A/B Testing Doesn't Cut It In the Post-COVID World
Getting into the heads of prospective customers needs to be top-of-mind for marketers looking to drive results and conversions on their websites, especially during these uncertain times when information and mindsets are changing daily. But, traditionally, that’s easier said than done. While marketers have their choice of hundreds of tools to measure the performance of websites, ads, social media, and other touch points along the customer journey — they rarely understand the “why” behind their audiences’ actions. This includes understanding why prospects aren’t converting once they get to the website.
The problem is that most marketers “go with their gut” when updating website content, under the widely-accepted notion that they will A/B test a “challenger” (also created by gut) to maximize conversion potential. A/B testing helps to validate these gut answers and provide evidence — it’s the best way to indicate success or failure on a granular level. However, there is a way to take this a step further to get into the minds of your audience and understand the why behind the evidence.
Too Many Unanswered Questions
The average conversion rate on a landing page is only 2.35%, meaning that more than 97 out of 100 visitors will likely leave your page without converting. That number would be unacceptable in a physical store or business, so why do marketers consider this acceptable online? It’s because with A/B testing alone, there’s no way to answer a number of critical questions needed to improve the customer experience and, therefore, increase conversions:
- Why aren’t my visitors converting? Traditionally, marketers would attempt to answer this question by supplementing A/B with focus groups and user tests, which are time consuming and expensive, or site intercept surveys, which only capture a small number of visitors and don’t represent the total population of users who bounced. But with time and resources at a minimum right now, marketers must look for other solutions.
- What do visitors think when they come to my site? Visitors bring many preconceived notions to any page they visit. By understanding prospects’ mindsets before they arrive on the page, marketers can optimize the page to address both. Not highlighting (or worse, not including) the things that either concern visitors or interest them is often one of the most common mistakes that marketers make, and this misstep can have a huge impact on results, especially in today’s volatile landscape.
- What specifically works and what specifically doesn’t? A/B testing can tell us what pages generate the most conversions, but cannot pinpoint the specific areas of the page that do not work for visitors, what is not on your page that should be, or what visitors did not see (or find) that could have led them to take the next step.
- How do I test a new page? For marketers looking to test a new product or concept page, or a major redesign of an existing page, the path is much more fraught. Marketers who put these pages into market could find a major issue, or just be ‘off the mark’ for their visitors.
- What should I do to improve my page? Even if page A performs better than page B, marketers have no idea what to do to make either, or both, even better. And maybe the best option is a combination of the two.
- How does my page compare with my competition? Most marketers would love to A/B test their competitor’s pages but do not have the time or resources. Imagine how useful it would be to see what visitors like and dislike, how well competitors address the visitor’s mindset and needs, or how much better the competitor’s page might do with the target audience?
Making A/B Testing More Effective
To answer these questions and more, ahead-of-the-curve marketers are beginning to take advantage of Pre-Live Optimization technology, a new entrant into the marketing toolkit that provides fast, actionable insights for marketers looking to improve website experiences and increase conversions.
With Pre-Live Optimization, marketers can maximize the impact of traditional A/B testing by sending only the best-performing designs to A/B tests, and then use A/B tests to fine-tune improvements and optimize conversion to even higher levels. The process, which uses real people as viewers and takes their mindsets into consideration, is faster than traditional testing methods and takes away the guesswork by pinpointing exactly what on a page works and doesn’t, with analysis on why.
In one example, a “boomer bank” wanted to understand how they compared to other top national banks in order to effectively optimize experiences and engage with their target audience of millennial and Gen Z prospects. The bank deployed a pre-live testing solution to help them better understand the needs and desires of that younger audience. This included testing both their own website and some top competitors to see which banks have seen success with the targeted audience segments, and why. Based on the information gathered from the competitive comparison, the boomer bank initiated a redesign of its checking page that focused on engaging the “always-on” millennial and Gen Z audience without alienating older generations.
Higher education institutions like Johnson & Wales University, Purdue Global, and NMSU have used Pre-Live Optimization for years to quickly respond to the needs of prospective students, but the process has proved particularly valuable during these uncertain times. Since COVID-19 hit, universities around the country have had to adapt their typical enrollment tools, such as on-campus visits, to virtual options, and marketing teams have needed their websites to stay on top of real-time needs, interests, and concerns now more than ever. Pre-live testing has taken the guessing entirely out of the optimization equation and can turn around results much faster than traditional A/B testing methods.
With consumer sentiment changing frequently and so much on the line for businesses of all sizes, marketers can no longer afford to rely solely on “gut feelings” and A/B testing to build out their websites. Pre-Live Optimization, especially when used in combination with A/B testing, can help marketers answer the many crucial questions that ultimately improve the online customer experience and generate real results for their organization.
Janet is President and Co-Founder of WEVO. Janet was the first CMO of Constant Contact, and part of the team that created much of what is known as inbound marketing today. She has also held leadership marketing roles at what is now 3M MicroTouch and HP.
After creating HSG, a product and marketing consulting firm, alongside fellow entrepreneur Nitzan Shaer, they soon realized that market research is long, expensive, non-actionable, and does not work at the pace of digital marketers. As a result, they created WEVO – the first company to optimize website experiences before going live.