Soft Data vs Hard Data for Conversion Rate Optimisation

When it comes to conversion rate optimisation, the process could accurately be compared to a balancing act. Today, there are an abundance of tools and options available to leverage your CRO efforts, and of course, the data these tools help you to uncover. Experts in this field know that CRO is a delicate, scientific-based process that requires keen observation, analysis and most of all, an in-depth understanding of the data you collect. This means understanding the difference between soft data and hard data, or qualitative and quantitative data, and how the two of them can be leveraged to increase conversion rates.


Hard data, or quantitative data, refers to data that is factual and measurable, usually a set, numerical value that can tell you things like how many people visited your website in a certain time period and how long people remained on your site. While, soft data, or qualitative data, on the other hand, is non-numerical in nature and can give you insight into the ‘why’ behind those numbers. Working in CRO, you want to uncover not only when your website visitors are dropping out, but why they are doing so.

In order to truly understand your website and users, as well as your hard data, you need to investigate your soft data to find out the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’.

Humanizing your CRO efforts with soft data

A brand new episode with CRO Specialist Tim Thijsse on 360 Digital

Finding the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’

In our latest episode of the 360 Digital podcast, we sat down with Tim Thijsse, CRO Specialist at Beerwulf, a fast-growing online craft beer shop based out of the Netherlands. We discussed the challenges of being a CRO specialist, as well as how Tim and his team leverage soft data to fuel their CRO efforts.

Tim told us that soft data transforms conversion optimisation, and therefore helps optimise the entire user experience as well. He also filled us in on a real-life example of how he and his team used soft data to improve their conversion rate…

They noticed, by collecting user feedback, that their Belgian users were exiting the order process way more than the Dutch customers. This was shown by Beerwulf’s hard data. By collecting qualitative data via user feedback, it turned out that their Belgian customers were trying to type more than four characters for their postcode when checking out, but the website form did not allow for this.

Thanks to soft data, they were able to identify the issue and make the appropriate changes. Once resolved, this resulted in a 50% decrease in dropouts, or cart abandonment rates.

Had Beerwulf only collected hard data, they wouldn’t have been able to identify the reason for drop-out rates to be so high. Officially, the Belgium postcodes exist out of 4 numbers, but quite often, people want to add ‘B-’ before the code. Thanks to their well-rounded CRO strategy, Beerwulf was able to solve the issue, and improve their conversion rate.

soft data vs hard data

Examples of hard data

As we mentioned above, hard data is pretty much anything that expresses a numerical value so a certain quantity, amount or range. Never use vanity metrics, but always actionable metrics.

  • Converting users
  • Conversion rate
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Cohort analysis of sales funnel
  • Email opt-in conversion rate
  • Customer acquisition cost

Soft Data vs Hard Data
Source: campaign creators

Examples of soft data

Soft data tells us why users behave the way they do, meaning it measures the quality of your user’s experience.

  • Repeat interactions
  • Social shares
  • Share of voice
  • Customer loyalty
  • Positive sentiment
  • Customer satisfaction

Why they need each other

A decent omni-channel marketing strategy should embrace both hard data like traffic, conversions, and sales, as well as soft data like share of voice and brand awareness.

soft data vs hard data

You could think of it like this: Building a decent CRO strategy is like building a house. You need the right tools, the right helpers and of course, a strong foundation. Tackling CRO without knowing how to use hard and soft data is like trying to build a house without a good foundation. Shaky.

Hard data is like the ground you build upon, it gives you a base to start off, allowing you to discover what your visitors encounter on your site.
Soft data is the slab poured over to secure the foundation. It reinforces what’s already there, and fills in any cracks, giving you insight into the thinking or decision-making process of your users.

soft data vs hard data

Sure, the rock might be a good enough base, but with the slab on top, you have extra protection, and your house will survive any storm.

Understanding the importance of both is key to building your CRO strategy.

As we’ve seen from Beerwulf, your process needs to include both soft and hard data in order to gain a 360 degree view of the customer experience. This way, you can use your soft data to back up or fill in any gaps in your hard, or quantitative data. Ensure you’re not missing out on any key performance indicators or issues that your customers might be having.

Now that you have a foundation, it’s time for you to start building that house!

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