Meet Stephen Courtney our brilliant new CRO and UX Strategist
We caught up with Stephen Courtney, who joins us as one of two recruits to our Conversion Services team in the role of CRO and UX Strategist. We asked him about his career to date, his vision for the role, and what colleagues and clients can expect...
A lot of CRO is iterative, where tests uncover small improvements in the user flow. Whilst that’s important, it’s not as satisfying as bringing research and analytics together in a completely new idea.
Stephen Courtney, CRO and UX Strategist
Firstly, describe your career path to date and how you got into conversion services?
Improbably, I began my career as an academic researcher, studying historical technologies like telegraphy, electric grids and lighthouses. That might sound like a different universe, but many of the concepts used to explain why specific technologies succeed also help explain why some websites perform better than others.
Since moving towards a career in marketing, I’ve experimented with different specialisms (including SEO, CPC and brand management). Conversion rate optimisation is particularly rewarding because it translates directly into higher revenue. It’s also one of the most dynamic areas of digital marketing because it puts you in direct contact with your customers’ thought processes.
What made you choose Fresh Egg as the next step in your career path?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with some remarkable people, and that has introduced me to new ideas that I would never otherwise have explored. One of the big appeals of joining Fresh Egg was the depth of specialist CRO expertise.
What is there from your previous jobs that you feel you'll bring to your new role?
In my previous role, there was a strong focus on the psychology of CRO. We applied concepts borrowed from cognitive science, social psychology and behavioural economics to website optimisation. I hope to bring that holistic approach to my projects, finding solutions in some unexpected places.
What does a CRO specialist do?
From one perspective, a CRO specialist helps clients convert more of their visitors into customers. However, that’s only part of the story because long-term success is often more related to Customer Lifetime Value than individual conversions. That means that CRO needs to be more nuanced; the aim should be to make it easier for a target customer to take action (for the right reasons).
How do you think UX complements CRO?
It would be difficult to map UX and CRO with a Venn diagram. Although they’re distinct, UX is an important component of CRO (and vice versa). There’s also a lot of overlap between them, for example, with a checkout flow or sign-up process design. Usually, if your UX and CRO projects start to drift apart, there’s something wrong with your strategy.
What can our clients and your fellow Fresh Eggers expect when working with you?
I’m always eager to contribute new ideas to a project, especially if that means finding less obvious solutions. I should also mention that since a lot of collaboration is through video calls these days, there’s a good chance my cat will make an appearance. He’s not particularly disruptive, but he does like to be involved.
What is the one tool that you cannot do your job without?
There is so much software that goes into each project, and most of it is essential. Putting that to the side, though, I’m very fond of my diary. It’s a bit bulky and old-fashioned, but there's something reassuring about having everything on paper.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction when doing your job?
A lot of CRO is iterative, where tests uncover small improvements in the user flow. Whilst that’s important, it’s not as satisfying as bringing research and analytics together in a completely new idea. When one of those more complete hypotheses turns into a successful test, it reminds you of how much potential there is in CRO.
What’s been your biggest win in CRO?
In a previous role, I worked on generating more free trial sign-ups for a SaaS product. Since the company’s website received many visits to its blog pages, I focused on capturing new leads on those pages and building a lead-nurture email sequence. Comparing the same months one year apart (before and after implementing the strategy), the conversion rate from organic traffic had increased by over 289%. It proved that the blog was an effective source of qualified leads and that email marketing was a worthwhile source of investment.
In terms of successful A/B tests, I managed the testing strategy for a winter sports retail website between 2018 and 2020. One of the most surprising “quick wins” involved a sequence of notifications on the website’s basket page. By experimenting with the sequence, we increased the mobile conversion rate by over 3.9%.
How do you see conversion rate optimisation progressing in the future? What are you excited about?
I think online businesses will begin to “in-house" their A/B testing projects as the tools become more accessible. There is no reason why a CMS like WordPress or an eCommerce platform like Shopify wouldn’t introduce the same functions as A/B testing, heat mapping or session recording tool.
That would remove the need for tag managers and complex implementation, and all the data would be easy to access. If something like that happens, agencies can focus on the most important part of CRO: creating new ideas.
What do your family and friends think you do for a job?
My family think I am a designer, and my friends think I am a copywriter. For some reason, they both like to pitch advertising slogans to me.
And finally, what is your favourite way to eat an egg?
Poached, although it’s a bit of a gamble, I would guess that one in every three attempts ends up looking like a plastic bag in a canal.
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