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How to Find the Right Conversion Agency in South Africa

CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) is well-established in developed markets, but still nascent in South Africa. Local CRO talent and experience are scarce. To find a conversion agency in South Africa that can help you improve online sales and conversion rates, your options at a high level are:

  • specialist CRO agency
  • full service agency with CRO as one of their services

Specialist conversion agency or generalist agency?

Specialist conversion agencies

Working with a specialist conversion agency gives you access to unparalleled expertise, depth of knowledge and cutting edge insights.

For this agency CRO is the focus of every project, every conversation, every interaction. Their CRO skills are honed every day, and they build up unique mental models over time that you will benefit from. Their team is plugged into the global CRO community, in tune with latest developments and industry news. A specialist conversion agency is also more likely to attract the best talent, meaning you get to work with the top CRO specialists.

Choose a specialist CRO agency if

  • Conversion Rate Optimisation is an important part of your strategy
  • you have a CRO team or want to upskill people in your organisation to do conversion rate optimisation
  • performance and ROI are more important than convenience.

Full service agencies that also offer CRO

If you are looking for a one-stop shop with SEO, Paid Search, SEM etc all under one roof, this may be a good option for you – but there are considerations to be aware of.

Generalist agencies are often larger in size because of the diverse range of services they offer. Don’t assume that bigger agencies employ the best conversion specialists – usually, the opposite is true. This is because every agency is usually formed with a single discipline in mind. Over time, for commercial reasons, they bolt on other services like CRO. See The Myth of the Full Service Agency to understand why these “afterthought services” aren’t of the same standard as specialist agencies.

The obvious advantage of working with full service agencies is that they can offer broader skills and provide solutions for other requirements you might have, outside CRO.

Generalist agencies typically charge based on person-hours rather than a retainer model, which should result in lower fees. Since they don’t attract the most experienced conversion specialists, their cost base is typically lower. You may also benefit from economies of scale if you buy more than one service from them.

Choose a full service agency if you

  • have a limited budget for Conversion Rate Optimisation
  • are a small business just starting with CRO
  • value convenience over performance and ROI.

Check the conversion agency’s track record

Whichever route you decide on, look at the agency’s track record before making your final decision. Ask for CRO case studies and testimonials from past or existing clients that demonstrate their ability to run successful conversion and experimentation programmes.

Check if the agency has access to specialist A/B-test developers who are able to code up the experiments in your preferred testing platform.

Selecting a reputable and experienced conversion agency will give you peace of mind that your conversion rate optimisation strategy will be lead by knowledgeable professionals.

Don’t go for the cheapest option if it means the quality of the service or level of CRO expertise could be inferior. What matters is that you get maximum results for your budget.

Questions to ask candidate conversion agencies

  • How long have they been in business? How many years experience in conversion optimisation? Have they done CRO successfully for other businesses in your industry and vertical?
  • Ask about the team that will be working on your CRO programme. What are their skills? How experienced are they with CRO? What is their track record?
  • Ask potential agencies to outline the strategies and techniques they will use to help you boost your online sales and conversion rates.
  • Is their approach strategic, or more tactical? Teams that lack CRO experience may emphasise tactics, without connecting it to a clear strategy.
  • What level of customer research do they intend to conduct? What do they try to uncover?
  • Do they have specialist developers that can code a/b-tests in your preferred testing platform? Watch out for account managers or strategists that “also do coding” as this will likely be a limiting factor in terms of what they are able to test. Relying on the WYSIWYG functionality is a bad sign, and to be avoided and can cause your site to break.
  • Do they have experience of working with multiple platforms e.g. Google Optimize (to be sunset in September 2023), Convert, VWO and Optimizely – or is their knowledge limited?
  • How advanced is their knowledge of your analytics system e.g. GA4? Do they have BigQuery and SQL skills to get the most out of that ecosystem?
  • How do they report results to you? Do they perform proper statistical analysis on a/b-test results or do they simply report what the testing tool spits out without understanding the formula?
  • What tools do they use?
  • How do they measure success?

AWA digital – global specialist CRO agency in South Africa

Founded in the UK in 2009, AWA digital was the first agency to offer CRO in South Africa.

With an office and conversion team in Cape Town, AWA have done CRO for Woolworths, Pick n Pay, TFG and other leading South African organisations. International clients include Avis, Canon, Interflora, Nike and Toyota.

Working with AWA gives you the best of both worlds: local CRO specialists with international exposure through the UK head office and global team. You don’t get handed off to a junior account manager; AWA only employs senior conversion specialists with a proven track record.

The team includes dedicated A/B-test developers, UX researchers & designers, data scientists and specialist conversion copywriters. They are experienced in all the major A/B-testing testing platforms, including Google Optimize, VWO, Convert, Optimizely, Maxymiser and Monetate. They are advanced users of Google Analytics (UA and GA4), Hotjar, Adobe Analytics, Glassbox, Content Square, Crazy Egg, Mouseflow and Webtrends Optimize.

Agency CEO Johann van Tonder is the author of a best-selling book on Conversion Rate Optimisation, published by Kogan Page. He has spoken about CRO at conferences in South Africa, UK, USA, Australia and Dubai and is a regular guest on international podcasts. In 2020 he was named CRO Personality of the Year by Conversion Elite in the UK, an independent industry body.

Get in touch with the Cape Town office here.

[Post updated 27 January 2023]

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