Interview – Matthew Lerner from PayPal on Conversion beyond Landing Pages, hazardous waste and much more!

8 August, 2014 - 09.37 AM

closeup Matthew Lerner

Hi Matt, you are Director, Small & Medium Business (SMB) at PayPal UK. Please, tell us about the relevance of conversion optimization for your work. What are you doing in this field, and where do you want to go within the next year?

Conversion is central to what I do. First of all, I want to make sure it’s easy for SMBs to sign up for and use PayPal, via conversion optimization projects on our own site. But more importantly – at PayPal, we charge a percentage of our customers’ sales. So I want to make sure all our customers are delivering great experiences that convert well.

Is conversion optimization getting sufficient attention in corporations today? If not what do you think needs to happen to change this?

It amazes me that many big successful companies, even today, don’t seem to get this sort of thinking. I honestly believe it’s just a matter of time. I have yet to meet a leader who does not warm to the idea once it’s explained.

What has been the most exciting work development this year?

In PayPal UK, we were able to deliver some improvements that customers have been asking for, such as expanding seller protection to cover more transactions, and we’re testing some very slick new checkout flows.

What mobile device can you not live without?

My iPhone.

What app do you use most often?


What social media network or website do you frequent most when you’re not working?


What’s the first thing you check on your phone in the morning?

The news

What work challenge keeps you up at night?

Honestly, trying find the best ways to help our small businesses customers succeed. With so many customers, I think a lot about where to focus our time and resources to maximum effect. I realize this is a good problem to have.

How many miles have you travelled this year?

Around 35,000. I cycle a short distance to work. But I’ve been travelling to Ireland, Germany and the US a fair bit.

Can you tell us something about yourself that your team would be surprised to know?

During college I worked as a chemist in a hazardous waste refinery, and I learned more useful lessons about working day-to-day in that job than I ever learned in college.

You are a speaker at the upcoming Conversion Conference on 4th & 5th of November in Berlin. The title of your session is “Beyond Landing Page Testing – Business Model Hacks”. What makes this topic so important and relevant?

I think, as marketers, we tend to focus on buttons and headlines because they’re easy to tweak and test. That’s the tool box we are used to playing with. But that really limits our potential impact. In my work at PayPal, I get to see millions of businesses, which ones are growing and which ones are not. And the winners have one big thing in-common, they are thinking beyond the landing page. I will, of course, elaborate in my session!

What can participants of your session expect from your presentation – and what do you expect from the attendees?

Participants can expect to be challenged, surprised and hopefully entertained. They should learn a lot. I hope everyone will participate actively, challenge me and ask questions, as they think about how these ideas can apply to their own businesses. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I often find in these sorts of sessions, the best info comes out in the Q&A.

Machine Learning, Big Data, Agility, Holistic Optimisation are all hot topics in 2014. What do you think is pure hype and what could be a substantial change for conversion optimisation?

To be honest, I think we get a bit ahead of ourselves. There are amazing bleeding edge ideas and technologies that always make these conferences fun and fascinating. But there’s so much room for so many organizations to improve using simple best practices, and a bit of testing and segmentation. For example, even now, so many websites still require prospects to sign up or log in before they can pay for an item in their shopping cart.

What other career would you like to try?

Besides chemist, ham salesman, speech writer, marketer and small business director? Maybe I’d want to be a sports statistician for a professional basketball team.

What does your desk look like right now?

Desk? Desks are so 2013.

What is the last business book you read?

Currently reading “A Random Walk Down Wall St.” by Burton Malkiel.

Outside of your company’s efforts, what marketing campaign or video caught your eye recently?

Some of the viral videos that went around YouTube around the World Cup were excellent!

Please make a prediction for conversion optimisation: what trends drive conversion optimisation in the upcoming 1-2 years?

Great question. I expect companies will move away from leading with one big form, towards progressive profiling. Capture the minimum necessary info up-front (e.g. email address and password). Then build out the profile by capturing more information at relevant points throughout the customer experience. I think this will increase hand-in-hand with explosive growth in content marketing, as it rapidly replaces traditional SEO.

And one more personal question: what is your favourite conversion optimisation tool or method? And why?

As you can tell, I’m a bit old-fashioned. But I still think basic A/B testing, when done well, can have a profound impact, not just on a website, but on an entire organization. First, choose a test that challenges a deeply held assumption that your organization shares about your customers (e.g. beliefs about price sensitivity, key benefits, or the product selection process). Then be very public, internally, with the test – print out the test options and the success metric, post them on a wall, and ask everybody to vote. Finally, review and discuss the results with members of your team and other key leaders.

Thank you for your time and answers! We look forward to welcoming you in Berlin in November at the upcoming Conversion Conference!

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