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Email Marketing: How responsive design might improve your emails

January 29th, 2015 1 comment

If you were watching last year, we revealed some research on a Web clinic concerned with responsive design, specifically the effect of a mobile and tablet-based form page design for mobile and tablet specific users.

If you’re unfamiliar with responsive design, the general concept is that a page is coded to adapt its viewing experience to fit the size of the device you’re using.

 

While the results were interesting, we still had many questions:

  • Can those findings be applicable to all page types?
  • What about articles and landing pages?
  • What about emails?

As part of our quest to continue to get a better picture on the effect of mobile design on a rapidly growing world of mobile users, my team had a desire to perform a responsive design test on a type of email where responsive design would prove extremely valuable to readers — the email newsletter.

The team’s hypothesis made sense: A significant number of visitors are not acting on the [desktop style] email because it is too difficult to read and process. The fix? Use a responsive design template to make things readable.

 

A closer look at the two versions reveals the following about the responsive template:

  • The text is much clearer
  • It’s easier to navigate (just swipe down instead of pinch, zoom and scroll)
  • It’s more aesthetically appealing

The only sacrifice the responsive template makes is that it takes about 5 to 6 more swipes to navigate to the end. Regardless, the team hypothesized that the sum of benefits would outweigh this perceived cost.

When we looked at the results, however, we found something quite different:

 

The result was puzzling: Why would an email newsletter that is more difficult to read outperform one that is easier to read?

What’s even more puzzling is that this finding does not generally fit the pattern I’ve seen in mobile design email tests, specifically case studies like this one from CareerBuilder on MarketingSherpa:

                                                     

Puzzled, we went back to our test metrics to examine our results more closely for any additional clues. When we looked at the unique click rate (as opposed to click rate), we were presented with another interesting result:

 

There was no statistically significant difference in the number of people who clicked. The non-responsive viewers are simply clicking more per email then the responsive viewers.

That still left us with a final question: Why are the non-responsive users clicking more?

The answer, we believe, was hidden in this final metric:

 

Viewers of the non-responsive design are reading significantly less than those viewing the responsive version. But why?

  • Maybe it is just easier for viewers to tap to learn more on the non-responsive version than it is to pinch, zoom scroll and then read to learn more.
  • Maybe people found the responsive email more appealing to read, thus reading more.

 

Bottom Line: Which email is better?

Well, that depends on how you measure success.

If you want to attract people who will have a real interest in the deeper troves of content your site has to offer (and thus be more qualified for a paid offering), the responsive email in this case would be most effective in helping you accomplish the greater objective.

Why? Because someone looking at the non-responsive version may click on the links out of curiosity to learn more about the heading because they don’t want to take the time to pinch and zoom.

While that might get you more traffic in this case, the tradeoff is that the extra traffic will involve:

  • Higher bounce rate
  • Lower average pages per session
  • Lower average time per page (depending on the quality of content)

 

The result?

This is a skewed total metrics picture, requiring multiple steps in your analytics platform to ensure that you’re not grouping that motivation of audience with another that has a real interest in deeper content. In addition, it might require changes on the template to attract the change in motivation level to continue on the site.

Ultimately, I have two top takeaways:

  • As I have said in a previous post, greater gains and understanding comes with a greater granularity in measurement.
  • The quality of motivation you attract is connected to the quality of experience you provide.

Don’t let responsive, or non-responsive, design be your end-all be-all. Learn how it affects customer behavior and use it as a lever to effectively move them closer to the ultimate goal you have for your business.

 

You can follow Jon Powell, Senior Manager, Executive Research and Development, MECLABS Institute on Twitter at @jonpowell31.

 

You might also like

Email Marketing: 24% higher CTR for CareerBuilder’s responsive design [MarketingSherpa case study]

Email Marketing: Taking advantage of responsive design [Video] [More from the blogs]

Mobile Marketing: Ecommerce site uses responsive design to achieve an 8% lift in cart abandonment campaign [MarketingSherpa cases study]

Email Design Panel: Responsive email design with multi-device customers in mind [MarketingSherpa video archive]

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Online Testing: Why are you really testing?

January 21st, 2015 No comments

The start of a new year gives savvy marketers another chance to push exploring your customer’s theory even further. In today’s MarketingExperiments Blog post, I want to welcome 2015 by sharing with you a simple product page test from our last Web clinic you can use to aid your marketing efforts.

Before we dive in further, let’s look at the background on the experiment:

 

Background: A mid-sized furniture company selling mattresses online

Goal: To increase mattress purchases

Research Question: Which design will generate the most online purchases?

Test Design: A/B variable cluster test

 

Side-by-side 

 

Here’s a side-by-side split of the two designs and the variables being tested to help give a little context to their placement on the page.

 

As you can tell from the comparison here, Design A was centered on an approach that used less text, with copy that placed emphasis on a low risk trial, free shipping and returns as well as a 25-year warranty.

Read more…

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Landing Page Optimization: Simple, short form increases leads 40%

January 15th, 2015 No comments

When looking to generate more leads from a landing page, make sure your objective is well defined on the page. A small, hidden call-to-action may not be seen by visitors, leaving potential leads unsure of the next step.

If this is the case, you may not need a radical redesign on the page. Instead, a simple and small change — highlighting the form as the next step in the visitor’s thought sequence — could increase the number of leads you capture.

Wanting more prospective students to fill out its lead gen form, American Sentinel University worked with MECLABS as a Research Partner. Read on to learn how a small change to the page increased the form completion rate by 40%.

 

Background: American Sentinel University, an accredited online university.
Objective: To increase the number of leads captured to speak with an advisor.
Primary Research Question: Which treatment will yield the highest conversion rate (i.e., form completion)?
Test Design: A/B test

 

When looking at the data analytics for its website, American Sentinel found that just 8% of unique visitors make it to a “Request More Information” form page. However, once a visitor arrives at a form, the data shows a completion rate of 43%.

“So we saw that there was motivation to fill out; the challenge was getting them there,” said Warren Staley, Research Manager, MECLABS Institute.

Previously, there were two ways for visitors to get to a “Request More Information” form page:

  1. A short form on the homepage, which leads to a second, longer form to acquire additional information from prospects
  2. Links throughout the site, including on each degree overview page and in the top navigation bar

The MECLABS research team wondered if there was enough value on the homepage to entice people to fill out the lead capture form at that point in their thought process. Thinking this approach might be a case of the cart being presented before the horse, the team developed an experiment to test this hypothesis.

(Editor’s Note: For your convenience, we’ve provided creative samples in two formats – SlideShare and thumbnails that expand when you click them.)

 

 

 
Control

The degree overview pages have a wealth of valuable information, and the next step in a prospect’s thought sequence is to request more information before making the ultimate conversion of applying.

However, the page didn’t generate the clickthrough or completed forms the university wanted.

The MECLABS research team identified a few value and friction issues that potentially hindered the pages’ effectiveness:

  • There is no value regarding why a visitor may want additional information.
  • The page doesn’t effectively guide visitors through a logical thought sequence.
  • Current “Request More Information” call-to-action (CTA) is buried and may not attract user attention.
  • The request link in the header is lost due to multiple navigation bars.
  • With multiple columns and navigations, too many competing objectives make it difficult for visitors to know what they’re supposed to do on the page.

 

Treatment 1

This treatment brought the same short form on the homepage to the degree overview page, creating a two-step process for prospects. The form replaces the “Career and Industry News” and “Upcoming Events” sections, slightly lowering the number of competing objectives.

The form now grabs attention and enters prospects into the form process on the page, taking advantage of the motivation on the degree page.

Treatment 1 includes three key changes:

  • The short “Request More Information” form is located in main eye-path of the page.
  • The value of the information request was added to the headline.
  • The large, red CTA draws visitors’ attention.

 

Treatment 2

“The second treatment was bullet points talking about the value you’ll get from filling out the form,” Warren explained. “You’ll talk to an admission advisor, and they can walk you through the process, answer any questions you have.”

The team used Treatment 2 to mitigate anxiety some prospects may experience when asked for their information. What would happen after they hand it over? A phone call? An email?

“Basically, it’s setting it up so it’s not going to be a sales pitch. It’s really to help you get the information you need to make a well-informed decision.”

Overall, Treatment 2 includes three key changes from the control:

  • The value of the information request was added to the headline.
  • The large, red CTA draws visitors’ attention.
  • The bullet points add value about why prospects should fill out the form.

 

Results

Adding the short form to the degree overview page increased the rate of completed forms by 40.5%, with a 96% statistical level of confidence.

Notice that while Treatment 1 did in fact reach a level of confidence, Treatment 2 did not come close. Based on the sample collected, there was just not enough difference in the conversion rate to confidently determine whether Treatment 2 was more or less effective than the Control. Adding value alone did not make a big enough change in the page to make a difference in visitors’ minds.

 

What you need to understand

“The biggest takeaway is that sometimes you don’t need a big dramatic change; sometimes just something simple will provide you results,” Warren said. “In this case, they already had a short form, so all we did was take it from the homepage to the degree page.”

If you start small, you can then transfer those discoveries to other pages. After the success of this test, American Sentinel added the short form to its other degree pages as well.

A second takeaway you can pull from this test is to try a two-step form on your website.

“The treatment with the short form won, so we learned that the two-step process was successful. By having them fill out the short form, they were more willing to fill out the main form,” Warren said.

A two-step process can also allow you to capture at least some of the lead’s information even if they don’t finish the second form. With the initial information, you can use content marketing to increase the quality of that lead.

Third, this test stresses the importance of following the visitors’ thought sequence.

“By having it on the degree page, there was more motivation to have them fill it out there,” Warren explained. “Because now they have information about the individual program, whether it’s nursing, business or IT.”

Prospective students need more than just the value presented on the homepage to decide whether they want or need more information. Questions about tuition are pointless if a university doesn’t offer the program you’re looking for. Allowing prospects to find a program that interested them and then asking them to fill out a form works better in the thought process of choosing a university.

 

You might also like

Lead Generation: Is your registration form part of the customer journey? (More from the blogs)

Optimizing Web Forms: How one company generated 226% more leads from a complex Web form (without significantly reducing fields) (Web clinic replay)

Marketing Research Chart: Optimize landing pages for lead quality [MarketingSherpa case study]

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Email Preheaders Tested: The surprising sensitivity of a single line of text

January 8th, 2015 No comments

Earlier this year I reached out to a friend of mine who manages training with the Salesforce Marketing Cloud (previously known as ExactTarget) to get a sense of what questions everyday marketers were having concerning email.

“Preheaders,” was her quick response. Specifically on “using a preheader, not using a pre-header — what should be in the preheader.”

Just in case you’re not familiar with a preheader, it is the line of preview text you find below the subject line on mobile device email apps and even in the Outlook preview pane.

 

Focusing on that piece of information, I took to the database and decided to do some looking around.

Surprisingly, I didn’t find as many tests as I usually find. This is an item that has just started to get the attention of marketers as of late. Additionally, when I searched on the Internet, I could not find a single experiment published on the subject with statistical significance.

I decided to oversee some tests myself, hoping to solidify some of the initial patterns I was noticing from my initial view of the database.

This is what I discovered: Preheaders can indeed have a significant effect on your email performance metrics. However, I still had some questions:

  • With what metrics?
  • In what way?
  • By how much?

To help answer those questions, I’d like to reference two recent examples for the same type of email:

Read more…

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Can You Write Viral Copy like The Huffington Post? Here’s 6 reasons why you might not be stacking up

December 22nd, 2014 2 comments

If you’ve ever opened a Web browser, chances are you’ve visited The Huffington Post. That might be related to the fact that they (by a landslide) publish the largest number of viral stories on the Web, according to NewsWhip.

One of my favorite things to do when I find out someone is the best at something is analyze their method … and steal the hell out of it.

So I ran a query through one of my favorite sites, BuzzSumo, a content analysis search engine (my description, not theirs), and pulled up HuffPost’s most shared content over the past year.

Because you’re all marketers, and most of the world’s marketing is full of junk, I decided to let you look over my shoulder at my little swipe-file of sorts.

After studying the top 100 headlines The Huffington Post has written in the past year, I found a few reasons why most marketers (myself included) are failing to connect with their audiences compared to The Huffington Post, who is obviously pretty good at it.

Here are the top six reasons I found for why your viral copy isn’t as good as The Huffington Post’s (I’ve included the headlines I found so you can steal them with me.)

WARNING: Some of the headlines you see below may be offensive to some people. Please understand that at MarketingExperiments, we do not take any official positions on politics, religion or personal beliefs. We are only interested in studying what works in marketing. The headlines below are simply a dataset to be studied and learned from, not an official statement on a particular position MarketingExperiments takes.

 

Reason #1: You’re not writing copy that helps your audience discover something new about themselves

Sample Headlines:

Headline Total Shares
Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy 1255809
5 Minutes In A Mom’s Head 1039541
10 Ways Introverts Interact Differently With The World 624656
18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently 705417
The Achiever, the Peacemaker and the Life of the Party: How Birth Order Affects Personality 364977

 

Apparently, most Huffington Post readers are highly creative, introverted, yuppie moms with siblings. If that’s your audience, then start writing content like the articles you see above.

If it’s not your audience, then think about what you know about your audience that they may not know about themselves and incorporate it into your copy.

Helping someone understand his or her self is probably one of the best things you can do for a person. Also, it’s a big business — just ask your psychiatrist or look at your next bill.

  Read more…

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Landing Page Optimization: What a 4% drop in conversion can reveal about offering discounts

December 18th, 2014 No comments

Discounts can be tempting to use as a tool to increase your sales volume.

There are plenty of cases where incentives have been successful; however, one caveat to consider is they also come with their own set of consequences.

When the dust settles and the results are in, every marketing team has to determine one thing:

Are discounted product offers always the optimal choice for a price point strategy?

That’s a question one large media company recently posed in their testing efforts that I wanted to share in today’s post to help you learn more about the potential impact of discounts on the bottom line.

Before we dive in any further, let’s look at the background on this experiment:

Background: A large media company offering various subscription products.

Goal: To determine the optimal pricing point after the introductory rate.

Research Question: Which price point will generate the greatest return?

Test Design: A/B split test

Control 

 

In the control, customers are presented with an offer of “50% off Home Delivery for 12 Weeks with free digital access.”

 

Treatment 

 

In the treatment, a triggered lightbox was added and designed to pop-up, offering an incentive for an additional four week discount of 50% if the order was not completed within a certain time frame.

Read more…

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