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Conversion Optimization

Hiring a CRO agency: 12 key considerations (and expert advice)

Finding the right CRO agency has too many moving parts. This post is aimed to make the process simpler—so you can just focus on conversions.

Hiring a CRO agency: 12 key considerations (and expert advice)

As a conversion rate optimization agency, we at ConvertCart get a barrage of questions from various types of clients. 

As a result, we have come across some common doubts and hesitations that most eCommerce businesses face when it comes to conversion rate optimization (CRO). 

Only 22% of eCommerce businesses are happy with their conversion rates. CRO directly impacts your conversions and sales. It helps maximize your revenue with minimum investments.

Hence making the wrong decision—like choosing the wrong company, using the wrong tools, or getting the wrong analysis—means you’ll lose money. And along with that, your time and efforts too.

Hence, choosing the right CRO agency is of the utmost importance. 

This post answers all the questions you had about choosing the best conversion rate optimization firm for your business. You’ll know how CRO agencies will benefit your business, which services to choose based on your conversion optimization goals, what budget to set aside, and—most importantly—what questions to ask before zeroing in on a conversion optimization agency. 

What is a CRO agency?

A CRO agency works with a team of conversion optimization experts to solve your eCommerce CRO problems. 

Every CRO agency will have one, some, or all of the following specialists in their team: 

  • Project managers who’ll handle the end-to-end CRO process and own the results 
  • Data analysts who’ll uncover conversions gaps in your eCommerce website
  • Developers who’ll implement codes to optimize your website user experience
  • Designers and copywriters who’ll make your website look and read attractive and compelling
  • Quality analysts who’ll do a bit of everything but mostly ensure that all campaigns deployed are top-notch

Essential questions to ask before hiring a conversion rate optimization agency

1. What is your USP?

How do you decide whether to choose one CRO agency over another? This boils down to differentiation. 

The differentiation can lie in the processes, years of experience, expertise in problems solved, delivery experience, and cost.

You should also find out about their competitive edge. There are 2 ways to do this: 

  • Identify how the agency differentiates itself from its competitors
  • Check if their claims hold ground 

Many agencies tend to float a lot of claims about accomplishing multiple things. However, the ones that that target too broad an audience or try to do a bit of everything may not guarantee qualitative results. Unless they’re a big enough company to handle it. 

It’s always best to seek companies that have a nice specialty they focus on—A/B testing, email marketing, etc. 

This would also mean you’ve to find about their competitive edge. How do they compare themselves to other agencies?

Mostly, the differentiation will lie in terms of processes, expertise, and costs.

All of these will directly impact the success of your outcomes. 

2. What is the conversion optimization process you follow for your business?

There are plenty of conversion rate optimization strategies and tactics out there. However, they should never be a shot in the dark. 

You would want to choose a CRO agency that gives priority to process over hacks. Hacks are short-term tools that can give instant results. 

However, a well-defined strategy ensures that you have a fixed goal and actionable steps to help you achieve that goal. When choosing a CRO agency, your aim is to focus on those who are strategy-oriented rather than hack-oriented.

The best conversion rate optimization firms know how to use the right hack at the right place at the right time—and then measure the results and conduct ongoing tests to get the maximum returns.

There are 2 important aspects in a strong CRO process: quantitative and qualitative research.

Quantitative data helps understand what sort of actions customers are taking on your website, which pages are not performing well, which parts of your website are leaking visitors etc. It helps analyze the actions, interactions, and engagement on your website. 

Conversion rate optimization software or tools that include high-level analytics can help collect this type of customer behavioral data. When choosing a CRO agency, make sure you go for the ones that delve into deeper metrics—beyond just exit or bounce rates—such as:

  • Data segmentation
  • Funnel management
  • Heatmap analysis

Qualitative data helps you go deeper and understand what motivates customers to take certain actions and the reason why some things are working and some aren’t. It offers you the assumptions based on which to carry out the A/B and multivariate tests. 

The best conversion rate optimization agencies will spend some effort on conducting user research. 

The top conversion agencies conduct user research in a number of ways:

  • Online surveys
  • Individual interviews
  • Exit surveys
  • Jobs-to-be-done interviews 

3. What kind of team do you have?

There can be many ways CRO agencies break up teams for each project. However, for every project, you should have a minimum of 1 project manager, designer, copywriter, developer, data analyst, and quality analyst. 

You should also be checking what kind of a benchmark they have for hiring their employees and what investments they make to keep their team trained and up-to-date. 

Many clients are interested in how many client projects agencies usually work on together. However, a more apt question to ask is how many simultaneous projects the team handles at one point in time. This will define how much time they are able to devote to your project and the qualitative aspect of your results. 

The top-tier CRO agencies usually divide their clients into groups within their teams. Each group handles a specific number of clients, say 2–3.

A related question is how much time the agency will spend on your specific project. Usually, CRO projects take up a lot of time. This is because there are many resources and processes involved.

Every agency strives to achieve the same or better results in lesser time. However, the ones who only scrape the surface to achieve this may not be able to offer long-term results. For example, if an agency is limited to A/B testing a button color or text, then it’s likely that they have a long-term strategy. 

Even the number of tests conducted by the agency may not be a good indicator of their efforts. The speed of tests can be relative—it can take a few hours or a month to conduct some tests.

How many hours they spend on your project can be a better metric. 

But what if the agency is not able to share the number of hours? Don’t worry, it’s easy to calculate this. 

You need 2 data points for this: the number of people working in the agency and the number of clients they handle at the same time. 

For example, if a CRO agency has 30 people. Mostly, around 25 people may be working on projects. Let’s say the agency works with 60 clients. This means there are 25 people working on 60 clients. 

Assuming that each person works about 100 hours a month, the calculation comes as follows:

25 people x 100 hours = 2500 hours

Now to find out how many hours they spend on each client:

2500 hours / 60 clients = 42 hours for each client

4. What sort of communication will you have?

Communication is one of the most important things that build trust and credibility towards a CRO agency when you’re outsourcing work to them. 

You’ll need to be sure about the types of communication channels that’ll be open to you. 

Emails may not always be the best medium since they’re difficult to track. Chats are fine for day-to-day updates but not for strategic discussions. 

A project management tool may help apart from regular catch-ups. 

You may also want to set up how regular the meetings will be. Meetings work great for you, however, it may take up a lot of time for the agency. They are a great way to receive updates and share feedback, too many meetings may also be counterintuitive. 

1 meeting per week or 1 every 2 weeks should be enough. 

5. What are the costs that I’ll need to bear?

When it comes to costs, you should be clear about your expectations right from the beginning. Only then you’ll be able to determine the success of your project. 

You’d have an idea about the cost to hire any agency from the FAQ section. Apart from them, you’ll also need to determine the software costs to launch tests. 

The costs will be dependent on your website and the traffic you get. 

6. What sort of a commitment can I expect from you?

The CRO agency will obviously try to understand your business as much as possible. Empty promises without understanding the business is a warning sign. 

Your first interaction should be with a person who wants to know more about your business. For good CRO agencies, the salesperson will be responsible making the decision whether they will be able to meet your requirements. 

The salesperson should go beyond mere success stories and focus on site criteria such as if the site traffic meets the testing needs. 

In the next session, the discussion should delve deeper. This can involve other members from their team. 

You may also reach out to understand whatever they require from you to best understand your business. 

Apart from regular meetings to check on the progress, offer feedback, and evaluate results, you’d need to check what other commitments are required from your end. 

7. What results can I expect from you?

You’ll mostly be aware of what kind of results to expect from the CRO agency you hire since you’ll have a look at their case studies. 

Most agencies will promote them before onboarding as proof of their expertise. This will give you an idea of the ROI you can expect from them. 

Often a true test of expertise is by checking the failures rather than successes. So you can take a look at the worst conversion rate optimization project they’ve worked on. 

How they explain the reason for the project not doing well is important. Blaming clients or taking failures negatively aren’t strengths. 

A trick question to ask is whether they can guarantee an increase in your conversion rates. The best conversion rate optimization agencies will never guarantee a fixed increase in conversion rates. 

Several factors determine the success of conversion optimization projects. Most of these can't be controlled by the firm. 

For example, organic traffic directly affects conversion rate. The quality of traffic coming to your site isn’t something the agency can control. Moreover, they can also not predict external factors such as a competitor campaign affecting your conversion rate. 

There can only be 2 types of agencies that guarantee increases in conversion rate: 

  • Those who are making false promises
  • Those who define an increase in terms of the success of a specific test

You should stay away from both of them. 

Finally, you should check how they determine the success of a project. Generally, the success of conversion projects are dependent on:

  • The percentage of successful tests
  • The process used to achieve the outcome
  • The analysis the team obtains from the tests and the data

8. What more specific questions should I ask

Lastly, here are some specific questions you can ask depending on your business:

  • How would you determine which pages to optimize - The success of your conversions depend on which pages you choose to optimize. There are many aspects to eCommerce site page optimization: analysis, developing a testing framework, implementing the framework, and measuring the results. This can easily take up around 2–4 weeks. Randomly guessing the pages won’t help. Since it takes up a lot of effort to test and develop a page, it’s important to choose the right pages. The best agencies have a fixed process for page optimization that includes user research, qualitative analysis, competitive analysis, usability testing, jobs-to-be-done interviews, etc.
  • How would you determine what changes to make on each page - After deciding which page to work on, it’s important to determine what changes to make on each page. Here too, the depth of the process is how you’ll be able to judge the conversion agencies. 2 factors to look at are the process used to identify which elements to test and change and how to implement those changes on the site. Good processes are fine, but they also need to be implemented effectively on your website. Hence, it can be helpful to request a demo of how the agencies carry out their process—before moving ahead. This will mostly be based on customer data which will determine what sort of tests to make. 
  • How many experiments will you conduct every month - It’s common knowledge that the more tests conducted, the more chances of an increase in conversion rate. However, that shouldn’t be the determining factor for choosing tests. Conducting extra tests can be counterproductive. This is because exposing your site traffic to more than one experiment at the same time can make it difficult for you to figure out what worked and what didn’t. It’s ideal to take one step at a time and focus on quality instead of quantity. Ideally, what’s more important as a business goal is to identify persistent problems on your site and solve them obsessively, and not the number of tests. 
  • What is your process for mobile optimization - Mobile responsive websites are critical to conversion success today. It’s important for your business to note the percentage of visitors coming to your website and your mobile conversion rate as compared to desktop ones. Mobile optimization processes are quite different from desktop ones. Since most of the customers on mobile fall either in the consideration or the purchase stage, you’ll need to customize your site to match each group’s intent. It’s best to request a mobile optimization process demo from the CRO agencies you’re considering. In case they follow a similar approach for both mobile and desktop, then you may need to consider going ahead with them.
A FOUNDER’S GUIDE: Sales Secrets from 15 High-Converting Websites

FAQs about hiring a conversion rate optimization agency

1. What eCommerce business problems can CRO agencies solve? 

The top eCommerce brands spend 5% of their budget on CRO. Most eCommerce businesses face some common issues such as low conversion rates, cart abandonment, and low checkout rates. Only the ones which allocate a considerable budget to conversion optimization achieve the best results (an ROI of 223%). 

If you’re still hesitating about whether a CRO agency is a right fit for you, take a look at the primary pain points that these agencies help solve: 

a) Low conversion rates

You’re seeing a lot of success in customer acquisition but when it comes to converting them, you don’t see much ROI from your efforts. 

A conversion rate of below 5% means you’re losing out on sales that can bring in profits. 

Your first step is to identify the reasons that are contributing to your dipping conversion rates. The next step is to devise strategies and solutions that can help to improve your conversion rates.

This is often a complex area where most eCommerce businesses lack expertise. Some get stuck in the analytics and data gathering part of it as well. 

Stuck with low conversion rates? Try out these 8 proven strategies 

b) Low website traffic

You’ve taken the pains to create a swanky website with a top-notch design. However, you’re not getting the traffic as expected. 

Ads are expensive and you can’t resort to them all the time. That leaves organic, but most organic strategies are oversaturated. So you need to work around them smartly. 

This is the legwork and brainwork CRO agencies can help you with.

We’ve collated 8 money-saving ideas to drive more traffic to your eCommerce site. Check them out

c) Low testing bandwidth

When you’re starting out, you may be very excited about carrying out a lot of testing on your website. However, mostly it dissipates with time. 

This happens because of many reasons such as limited CRO expertise and lack of time, resources. 

A key to landing successful conversions is increasing the velocity of your testing. You also need to choose the type of test that works best for you: A/B testing or multivariate testing.

Find out which one is right for you: A/B testing vs Multivariate Testing

d) Low inhouse CRO resources

Most eCommerce businesses dream of a robust in-house team to run the CRO operations. It’s not budget-friendly when you’re starting out though. 

Conversion rate optimization requires long-term consistent efforts to reflect in your bottom line. However, these results are instant so you get to know what works and what doesn’t work. 

While one or two resources can help you carry out occasional tests, you’d need an entire team to run your conversion optimization machine. 

A CRO agency will be able to carry out the operations in lesser time and resources.

Think CRO is a hard nut to crack? These may be the reasons pulling you back

2. Which type of CRO service is right for your business?

While planning to avail of conversion rate optimization services, you may find different types of conversion optimization agencies offering them. 

Here’s a chart showing the various types and the pros and cons for each to help you choose: 

type of conversion rate optimization service

3. Which conversion rate optimization service is right for your budget?

You may want to hire the top conversion agency or the best conversion optimization experts out there. 

But there’s one thing you’ll always have to consider: your budget. 

Let’s try and solve the problem in this section. 

Firstly, it’s not an easy question to answer. Since there are a lot of aspects to factor in the cost. Hence the numbers are always different. 

Next, you’ve to understand that price usually comprises of 2 components: affordability and value. 

If you can’t afford it, it doesn’t matter how much of a value it has. Again, if you can afford it, you won’t choose it unless it offers a certain value. 

So while some CRO experts will charge less, they may offer lesser value. While there may be some big CRO agencies that may cost a bomb but provide services that others can’t.

Your decision to opt for conversion rate optimization services will always rest at the juncture of affordability and value. 

a) Cost of hiring CRO agencies

Now that this is cleared up, here’s a breakdown of what different CRO agencies charge for their services: 

cost of hiring CRO agency

Now you know how much you need to pay depending on the level of services you choose. 

Next, let’s move on to what you need to pay for. Every CRO project almost always has these costs:

  • The cost of human resources—the CRO experts who carry out the project - Most CRO agencies have some or all of these experts on their team: project managers, data analysts, developers, designers, copywriters, and quality analysts. In some cases, agencies may have some of these roles outsourced or one team member taking on multiple roles. In the case of freelancers too, one person may carry out multiple functions. 
  • The cost of software that’s going to be used in the project - This will include the cost for A/B testing software, session recording tools, email marketing tools, personalization tools, etc. 
  • The cost of carrying out A/B tests - This mostly includes the cost of designing and developing the changes required on your eCommerce website. Each A/B test project can—on average—require about 1–10 hours of development work. This depends purely on the complexity of the performing experiments. Top-tier CRO firms handle all aspects of A/B tests for their clients. This helps them execute A/B testing projects at scale and take ownership of outcomes. 
  • The cost of implementing the winning strategies on the eCommerce website - Here again comes the cost of replacing the old design on the website with the new design. 

b) Cost of hiring digital marketing agencies

In the last 4–5 years, multiple digital marketing agencies have cropped up offering conversion marketing services. 

Your success with results will solely depend on how much of an investment these agencies make in CRO.

Upfront, the cost of hiring a digital marketing agency for CRO services will be around $4,000–$35,000 per month, depending on the scope of work and the scale at which your eCommerce store is running. 

c) Cost of hiring a freelancer offering conversion optimization services

When hiring a freelancer, there’s a chance you may come across both very good and very bad ones. 

Most of them like to work solo and are not associated with any firm. 

The costs can range widely. It can be as low as $10–$40 per hour and as high as $170–$230 per hour.

4. CRO Tools vs CRO Agency: Which one to go for and when?

Many eCommerce businesses like yours get stuck at this decision-making phase: to hire a conversion rate optimization agency or getting CRO tools and doing the manual work in-house. 

Okay so let’s get to the CRO tools first. 

a) What CRO tools should you be using? 

To carry out any successful conversion optimization project, you’ll need tools from these 3 categories:

  • Web analytics
  • User behavior tools
  • A/B testing tools

In case you don’t want to spend a lot on individual tools, you can use a conversion optimization tool suite that contains multiple tools under one umbrella. 

b) When should you be using CRO tools?

Conversion optimization tools are most effective when your business goals are to:

  • Evaluate the performance of your eCommerce funnel
  • Identify what’s blocking conversions on your eCommerce site
  • Identify optimizations required to convert more visitors into customers
  • Identify optimizations to record the highest conversion rates

In the end, tools are the means to obtain results. It can never directly give you results unless you know what you are using them for. This is where your conversion rate optimization strategy comes in. 

c) When should you hire a CRO agency?

It’s easy to believe that you can carry out conversion optimization experiments simply by reading resources on the internet. 

But nothing can be further from the truth. If you’re serious about getting the desired results for your eCommerce business, you’d want to hire the best conversion optimization experts out there. 

You’ll need to hire a CRO agency when you’re expecting the following results:

  • Consistent traffic/conversions - This is important for your overall CRO performance. This is because higher traffic improves your chances of successful A/B testing. Higher website traffic makes it easier to test variations and find a statistical significance. For example, 10,000 visitors per month have a higher statistical significance than 1000 visitors per month
  • Faster results - The expertise of CRO agencies comes from carrying out a huge volume of tests. This means they can run tests faster and achieve higher quality results. Training an in-house team to achieve the results may take up a lot of training time and resources. 
  • Full-proof CRO strategy - Conversion rate optimization is a scientific process where you optimize your website to ensure visitors perform specific actions. For this to play out, you need a well-defined process in place to avoid wastage of time and resources. Since CRO agencies work with multiple clients, they have the expertise to carry out conversion optimization projects as per your business requirements. 
  • Saving time and money - It’s often a misconception that having an in-house team can save you money. But nothing is further from the truth. Dishing out the salary of an entire CRO team of project managers, designers, developers, and copywriters will create a huge dent in your pocket. A smarter option is to hire conversion optimization services from an agency. These firms will already have the best of experts working on your project to get you the best results.
  • Train your in-house team - You can both boost your site conversions as well as train your team in the process. CRO training can work for both your marketing as well as your development teams. Even your analysts will have a lot of scope to learn. 

Final Words

Before you start researching what kind of conversion rate optimization services you’re going for, it’s important to be sure about your goals. This will help you decide better what services you’d require. 

How quickly you want to grow and where you want to reach are important parameters to consider when deciding to hire a conversion rate optimization firm. 

If you’ve already decided to go ahead with a CRO agency, a free audit of your eCommerce website is a great way to start. 

At ConvertCart, we believe in walking the talk. So, let’s talk business first. You get a detailed analysis of your eCommerce site by our conversion rate optimization specialists plus a 30-mins call to discuss the report. 

No paywalls. No T&Cs. Just free advice. If you like what you get, we’ll be happy to delve deeper into optimizing your site for better conversions. 

Let’s talk? 

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