Brand-First CRO: The Key To Optimizing Your Website Experience from A-Z

Brand-First CRO: The Key To Optimizing Your Website Experience from A-Z

Have you ever heard of the term, “Brand-First CRO?” 

Probably not, and that’s because it’s a new idea. (and might we add that it's coined by us here at Oddit?)

When you hear the words “conversion rate optimization,” your mind probably thinks about A/B testing, heat maps, and lots of data. But Brand-First CRO is about laying a strong foundation for your brand and user experience — before even thinking about tackling traditional CRO.

Here’s the truth: no amount of A/B testing and data can make up for a fundamentally bad user experience. 

That’s why Brand-First CRO should be the first step if you’re looking to improve your website. 

Today, we’re going to teach you all about Brand-First CRO, including what it is, how to look for opportunities, how it fits into your conversion process, who it’s for, and more. 

The goal? Build consumer trust and, of course, drive more conversions. Let’s dive in. 

What is Brand-First CRO? 

Brand-First CRO focuses on aligning your brand story & user experience and remove friction points across your website.

So what’s the difference between Brand-First CRO and traditional CRO? It’s more simple than you think: 

  • Brand-First CRO casts a wider net by looking for alignments and friction points at each stage of the customer's journey on your site. Comparing brand elements like design, tone of voice, personality, and ease of use, Brand-First CRO optimizes the entire user experience from the moment a customer lands on your website to the point of purchase—and everything in between. You should only need to do this once a year at a minimum.
  • Traditional CRO uses various data points collected from experiments like A/B tests to improve specific areas on a website. The goal is to increase the chances of a user performing a single action, such as purchasing a product, clicking a link, or subscribing to an email list. Traditional CRO is an ongoing task.

While they’re different, the two types work hand-in-hand. Brand-First CRO sets the foundation for ongoing CRO optimizations done as your business scales.

The key to doing Brand-First CRO well is three-pronged. Think, consistency, clarity, and simplicity.

“When we say brand-first, it's really just asking, ‘Where are there gaps in the brand that we can fill and make sure things are consistent?’ Our approach is to help align aesthetic, copywriting, and even storytelling.” Shaun Brandt, Co-Founder at Oddit

What does a Brand-First CRO Oddit look for? 

To quote what most smart marketers say… It depends. 

Approaching Brand-First CRO is a case-by-case basis, so the process and recommendations will look different with every brand. 

That being said, there are still foundational elements that are important on every website, such as consistent headlines and typography, a clear content hierarchy, and logical navigation.

One way to look at Brand-First CRO is to compare it to the in-person stores you find trustworthy: when you walk into a store with a kind customer staff, clean floors, and organized products, you’re going to feel like you can trust that store more than one that has the opposite experience. 

This analogy applies to how you present your website, and a Brand-First CRO oddit reviews all of these elements. 

“If I send you three websites, you can instantly tell me which one is more trustworthy. You probably won't be able to explain it—you'll just say, ‘this one just feels shady.’ And most of that is aesthetics,” shared Shaun Brandt, a CRO and UI expert, and one of the Co-Founders of Oddit.

How does Brand-First CRO fit into the overall conversion process?

If you’re looking to make any improvements to your website experience, start with reviewing your brand consistency. 

When we say brand-first, that literally means it’s the first step in the process. Shaun explains why: 

“Before diving into conversion tactics or engaging with a CRO agency, Brand-First CRO is the first step to building the foundation of a solid user experience. This sets you up for success moving forward.” 

Here’s a diagram to give you a better understanding of where Brand-First CRO fits into the conversion process:

 

Here's how we define each piece: 

  • Brand Performance: Ensuring the overall brand and its various elements are communicated in a positive and consistent manner.
  • Usability: Ensuring the site and its various functions are as easy to use as possible and meet all accessibility standards.
  • Utility: Ensuring the brand communicates its purpose in a simple, clear, and meaningful way.
  • Trustworthiness: Ensuring the brand is gaining credibility and user buy-in at every step of the customer journey.

In a typical CRO timeline, brands spend money driving traffic to their website. When they hit a certain ROI or traffic percentage, they usually move right into “Phase 2” of the chart—traditional CRO. 

These brands run constant A/B tests to figure out how to make more money off paid traffic being sent to their site. Over time, this leads to many inconsistencies across the website because the data showed better results.

For example, you can run an A/B test that tells you a bright green button converts better on your product pages. But if that shade of green isn’t a part of your brand guidelines then changing all of your buttons to bright green isn’t a good long-term decision for your website aesthetic.  

 

For most brands, “Phase 1” of the full stack CRO process doesn’t even exist.

Don’t get us wrong — data is important. It always will be. And the recommendations in a Brand-First CRO audit actually come from best practices supported by data 

However, the goal of these audits is to look at the bigger picture first and hone in on your overall brand experience. Sometimes that means recommendations from A/B tests aren't the best solution for your brand consistency.

In the end, making inconsistent decisions will create distrust with your consumers.

“We work with traditional CRO firms to understand which trends are working and which ones aren’t. Those influence our recommendations. We're not recommending something just because it looks pretty; we're recommending it because in the past it has helped brands convert more" -  Shaun Brandt

The industries that should prioritize Brand-First CRO

It doesn’t matter who you’re targeting or which industry you’re in. 

Every brand in every industry, from skincare to apparel to home goods, benefits from a consistent brand experience—and so do your customers. 

Whether you’re a small brand just starting or an enterprise business with a team of hundreds, Brand-First CRO benefits you at every growth stage. Let’s break it down: 

 

  • For pre-launch and growing brands, it’s difficult to see these inconsistencies as a founder working hard to bootstrap a business. Usually, the site is one you built yourself or from a generic template. Over time, you add plug-ins, make updates, and the inconsistencies build. It’s beneficial to have an expert’s eyes to point out opportunities you may not be familiar with.
  • For larger and more established brands, it's easy to get too many cooks in the kitchen or fall into the trap of not seeing gaps because the team has the mindset of, “We’re seeing success, so why change anything?” On these occasions, the team is too close to the brand, so they easily miss opportunities to improve the overall experience. Having an outside opinion helps surface these opportunities.
  •  

    Of course, every business stage experiences unique challenges, but Brand-First CRO can help you make improvements that directly impact your revenue. 

    In fact, 86% of buyers are willing to pay more if it means getting a great customer experience. Additionally, Adobe found that companies with strong omnichannel customer engagement strategies see around a 10% year-over-year growth, a 10% increase in average order value, and a 25% increase in close rates. 

    …That's a lot of additional revenue you could be making.

    In the end, it’s about filling in the gaps

    For Oddit, Brand-First CRO reports are a way to give your website a third set of eyes from people experienced in design and UX. As Shaun says, “We're trying to work with brands that want to build a long-term conversion strategy.”

    Considering 81% of consumers say they need to feel like they can trust a brand before purchasing, Brand-First CRO can be your ticket to higher conversion rates and more revenue. 

    “It's not accidental that all your favorite brands are successful because they've built this culture around them. They're consistently speaking the same language, the same tone—every detail is so perfect that it's hard to dislike them. It's really hard to not trust them,” explained Shaun.

    Brand-First CRO might be new to you, but it isn't to us. If you need help aligning your brand experience, grab a FREE quick win for your website!

    Written by: Tina Donati
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