5 Digital Truths From the SAP Website Test Lab
"Every single test we do arrives at a definitive insight, and it opens up a dozen more questions that you want to test," says Shawn Burns, worldwide director of digital marketing for German enterprise software company SAP. "It makes you hungry to learn more."
Burns is the driving force behind SAP's Test Lab, a department dedicated to testing SAP's digital marketing. Created and run with help from the marketing intelligence arm of Richardson, Texas-based KBM Group, Test Lab uses Adobe Test&Target software to extensively split test and optimize just about any conversion opportunity on the site. You can read more about the SAP Test Lab and how it operates in the January 2013 edition of Target Marketing.
In the process of that testing, SAP has come away with many "definitive insights," principles that essentially always help to improve conversions. Here are five of those insights that have had the biggest impact on how SAP does digital marketing.
1. You're Probably Under-Attributing Sales to Search Engine Marketing
"You know the challenge/uplift of last click attribution," says Burns. "It's 'well known' that search marketing is regarded higher than it should be because of the last click attribution phenomenon, that's sort of the going hypothesis."
So SAP decided to test where they should be attributing those sales, starting with the conventional wisdom hypothesis that they were already overvaluing search. However, Burns says, "we realized search was even more important to our customers than even we thought it was. ... The attribution came back and said, 'Actually, guys, you're still under attributing'" sales to search.
"How can that be?" asks Burns. "This is universal customer behavior: You've been on Google all day—you're going to be at a search bar all day. Global search term traffic is up 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent worldwide. Human beings are accessing the web through a search bar more often than not."
This marked a significant shift in SAP's digital marketing strategy. Burns used to see "traditional branding with education and awareness" working with search and email to generate demand. He says now "what you're seeing is the entire buying cycle—from awareness, education, interest and, yes, conversion—it's all now happening through search. And that was an 'Aha!' moment for us."
2. Forms Matter, and They Change With Each Device
"Forms matter. You can test forms until you're blue in the face, and I still don't think we've squeezed all the juice form the orange yet," says Burns. "I mean, dynamic forms, pre-populated forms, small forms, anonymous forms, long forms, expandable forms ... We've squeezed so much value from form tests, and yet it never stops" improving performance. And even if the forms were already fully optimized, Burns says the technology is constantly changing. "All of a sudden, a significant portion of our traffic is coming from mobile devices. So now I get to go into an entire genre of form testing from smartphone platforms, and here we go again."
How much impact does that have? "It changes everything about forms," says Burns, even the business impact of the sign up. "When all of a sudden a percentage of your traffic is coming from their smartphones, you say: 'Now wait a minute. Is the business impact that I got them to sign up on a form? Or do I want to measure my new impact and use the normal capabilities of the device drawn and get them to call us? Maybe I don't need a form; maybe they should just call us on the phone they happen to be surfing the site on?' So you really start to look at business values in a different way."
3. Content and Offers Cause Conversions
"To a direct marketing guy—especially to a lot of folks at the DMA—this is like 'Duh, I could have told you that.'" Says Burns. But, after "forms, the number one driver of conversion is content and offers."
Like every marketer, Burns has "heard it a million times: 'Content is king.'" However, "in digital, sometimes you get very obsessed with information architecture. You get very obsessed with design and layout. ... But now I'm telling you, if you're going to come to me and say you want to test the blue button to the green button, my question back to you is, 'What is the offer of the day?' Because if it's downloading the same white paper with a blue button or a green button, let's spend our resources in a better way and go get better content that the customer will want to engage with."
4. Match Landing Page Copy to Keywords
"We were able to see that people coming to a specific landing page were coming off of a set of 100 or so keywords that SAP was buying from a paid search marketing perspective," says Slavi Samardzija, executive vice president of marketing intelligence, KBM Group, who has worked extensively with Burns on the Test Lab.
"We looked at those keywords, and we said, well jeez, this keyword is about people seeking flexibility, this is about accountability, this is about X, Y and Z," explains Samardzija. "So we grouped the keywords into different themes, and we changed the tagline on the landing pages to align them with incoming keywords, and we doubled the conversion rate. So let's say, 'SAP offers optimal flexibility' or 'SAP offer optimum accountability,' or 'low cost' or whatever. We lined that up with the type of incoming search language they were using."
Samardzija says that matches results KBM Group has seen in other clients matching landing page copy with keywords visiting the page. "We have run dozens of tests globally. I have to tell you, I believe we only had one test that failed, and most tests had over 20 percent lift. A number of them doubled—triple-digit lift in conversions."
5. Facilitate What Your Visitors Want to Do, Don't Force Them
"What we find from our customers is they don't want us to push them into a conversation," says Burns. "They want to drive the speed that they move."
That insight has gone into an "always-on engagement bar" that is on every page of SAP.com. "Anywhere you're at on the website, the header is going to let you take the next step in your relationship with SAP at your own pace. ... If you want to chat with a live agent [the engagement bar has] 'chat now.' If you want us to call you to schedule a meeting," the engagement bar has the information for that, too. "We've tried to provide every aspect most of our customers want to do in the engagement right there in that engagement bar."
That engagement bar is one of many pieces of SAP.com that Burns and the Test Lab team are "really, really proud about in terms of contributing to the business."