Tag Archives: images

The Five Most Important Visual Elements Required for a Successful Company Blog

As a marketer, you cannot neglect the power of content. Sharing valuable information with your audience help you build trust with your audience and develop a strong and influential brand. We know that 61% of US online consumers are making purchases based on recommendations they read on blogs. Therefore, why wouldn’t you do the same thing? Why not set up a blog for your own company or the company you represent? I am not going into the technical details of setting up a company blog or how to make it web-ready for today’s environment, nor will I discuss the content…

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The Five Most Important Visual Elements Required for a Successful Company Blog

Web Development Reading List #190: Images in Web Notifications and Angular Code Splitting

New APIs offer great possibilities to build better web services. And some people push these new technologies to their limits. For example, we can use JavaScript to generate images that we then can use in Web Notifications. We can use the Storage API to find out if and how much data we can save on a user’s device and can adjust the behavior of our applications accordingly.
And then we can push our designs further.

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Web Development Reading List #190: Images in Web Notifications and Angular Code Splitting

What Makes a Great Press Webpage?

press page

PRs and SEOs love press releases. You get an SEO boost, earning links from journalists in your space across a bunch of different sites. And you get traditional PR benefits. But focusing on your press page could bring much bigger dividends. Think of a press page in the context of broader strategy. If you’re emailing and phoning publications trying to get yourself or your client mentioned, you’re doing ‘outbound PR’ – the PR equivalent of cold calling. Surprise, surprise: journalists don’t really like it, and as Bloomberg’s David Lynch warns, ‘you’re going to strike out most of the time.’ A…

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What Makes a Great Press Webpage?

We Want to Put You on a Plane to Call to Action Conference [CONTEST]

Image via Shutterstock.

If you’re an active social networker, you already know that travel photos and social media go together like… aerial shots of brunch and social media.

So when we decided to throw a social media contest together for our upcoming Call to Action Conference, it seemed only fitting to make it travel themed. Not just because we like taking 10-second mental vacations by staring at pretty pictures of pretty places. But because Unbounce has done a little travelling itself.

After expanding to the German, Brazilian and Spanish markets over the past year, we opened an official Berlin office in January. Four walls, front door, ever-flowing kaffee and all. We’re thrilled that this year’s conference is the first we’ll host as a truly international company — and we want to celebrate by putting you on a plane with a free ticket to Call to Action Conference 2017.

The details

What we want to know is:

What’s your favourite place in the world?

Tweet and/or Instagram a photo of wherever that may be (be it from your iPhoto gallery or Google Images, we can’t tell and we don’t care) with the caption:

“Fly me to #CTAConf @unbounce and make me love Vancouver as much as I love [insert location]”!

The winner will be announced at noon PST on Friday, June 3rd and receive a $1,000 flight voucher as well as a free ticket to Call to Action Conference, worth $999.

Click below for more contest details if you want them. And if you’re thinking, “What is CTAConf and why do I want a ticket to it?” then see what all the hoopla’s about.

Originally posted here – 

We Want to Put You on a Plane to Call to Action Conference [CONTEST]

A Handy List of Resources for Picking the Perfect Website Color Palette

picking color palettes

Creating an effective color palette is a vital part of designing a website that works. But how do we get there? For some projects, you already have one or two colors picked out – maybe they’re your logo, or brand colors, and you’re working within those limitations when you create your site. For others, you’re starting from scratch. And some projects just need tweaking – minor adjustments to the color palette to make it more beautiful or usable. Whether you’re a seasoned pro looking to outsource some of the spadework of design, or you’re building a website for the first…

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A Handy List of Resources for Picking the Perfect Website Color Palette

How to Leverage eCommerce Conversion Optimization Through Different Channels to Maximize Growth

Note: This is a guest article written by Sujan Patel, co-founder of Web Profits. Any and all opinions expressed in the post are Sujan’s.


“If you build it, they will come” only works in the movies. In the real world, if you’re serious about e-commerce success, it’s up to you to grab the CRO bull by the horns and make the changes needed to maximize your growth.

Yet, despite the potential of conversion rate optimization to have a major impact on your store’s bottom line, only 59% of respondents to an Econsultancy survey see it as crucial to their overall digital marketing strategy. And given that what’s out of sight is out of mind, you can bet that many of the remaining 41% of businesses aren’t prioritizing this strategy with the importance it deserves.

Implementing an e-commerce CRO program may seem complex, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of possible things to test. To simplify your path to proper CRO, we’ve compiled a list of ways to optimize your site by channel.

This list is by no means exclusive; every marketing channel supports as many opportunities for experimentation as you can dream up. Some of these, however, are the easiest to put into practice, especially for new e-commerce merchants. Begin with the tactics described here; and when you’re ready to take your campaigns to the next level, check out the following resources:

On-Page Optimization

Your website’s individual pages represent one of the easiest opportunities for implementing a conversion optimization campaign, thanks to the breadth of technology tools and the number of established testing protocols that exist currently.

These pages can also be one of the fastest, thanks to the direct impact your changes can have on whether or not website visitors choose to buy.

Home Page

A number of opportunities exist for making result-driven changes to your site’s home page. For example, you can test:

  • Minimizing complexity: According to ConversionXL, “simple” websites are scientifically better.
  • Increasing prominence and appeal of CTAs: If visitors don’t like what you’re offering as part of your call-to-action (or worse, if they can’t find your CTA at all), test new options to improve their appeal.
  • Testing featured offers: Even template e-commerce shops generally offer a spot for featuring specific products on your store’s home page. Test which products you place there, the price at which you offer them, and how you draw attention to them.
  • Testing store policies – Free shipping is known to reduce cart abandonment. Implement consumer-friendly policies and test the way you feature them on your site.
  • Trying the “five-second test” – Can visitors recall what your store is about in 5 seconds or less? Attention spans are short, and you might not have longer than that to convince a person to stick around. Tools like UsabilityHub can get you solid data.

Home Page Optimization Case Study

Antiaging skincare company NuFACE made the simple change of adding a “Free Shipping” banner to its site header.

Original

eCommerce conversion Optimization - Nuface Control

Test Variation

eCommerce conversion Optimization - Nuface Variation

The results of making this change alone were a 90% increase in orders (with a 96% confidence level) and a 7.32% lift in the average order value.

Product Pages

If you’re confident about your home page’s optimization, move on to getting the most out of your individual product pages by testing your:

  • Images and videos
  • Copy
  • Pricing
  • Inclusion of social proof, reviews, and so on

Product Page Optimization Case Study

Underwater Audio challenged itself to simplify the copy on its product comparison page, testing the new page against its original look.

Original

Underwater Audio Control

Test Variation

Underwater Control Variation - eCommerce conversion rate optimization

This cleaner approach increased website sales for Underwater Audio by 40.81%.

Checkout Flow

Finally, make sure customers aren’t getting hung up in your checkout flow by testing the following characteristics:

Checkout Flow Optimization Case Study

A Scandinavian gift retailer, nameOn, reduced the number of CTAs on their checkout page from 9 to 2.

Original

nameon-1

Test Variation

nameon-2

Making this change led to an estimated $100,000 in increased sales per year.

Lead Nurturing

Proper CRO doesn’t just happen on your site. It should be carried through to every channel you use, including email marketing. Give the following strategies a try to boost your odds of driving conversions, even when past visitors are no longer on your site.

Email Marketing

Use an established email marketing program to take the steps below:

Case Study

There are dozens of opportunities to leverage email to reach out to customers. According to Karolina Petraškienė of Soundest, sending a welcome email results in:

4x higher open rates and 5x higher click rates compared to other promotional emails. Keeping in mind that in e-commerce, average revenue per promotional email is $0.02, welcome emails on average result in 9x higher revenue — $0.18. And if it’s optimized effectively, revenue can be as high as $3.36 per email.”

Live Chat

LemonStand shares that “live chat has the highest satisfaction levels of any customer service channel, with 73%, compared with 61% for email and 44% for phone.” Add live chat to your store and test the following activities:

Case Study

LiveChat Inc.’s report on chat greeting efficiency shares the example of The Simply Group, which uses customized greetings to assist customers having problems at checkout. Implementing live chat has enabled them to convert every seventh greeting to a chat, potentially saving sales that would otherwise be lost.

Content Marketing

Content marketing may be one of the most challenging channels to optimize for conversions, given the long latency periods between reading content pieces and converting. The following strategies can help:

  • Tie content pieces to business goals.
  • Incorporate content upgrades.
  • Use clear CTAs within content.
  • Test content copy, messaging, use of social proof, and so on.
  • Test different distribution channels and content formats.

Case Study

ThinkGeek uses YouTube videos as a fun way to feature their products and funnel interested prospects back to their site. Their videos have been so successful that they’ve accumulated 180K+ subscribers who tune in regularly for their content.

thinkgeek

Post-Acquisition Marketing

According to Invesp, “It costs five times as much to attract a new customer, than to keep an existing one.” Continuing to market to past customers, either in the hopes of selling new items or encouraging referrals, is a great way to boost your overall performance.

Advocacy

Don’t let your CRO efforts stop after a sale has been made. Some of your past clients can be your best sources of new customers, if you take the time to engage them properly.

  • Create an advocacy program: Natural referrals happen, but having a dedicated program turbocharges the process.
  • Test advocacy activation programs: Install a dedicated advocacy management platform like RewardStream or ReferralSaaSquatch and test different methods for promoting your new offering to customers with high net promoter scores.
  • Test different advocate incentives: Try two-way incentives, coupon codes, discounted products, and more.
  • Invest in proper program launch, goal-setting, and ongoing evaluation/management: Customer advocacy programs are never truly “done.”

Case Study

Airbnb tested its advocacy program invitation copy and got better results with the more unselfish version.

airbnb

Reactivation

As mentioned above in the funnel-stage email recommendation, reactivation messages can be powerful drivers of CRO success.

Pay particular attention to these 2 activities:

  • Setting thresholds for identifying inactive subscribers
  • Building an automated reactivation workflow that’s as personalized as possible

Case Study

RailEasy increased opens by 31% and bookings by 38% with a reactivation email featuring a personalized subject line.

raileasy

Internal Efforts

Lastly, make CRO an ongoing practice by prioritizing it internally, rather than relegating it to “something the marketing department does.”

Ask CRO experts, and they’ll tell you that beyond the kinds of tactics and strategies described above, having a culture of experimentation and testing is the most important step you can take to see results from any CRO effort.

Here’s how to do it:

Have an idea for another way CRO can be used within e-commerce organizations? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

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How to Leverage eCommerce Conversion Optimization Through Different Channels to Maximize Growth

Social Media Image Sizes – A Quick Reference Guide for 2017

social media image sizes

If you want an effective social media presence, you’re going to want images that fit with News Feeds, timelines and streams. Trouble is, the different channels all use different sizes and shapes for their images, and to keep you on your toes, they occasionally change them too. We have you covered, though. From staid, professional LinkedIn to noisy Twitter to the image extravaganza of Pinterest, here are the updated social media image sizes for the major channels. Facebook Facebook Photo Sizes Facebook Cover photo size: 851px x 315px desktop / 640 pixels wide by 360 pixels mobile Facebook Profile photo…

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Social Media Image Sizes – A Quick Reference Guide for 2017

[Gifographic] Better Website Testing – A Simple Guide to Knowing What to Test

Note: This marketing infographic is part of KlientBoost’s 25-part series. You can subscribe here to access the entire series of gifographics.


If you’ve ever tested your website, you’ve probably been in the unfortunate situation of running out of ideas on what to test.

But don’t worry – it happens to everybody.

That’s of course, unless you have a website testing plan.

That’s why KlientBoost has teamed up with VWO to bring to you a gifographic that provides a simple guide on knowing the what, how, and why when it comes to testing your website.

21-vwo-website-testing2

Setting Your Testing Goals

Like a New Year’s resolution around getting fitter, if you don’t have any goals tied to your website testing plan, then you may be doing plenty of work, with little results to show.

With your goals in place, you can focus on the website tests that will help you achieve those goals –the fastest.

Testing a button color on your home page when you should be testing your checkout process, is a sure sign that you are heading to testing fatigue or the disappointment of never wanting to run a test again.

But let’s take it one step further.

While it’s easy to improve click-through rates, or CTRs, and conversion rates, the true measure of a great website testing plan comes from its ability to increase revenue.

No optimization efforts matter if they don’t connect to increased revenue in some shape or form.

Whether you improve the site user experience, your website’s onboarding process, or get more conversions from your upsell thank you page, all those improvements compound into incremental revenue gains.

Lesson to be learned?

Don’t pop the cork on the champagne until you know that an improvement in the CTRs or conversion rates would also lead to increased revenue.

Start closest to the money when it comes to your A/B tests.

Knowing What to Test

When you know your goals, the next step is to figure out what to test.

You have two options here:

  1. Look at quantitative data like Google Analytics that show where your conversion bottlenecks may be.
  2. Or gather qualitative data with visitor behavior analysis where your visitors can tell you the reasons for why they’re not converting.

Both types of data should fall under your conversion research umbrella. In addition to this gifographic, we created another one, all around the topic of CRO research.

When you’ve done your research, you may find certain aspects of a page that you’d like to test. For inspiration, VWO has created The Complete Guide To A/B Testing – and in it, you’ll find some ideas to test once you’ve identified which page to test:

  • Headlines
  • Subheads
  • Paragraph Text
  • Testimonials
  • Call-to-Action text
  • Call-to-Action button
  • Links
  • Images
  • Content near the fold
  • Social proof
  • Media mentions
  • Awards and badges

As you can see, there are tons of opportunities and endless ideas to test when you decide what to test and in what order.

website-testing
A quick visual for what’s possible

So now that you know your testing goals and what to test, the last step is forming a hypothesis.

With your hypothesis, you’re able to figure out what you think will have the biggest performance lift with the thought of effort in mind as well (easier to get quicker wins that don’t need heaps of development help).

Running an A/B Test

Alright, so you have your goals, list of things to test, and hypotheses to back these up, the next task now is to start testing.

With A/B testing, you’ll always have at least one variant running against your control.

In this case, your control is your actual website as it is now and your variant is the thing you’re testing.

With proper analytics and conversion tracking along with the goal in place, you can start seeing how each of these two variants (hence the name A/B) is doing.

a_b-testing
Consider this a mock-up of your conversion rate variations

When A/B testing, there are two things you may want to consider before you call winners or losers of a test.

One is statistical significance. Statistical significance gives you the thumbs up or thumbs down around whether your test results can be tied to a random chance. If a test is statistically significant, then the chances of the results are ruled out.

And VWO has created its own calculator so that you can see how your test is doing.

The second one is confidence level. It helps you decide whether you can replicate the results of your test again and again.

A confidence level of 95% tells you that your test will achieve the same results 95% of the time if you run it repeatedly. So, as you can tell, the higher your confidence level, the surer you can be that your test truly won or lost.

You can see the A/B test that increased revenue for Server Density by 114%.

Multivariate Testing for Combination of Variations

Let’s say you have multiple ideas to test, and your testing list is looking way too long.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could test multiple aspects of your page at once to get faster results?

That’s exactly what multivariate testing is.

Multivariate testing allows you to test which combinations of different page elements affect each other when it comes to CTRs, conversion rates, or revenue gains.
Look at the multivariate pizza example below:

multivariate-testing-example
Different headlines, CTAs, and colors are used

The recipe for multivariate testing is simple and delicious.

multivariate-testing-formula
Different elements increase the combination size

And the best part is that VWO can automatically run through all the different combinations you set so that your multivariate test can be done without the heavy lifting.

If you’re curious about whether you should A/B test or run multivariate tests, then look at this chart that VWO created:

multivariate-testing-software-visual-website-optimizer
Which one makes the most sense for you?

Split URL Testing for Heavier Variations

If you find that your A/B or multivariate tests lead you to the end of the rainbow that shows bigger initiatives in backend development or major design changes are needed, then you’re going to love split URL testing.

As VWO states:

“If your variation is on a different address or has major design changes compared to control, we’d recommend that you create a Split URL Test.”

what-is-split-testing-explained-by-vwo

Split URL testing allows you to host different variations of your website test without changing the actual URL.

As the visual shows above, you can see that the two different variations are set up in a way that the URL is different as well.

URL testing is great when you want to test some major redesigns such as your entire website built from scratch.

By not changing your current website code, you can host the redesign on a different URL and have VWO split the traffic between the control and the variant—giving you clear insight whether your redesign will perform better.

Over to You

Now that you have a clear understanding on different types of website tests to run, the only thing left is to, well, run some tests.

Armored with quantitative and qualitative knowledge of your visitors, focus on the areas that have the biggest and quickest impact to strengthen your business.

And I promise, when you finish your first successful website test, you’ll get hooked on.

I know I was.

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[Gifographic] Better Website Testing – A Simple Guide to Knowing What to Test

How Agencies Should Approach Conversion Optimization for eCommerce | An Interview with AWA Digital

Going ahead with our interview series, this time we are in conversation with Johann Van Tonder from AWA Digital.

Johann, is the COO at AWA Digital, a leading international Conversion Optimization (CRO) agency, specializing in eCommerce.

He is also the coauthor of the book E-commerce Optimization, out in January 2017. He speaks about how they practice conversion optimization for different verticals of their eCommerce clients.

After reading this post, agencies will learn the nuances of CRO when applied to different eCommerce verticals such as Fashion, Homeware, and Consumer Electronics. They’ll learn CRO strategies that will help them make a stronger case for adopting CRO for their prospective eCommerce clients.

Introduction

1) How important do you think Conversion Optimization (CRO) is for eCommerce enterprises? Why?

CRO is one of the best growth strategies available to eCommerce firms. Turnover is not something you influence directly. It is the outcome of activities performed in other areas. The rate at which people buy from you and how much they spend when they buy, are within your control. In turn, these will increase the revenue and ultimately profit. This is what CRO is about.

On average, for every £92 spent on getting traffic to UK websites, only £1 is spent on improving the conversion rate. If you improve the ability of your site to generate money, your acquisition dollars stretch further as more of the visitors are converted to buyers.

2) Is there a difference in your approach to CRO for different eCommerce verticals? If yes, how?

Not really. We always follow an evidence-led approach informed by research, data analysis, and testing. That said, our implementation will not be the same on two projects as we are guided by the opportunities specific to that particular website.

As long as you follow the scientific method, which we outline in our book E-commerce Optimization (Kogan Page), the same approach can generally be applied across different verticals. Broadly speaking, it’s a system of generating and prioritizing relevant ideas, and a mechanism by which to test those ideas.

3) Which are the major eCommerce verticals that you have worked with?

We have extensive experience in the fashion retail industry, having worked with top clothing and footwear brands from different countries. Furniture and homeware are two other categories we are well-known for.

Other big verticals for us include consumer electronics, flowers, gardening, gifting, health products, and outdoor travel gear. Our entire portfolio ranges from bathroom fittings to wearable technology.

Conversion Optimization for Different eCommerce Verticals

4) Do your CRO goals (micro and macro) differ for Fashion, Homeware and Consumer electronics based eCommerce businesses?

Our philosophy is to optimize for revenue, so in almost all cases, the primary metric is Revenue Per Visitor (RPV). If it’s an eCommerce business, Conversion Rate simply doesn’t give you the complete picture.

Secondary metrics, aligned with micro goals, vary widely. These are typically determined by the context of the experiment, rather than the vertical. For example, on a product detail page (PDP), you might want to track clicks on “add to basket” and engagement with product images. It helps to interpret the outcome of the test.

Sometimes we track key performance indicators (KPIs) outside of the testing environment. For example, experimenting with free delivery for a fashion client, we tracked product returns and married this data manually with test results.

5) What are the main “conversion funnels” for these different eCommerce websites? Do you see a difference in major traffic sources for the websites?

It’s not uncommon to see organic search being the major source of traffic for known brands. Often, the lion’s share of that is branded search terms, so in a way, it’s an extension of direct traffic. When a business is still establishing its brand, you’d expect to see more from paid search and other channels.

Many agencies limit optimization efforts to the website, which is a mistake. Social is an exciting area for some businesses, often rich with opportunities. Email consistently delivers good results for many of our clients and therefore, any gains in this arena can have a significant impact on overall business results.

Omni-channel, where we have a lot of experience, adds different dynamics. Not only do you see more direct traffic at the top of the funnel, but a large group of website visitors tend to browse with the intention to buy in-store. Or they may buy online, but only after visiting a store to “touch and feel” the product.

It’s important for the optimizer to take into consideration the entire journey, mapping out how the various touch points contribute to the purchase decision.

6)  Which persuasion principles (scarcity, social proof, reciprocity, etc.) do you use in optimizing different eCommerce vertical websites?

We regularly use social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. It depends entirely on the situation. We don’t actively look for ways to plug them in. Instead, we examine the data and use a principle if it seems like a relevant solution. For example, one of our clients sells plants by catalogue and online. A common sales objection was whether the flowers would look as good in the customer’s garden as they are in the product images. This prompted us to invite customers to submit pictures of products in their gardens, invoking the social proof principle.

Once we’ve decided to use a principle, we may run a few tests to find the best implementation.

If a principle is already present on the website, there could be ways of making it more persuasive. In some cases, a message can be distracting in one part of the funnel yet very effective in another area of the site.

7) Which are the common conversion killers for these different eCommerce enterprises?

Some are universal, for example, delivery. Not only do consumers generally resist paying for shipping, but long waiting periods put them off. If you charge for it, you have to treat it like a product with its own compelling value proposition.

In the fashion industry, it’s size and fitting. Will these boots fit me? How will this shirt hang on me? Is your size 8 the same as another manufacturer’s size 8? These are the common themes. Typical concerns in the furniture and homeware space are material composition, dimensions, and perspective.

Sometimes we’re surprised by what we uncover. One of our clients, a gifting site, had a great returns policy. Obviously this was messaged clearly on the website. However, we discovered that it actually turned out to be a conversion killer for them. Why? Many of the buyers were grandparents who didn’t want to contemplate the prospect of their grandchildren returning their gifts.

8) The buying cycle for each eCommerce vertical website varies. Does your CRO strategy take this into account?

Definitely. The buying cycle is something we map out carefully.

For us, it is crucial to get under the skin of the customer. We want to understand exactly what goes into a sale being made or lost.

It can also inform our approach with testing. Normally we’d run an experiment for two weeks. However, if the purchase cycle is longer than that for the majority of customers, we may extend the test duration.

9) Does seasonality have an effect on your CRO strategy for different eCommerce verticals?

Clearly, some verticals are affected by it more than others. Seasonality is partly a reflection of customer needs. It is easier to deal with if you have a solid understanding of the core needs. In some verticals like gardening, it might be a good idea to conduct user research in low and high seasons.

Some clients are loath to run tests during peak trading periods like Christmas sales. Our view is that it is essential to optimize the site for those periods, especially if they contribute to annual turnover in any significant way.

10) On which eCommerce websites do you employ upsell/cross-sell strategies mostly?

Because our primary metric is usually Revenue Per Visitor rather than Conversion Rate, a driving question for us is how to increase Average Order Value. Upselling and cross-selling strategies are, therefore, almost always on our radar. We have had great success, for example, by optimizing the presentation and algorithms of popular product recommendation tools.

Upselling and cross-selling may be thought of as “tricking” the customer into spending more money. However, we’ve seen how frustrated customers become, having to hunt for items related to the one they are considering. It actually improves user experience, which is then reflected in an increase in revenue.

11) What CRO strategies do you apply on product pages of different eCommerce vertical websites (for instance, on product descriptions, product images, etc.)?

On most eCommerce sites, the product detail pages, or PDPs, have the highest drop-off rates on the site.

Exit rates in the region of 90%, and even higher are not uncommon. It is where the visitor is asked to make the decision. This is where questions about the product itself, as well as the buying process, are often most prominent.

We don’t have a checklist of tactics to apply to PDPs. Our test ideas emerge from research and analysis. If you understand the customer and what goes into the purchase decision, you’ll know what to test. Think of it as optimizing the sales conversation. It’s all about how you influence what plays out in the visitor’s mind.

  • Product description

If the visitors engage with product description, they may be closer to making a buying decision. Often this decision is based on the image, and reading the copy serves only to rationalize the purchase. Perhaps they are checking a few details or looking to answer a question about the product. The starting point for writing a good copy is knowing the customers and understanding their motivations and sales objections in relation to the product.

  • Product images

Likely to be the focus of most attention on the PDP. Often a substitute for reading product descriptions, so make sure you have a good selection of images that will answer key questions. On a lantern page, customers might wonder about the light patterns on their wall. Show them! Images appeal to System 1 thinking, which means purchase decisions are made instantly without thinking it over. Good images help the customer imagine themselves using the item, which can be quite persuasive.

Over to You

Do you have anything to add or suggest to this interview? Share with us what you think in the comments below.

CTA CRO program

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How Agencies Should Approach Conversion Optimization for eCommerce | An Interview with AWA Digital

Get your website testing-ready with the Technical Optimizer’s Checklist

Reading Time: 9 minutes

If you were planning to race your car, you would want to make sure it could handle the road, right?

Imagine racing a car that is not ready for the surprises of the road. A road that is going to require you to twist and turn constantly, and react quickly to the elements.

You would find yourself on the side of the road in no time.

A well-outfitted car, on the other hand, is able to handle the onslaught of the road and, when the dust settles, reach the finish line.

Well, think of your website like the car and conversion optimization like the race. Too many companies jump into conversion optimization without preparing their website for the demands that come with testing.

Get the Technical Optimizer’s Checklist

Download and print off this checklist for your technical team. Check off each item and get prepared for smooth A/B testing ahead!



By entering your email, you’ll receive bi-weekly WiderFunnel Blog updates and other resources to help you become an optimization champion.

But proper technical preparation can mean a world of difference when you are trying to develop tests quickly, and with as few QA issues as possible. In the long-run, this leads to a better testing rhythm that yields results and insights.

With 2017 just around the corner, now is a good time to look ‘under the hood’ of your website and make sure it is testing-ready for the New Year. To make sure you have built your website to stand the tests to come, pun intended.

In order to test properly, and validate the great hypotheses you have, your site must be flexible and able to withstand changes on the fly.

With the help of the WiderFunnel web development team, I have put together a shortlist to help you get your website testing-ready. Follow these foundational steps and you’ll soon be racing through your testing roadmap with ease.

To make these digestible for your website’s mechanics, I have broken them down to three categories: back-end, front-end, and testing best practices.

Back-end setup a.k.a. ‘Under the hood’

Many websites were not built with conversion optimization in mind. So, it makes sense for you to revisit the building blocks of your website and make some key changes on the back-end that will make it much easier for you to test.

1) URL Structure

Just as having a fine-tuned transmission for your vehicle is important, so is having a well-written URL structure for your website. Good URL structure equals easier URL targeting. (‘Targeting’ is the feature you use to tell your testing tool where your tests will run on your website.) This makes targeting your tests much simpler and reduces the possibility of including the wrong pages in a test.

Let’s look at an example of two different URL targeting options that you might use. One is a RegEx, which in JavaScript is used for text-based pattern matching. The other is Substring match, which in this case is the category name with two slashes on each side.

RegEx Example

Products to include:

  • www.test.com/ab82
  • www.test.com/F42
  • www.test.com/september/sale98

Products to exclude:

  • www.test.com/F4255

Targeting:

  • RegEx: (ab82|F42|sale98)


Substring Example

Products to include:

  • www.test.com/products/engines/brandengine/
  • www.test.com/products/engines/v6turbo
  • www.test.com/products/sale/september/engines/v8

Products to exclude:

  • www.test.com/products/sale/september/wheel/alloy

Targeting:

  • Substring: /engines/

In the first example, the company assigned URLs for their product pages based on their in-house product numbers. While writing a targeting rule based on RegEx is not difficult (if you know JavaScript), it is still time consuming. In fact, the targeting on the first example is wrong. Tell us why in the comments!

On the other hand, the second example shows a company that structured all of their product URLs and categories. Targeting in this case uses a match for the substring “/engines/” and allows you to exclude other categories, such as ‘wheels’. Proper URL structure means smoother and faster testing.

2) Website load time or ‘Time to first paint’

Time to first paint‘ refers to the initial load of your page, or the moment your user sees that something is happening. Of course, today, people have very short attention spans and can get frustrated with slow load times. And when you are testing, ‘time to first paint’ can become even more of a concern with things like FOOC and even slower load times.

So, how do you reduce your website’s time to first paint? Glad you asked:

  • Within the HTML of your page:
    • Move any JavaScript that influences content below the fold to the bottom of the body, and make these sections load asynchronously (meaning these sections will execute after the code above it). This includes any external functionality that your development team is bringing from outside the basic HTML and CSS such as interactive calendars, sliders, etc.
    • Within the head tag, move the code snippet of your testing tool as high as you can―the higher the better.
  • Minify* your JS and CSS files so that they load into your visitor’s browser faster. Then, bring all JS and CSS into a single file for each type. This will allow your user’s browser to pull content from two files instead of having to refer to too many files for the instructions it needs. The difference is reading from 15 different documents or two condensed ones.
  • Use sprites for all your images. Loading in a sprite means you’re loading multiple images one time into the DOM*, as opposed to loading each image individually. If you did the latter, the DOM would have to load each image separately, slowing load time.
Technical_Testing_Sprite
Load all of your images in sprites.

While these strategies are not exhaustive, if you do all of the above, you’ll be well on your way to reducing your site load time.

3) Make it easy to differentiate between logged-in and logged-out users

Many websites have logged-in and logged-out states. However, few websites make it easy to differentiate between these states in the browser. This can be problematic when you are testing, if you want to customize experiences for both sets of users.

The WiderFunnel development team recommends using a cookie or JavaScript method that returns True or False. E.g. when a user is logged-in, it would return ‘True’, and when a user is logged-out, ‘False’.

This will make it easier for you to customize experiences and implement variations for both sets of users. Not doing so will make the process more difficult for your testing tool and your developers. This strategy is particularly useful if you have an e-commerce website, which may have different views and sections for logged-in versus logged-out users.

4) Reduce clunkiness a.k.a. avoid complex elements

Here, I am referring to reducing the number of special elements and functionalities that you add to your website. Examples might include date-picking calendars, images brought in from social media, or an interactive slider.

This calendar widget might look nice, but is it valuable enough to merit inclusion?
This calendar widget might look nice, but is it valuable enough to merit inclusion?

While elements like these can be cool, they are difficult to work with when developing tests. For example, let’s say you want to test a modal on one of your pages, and have decided to use an external library which contains the code for the modal (among other things). By using an external library, you are adding extra code that makes your website more clunky. The better bet would be to create the modal yourself.

Front-end setup

The front-end of your website is not just the visuals that you see, but the code that executes behind the scenes in your user’s browser. The changes below are web development best practices that will help you increase the speed of developing tests, and reduce stress on you and your team.

1) Breakpoints – Keep ’em simple speed racer!

Assuming your website is responsive, it will respond to changes in screen sizes. Each point at which the layout of the page changes visually is known as a breakpoint. The most common breakpoints are:

  • Mobile – 320 pixels and 420 pixels
  • Desktop and Tablet – 768px, 992px, 1024px and 1200px
Each point at which the layout of your page changes visually is known as a 'breakpoint'.
Each point at which the layout of your page changes visually is known as a ‘breakpoint’.

Making your website accessible to as many devices as possible is important. However, too many breakpoints can make it difficult to support your site going forward.

When you are testing, more breakpoints means you will need to spend more time QA-ing each major change to make sure it is compatible in each of the various breakpoints. The same applies to non-testing changes or additions you make to your website in the future.

Spending a few minutes looking under to hood at your analytics will give you an idea of the top devices and their breakpoints that are important for your users.

Technical_testing_analytics
Source: Google Analytics demo account.

Above, you can see an example taken from the Google Analytics demo account: Only 2% of sessions are Tablet, so planning for a 9.5 inch screen may be a waste of this team’s time.

Use a standard, minimal number of breakpoints instead of many. You don’t need eight wheels, when four will easily get the job done. Follow the rule of “designing for probabilities not possibilities”.

2) Stop using images in place of text in your UI

Let’s say your website works in the many breakpoints and browsers you wish to target. However, you’re using images for your footer and main calls-to-action.

  • Problem 1: Your site may respond to each breakpoint, but the images you are using may blur.
  • Problem 2: If you need to add a link to your footer or change the text of your call-to-action, you have to create an entirely new image.
Buttons_Technical_Testing
Avoid blurry calls-to-action: Use buttons, not images.

Use buttons instead of images for your calls-to-action, use SVGs instead of icons, use code to create UI elements instead of images. Only use images for content or UI that may be too technically difficult or impossible to write in code.

3) Keep your HTML and CSS simple:

Keep it simple: Stop putting CSS within your HTML. Use div tags sparingly. Pledge to not put everything in tables. Simplicity will save you in the long run!

No extra  tags! Source: 12 Principles for Keeping your Code Clean
No extra div tags! Source: 12 Principles for Keeping your Code Clean

Putting CSS in a separate file keeps your HTML clean, and you will know exactly where to look when you need to make CSS changes. Reducing the number of div tags, which are used to create sections in code, also cleans up your HTML.

These are general coding best practices, but they will also ensure you are able to create test variations faster by decreasing the time needed to read the code.

Tables, on the other hand, are just bad news when you are testing. They may make it easy to organize elements, but they increase the chance of something breaking when you are replacing elements using your testing tool. Use a table when you want to display information in a table. Avoid using tables when you want to lay out information while hiding borders.

Bonus tip: Avoid using iFrames* unless absolutely necessary. Putting a page within a page is difficult: don’t do it.

4) Have a standard for naming classes and IDs

Classes and IDs are the attributes you add to HTML tags to organize them. Once you have added Classes and IDs in your HTML, you can use these in your CSS as selectors, in order to make changes to groups of tags using the attributed Class or ID.

You should implement a company-wide standard for your HTML tags and their attributes. Add in standardized attribute names for Classes and IDs, even for list tags. Most importantly, do not use the same class names for elements that are unrelated!

Example:

technical_testing_naming

Looking at the above example, let’s say I am having a sale on apples and want to make all apple-related text red to bring attention to apples. I can do that, by targeting the “wf-apples” class!

Not only is this a great decision for your website, it also makes targeting easier during tests. It’s like directions when you’re driving: you want to be able to tell the difference between the second and third right instead of just saying “Turn right”.

Technical testing ‘best practices’ for when you hit the road

We have written several articles on testing best practices, including one on the technical barriers to A/B testing. Below are a couple of extra tips that will improve your current testing flow without requiring you to make changes to your website.

1) If you can edit in CSS, then do it

See the Pen wf-css-not-js by Ash (@ashwf) on CodePen.

Above is an animation that WiderFunnel Developer Thomas Davis created. One tab shows you the code written as a stylesheet in CSS. The tab on the right shows the same animation written in JavaScript.

JavaScript is 4-wheel drive. Don’t turn it on unless you absolutely need to, ‘cause you’re going to get a lot more power than you need. CSS effects are smoother, easier to work with, and execute faster when you launch a test variation.

2) Don’t pull content from other pages while testing

When you are creating a variation, you want to avoid bringing in unnecessary elements from external pages. This approach requires more time in development and may not be worth. You have already spent time reducing the clunkiness of your code, and bringing in external content will reverse that.

The important question when you are running a test is the ‘why’ behind it, and the ‘what’ you want to get out of it. Sometimes, it is ok to test advanced elements to get an idea of whether your customers respond to them. My colleague Natasha expanded on this tactic in her article “Your growth strategy and the true potential of A/B testing”.

3) Finally, a short list of do’s and dont’s for your technical team

  • Don’t just override CSS or add CSS to an element, put it in the variation CSS file (don’t use !important)
  • Don’t just write code that acts as a ‘band-aid’ over the current code. Solve the problem, so there aren’t bugs that come up for unforeseen situations.
  • Do keep refactoring
  • Do use naming conventions
  • Don’t use animations: You don’t know how they will render in other browsers

Glossary

DOM: The Document Object Model (DOM) is a cross-platform and language-independent convention for representing and interacting with objects in HTML, XHTML, and XML documents

iFrame: The iframe tag specifices and inline frame. An inline frame is used to embed another document within the current HTML document

Minification of files makes them smaller in size and therefore reduces the amount of time needed for downloading them.


What types of problems does your development team tackle when testing? Are there any strategies that make testing easier from a technical standpoint that are missing from this article? Let us know in the comments!

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Get your website testing-ready with the Technical Optimizer’s Checklist