Conducting CRO on new international websites

Nicola Winters

Head of International


When selling products or services online, increasing your conversion rate is key to maximizing revenues. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of optimizing your site to increase the likelihood that visitors will convert. Conversions may be a purchase for an ecommerce site or a form fill for a service. 

For an existing high-traffic domestic website, A/B testing is the best way to measure and improve performance – however, this only works when there’s enough traffic to reach a significant result. The process involves using qualitative and quantitative data to form a test hypothesis; the hypothesis must then be tested to either prove or disprove it, for example with an A/B test.

In practical terms, this involves changing one or many elements on a new page that is created, and using testing software to split traffic 50/50 between the original and new page. Performance is then measured and, if a statistically significant result is achieved, a winner is declared. If the new page comes out on top, then it’s implemented on the website and the performance gains are retained.

Multivariant testing is another type of testing. This determines which combination of variations performs the best out of all possible combinations. The downside to this approach is that even more traffic is required than for A/B testing. 

Why is it hard to do this for a new international site?

In an ideal world, CRO would be done the same way for a new international website as for your home-market site. However, successful testing relies on having a certain amount of traffic to the site in the first place. For a new localized version of your domestic site, it is unlikely there will be enough traffic to provide meaningful results, especially if you have just recently entered the market. 

What you can do to maximize conversions on new language sites

A different approach is needed to increase conversions when launching into new markets. While you may not have enough traffic for split testing and using CRO in the usual way, you can still optimize your conversion rate for new language sites by addressing and eliminating cultural conversion barriers. This can have a substantial impact on improving conversion rates. 

The key is to recognize an incorrect assumption that most of us inadvertently make, which is that visitors to your site from different countries respond in the same way to variables, such as color, font, images, delivery options and payment methods, as in your home market. They don’t.

We all know, on a certain level, that there are different cultures in different markets, but most of us wouldn’t be able to name more than a few differences. Even fewer of us would be able to identify user experience variables on a website that would influence conversions. For example, incorrect grammar and spelling mistakes are more likely to discourage French users from buying than in other markets, having an Impressum on your website in Germany is a legal requirement and important trust signal, and address formats for the Netherlands place the postcode before the town. All these factors play a part in making sure a user doesn’t navigate away from your website and instead purchases your products. 


A few solutions to address the issue of low initial traffic, businesses can do the following:

  • Conduct a cultural audit
  • Split test landing pages alongside advertising campaigns
  • Gather focus group feedback
  • Gather information on the market, landscape and competitors
  • Assess user behavior using onsite tools.

While this is not scientifically tested in the same way that quantitative A/B testing would be in your home market, this method leverages the substantial anecdotal qualitative evidence that would have informed the A/B testing anyway (traffic permitting). The benefit is that the actual cost of implementing a series of minor changes that a native speaker has identified, such as color, can be very low. On the other hand, the cost of doing nothing and potentially negatively impacting conversions could be significant. 

Therefore, the approach to optimizing conversions in new overseas markets, or International CRO, needs to be different. Before launching any new website, a full review of how your site complies with the cultural expectations of your target market is essential. Optimizing conversions across different markets relies on native linguists and native market specialists with the knowledge of local market expectations across a multitude of variables. They can advise on local nuances, the right look and feel of a site and provide knowledge on more practical measures, such as payment and delivery methods, or the right social media channels to use. Having implemented the relevant cultural changes, over time you can fine tune your website through standard CRO techniques. 

If you’re interested in learning more, I ran a webinar where I discussed in more detail how you can get the most from your international digital marketing campaigns.

What you will learn:

  • Why best-practice CRO techniques are fundamental to international success
  • How to use A/B testing with limited data
  • Cultural considerations for international markets
  • How to get the most out of your international digital campaigns.