Pawel Ogonowski | Overcoming Failure to Implement

When you do business online, your most valuable commodity is… data. But all the data in the world doesn’t mean anything unless you know how to analyze and use it to boost your profits. And, of course, you need to know what data is important in the first place – and how to collect it. 

With his track record of bringing in $34 million in additional sales for his clients, Pawel Ogonowski is a man to listen to on this subject. He focuses on using data to improve the user experience – making it easy for customers to buy. 

He walks us through the conversion rate optimization strategies he uses, as well as… 

  • What you can learn from how their interactions with clients differ from traditional agencies (and get better results)
  • An easy way to determine your true value proposition
  • Identifying the “bottlenecks” stopping your prospects from buying
  • An unlikely source for some of the most valuable intelligence about your products
  • And more valuable tips and methods on how to gather pertinent data and implement it to enhance  your business’ conversions and revenue

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:

Episode Transcript:

Joris Bryon: Hey, this is Joris of the Ecommerce Excellence Podcast. And today I’m really excited to talk to Pawel Ogonowski. Pawel has more than 10 years of ecommerce experience. He’s been helping online retailers leverage data from digital channels to improve their user experience. And he’s one of the co-founders of Growcode. 

And that’s the first CROsystem as a service that guarantees revenue growth for online stores. In his, Yeah, I believe more than eight years of testing and optimization, he managed to deliver an impressive $34 million in additional sales for online retailers in different markets. Pawel, welcome to the podcast. Great to have you here.

Pawel Ogonowski: Yeah. Hey, thank you for having me. 

Joris: Cool. Yeah, I already read your bio here. But I mean, can you tell people a bit more about your background, where you come from in your career? How did you ended up doing what you’re doing right now?

Pawel: Yep. So it all started some, like 11, 12 years ago, when together with my friend, we set up our first ecommerce store. So we were selling household equipment and electronic stuff. So it was pretty harsh and competitive, bloody, red, bloody market. And so we have always had like a crush for data. And that’s when we learned about Google Analytics and the way to optimize your online presence. So we started really leveraging this data to really optimize the experience of our online store, and also to optimize the traffic that we’ve been acquiring. 

And this is like the whole, this whole my whole story started with conversion rate optimization and digital analytics. So back then we’ve been writing this online store. And we saw that there was a lack of agencies and companies and people who would be really skilled in either conversion rate optimization or digital analytics. So as we had some prior experience with some consultancy, we thought that why not give it a go? And this is how it all started. So around 10 years ago, we set up our own company. it was Conversion, back then. And it’s still a brand here in Poland. And we’ve been doing digital analytics and conversion rate optimization ever since. 

Joris: Okay, cool. So, you mentioned that you do CRO system as a service, I believe that’s the way you go. Yeah. So can you explain to me exactly what means and why it’s different to like the traditional agency model?

CRO System as a Service

Pawel; Yep. So what we’ve been, like having huge problems with our clients is, was that when we’ve been like cooperating with them, we, you know, we conducted all the analysis for them, we do user testing, we do analysis, we, like dig into their data, come up with great recommendations, come up with mockups then we come up with graphics, and then we pause this, everything that we have created to, we come up with a hypothesis. And we now need to get this coded into the website. And this was something that came up as a huge roadblock because you either had to face internal IT department, or you had to cooperate with some different agency that was responsible for the front end development of that online store. 

Many of our projects like faced a dead end there. Just like we’ve been waiting, like two months, three months, half a year for everything to be recorded. And we saw that there is a huge like, problem with streamlining the process of conversion rate optimization. So what we thought of is to come up with completely like top-up, top-bottom or bottom-top approach, where we would provide our clients with not only people in the process, but we will also be able to provide them with technology that will enable us to streamline the coding process. 

So currently, I would look like we’ve got our own app, that enables us to change the front end of our clients for online stores. Because when you’re thinking about using Google Optimize, or Optimizely, then okay, you can change the front end of your online store by, if you go beyond simple landing page changes, where you move a few things around or change dacks, and you want to move some really, to some more advanced testing, like I don’t know, different versions of Checkout, or testing a few variations of a product page template. 

And then you realize that you really need huge IT resources that will be able to code those changes because you won’t be able to edit them through a drag and drop editor. So what we managed to come up with is a technology that enables us to code much faster. All those changes that we want to test, come up with those variations. And we can provide our clients with like everything really from the start. The analysis through coming up with graphics and everything, then, through testing, coding this using our own technology. 

So we don’t need to add any additional external costs, like the cost of optimizing or anything, any other technology. And we can streamline this work really, really much, much faster and deliver the results really much faster. And our clients when we speak with them, they tell us that they spend around, I don’t know, five to seven hours a month only supervising our project. And they don’t have to like move anything from one vendor to another and get any mess about it. 

Joris: Okay, so if I understand correctly, you use your own tool, not only for AB testing but also just to make implementations, right? Stuff that you don’t test, but just implement or, 

Pawel: Yeah, we do test everything that we implement, but we still are able to roll out all the changes into our clients’ websites through our tool. 

Joris: Okay, you don’t need any intervention of your clients’ developers. Okay. That’s right. Yeah, that’s pretty cool. And then afterward, so do the changes have to be hard-coded later by the clients’ do or kind of let it just keep running through your 

Pawel: Right, it’s pretty much on them. Like we’ve got times where we’ve had seven-hour variations for half a year one year, and only, like upgrading them to meet additional requirements if the client so wishes. Or some clients decided to hard code it, because we stress the speed of websites, as all of us notice. incredibly important. Today’s age, especially with we are thinking about mobile. So we really, like made a huge effort to create an app. And the way we code makes those changes really load extremely fast.

Joris: Okay, you leave it up to the client if they want a hardcoded later. right? 

Pawel: Yeah, exactly. 

Joris: Cool. Does this work, like with just one particular platform? Is it like just Shopify or Magento? Or is it

Pawel: No, no, no, it’s platform agnostic. So whether you’re running on Bigcommerce, Shopify, Magento, or any other platform, then we can do our work everywhere.

Joris: Okay, that’s interesting. So when you work with a client, what does your process typically look like?

Growcode’s Process

Pawel: Like the process typically looks like this, that we cover seven steps, we always start out with the analytics, and we get in our teeth into the business. So we want to understand what’s the value proposition of the business. We want to learn what problems current customers are facing when shopping for products that the client is offering. 

And so we do different types of analysis. We do data analysis through Google Analytics, we conduct surveys, we do usability testing, we do heuristic evaluation. So is there is a like a huge host of tools and approaches that we use to identify problems that potential users face and to really know where are the biggest bottlenecks our client. 

And then we come up with a series of hypothesis to really list all those ideas that we had. We prioritize them depending on like, two things first time, and it will take an effort it will take to come up and code new changes. And the second thing that probability of an uplift. Because we’ve got like a, like a huge set of past experience, past tests, so we can more or less estimate was that impact going to be? Then of course, we like, select those who with the biggest possibility to impact the bottom line of our clients. 

And come up with first mockups, then we discuss them with our clients, then we come up with graphics which are also discussed with our client and accepted, then we go all those changes using our solution. And depending on the number of variations, it takes us from one to two weeks, depending on whether it’s 1, 2, 3 variations, or maybe 12. It really depends on the traffic that our client has, and what are the possibilities. Because the bigger the client, the more variations we usually come up with. 

And then we perform the test, analyze it when it’s finished after, depending on the client, we first check how much time we need, depending on their situation on the traffic and conversions, how much time it will take us to conduct the test. Then we analyze it and come up with the analysis presented to the client, discuss it and roll out the winning variations. So this is how the process looks like.

Joris: Yeah, that makes sense. You already mentioned that traffic is an important element for AB testing. And you know, you can test actually, do you guys have some kind of rule of thumb, as of when you would recommend AB testing?

Pawel: Well, we don’t work with clients who have less than 2000 transactions, because we treat it as a

Joris: Per month, right?

Pawel: Yeah, per month. So this kind of, like bottom for us. So this is a little bit changing nowadays, because like we’ve got this switch to mobile. So with some of our clients, we’ve got like 80% of traffic coming from mobile devices. And it turns out that we can test only on mobile devices. On the other hand, in fashion where social media advertising is so popular that there is a huge amount of traffic coming from mobile devices. 

And on the other hand, we’ve got other clients where it’s more 50/50, then we can test on both desktop devices and mobile devices. And of course, there are big behemoths that have got enough transactions to conduct a test on both like devices, the different devices, really, and it doesn’t matter whether they can only 20 from one type of device or 80 from another. 

Joris: Yeah, right. They’re big enough. It doesn’t matter.

Pawel: Yeah, they’re big enough.

Joris: So what are your top three priorities while you’re developing in an ecommerce optimization plan?

Top Three Priorities for Ecommerce Optimization

Pawel:Yeah, so before we do anything else, we really need to grasp the value proposition of the business the brand fully. Because it really comes down to the value they offer to the client. Sometimes your website can be best optimized, and you have the best-optimized website in the world. But if people don’t know why should they buy from you rather than somebody else? And then they won’t buy from you anyway. So this is the first thing that we want to really understand. So what’s behind the business that can prompt users to buy from this company rather than somebody else?

Joris: And how do you do that?

Pawel: Yeah, we do this through, like, we do a lot of interviews with the management team on the client-side. And what we also love doing is listening to customer service recordings. Because like, this is something that really gives you it, when you listen to us someone from the customer service or some representative who is selling the product, who is talking to the customer about the product, then he’s highlighting all the benefits that the user can have, and the client can have. And this is like a super way. 

We also like when the client has either brick and mortar presence, like we’ve been working with a travel agent, so they had both like an online presence and off-site presence. So we really enjoyed sitting next to the reps in those brick and mortar locations, where we really could listen how they really sell, and what are the questions that people are asking their customers are asking. So that’s the first thing. So understanding the business value proposition. So why should they buy from, why customers should buy from this company rather than somebody else. Then we are trying to understand what really is motivating current customers to buy. 

So even though the company has got some like an idea of what should be the reasons to buy from them. it’s really, it can be a completely different thing, what motivates current customers to buy from them. So this is something that we want and try to understand. On the other hand, so we do this mainly through interviews with current clients and through surveys. And the third thing that we do is understanding what’s causing potential customers not to buy. So we are using digital analytics, we are using evaluations to learn what might stop users from buying from this particular website.

Joris: Yeah, okay. Yeah, that makes total sense. So what in your opinion are the main bottlenecks for conversion optimization that ecommerce brands face? 

Most Common Bottlenecks Ecommerce Businesses Face

Pawel: I think that when I’m talking with ecommerce managers, then I think that the first thing that they face is the shortage of talents. So it’s really a narrow specialization, the field of expertise, conversion rate optimization, and there aren’t so many people who are really into this. So that’s the first thing. And especially in today’s economy, when the unemployment rate is usually pretty low, then it’s really hard to fight for the best talent. That’s the first thing. And the second thing is something that we are trying to solve. 

So this cooperation with the IT department, and the process that is like, connected with conversion rate optimization, because like, you can come up with like great ideas, you can come up with graphics, and but then you still need to call those changes. And when I’m looking at our projects, I see that 70% of the time that we spend is spent on the development of those variations. So even though you create value when you come up with ideas of what to test, then you invest most of your time and resources into decoding part of the whole process. So I do believe that these are two main challenges when it comes to conversion rate optimization.

Joris: Yeah. Okay. If there was like, just one question, you already mentioned that you do interviews and survey, but if there was like, just one single question that you could ask a user who visits an online store, what would that be?

Pawel: I would love to ask, maybe not all users, but I would love to ask customers about one thing. So and that would be what nearly stopped you from buying from us. Because those people have got some relationship with you. So they have done the shopping, they have invested their time, they have invested money in your products. 

So it’s really easy to get this information from them. And they really like can come up with some really golden nuggets for you. And tell you what is taught them from buying from you like, and no validation on the form the problems with a credit card, or there was a problem with I don’t know when you are the search or anything else. 

Joris: Yeah, absolutely. Those are golden nuggets if you can discover those. Absolutely, yeah. So talking about, like ecommerce growth in general, what do you believe are the two or three keys to grow an ecommerce business and in today’s environment?

Pawel: So the first thing is definitely the value proposition. So what do you offer that like distinguishes you from your competition? What makes you unique, your business, your products unique so that they really stand out? The second thing is traffic acquisition, that’s for sure. So you really need to excel in this, because like the traffic acquisition costs are going up, and they are going up, like on a daily basis. And like yesterday’s strategies are no longer working today. So we can see that I know, in social media advertising, it has been like extremely cheap to acquire new users and customers through this channel. 

But currently, it’s going like up from month to month. So you really need to excel on this in this field. And it’s really becoming more and more complex every year. Because there are new channels, like when you think five years back, then you say, okay, when it comes to traffic acquisition, we’ve got AdWords, we’ve got SEO, and maybe some affiliate. And currently, you’ve got like so many different things. You’ve got an automated bidding, you’ve got social media advertising, and you’ve got so many platforms for social media advertising. 

There’s Facebook, which is changing their like advertising space, like from day to day. You’ve got Instagram, which is connected. You’ve got Twitter, and you’ve got so many other ways to attract your users. And the third thing would be like working on your website. So it’s like users are currently, they expect you not only to provide the basic functionalities like so they can come and do their shopping, but they are really looking forward and expect you to provide them with a personalized experience. And it’s going to be harder and harder to compete on this level. And I think that this is like the third area that brands should focus on.

Joris: Okay. You already mentioned it a couple of times to the value proposition. What if the client hasn’t really figured that out? Sometimes businesses are in business they sell, but they don’t really know exactly what their value proposition is. How do you go about that?

Determining The USPs of a Business

Pawel; Well, we’ve got some clients that typically say that they don’t know, they don’t know. So it sometimes happens. So what we try to do then, is simply we start with asking the clients because they usually have some. And we are asking those clients like two things like first. So why did you buy? What did you buy from this brand, so that you could describe it? 

And the second thing that we asked them is to describe this online store or this product to their friends. And this way, we try to like, look for patterns. What similar traits they are highlighting. And that way we try to come up with value proposition of a client. And we also try to use our products ourselves in order to like, really try to see what’s really cool about it.

Joris: Yeah, I like that idea of describing to a friend, because that’s when people automatically and almost subconsciously look for the value. Yeah, it’s really good. Good tip. A question I usually like to ask, what’s the biggest mistake you made? And I know, that’s a difficult one sometimes.

Pawel: Like, there were so many mistakes made. So, I think it was about values and hiring decisions. So it’s maybe not about conversion rate optimization itself, but the way you hire your team. So we ended up like it was like six years ago, something like this, that we ended up with a team of people that had completely different values to the ones that we’re looking for. 

And, really, we ended up like with, we had to get rid of nearly, I don’t know, half of our team or something like this. So we really learned that values are one of the most important things that you need to hire for in the very beginning. And like, you really need to hire slow, and to really take the time to understand this other person that you want to offer your job for. And on the other hand, you need to really fire fast. If you see that someone doesn’t fit, it’s better to part ways earlier than later.

Joris: Yeah, I think that’s it. That’s excellent advice. And it may not be conversion optimization related, but most of our listeners are entrepreneurs. And I think t’s a situation they find themselves in at some point in their career anyway. Because I mean, it’s a common theme that I hear a lot when I interview people. When I ask this particular question often about hiring.

Pawel: It’s a really, really, really tough job.

Joris: It is. Yeah. And I think what you mentioned as well, the values, that’s really helpful, because that, I mean, you can hire someone who has potential, but maybe not all the experience. You can train them up, but if they have the wrong values, that’s impossible to change. So I think those are good guidelines to follow when you try to hire but you have to make those values explicit first, because when you’re still in the startup phase, you have your values somehow, implicitly, but you have to make them explicit at some point and then use them as a 

Pawel: Yeah, definitely. 

Joris:Yeah. So as the last question, what’s your number one piece of advice for people who want to grow their ecommerce?

Powel: Never stop testing. And not only when it comes to conversion rate optimization, but also when it comes to like new ways to acquire traffic. New products, new positioning, I keep on changing and keep on testing, and never, ever feel bad about giving up something so that you decided that it was a mistake. So back up from it and try something different.

Joris: That’s actually great advice. Hey, Pawel, this has been great and really interesting. We could probably go on for a very long time, but running out of time, and just want to make sure that people know how they can find you and learn more about you. What’s the best place for people to find you, to connect with you?

Pawel: Yeah, it’s best to connect with me on LinkedIn. So you can find my account either through our website, so you can go to and you’ll find a piece about us and there’s a link to my profile, or you can simply search me on LinkedIn and most probably, I’ll pop up somewhere. 

Joris: Okay, cool. Thank you so much for being here Pawel. It’s been absolutely great.

Pawel: Yeah, thank you for having me.