The Framework for Innovative E-Commerce CRO Checklists

Oct 19, 2017 10:39:00 AM
6 min read

A conversion rate optimization checklist can empower any e-commerce team if they have the right one. But finding or developing a Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) checklist can be a challenge.

A Google search for CRO checklists will give you a variety of options. Some offer a checklist for the process of CRO, other tout 45 or 91 item lists to make sure you best practices.

But what is troubling here is that among this variety is the message that not all checklists are equal and not all of them are right for you. So how can you determine the best option for you?

If you’re going to use a CRO checklist to improve your e-commerce site, and especially if you want to stick with it over time, it needs to have a few qualities.

E-commerce conversion rate optimizations checklists should be:

  1. Comprehensive
  2. Repeatable
  3. Adaptable

This article will explain each of these qualities and a framework to serve as the ultimate CRO checklist.

1. Conversion Rate Optimization Checklists Should Be Comprehensive

It goes without saying that if you are going to use a checklist to make sure you’ve covered all your bases, it needs to cover all your bases. It’s this mindset that drives a lot of list makers to write out really long and detailed lists. As mentioned before, the top search results for this query (at the time of writing) included lists with an upwards of 91 items!

But long and detailed lists do not automatically mean comprehensive. The more granular a list is, the more likely it is that one (maybe important) grain falls through the cracks. Making a granular list long will naturally cover more area than a short granular list, but it still comes with a risk.

In his book, Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawabe articulates this by saying

“Good checklists…do not try to spell out everything—a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps—the ones that even the highly skilled professional using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.”

Comprehensive CRO checklists should guide you through a well-rounded and balanced review of possible optimization. By keeping the checklist at a high level, you can ensure all areas are covered, balance your efforts and give your discussion and work room to be innovative in the details.

2. Conversion Rate Optimization Checklists Should Be Repeatable

ResponsiveThe purpose of a checklist is to make sure everything gets done, but CRO is inherently never done. This is why your CRO checklist should be continuously relevant and practical enough to return to time and time again.

In the September-October 2017 issue of the Harvard Business Review, an article titled “The Surprising Power of Online Experiments” leads with a story about Bing. By changing just a few lines of code, making minimal change in the product itself, Bing was able to increase their advertising revenue by 12%—which added up to be $100 million annually. The rest of the article follows up with more examples from data-centric companies like Amazon, Facebook, and, using A/B tests to continuously experiment and optimize their businesses.

E-commerce companies can unlock potential revenue by also continuously optimizing their websites and apps. CRO is not something you can mark off your checklist and be done with. Rather, it’s something that you repeat over and over to figure out what works best.

If you approach a checklist with 91 items, you will run into two repeatability issues. First, many of those items will go stale or become irrelevant. And second, going through 91 items on a regular basis is daunting, overwhelming, and hardly efficient.

By using a practical and timeless checklist, one that is not attached to specific processes, concepts, or technologies, you will be able to return to each area to review what you have tested, what worked, what didn’t, and what your next steps are. By consistently going over the same high-level checklist, you’ll be able to see progress and growth, which is a much better CRO metric than completion.

3. Conversion Rate Optimization Checklists Should Be Adaptable

Mobile_homescreen@2xAn adaptable checklist can accommodate changes in your customer demands, products, processes, technology, and more. The point of CRO is to continuously progress, so it makes sense for a CRO checklist to work in this environment.

In the previous section, we discussed repeatability in the context of testing an idea, learning from it and testing another idea. With adaptability, we take the next logical step and adapt our methods based on what we learned.

In the popular book ”Lean Startup,” Eric Ries promotes the idea of build-measure-learn feedback loops. (He is quick to mention that the Lean Startup Model is for any innovative business, not just the Silicon Valley stereotypes.) Once you learn a better way of serving your customers, you should adapt your processes to do so. Then start the process over again: testing another idea, measuring its impact, and learning how to change your business next.

As you innovate within your e-commerce business, and specifically your conversion optimization, your checklist should be a tool to help you through constant adaption.

Of course, right? But it’s important to make this distinction because most checklists ask you to complete specific tasks. They box you into doing “these 91 things” and promoting it as the ultimate optimization formula. In reality, these are just suggested best practices that don’t necessarily apply to all e-commerce businesses the same way and don’t account for your next big break through.

Your checklist should be able to include and drop optimization tasks as they prove their efficiency or become obsolete.

Introducing The CRO Checklist Framework

It’s now time to optimize our checklist to include all three characteristics. To do this, we’ll first need to scrap the concept of the traditional, task-oriented checklist. Instead, we’re building a framework. This tool is conceptual, so you can take this concept and work with it in any format you like. This might be a spread sheet, a whiteboard, or even a piece of paper. What matters now is that you understand the theory.

The framework starts with two columns: Internal and ExternalInternal represents processes within a company that can be optimized such as payment processing, customer service and faster page load times. External represents the customer-facing aspects such as product page copy writing, design templates, CTA button colors.

Next, we’ll borrow lingo from the inbound methodology to name our rows

  1. Attract - optimizing for who and how you bring customers to your site
  2. Convert - optimizing to build trust and interest in your products and services
  3. Close - optimizing the process of adding to cart and checking out
  4. Delight - optimizing for customers to return and advocate your e-commerce site

This creates eight sections that serve as our checklist. You can use this in your personal workflow or even to structure and run team meetings. Go over each section to review analytics, determine areas of needs, discuss completed tests, and plan your next steps.

CRO Checklist Framework
(For Advanced CRO)












For example, you would use the 
Close, External box to plan an A/B test for your checkout page. And you would use the Delight, Internal box to discuss the impact of a new two-day shipping policy.

By making room in your checklist for each stage of the sales funnel and cross checking them to both internal and external processes, you have made your checklist comprehensive.

The checklist is repeatable because you can come back to it on a regular basis to track your progress. The checklist is adaptable because you can add or remove any CRO project to the appropriate section.

Warning: This Framework Is for Serious CRO Only

In “Checklist Manifesto”, Gawabe discusses the two types of checklists: Read-Do and Do-Confirm.

This checklist is Do-Confirm. Most checklists are Read-Do.  

The difference is that with Read-Do checklists, you are instructed to do specific tasks. With Do-Confirm checklists you can innovate the method and confirm that the objective was met.

If you’re new to e-commerce CRO, this framework should be used in tangent to a Read-Do checklist such as the 91-item list I’ve been criticizing throughout this article. (It’s a good Read-Do list if you want specific CRO tasks.)

However if you’re advanced, your e-commerce site has the basics of CRO down, and you’re looking for a way to manage a balanced CRO effort, give the framework a try.


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