. The concept of conversion itself is evolving. Marketers and sales professionals have much tighter alignment now and don’t necessarily believe that onsite response to a CTA is an indicator of high lifetime value or longer-term engagement, which may be the real business goals.
  2. UX and CX are increasingly interlinked and they go across all touch points in the omni-channel digital environment, so its hard to contain or justify CRO as an onsite only concept
  3. The larger trend in both B2B and B2C  is moving towards enabling customers to inquire, engage and transact anytime and anywhere- via social media, a bot on Facebook; a social commerce button inside Instagram; vertical search on Amazon or then via content-based publications for B2Bs – chances they will even come to a brand website are increasingly slimmer, and marketers need to prepare for this eventuality by evolving their conception of UX and CRO to suit the new expectations.

Chitra Iyer, Editor-in-Chief of MarTech Advisor (A Ziff Davis company)




7. Research Operations are changing

With the growth of iterative user centred design practices, in-house user researchers are now a key part of UX teams. Larger User Research teams and tactical user research at scale have become more commonplace, so many companies are looking for ways to support researchers and enable them to work more effectively. With tech giants leading the way, many enterprises are investing in an ecosystem to support researchers. This new layer in the UX organisation is being called ‘Research Ops’. Research Ops is such a new area that it’s still being defined but the role includes areas such as user recruitment and management, data management, infrastructure, tools, training, communication of research, governance and ethics.

Operations is not a new thing in the Market Research Industry of course but Research Ops is the newest kid on the block in the UX Industry, following on from Dev Ops and Design Ops. The difference with all of the UX ‘ops’ movements is that they are predominantly in-house as opposed to agency side. A global community of practice has formed around Research Ops and is currently taking the world by storm with a series of global workshops. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next. You can read more about Research Ops at the Research Ops Medium or join the Slack community

Emma Boulton

Emma is a Design/User Research Consultant who helps organisations with their Research challenges. With over 18 years industry experience in Design, User and Market Research both client-side and agency-side, Emma also speaks and writes about research. She previously lead research at Monotype and the BBC and she also ran a design studio and indie publishing business.


8. User Centred Content

Content strategy has mostly been around targeting keywords and SEO, which has led to an over-saturation of content. Being noticed has become almost impossible. Users skim through articles, especially considering that most of that content is superficial. We’ve lost the user’s confidence.

The content strategies that will be valuable in the coming years will be those that actually deliver value to users. We will have to start considering the bigger picture of what our “book” or “library” will be.

We will see content strategists moving towards strategies similar to Invision’s initiative. Creating content that has a purpose, directed towards the user, rather than the brand. That vision will also need to be inline with the brand’s philosophies, which in turn, will give the user a clearer picture of the brand’s identity and how their values are in tune with the user’s.

The questions we’ll need to ask ourselves when creating content:

  • What is my company’s vision and voice?>
  • What value do we want to bring to users that might be unique or better than what others have done?
  • Can I guarantee that each piece of content that is created brings real value to the user every time?

Users don’t mind reading a large article, if that article is worth their while. Chasing after ranking keywords or popular content just won’t cut it anymore.

We’ll have to do better, because users aren’t computers.

Hugo Froes, UX Strategist at Codac

Hugo is a UX Strategist and Evangelist.






Author's avatar

By Robert Jones

Robert Jones is a specialist in CRO, UX Research, insight and digital Marketing. He is CRO Analyst at Enjoy Digital. He has a Psychology Masters of Research, has run large digital marketing campaigns to build research panels and worked in insight roles for Vision Critical, ASDA and WhatUsersDo. He also managed all of Smart Insights member resources and published several guides including "How to conduct Persona Research" as well as contributing over 100 blog posts to the Smart Insights blog. When he isn’t working on marketing campaigns he is most likely eating authentic Italian food or planning his next short trip. You can connect with Robert on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.

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Digital marketing trends 2019

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