“We will see a lot of more female leaders within tech” 

We teamed up with Marianne Stjernvall, new CRO Lead at TUI in the Nordics to learn about what CRO is and how it can help converting your website visitors into customers. Marianne also spoke about why she thinks that the tech scene is perfect for women to take the leading roles.

Marianne, you are the new CRO Lead at TUI Nordic. What’s CRO?

CRO is the English acronym for Conversion Rate Optimisation. Its primary meaning is simply to convert website visitors into customers. We do that by analysing data and mixing it in with a bit of web psychology, for example how or visitors behave on the web site, to better understand the user.
When we have that knowledge about the user we can come up with new ideas of what might work better. We all want to get rid of those obstacles that might prevent the visitor of doing what they came to do. What we do is called it A/B-testing. It gives us the opportunity to test which variation of the website converts better. We do all of this so that we can create a better user experience that aligns with why the user came to the site in the first place.

Can you give some examples of when CRO have supported the business?

There are three different outcomes of a test we do. We either get a successful test – which states that our hypothesis was correct and we can continue to develop the site in that direction. Or, it can be no change between the variations in the experiment. The third option is that the test preforms worse than what we already have on site today, which is also an interesting result. This means we can read the data and understand why this happened. By doing these “quick and dirty” solutions we also save time for our developers – so that they can continue working on the things we have proved working.
An example of this is when we added “value propositions” to our start page. We wanted to tell the users the great things about TUI in a couple of unique selling points. This quite simple change, resulted in over 10 percent additional revenue of sales.

What is a regular day at the Nordic service office like?

On a regular day, I do checkups of the tests we have live at the moment, we have to be able to act fast and it’s important to keep track of the results at any given moment. Usually there are syncs to do with the organisation. Product owners, web teams and stakeholders. Since CRO is somewhat like that small, agile business there are always conversations that need to happen and quick decisions that needs to be made. So, a lot of my day is actually being on the go. I try to get some time with each of our web teams by just hanging out and working at their spots. If I’m not on the go, you probably find me at a “stand table” which has become the central point for a lot of my closest co-workers. This gives us the chance to communicate right when we need to. As team lead, in this role you need to be able to have those conversations technically as well as having the business as core in all that is done.

A lead role means that you get to manage a team, what’s good leadership to you?

Good leadership means giving a clear direction for your team and at the same time relying on each individual’s specialist knowledge. It is the leader’s role to explain the vision and setting the destination for the team. Then it’s up to the team to get there the best way possible. I believe that brings out the best in people and will also show their best competence areas. When you know that you can also understand better what additional knowledge and education will make you team grow. Good leadership is also creating a safe environment where trust and conversation is key. And by setting processes this can be achieved and transparent conversations can take place.

You were recently admitted to Spader Ess, a development program for female leaders. How do we get more women to become leaders?

I believe that tech is the best area to have female leaders. When it comes to organisation and structure, many women have something underlying in skillset which gives them a real head start. This is more than appreciated and needed especially when it comes to leading developers, usually the most logical of people. Now we see programs specially for women who wants to learn coding, and the part of women reading about computer science is increasing. I have no doubt that we will see a lot of more female leaders within tech in the years to come.

Your role is located at the Nordic service office in Stockholm, some might argue that TUI in the Nordics have come far in terms of tech. What’s your view on that?

I absolutely agree. We have invested in a lot of specialist roles and to have that wide and deep knowledge in-house is absolutely key. The mentality at TUI is to have an experimental test and learn culture, and being able to change quickly. As the digital society in the Nordics is changing and developing fast – we cannot have long two-year programs anymore. Since we will be out of date by the time we’re ready to implement. We are also focusing a lot of data with the understanding that this is the foundation of being able to adapt change and possibilities on new higher levels. With that comes fantastic techniques such as automatisation and machine learning. I hear that other companies are looking at and trying to expand within CRO, but as far as I know no one in the Nordics is really where we are right now. We’re leading within this field.

As you say, CRO is a pretty new science and not a lot of companies have developed this function. Why do you think that is?

With a new science we can hardly be a fully populated work squad right away. It takes time to build up the knowledge and getting more specialist into the CRO area. It is especially hard since CRO is a role which is built up of many other ones; analysis, UX & design, development and project management. Often you become a CRO specialist who is more dedicated to one or a couple of these – but we do need the “full stack” CRO’s to lead and educate. I myself try to speak at schools and events as much as possible to pass the knowledge forward – making more people interested in becoming CRO specialists.

Finally, we have to ask you. What’s your favourite destination for vacation and why?

I spent four weeks this summer in Los Angeles, California and I must say that it was an amazing trip that I learnt so much from. The people you meet are so interested in Nordic stories and so very inviting and welcoming. It was a great cultural knowledge exchange. And the food is awesome!