Web: Test Like an Online Olympian
How do you get a testing campaign off and running?
Marketing teams are understandably trigger-shy to make changes that might impact a constant revenue stream. It can be intimidating to start changing the content on your website, one of your most lucrative sales channels (perhaps your only sales channel), with the risk that the results may not be what you'd expect.
However, website testing is extremely accessible to marketers at all types and sizes just by approaching it with a jog, run, sprint mentality—in that order.
Olympic sprinters don't get fast overnight, just like you aren't going to go from A/B tests to more sophisticated testing targeted at distinct customer segments in a matter of days. And that's OK. No matter what stage your testing process is in, even if it hasn't begun, there are always steps you can take to get your program off the ground or to continue driving results after it's gained some momentum.
Any online business worth its salt uses some sort of analytics tool to measure website visitor activities and interactions. Prioritizing testing efforts based on analytics data is the first step toward a successful testing program. First, you need to build this framework to set up your testing process:
- Where do most visitors go once they arrive on your page?
- What elements are they interacting with the most?
- What pages do they tend to abandon your site from?
- What keywords are they typing into your search bar?
Answering questions like these with data will help you identify opportunities to improve website engagement, conversion and even revenue. This helps you prioritize the areas to test first. Start out at a light jog as you figure out what works:
1. Identify your business goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). What business metrics do you want to influence positively? Is your goal to increase online revenue or average order value? What about increasing time on site and page views? Or decreasing shopping cart abandonment? This helps focus your optimization efforts to ensure your program has true and lasting business impact.
2. Pick high impact areas that you can optimize via testing, such as the homepage, search results pages and paid search landing pages. These are some of the places that visitors hit first, and one of the first reasons they leave your site if the experience isn't optimal.
3. Once you decide where to focus your earliest efforts, test multiple options against each other. Don't just stop at one experience vs. another. Create experiences A, B, C and D. You'll gather more insights and quicker learnings to really understand what resonates with your visitors and what you can test during the next round of optimization.
Perhaps you've already begun testing these high impact areas, but haven't thought beyond each test and how those results will influence the next step in your visitors' journeys. Your next job is to curate a specific path or experience for each customer throughout your entire site, not just specific pages or areas. That means tailoring experiences to different visitor segments and acknowledging that a one-size-fits all online marketing approach does not work.
There are endless profile variables you can use to segment visitors and test targeted content. Have they purchased on your site before? How often? Do they buy things on sale or do they splurge?
For first-time buyers, test a first-time shopper discount. Or, if they tend to always shop your sales, you can provide some value-oriented messaging or showcase recently discounted items prominently.
For luxury buyers, upsell them after they've added products to their shopping cart by testing different product recommendations at similar or higher price points than what they have already selected.
What day and time of day are they visiting your website and where do they live, according to their IP addresses? Weekend visitors usually have more time to spend on your site and are more apt to view multiple pieces of content or shop vs. reading quick snippets of articles and browsing quickly for new shoes on their lunch break at work. Test tailored messaging tied to temporal variables such as these. The opportunities to personalize are virtually endless and you are always able to test more targeted content against default content to ensure the customized versions do indeed perform better.
Once a visitor leaves your core website, you should still continue to personalize their digital interactions with your brand. Test display ad content you run on third-party websites. Test the content you surface on social media channels, like Facebook or Twitter. Test and target the content on your mobile applications or mobile-optimized websites, especially as consumers increasingly rely on these devices for the bulk of their media consumption, shopping research and purchase process.
As your testing campaigns mature, understand this is a long race.
Testing campaigns need to be thought of as continuous, iterative and ever-changing. A homepage banner that outperforms the banner you ran on your site for the past two years isn't a reason to set it and forget it. Take that new banner and test it against other alternatives. Target different experiences at different visitor profiles to see what resonates best and moves the needle.
Your website should rarely look the same as it did three months ago. One test begets the next test and you are never done improving. It can change as different business goals are set; it can change based on timely news trends or pop culture; it can change due to broader macroeconomic circumstances. Think of it as a living, growing thing—a garden that you need to cultivate and nurture.
Going the Distance
There is no real finish line—an online marketer's work is never really done—but the goal is to shift your attention from acquiring new customers to driving more customer loyalty and creating a long-term relationship. The only way to do that is to truly understand who your online visitors are, what their preferences are, how they have engaged with your brand in the past, and how they want to engage with you going forward.
Once you personalize your website experience by providing visitors with very relevant next steps, they will want to come back again and again, because they know that visiting your site to engage with your content or shop your products is a good use of their time and will result in a satisfying experience.
Drew Burns is the senior product marketing manager for San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe Test&Target. Reach him at email@example.com.