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Testing and Optimization: How to get that “ultimate lift”

January 19th, 2015 2 comments

What would you rather have: a 32-inch flat screen TV for $100 or a 72-inch flat screen TV for $150? After considering the first 32 inches cost $100, you would probably pay the additional $50 for another 40 inches.

This same principal can be thought of in terms of testing and optimization, with one caveat — you have to buy the 32-inch TV first.

 

A discovery, not a lift

Many attempting to optimize and test within webpages want big lifts; however here at MECLABS Institute, we always say the goal of a test is not to get a lift but to gain discoveries about customer behavior. This makes sense on face value, but to be honest, when I first heard the expression, I thought to myself, “Well sure, that sounds like a good backstop in case you don’t get a lift.” However, I soon learned that it is more than a backstop or worse — an excuse.

As the curator for Dr. Flint McGlaughlin’s personal website, I often come across insightful observations. This next excerpt speaks particularly well to this topic of optimization and testing to obtain more than just a lift:

Too often, marketers are focused on results instead of reasons. We need to move deeper than ‘how much,’ into ‘why so,’ to answer an even more important question: What does this tell me about my customer or prospect? And so the goal of an optimization test transcends the notion of a lift and asks for learning. With sufficient insights we can obtain the ultimate lift. The more you know about the customer, the easier it is to predict their behavior. The easier it is to predict their behavior, the more you know about your value proposition. — Flint McGlaughlin

I have bolded what I think is the most important part of that quote for the sake of our discussion today. I am going to repeat it because it is so significant: “The goal of an optimization test transcends the notion of a lift and asks for learning. With sufficient insights we can obtain the ultimate lift.” — Flint McGlaughlin

Now we may ask ourselves, “What is the ultimate lift”? Some may think it is the biggest or most important criteria on some arbitrary scale. In my opinion, the “ultimate” lift is gaining insight about your customer and your value proposition that can be leveraged across all marketing channels.

 

Value Proposition 101

Before we go any further, if you are reading this article and do not know what I mean when I say “value proposition,” I urge you to investigate our research specifically around value proposition. However, for the sake of brevity (and this blog post), here is the oversimplified crash course:

A company’s value proposition is essentially trying to answer the question “If I am you ideal prospect, why should I buy from you rather than your competitors?

The answer should be a “because” statement that stresses the appeal and exclusivity of the offer in a clear and credible way. The offer also needs to be supported by factual claims which will add to the credibility of the offer.

 

Testing for the “ultimate lift”

Now that we have a basic understanding of a value proposition, here is an example from a past MECLABS research partner. In this experiment, we achieved the “ultimate lift” because of customer discoveries gained through value proposition testing.

 

Experiment ID: TP1306
Background: Provides end-to-end market solutions for small and medium-sized businesses.
Primary Research Question: Which page will obtain the most form submissions?

First, here is the control:

 

CONTROL

 

After analyzing the offer on the page, MECLABS analysts identified the following value proposition for the offer.

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A/B Testing: How to improve already effective marketing (and win a ticket to Email Summit in Vegas)

January 5th, 2015 183 comments

Editor’s Note: This subject line contest is no longer accepting entries. In the next few weeks, we will read all of the entries, select the best ones and then run the test. Check the MarketingExperiments Blog in a few weeks to see which entry won, why it won and what you can learn from that to further improve your own marketing.

This blog post ends with an opportunity for you to win a stay at the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas and a ticket to Email Summit, but it begins with an essential question for marketers:

How can you improve already successful marketing, advertising, websites and copywriting?

Today’s MarketingExperiments blog post is going to be unique. Not only are we going to teach you how to address this challenge, we’re going to also offer an example to help drive home the lesson. We’re going to cover a lot of ground today, so let’s dive in.

 

Give the people what they want …

Some copy and design is so bad, the fixes are obvious. Maybe you shouldn’t insult the customer in the headline. Maybe you should update the website that still uses a dot matrix font.

But when you’re already doing well, how can you continue to improve?

I don’t have the answer for you, but I’ll tell you who does — your customers.

There are many tricks, gimmicks and types of technology you can use in marketing, but when you strip away all the hype and rhetoric, successful marketing is pretty straightforward — clearly communicate the value your offer provides to people who will pay you for that value.

Easier said than done, of course.

How do you determine what customers want and the best way to deliver it to them?

Well, there are many ways to learn from customers, such as focus groups, surveys and social listening.

While there is value in asking people what they want, there is also a major challenge in it.

According to research from Dr. Noah J. Goldstein, Associate Professor of Management and Organizations, UCLA Anderson School of Management, “People’s ability to understand the factors that affect their behavior is surprisingly poor.”

Or, as Malcom Gladwell more glibly puts it when referring to coffee choices, “The mind knows not what the tongue wants.”

This is not to say that opinion-based customer preference research is bad. It can be helpful. However, it should be the beginning of your quest, not the end.

 

… by seeing what they actually do

You can use what you learn from opinion-based research to create a hypothesis about what customers want, and then run an experiment to see how they actually behave in real-world customer interactions with your product, marketing messages and website.

The technique that powers this kind of research is often known as A/B testing, split testing, landing page optimization or website optimization. If you are testing more than one thing at a time, it may also be referred to as multivariate testing.

To offer a simple example, you might assume that customers buy your product because it tastes great and because it’s less filling. Keeping these two assumptions in mind, you could create two landing pages — one with a headline that promotes that taste (treatment A) and another that mentions the low carbs (treatment B). You then send half the traffic that visits that URL to each version and see which performs better.

Here is a simple visual that Joey Taravella, Content Writer, MECLABS created to illustrate this concept: 

 

That’s just one test. To really learn about your customers, you must continue the process and create a testing-optimization cycle in your organization — continue to run A/B tests, record the findings, learn from them, create more hypotheses and test again based on these hypotheses.

This is true marketing experimentation, and it helps you build your theory of the customer.

 

Try your hand at A/B testing for a chance to win

Now that you have a basic understanding of marketing experimentation (there is also more information in the “You might also like” section of this blog post that you may find helpful), let’s engage in a real example to help drive home these lessons in a way you can apply to your own marketing challenges.

To help you take your marketing to the next level, The Moz Blog and MarketingExperiments Blog have joined forces to run a unique marketing experimentation contest.

In this blog post, we’re presenting you with a real challenge from a real organization and asking you to write a subject line that we’ll test with real customers. It’s simple; just leave your subject line as a comment in this blog post.

We’re going to pick three subject lines from The Moz Blog and three from the MarketingExperiments Blog and run a test with this organization’s customers.

Whoever writes the best performing subject line will win a stay at the ARIA Resort in Las Vegas as well as a two-day ticket to MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 to help them gain lessons to further improve their marketing.

Sound good? OK, let’s dive in and tell you about your client:

Read more…

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Website Optimization: Not testing can cost you money

December 15th, 2014 2 comments

I’ve had some pretty terrible online shopping experiences. I’ve dealt with impossible product pages, awkwardly laid-out shopping carts and some sketchy checkout processes.

It seemed as if companies were simply allowing customers to shop online, not encouraging it — especially smaller, specialized stores.

Then came the rise of sites like Amazon and Zappos.

Today, there is no excuse not to optimizing and improvng the customer experience.

At IRCE 2014, MarketingSherpa Reporter, Allison Banko, sat down with Lisa Foreman, Marketing Conversion Manager, Nations Photo Lab, to discuss the necessity of testing.

“If your website is not user friendly, then you’re just not going to convert the customers,” Lisa said. “And it’s easy.”

Lisa explained that the testing technology available rules out any excuse that marketers may have had before when it came to not testing.

“As a marketer without technical experience, I can set up tests on my own without the help from my developer … and I can declare statistical significance as soon as they are ready and get them rolled out,” she said.

The barrier to beginning a testing program without knowing how to code is deteriorating, Lisa added, which is great news for marketers in a world where customers demand instant, seamless experiences across devices and pages.

Developing savvy-looking sites might get your internal marketing department excited, but Lisa warned her peers, “You should be testing it first.”

She suggested that money spent on the development of a new template or designing new pages and experiences are wasted if these changes don’t actually improve the customer’s experience.

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Web Optimization: 3 strategies to improve testing operations at your company

December 11th, 2014 1 comment

In a previous blog post, we detailed how Felix + Iris, a newly launched eyewear ecommerce site, made simple tweaks to its hero unit to improve home try-on conversion 72%.

In this blog post, read about how the Felix + Iris marketing team has embraced testing, and how the team shares results throughout the company. Read on to hear more from Jon Corwin, User Experience Lead, One Click Ventures (parent company of Felix + Iris), and how his strategies achieved testing and optimization success.

 

Step #1. Integrate testing into company culture

At One Click Ventures, the testing function exists in the marketing department.

“There is very much an iterative approach or kind of a lean methodology that One Click has taken,” Jon said.

Jon explained, as far as buy-in goes, testing is not something the team has had to convince others outside of Marketing of its value.

“It’s more of a conversation of what we should test – not whether,” he said.

Marketing team members seek approval from the content team on copy changes, or the design team for anything creative, typography or image-related. Jon also explained the team’s director of marketing will, from a strategic standpoint, help make those decisions.

However, Jon explained the testing function for marketing is autonomous.

“Our testing started off as a skunkworks operation. It was almost like scratching our own itch, and launching small tests and sharing the wins after the fact,” he said.

From there, he explained it has grown and the team has embraced it as another feedback tool to help keep the company a lean operation.

With the newly launched Felix + Iris brand, the team realized testing can be used as a tool to help manage risk.

Instead of buying into a new feature on one of the One Click Venture sites, the team can build a small prototype, launch it and validate that the feature is helpful, or not, with A/B testing.

Once the team has that knowledge, Marketing can send that feature to the tech team and have similar features built out, or use lessons learned from tests to better inform how they should craft future campaigns.

“Right now, it is very much a small operation, but one that has been key in helping make some of these decisions, be it design, messaging, new feature build-out, so on, so forth,” he said.

 

Step #2. Share results constantly

Jon explained there are many different ways the marketing team shares testing results within the organization.

Once tests are completed and the results have been analyzed, Jon will email those results to the stakeholders for that specific test. In addition, weekly conversion meetings, held by Jon, are used to discuss lessons learned from tests.

Jon and the team keep a master ledger of all testing efforts, called the Test Tracker, which is in the form of an easy-to-read spreadsheet.

“That’s where we’ll document all of the testing activity and final test results, with the goal being that that’s our testing bible filled with Felix + Iris best practices based on testing we’ve done in the past,” Jon explained.

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Hero Unit Testing: 72% lift from simple changes you can implement today

December 8th, 2014 1 comment

Selling a product online that customers would most likely prefer trying on in a brick-and-mortar store is a challenge.

Felix + Iris, an online prescription eyewear retailer, provides a free home try-on option for its products with its Fit Kit.

However, getting customers to take the plunge to try on glasses at home was a challenge, especially because the brand is new having launched in September 2014.

Right from the get go, Jon Corwin, User Experience Lead, One Click Ventures (parent company of Felix + Iris), implemented A/B testing and optimization into every aspect of the Felix + Iris’ online presence.

The company falls under the umbrella of One Click Ventures, which owns two other online ecommerce eyewear brands, and testing is a large part of One Click Venture’s business strategy.

“We really embraced using A/B testing as another quick and easy feedback cycle to validate whether our messaging is in line with our customers’ needs,” Jon said.

In this blog post, we’ll detail one of Felix + Iris’ tests on the homepage of the site, centering around the hero image and copy for starting the free home try-on process.

 

Control

homepage-control

 

“The control’s hero unit’s design was certainly in line with our audience. It definitely spoke to our audience. It was aligned with our brand,” Jon said.

But, as Jon discovered, as a new brand, there are some disparities with no having brand equity to help carry Felix + Iris’ message.

Another issue that Jon identified was ambiguity within the call-to-action to “Get Started.”

“Essentially, the top funnel conversion point we were testing is for them to start the Fit Profile quiz. But we realized with the control, there was some ambiguity around what steps were required, what the value of the Fit Profile is for the customer, and what they get out of it,” Jon explained.

Jon developed his hypothesis: Will replacing the hero image with an actual image of the home try-on kit as well as adding the steps in the process help to portray the tangible results of trying Felix + Iris?

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Web Optimization: How to help customers help themselves

December 4th, 2014 1 comment

“The innovation of how the buying process works really has helped us. Not only to help our existing customers, but really gain those new customers through that process and innovation,” explained Matt Ruggle, Ecommerce Manager, Great Northern Corporation, at IRCE 2014.

Linda Taddonio, Co-founder and Ecommerce Strategy Officer, Insite Software, and Matt sat down with MarketingSherpa Reporter Allison Banko to discuss a new phase of site optimization: click tracking.

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