Daniel Burstein

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

January 5th, 2015

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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Erin Hogg

2014 Year Review: Most shared posts in Web opt, button copy and email marketing

December 29th, 2014

What is on the mind of marketers today?

This year, we shared a multitude of discoveries achieved in the MarketingExperiments research lab. We learned about hot topics in marketing today including responsive design, the effectiveness of green marketing and how to improve a Web form without significantly reducing the number of fields.

In the MarketingExperiments Blog, we covered a wide range of topics on website optimization, testing strategies and real-world tests straight from the lab.

To help aid your efforts going into 2015, read on for the most shared posts this year, indicated through retweets and shares by you, the reader.

 

Top Post of 2014 — Less is More: Maximize conversion by removing website distractions

Early in 2014, we heard from a MECLABS Senior Research Manager for his take on a simple and powerful strategy for Web optimization: Less is more.

In a test within the checkout pages for an online retailer, the MECLABS research team identified a number of elements causing friction and distracting customers from completing their purchase.

In the control of the checkout, the page included both side and top navigation, unnecessary text as well as exit points, which all served as distractions from the key goal of the page: conversion.

In the treatment, the team removed the navigation and other exit points from the page as well as the distracting and unneeded text. The result? A 10% increase in checkout completion, equaling to a 20% increase in revenue per visit to the checkout process.

 

According to Jesse Kraker, Senior Research Manager, MECLABS, “When optimizing your website, you should evaluate each page element and consider whether it is helping the goal of your site or distracting visitors. Any potentially distracting element is an opportunity to test how your pages perform with those elements removed.”

 

Read more…

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Paul Cheney

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

December 22nd, 2014

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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John Tackett

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

December 18th, 2014

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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Jessica Lorenz

Website Optimization: Not testing can cost you money

December 15th, 2014

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.

Read more…

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Erin Hogg

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

December 11th, 2014

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.

Read more…

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