As I learned at the start of February, if you’re a lucky enough to get one-on-one time with Purna Virji, Senior Manager of Global Engagement at Microsoft, you ask her about the future of search, AI, and pay per click (because she makes everything sound pretty exciting).
Purna—named the #1 most influential PPC expert in the world by PPC Hero in 2016—is on the forefront of what’s coming down the pipeline in our industry. She’s joining us February 21st as a speaker for Marketing Optimization Week to share her insight into AI, and today we’re sharing a sneak peek of what to expect in that session.
Watch our chat below, or read on for the condensed Q&A.
Jen: What do you imagine the day-to-day life of a marketer will be like with access to exciting AI? You grab your morning coffee, log on to your computer, then what?
Purna: [Then] you’ll be getting all kinds of wonderful notifications about performance, new insights, and ideas for engaging with your audience. AI solves some of our biggest problems—including [how to] engage with people in this world full of distractions.
AI is super helpful because it can analyze all of the different data and touchpoints to see what’s working (or not), and it can help us get really good at personalization and engaging with people in the way they’d like to be engaged with.
It also gives us new interfaces. Things like chatbots or digital assistants, as well as virtual reality. So if I interest somebody through a chatbot to look at the latest collection of shoes, I can just put on my HoloLens and take a look at a 3D hologram in front of me of all the latest styles.
It’s really about cool ways to engage with brands and people in a very seamless manner.
Jen: You’re speaking at Unbounce’s Marketing Optimization Week February 21st on how to prepare for AI’s emerging role in marketing. As a preview, can you share one of those things we can all prep for?
Purna: Yes! I think one of the things marketers can prepare for is to understand what AI can do for us and try to touch the waters a bit more with a chatbot. [In my talk] I’ll be giving people some tips for how to incorporate a chatbot within search. For example, Bing offers a conversational bot right in the SERPs, so I’ll give some tips on how you can set this up and a strategy you can use for your bot.
Jen: Chatbots are very hot right now.
Purna: It’s because they’re so easy and convenient. You’re already using a platform you’re familiar with—whether it’s Skype or Facebook Messenger or Kik—or whatever platform you use to talk to your friends. In that same platform, I can order a pizza or check on a status of my order, or do anything I need to do with a brand in that same place. There’s no multiple hops that have to happen.
Jen: It seems like, for customers, chat is very natural. It’s how we already go about our world.
Purna: yes—conversation is the first thing we learn. From babies to now arguing about who’s going to take the trash out. Conversation is [still] at the forefront of all of our lives.
Jen: Here at Unbounce we’re a Conversion Platform for marketers, and many of our customers pair landing pages with PPC in social or search. How do you see AI impacting pay per click the most in the next few years?
Purna: I think AI will have a couple of different roles…
For one —it’s going to make it easier to hone into the right person. We’re already seeing some signs of this with our much more advanced audience targeting, such as in-market audiences—which lets you slice and dice audiences based on people who are more likely to buy —so it’s going to [enhance] reaching the right person at the right time.
It’s also going to help us take a lot of the effort and pain out of the administrative side. We saw this with bit automations…it’ll make things like reporting a lot easier, keyword research a lot easier. Anything that’s really a repetitive task can get automated and can be improved by AI. Time savings and more effective ads – it’s a win win for all.
Jen: Y’know, we hear some marketers kind of demonize AI, or see it in a sort of detrimental way. But you don’t see it this way.
Purna: No, I don’t think so. I think the way AI has been designed and actually, the way companies like Microsoft, Google or IBM, who are at the forefront of creating AI…I think the responsibility is on people like us to infuse the technology to respect humans. And, I mean, that’s one of the pillars we’re building our AI on, that it is respectful to the human. It’s there to augment what we can do. It’s not there to replace us or destroy us or anything like that.
All AI is doing is taking what we’re good at and giving us a little super power. It’s like wearing a little jet pack so we can run faster or slide faster. When you think of it that way it’s giving us gifts we didn’t have access to before.
Jen: You’re no stranger to setting up an AdWords or Bing campaign. So, what’s a little known technique that anyone managing paid spend can do today for more impact with their PPC ads?
Purna: I’d say there are two things. The first is to make sure you’re implementing in-market audiences. If someone was to ask me, “what’s one tip for success for 2018?”, I’m a big believer of the power of in-market audiences, it’s still in pilot in open beta so anyone can sign up an be a part of it and test it.
Throughout the testing period we’ve seen such amazing results from many people. It allows you to reach an audience that’s in the market or looking to buy specific products or services you’re selling. We have over 120 different categories, so if you just layer them onto your existing ad groups or campaigns and just adjust the bids accordingly, you have a better chance of reaching people who are interested in what you sell but may not know who you are…you’re just reaching this very qualified audience.
If you can do [this] and combine it with the wonderful landing page learnings you get with Unbounce, I think that’s a really win win solution.
Jen: We know voice search is going to have a much bigger role to play. What should PPC’ers be thinking about to prepare for this?
I would say PPC marketers should think about the differences or what’s unique to voice. First, it tends to be much more local. If you’re running local campaigns, you’ll want to think about the queries relating to your business that people may ask if they’re in a hurry or on the go.
And second, all marketers (including SEOs too) should consider: are we providing the right information? I.e. do we have some sort of structured data or schema markup that can give the search engine much more insights into understanding what the page or information is about.
Lastly, [we can] look at the keywords. Voice is of course more conversational and with conversational queries, we tend to have longer phrases, [so] we’re much more clear on the intent. If you can, look at testing some of the most common, broader questions or phrases that get asked and actually test adding them in keywords. Ask yourself what could be the right way to answer [the query].
In the old days (ha, just last year!) we would look for shoes, like mens sandals. We’d go to the website, select colours, size and width. But now with voice, you self-select in the query itself. You say “show me blue strappy summer sandals in size 8”. If I then [have] to go to the website and do the selections again I’m quite annoyed, but if I got to a page that showed just what I was looking for? It’s about making it very seamless for the customer.
Jen: so prepare for more granularity… Purna: exactly, [it’s] on page as well, which is why it’s important to look at some of the landing page options you have, [and ask] —“are we answering the right questions” in the right way.
Jen: You’ve seen dozens of landing pages for PPC. What do you think is the biggest mistake people make when creating landing pages to pair with their search ads?
Purna: It’s not being specific enough. If [someone’s] looking for something and your ad promises something, does your page deliver on that promise?
For example, if I’m doing a search for waterproof digital cameras and see an ad that talks about waterproof digital cameras on sale, and I go on your landing page and its all of your digital cameras —again you’re giving the searcher more work to do.
You want to make life as easy as possible, answer the right questions, and don’t go too broad. Yes – there’s the temptation, especially with newbie PPC marketers— Let’s just send people to the homepage. As you know that’s just not going to work and they’ll realize that soon.
Also, as you say, the call to action—even sales people fail at this sometimes—you don’t or forget to ask exactly what you want [visitors] to do. So making sure you do that is a huge advantage.
Don’t miss Purna’s session February 21st as part of Marketing Optimization Week. She’ll be joining other experts from Drift, Hanapin, and Emma delivering the latest tactics you can use to see better results. See the agenda here.
We’re pleased to announce our new glossary section at The Daily Egg. You can find it in our top navigation under “Resources” if you’re on a desktop computer: ..or in the “hamburger menu” if you’re on a mobile device: We’ve been working on this slowly for a while now. As we publish articles, often our writers will refer to terms, industry jargon and acronyms that not everyone is familiar with. We figured an online glossary would be a good resource to keep our readers informed on all this terminology. We try to go beyond simply defining terms. If you click-through…
Visualizations are the best place to start It’s much easier to start your website optimization journey from a visual perspective than a strictly numerical one. When you can immediately see where visitors and users are clicking and where they’re not, you’re instantly clued into obvious bottlenecks, blockers, and regions that are completely ignored. Take this Google Analytics data for example… When you start digging through your typical analytics packages, you’ll end up several pages deep, looking at listed data like what is shown above. Not always helpful, right? What happens when I look at visual website analytics? This is a…
It’s much easier to start your website optimization journey from a visual perspective than a strictly numerical one. When you can immediately see where visitors and users are clicking and where they’re not, you’re instantly clued into obvious bottlenecks, blockers, and regions that are completely ignored. Take this Google Analytics data for example… When you start digging through your typical analytics package, you’ll end up several pages deep, looking at listed data such as that shown above. Not always helpful, right? Visualizations are the best place to start What happens when I look at visual website analytics? This is a…
The need for a structured, process-driven approach to conversion optimization (CRO) cannot be stressed enough. A structured CRO program is essential to deliver consistent and repeatable improvement in conversion rate and user experience (UX). Only a few organizations and agencies have adopted this approach to optimizing conversions; even fewer have been able to master it.
Kula Partners is one such agency that has actively practiced and advocated a structured CRO program. This story aims to highlight the optimization process followed by Kula Partners and how VWO helped it achieve success at each step of the process.
Based out of Nova Scotia, Canada, Kula Partners is a certified partner with VWO, offering services such as conversion optimization, inbound marketing, and web development. While optimizing conversions for its clients, Jeff White, Principal at Kula Partners, discovered that following a rigorous optimization process is what leads to success.
Synopsis of Kula’s Way of Optimizing for Success
The optimization process at Kula begins with identifying optimization opportunities on a client’s website or landing pages. It is done by closely analyzing website data and user behavior, using a variety of tools. Next, it hypothesizes ways to capitalize on each optimization opportunity. Hypotheses are then prioritized based on a few factors such as potential of improvement and effort in implementation. The hypotheses undergo A/B tests for validation, per its priority list. The results of A/B tests are thoroughly examined, and the learning is documented in a common knowledge repository. This repository is used to generate more hypotheses to optimize the website further. The cycle continues.
As Jeff puts it, “Optimizing a client’s site for conversion always starts for us with listening. We begin by implementing VWO heatmaps, clickmaps, and visitor recordings to see how people are using a site. Combined with analytics from tools such as Google Analytics and HubSpot, we’ll look for the pages that have the biggest opportunities for conversion optimization based on total number of visits and current conversion rates. Once we have a good understanding of how people are using those pages, we’ll implement a series of tests to see how best to improve the conversion rate. Sometimes this takes the form of simple changes to the body copy, button position and format. In other cases, it may mean making much larger bets and designing a wholly different, alternative landing page.
After we’ve an opportunity to implement revisions on a client site, we’ll continue to monitor the results to see how site visitors interact and refine the interface to improve the user experience even further.”
Since 2014, Kula has been trusting VWO for its optimization strategy. It has been using new features as they come up to achieve better conversions for its client websites.
Step-by-Step Process-Oriented Approach to Conversion Optimization
Let’s talk about how Kula puts its well-defined process into practice.
Step1: Identifying Optimization Opportunities
The first step in optimizing a website for more conversions is to establish baselines. This means setting up key metrics or goals that clearly indicate visitor actions and conducting quantitative analysis around these goals. Visitor actions leading to completion of a final goal (such as Checkout in case of eCommerce) are tracked as funnels. The website conversion funnel is extremely effective in spotting leaks—pages from which most users drop off.
Kula uses robust tools such as Google Analytics and HubSpot to track key metrics and discover potential leaks. These tools also point to high-value pages on a website—the pages that attract the highest traffic and the pages that contribute to many conversions.
Jeff says, “We identify opportunities for testing through a number of ways. We establish website funnels in tools such as HubSpot, Google Analytics and MixPanel. We then monitor conversion rates across the funnel to see areas that may be ripe for improvement. “
Step 2: Analyzing Visitor Behavior
After identifying potential leaks, the next step is to analyze how visitors are interacting with these pages on the website. This calls for a qualitative analysis of how visitors behave on the website. Such analysis provides significant insights about why visitors are behaving in a certain way. For example, if a lot of visitors are abandoning sessions on a eCommerce home page, a heatmap or visitor recording can be used to find out what category of products they were looking for and what specific problems they faced while searching for the product. Knowing what deters users from completing a conversion step is an opportunity for optimization.
At Kula, the team takes help of VWO capabilities such as Heatmaps, Scrollmaps, Visitor Recordings, and Form Analysis to understand the usage habits of visitors. It also uses VWO On-page Surveys to directly ask visitors for feedback.
Jeff shares, “As stated above, we always start our tests by observing the present usage habits of site visitors through heatmaps, clickmaps, and visitor recordings. If it makes sense, we may also gather subjective data through exit surveys. Once we have found where users stumble, we formulate specific tests to try to improve conversion.”
Here’s how Kula analyzed visitor behaviors for their clients, using VWO’s advanced capabilities:
Using Heatmaps to Improve Traffic Flow
Kula Partners was working on optimizing the Halifax International Airport Authority (HIAA) website by highlighting information for airport visitors at the forefront: arrivals and departures, parking information, and directions. Although the new website saw major traffic increase (more than 300%), the team continued to scout for more optimization opportunities.
A heatmap report of the HIAA home page revealed interesting insights—68% of all clicks on the home page were on the Departures tab and only 6% clicked back to the Arrivals tab.
Kula realized that this made perfect sense. Most of the traffic on the website home page would be coming to check when their flight is scheduled to depart. Far less people would look at the arrivals; they would do that only before receiving someone at the airport.
Based on this insight, Kula decided to make Departures as the default view on the home page. As a result, it saw a 20% drop in the number of visitors that clicked the other tab, which was Arrivals in this case.
Using Website Surveys Directly Provides Insights from Actual Visitors
This time, Kula was optimizing the website of Tirecraft—a company providing superior tires, wheels, accessories, and automotive services. The objective in this case was to increase the number of quotes users submit on the website.
To do that, it first tried to understand what prevented visitors from submitting a quote. It went ahead with a website survey and asked the website visitors, “What stopped you from submitting a quote request today?”
Visitors could choose their answers from the following options:
I prefer to purchase this product in person.
There was no pricing information available.
I need more information.
I can’t buy the product I want online.
The result of the survey highlighted the major pain points that users faced.
An overwhelming number of visitors responded with the second option “There was no pricing information available.”
Using Visitor Recordings to Optimize User Experience
Jeff shared an example of how Kula is using visitor recordings to help its clients.
“We recently completed a large UX analysis project with a series of visitor recordings for a luxury extended stay apartment company with a national presence in Canada. Through this process, we’ve been able to develop a series of over 100 recommendations for improvement of the user experience. Our plan is to begin a series of extensive innovative A/B tests, starting with their product pages and moving to other areas of the site from there.”
Step 3: Planning and Prioritizing Testing Hypotheses
The insights and observations collected from quantitative and qualitative analyses act as fuel for the optimization engine. Our next key task is to manage this library of insights and build hypotheses for testing based on data insights.
A typical hypothesis statement looks like: Based on the observation that visitors are abandoning cart because they can’t find security seals on the checkout page, I expect that adding security seals on the checkout page will address the trust issues for visitors not completing the purchase.
There is a hypothesis aimed at addressing each optimization opportunity. Just as a thorough website analysis brings up multiple optimization opportunities, the hypotheses are also numerous. At most instances, it is not possible to validate all these hypotheses through A/B tests simultaneously. At that point, the hypotheses are prioritized on factors, including the potential to deliver positive results and ease of implementation. Prioritizing these hypotheses helps us pinpoint which tests to run first and which ones to park for future.
Kula also follows a similar prioritization model. Jeff adds, “Although we don’t specifically follow any single prioritization framework, our process most closely aligns with the PIE framework. As an agency with considerable dev chops, we’re lucky in that we can implement nearly any level of test no matter how complex. The question at that point is whether or not there’s enough potential lift in conversion to make the adjustment worthwhile.”
The prioritization is usually implemented with the help of project management tools.
“We record and detail our hypotheses for client tests using our project management tool, JIRA. We also maintain detailed notes about how to conduct tests and implement them in VWO, using Confluence, so that all Kula team members can quickly reference the correct processes.” explains Jeff.
Step 4: Validating Hypotheses with Testing
After the hypotheses are created and prioritized, it is time to test them. Testing a hypothesis helps you validate your thought process, and a winner assures the percentage of gain you’ll achieve by executing the change on the website. Based on the complexity of the change to be implemented, you should choose the type of test to run. For instance, it makes more sense to experiment with multivariate tests on websites with heavy traffic than on pages with low traffic.
Jeff talks about his experience with testing while he was working with rest of the team on creating a new version of the website to match the new positioning.
“We rolled out a version of the new layout for our HubSpot landing pages four months before we began designing the full site. The result was pretty solid—on our most popular asset landing page, we saw a conversion lift of nearly 10%. This gave us the confidence to deploy the design more widely.
Here is a screenshot of the test variations with the old version on the left and the new one on the right:”
Step 5: Analyzing Test Results and Documenting the Learning
The last leg of the optimization journey focuses on analyzing how the test results tie to visitor behavior and on saving learning from this analysis for future optimization.
Jeff explains, “When running tests, we review the results from VWO but also look at how GA and HubSpot are reporting on the changes in conversion or traffic behavior. We definitely document our results from previous tests in order to inform our future tests. These are also used in our presentations to clients on why/how we should implement CRO for their businesses.”
A process-driven strategy for optimizing conversions is the key to long-term success.
To run the optimization engine for long-term growth, businesses need to adopt a structured approach that generates insights and learning that to act as fuel for this engine.
The optimization process begins with first putting the baselines in place and finding areas of potential leaks. Next comes an in-depth view of how the visitors are behaving, that is, qualitative research. This is followed by recording and prioritizing hypotheses, which are validated through structured A/B testing.
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.
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:
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.
A number of opportunities exist for making result-driven changes to your site’s home page. For example, you can test:
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.
Making this change led to an estimated $100,000 in increased sales per year.
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.
Use an established email marketing program to take the steps below:
Build lead nurturing content for all stages of the funnel: Following Digital Marketer’s Email Machine structure will ensure you cover indoctrination, engagement, ascendency, segmentation and re-engagement.
“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.”
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How can you learn Conversion Rate Optimization in a way that you can apply it easily to any project? How can you make a low performing website to a highly remunerative one without redesigning it from scratch?
Those are just two of the questions that Luca Catania, Director of Madri Internet Marketing & Head of Marketing of Catchi, answered during the First Certification CRO certification Course in Italy supported by VWO.
The course targeted a wide audience—from people with no experience in CRO to experts in the field. Attendees comprised c-suite executives—Entrepreneurs, Head of Marketing, Managing Directors, Consultants, from more than 20 different industries.
The objective of the training was to teach participants an innovative step-by-step approach to CRO, in which participants are guided to learn a system that they can apply to any business to increase conversion rates, increase leads, increase sales online.
Participants got the chance to learn how to optimize their websites in a real-time setup. Using the VWO platform live in the course allowed the participants to understand and experience how the software can help optimize websites and achieve better conversions.
‘A-ha!’ moment (n.): An insight that leads to more substantial revenue lift and profitable growth for your company (e.g. the moment all Optimizers live for).
At WiderFunnel, our mission is create profitable ‘A-ha!’ moments for our clients every day.
Last year, I created a five-part ‘A-ha!’ moments series: Five mini blog posts focused on five of our favorite insights from 2015. Well, turns out 2016 was also full of ‘A-ha!’ moments that were too good to keep to ourselves.
This post explores five of WiderFunnel’s favorite ‘A-ha!’s from the past year. I hope that they inspire you as you begin planning your 2017 experiments!
‘A-ha!’ #1: Using color psychology to increase conversions
If you follow WiderFunnel, you probably know that we are not big fans of conversion optimization ‘best practices’ like “all calls-to-action should be orange”.
Because, frankly, best practices may not be the best thing for your business. They must be proven in your business context, for your users.
That said, this first ‘A-ha!’ moment comes from a color isolation test. But, the ‘A-ha’ isn’t the result, it’s the why behind the hypothesis.
One of our clients provides an online consumer information service — users type in a question and get an Expert answer. Once a user asks their question, they have entered a four-step funnel:
Step 1: Ask the question
Step 2: Add more information
Step 3: Pick an Expert
Step 4: Get an answer (aka the checkout page)
We have been testing on each step of this funnel, but this particular experiment was on the all-important checkout page, the final conversion.
What can the right color do?
For each WiderFunnel client, we create a customized growth program, however, each program is built with our proven Infinity Optimization Process™. The process cycles between two phases: Explore (information-gathering) and Validate (testing and proving).
Research on consumer behavior, psychological principles, and persuasion techniques is a huge part of the Explore phase. Our Strategists use this research, along with several other information touchpoints, when developing hypotheses.
This past year, one of WiderFunnel’s favorite bloggers and researchers, Nick Kolenda, published a giant piece on color psychology. Kolenda looked at 50 academic studies on color, and compiled his findings. According to him, certain colors can inspire certain actions.
In the case of this client, Optimization Strategist, Nick So, wanted to see if adding a subtle, subconscious visual cue to the checkout page would be more motivational for users. He was looking, specifically, at warm colors.
Persuasion principle: Warm colors (with high saturation and low brightness) increase arousal because they trigger impulsivity, and tend to increase behavioral responses.
The test: Isolation I and isolation II
In the first isolation, Nick decided to put warm colors to the test.
Hypothesis: Increasing prominence of the checkout area by using a color linked to increasing action and responses will improve visual clarity of the page and increase conversions.
In the variation, Nick removed all other background colors and added a warm orange background to the payment section. And it worked! This variation saw a statistically significant 2.82% increase in conversions.
We wanted to validate this insight across audiences, so Nick created a second isolation for this client’s mobile users.
He tested the Control against two variations: Variation B (the warm color isolation) was built on variation A, so Nick was able to track the isolation properly. In this experiment, the color change was responsible for a 2.7% lift in conversions, almost the exact same increase as in the desktop test.
It’s always amazing how such seemingly subtle psychological cues and persuasion elements can have a big potential impact on user behavior. We are fortunate to be able to have a client that has the traffic, trusts us, and understands testing enough to allow us to run an isolation on such an interesting concept.
– Nick So
‘A-ha!’ #2: Sometimes, all your users need is a clear next step
You may have heard the phrase “if content is king, revenue is queen”…
Our second ‘A-ha!’ moment comes from testing we have been doing with one WiderFunnel client: A content site that provides information for the individual investor. This client offers a ton of free resources on its website to help users stay on top of their finances.
Of course, they also offer subscription services, such as their newsletter and professional advisor service, which provides premium stock-picking advice to users. Our goal is to help this client increase profitable conversions.
When we began testing with this client, there were many different paths that users could take after landing on an investing article. And there was almost no indication that there were professional services available (which is how this client makes money!)
The WiderFunnel Strategy team did an initial LIFT analysis of the site-wide navigation, which revealed several problems, like:
There was not a clear, primary call-to-action in the nav (Clarity)
There was a general lack of urgency (Urgency)
The menu drop-down for “Stock Picks” had one, ambiguous dropdown (Anxiety)
If someone is ready to spend money, it is not clear how to do so (Clarity)
We wanted to test giving users a clear action to take in the site-wide navigation. This way, a user who wanted more would know which path to take.
We tested adding a “Latest Stock Picks” call-to-action in the nav (replacing the “Stock Picks” dropdown); the assumption was that users of this client’s site are looking for stock-picking advice, specifically.
Hypothesis: Creating a clear “Latest Stock Picks” CTA in the site-wide navigation will cause more users to enter a revenue-driving funnel from all parts of the site.
We tested two variations, each of which featured the “Latest Stock Picks” call-to-action. But, in each variation this CTA took the user to a different page. Our ultimate goal was to find out:
If users were even aware that there are premium paid services offered, and
Which funnel is best to help users make a decision and, ultimately, a purchase?
With variation A, we added the “Latest Stock Picks” CTA in the nav. This call-to-action sent users to the homepage and anchored them in the premium services section. (This is how the functionality of the original dropdown worked.)
This section provides a lot of detail about this client’s different offerings, along with a “Sign Up Today” call-to-action.
With variation B, we wanted to test limiting choice. Rather than showing users a bunch of product options, the “Latest Stock Picks” CTA sent them directly to the professional advisor sign up page (this client’s most popular product).
Both variations beat the control, with variation A resulting in an 11.17% lift in transactions with 99% confidence and variation B resulting in a 7.9% increase in transactions with 97% confidence.
Interestingly, because variation B was built on variation A, we were able to see that it actually decreased transactions by 3.3%.
So, what does this mean? Here are a few takeaways we plan to explore further in 2017:
Users may have been unsure of how to sign up (or that they could sign up) due to lack of CTA prominence on the original site-wide navigation
It is also possible that Urgency was a motivator for this client’s users: Changing the “Stock Picks” drop down to a “Latest Stock Picks” CTA increased urgency and led to more conversions. This wasn’t a clear isolation but it’s good evidence to follow-up with!
Users prefer some degree of choice over being sent to one product (as seen with the decrease in transactions caused by variation B)
But the main moral of this ‘A-ha!’? Make sure your users know exactly where to find what you’re selling. ‘Cause content without conversions is just free publishing.
Earlier this year, I published a case study on WiderFunnel client, weBoost. WeBoost is an e-commerce retailer and manufacturer of cellular signal boosters.
This case study explored several tests that we had run on multiple areas of the weBoost site, including a series of design tests we ran on their product category page. Our third A-ha! moment takes up where the case study left off in this series…
A quick refresher
Originally, the weBoost product category pages featured a non-traditional design layout. A large image in the top left corner, very tall product modules, and right-hand filters made these pages unique among e-commerce catalog pages.
We decided to test displaying products in landscape versus the long, portrait-style modules. According to a Baymard study of e-commerce sites, technical products are easier to compare in a horizontal layout because there is more space to include specs. This was variation A.
In variation B, we wanted to explore the idea that users didn’t need to see a product details page at all. Maybe the information on the category page was all users needed to make a confident purchase.
Variation B was built on variation A, with one isolated change: We changed the primary visual call-to-action from “View Details” to “Add To Cart”.
In a backward ‘A-ha!’ moment, variation A (based on the Baymard study) decreased transactions by -9.6%. Despite our intentions, the horizontal layout might have made it more difficult for users to compare products.
But! Variation B, with the add-to-cart focus, saw a 16.4% increase in transactions against the control page. It turns out that many users are actually comfortable adding products to their cart right from the category page.
Variation B moved more users further through the funnel and ultimately resulted in a large uptick in transactions, despite the negative impact of the horizontal layout.
After comparing variation A to variation B, WiderFunnel Optimization Strategist, Michael St Laurent, estimated that the “Add To Cart” call-to-action was actually worth a lift of 28.7% in transactions.
The follow-up (and subsequent ‘A-ha!’)
We knew that the horizontal layout led to a decrease in transactions and we knew that the horizontal layout plus the isolated CTA change led to a sizable increase in transactions.
So, we ran the obvious follow-up experiment: We tested a variation featuring the vertical module design with the add-to-cart focused call-to-action. We expected to see at least a 29% increase in transactions. We used variation B from the previous test as the Control, following proper Design of Experiments.
As predicted, when we tested the “Add To Cart” call-to-action on the vertical modules, we saw a whopping 38.1% increase in transactions (more than double the 16.4% increase we observed with the horizontal layout, and 9 percentage points more than the estimate).
It never gets old to see isolations at work. The ‘A-ha!’ moment here is that no test ever has to be a ‘loser’. If you structure your tests using isolations, you will be able to track the potential impact of each change.
This entire time, we were assuming that users needed more information to make a technical product selection. We were focused on making the specs easier to compare, when there was an entire segment of the audience that was ready to put the product in their cart without more investigation. Sometimes you have to challenge your assumptions. In this case it paid off!
– Michael St Laurent, Optimization Strategist, WiderFunnel
‘A-ha!’ #4: De-emphasizing price reduces user anxiety
One of our clients is Vital Choice, a trusted source for fast home delivery of the world’s finest wild seafood and organic fare, harvested from healthy, well-managed wild fisheries and farms.
Our fourth ‘A-ha!’ moment from 2016 came out of the testing we did with Vital Choice on their product detail pages and revolves around de-emphasizing price, in favor of value proposition points.
While the results may not be surprising, the WiderFunnel Strategy team would not have prioritized this particular test if they hadn’t done extensive user research beforehand. Because we took the pulse of Vital Choice users, we were able to reduce anxiety and provide more motivation to purchase.
Let’s say you wanted to order a few organic, grass-fed American Wagyu beef patties from the Vital Choice website. You would have eventually landed on a detail page that looked like this (the Control in this experiment):
As you can see, price is displayed prominently near the ‘Add To Cart’ call-to-action. But, during the Explore (information gathering) phase, WiderFunnel Optimization Strategist, Dennis Pavlina, identified several common themes of barriers to conversion in user survey responses, including:
Price: Users love Vital Choice and the excellent quality of their products, but they often mention the premium they are paying. For many users, it is a ‘treat’ and a ‘luxury’ to buy from Vital Choice. Price-related themes, such as discount codes or coupons, also came up often in surveys.
Shipping: Users often express concern about how frozen perishable items are shipped, particularly in warmer climates in the U.S.
If we could reduce user anxiety in these two areas, we believed Vital Choice would see a surge in conversions.
Hypothesis: Adding relevant value proposition points that justify the price and quality of the product, and adding copy to reduce anxiety around shipping in close proximity of the order area on the product page, will increase conversions.
It was unclear what users would receive in their shipment i.e. how it would be shipped to them, how long it would take, etc. (Anxiety)
There were no prominently displayed value proposition points to justify the price of the product. (Value Proposition)
There was a lot of emphasis on the price of the product. (Anxiety)
This variation led to a 3.3% increase in conversions and a 2.7% increase in average order value, resulting in almost $250,000 in estimated additional annual revenue.
Conversions were up for almost every goal we tracked: Visits to checkout (step 2), visits to checkout (step 3), visits to checkout (step 4), total visits to cart, and average order value. But they were down to unique visits to cart.
The most interesting part of analyzing results was noticing that, although unique visits to cart were slightly down, there was a large increase in total visits to cart. It’s a surprising pattern. We hypothesize that users may have been more confident and willing to purchase more items at once, when anxiety was reduced.
– Dennis Pavlina, Optimization Strategist, WiderFunnel
The fact that de-emphasizing price worked for Vital Choice users isn’t what made us say, ‘A-ha!’. But, the proven power of listening to, and addressing their users’ stated concerns, did. When in doubt, ask your users.
A-ha! #5: Quick view, long delay
A-ha! number 5 comes from testing we did with another one of our clients, a large retailer of sports goods, footwear, and apparel. We have been working with this company for more than a year to optimize their e-commerce experiences, with the goal of increasing transactions.
Like on many e-commerce sites, users on this client’s site could view product details directly on the category page, using a Quick View functionality. When a user hovered over a product, they would see the product details in a Quick View window.
In our final ‘a-ha!’, we explore what (so often) happens when you test a common practice.
Distraction is a very common barrier to conversion; often, there are elements on a client’s page that are diverting visitors away the from the ultimate goal.
For Michael St Laurent, the Quick View option on this client’s category page was a potential distraction.
The more visual cues and action options your visitor has to process, the less likely they are to make a conversion decision. At WiderFunnel, we have found that minimizing distractions such as unnecessary product options, links, and extraneous information will increase your conversion rate.
– Michael St Laurent
So, he decided to put his theory that the Quick View is an unnecessary distraction to the test.
Hypothesis: Disabling the Quick View functionality will result in reduced distraction and ultimately, more conversions.
The Control in this test was the client’s original category page, featuring the Quick View functionality.
In the Quick View, users could quickly move from product to product on the category page without going to a product page itself.
We tested this control against a variation that removed the Quick View functionality completely.
It turns out the Quick View functionality was, indeed, distracting. Disabling it resulted in more product exploration as well as more transactions; transactions increased by 4% (a big lift for a high-traffic company like this one!)
If your site has a functionality, like Quick View or a rotating banner, you should probably test it! While ‘flashy’ functionalities are…well…flashy, they are rarely what your users want, and may be preventing your users from actually purchasing.
At the end of every month, the WiderFunnel Strategy team shares their favorite ‘A-ha!’ moments from the past four weeks. Sometimes, the ‘A-ha!’ is an exciting result and big lift for a client, sometimes it’s a twist insight, sometimes it’s a ‘losing’ test that inspired a winning test.
As Chris Goward explains,
There’s no downside to communicating what you’ve learned from every test. If you view your optimization program as a strategic method for learning about your customers and prospects – for truly understanding their mindset – rather than a tactical tweaking program, you can take a broader perspective and find the gains in every test.
I hope that these ‘A-ha!’ moments inspire you to do the work, structure your tests properly, and learn constantly in 2017. And I encourage you to share your favorite ‘A-ha!’ moments in the comments section below.
A/B testing and conversion rate optimization (CRO) are not synonymous, but often confused.
A/B testing is exactly what it says—a test to verify different sets of variations on your website. Conversion rate optimization, however, is much more than just testing.
Conversion optimization is a scientific process that starts with analyzing your business’ leaks, making educated hypotheses to fix them, and then testing those hypotheses.
Conversion optimization is a process that needs to be repeated, but A/B testing is a technique. A formalized conversion optimization process can advance somewhat like this:
Tracking metrics and identifying what parts of the conversion funnel need fixing
Analyzing why visitors are doing what they are doing
Creating and Planning your hypotheses for optimization
Testing the hypotheses against the existing version of the website
Learning from the tests and applying the learning to the subsequent tests
To further clear up the air around the two terms, we got in touch with the top in line conversion rate experts and picked their brains on the same. The experts tell us about their experiences with A/B testing and conversion optimization and why you should switch to the latter.
Back in 2007, I could already see that a huge gap was developing among companies that are perfecting a process for conversion optimization and those that are following the easy advice of so many consultants.
Instead of selling top-of-mind advice, I focused WiderFunnel on refining the process of continuous optimization for leading brands. For each of our client engagements, we run a holistic CRO program that builds insights over time to continuously improve our understanding of their unique customer segments. The results speak for themselves.
Ad hoc A/B testing is a tragic use of your limited traffic when you realize how much growth and insights structured optimization program could be delivering. In an example that we published recently, a structured CRO program is exactly what this company needed to double its revenue two years in a row, over the ad hoc testing it was previously doing.
The most effective conversion optimization program seeps into the bones of your organization. Decisions that were once exclusively creative in nature gain a data component. Much of the guessing drains from your online marketing. We call this “rigorous creativity,” and it marries your best marketing work with insights about your visitors. It cannot be accomplished by running a few tests, but comes from asking daily, “Do we have some data to help guide us? If not, can we collect it?” The rigorously creative business is good at finding and creating this data and using it to maximize visitor satisfaction and business profit.
Without a strong CRO strategy that encompasses the experience visitors have discovering, using, exploring, and hopefully eventually converting on your site, you’ll always be plugging holes in a leaky bucket rather than building a better container.
The best opportunities to improve conversion usually aren’t from changing individual pages one at a time with a multitude of tests, but rather by crafting a holistic, thoughtful experience that runs throughout the site, then iterating on elements consistently with an eye to learning, and applying knowledge from each test to the site as a whole.
An AB test should come at the end of your homework. If you’re just AB testing, you’re probably gambling. Your tests are based on things you’ve read on the Internet, gut feeling, and opinions. Some of your tests will be winners, most of them losers. Because you’re shooting blanks.
The homework is data analysis and user research. This will reveal the problem areas and why your visitors are leaving or not doing what you want them to do. The better you know the dreams, the hopes, the fears, the barriers, and uncertainties of your users, the better you’ll be able to work out a test that will have a real impact.
In case you’re in doubt, impact seldom comes from design changes. Don’t change the color of your button, change the text on that button. Not randomly, but based on what users want and your knowledge of influencing people.
Don’t focus too much on the design. Focus on your offer, your value proposition, and how you sell your stuff.
Don’t sell the way you like to sell. Sell the way your customers want to buy.
André Scholten, SEO and Site Speed specialist, Google Analytics
Create a strategy that makes your clients happier and don’t focus on the money. Single non-related tests on the conversion funnel follow each other up, based on abandonment rates, judged on their influence on revenue. That’s not a strategy but more an operational process where test after test is conducted without vision. You should create a test culture within your company that tests everything that will make your website a nicer place for your customers. Give them feedback possibilities with feedback or chat tools to learn from these. Take their wishes into account and create tests to verify if their wishes are met. Create a test strategy that focuses on all goals: not only the money, but also information-type goals, contact-goals, etc. It will give you so much to do and to improve. That’s a holistic approach to testing.
“Winging it” may work for musicians and cooks; but in marketing, any decision made outside of a holistic CRO program is a bad one. Only through testing will you find the right message, the right audience, and the right offer. And only after you nail these critical elements will you see the profits you need. It doesn’t matter how small or new your business is, take time to test your ideas. You’ll be glad you did.
To say an online business is great due to AB Testing is like saying a Football team is great because of their stadium. It is the entire team framework that leads to winning. An optimization frameworkintegrates A/B testing as one component that includes the team, the brand, advertising, and a solid testing strategy. This is how industry-leading websites win year after year.
Rich Page, Conversion Rate Optimization and Web Analytics Expert
Many online businesses make the mistake of thinking that A/B testing is the same as CRO and don’t pay enough attention to the other key aspects of CRO. This usually gives them disappointing results on their conversion rates and online revenue. Web analytics, website usability, visitor feedback, and persuasion techniques are the other key CRO elements that you need to frequently use to gain greatest results.
Gaining an in-depth visitor feedback is a particularly essential part of CRO. This helps you discover your visitor’s main needs and common challenges, and forms high-impact ideas for your A/B tests (rather than just guessing or listening to your HiPPOs). Gaining visitor insights from usability tests and watching recordings of them using your website is particularly revealing.
Peter Sandeen, Value Proposition and Marketing Message Development Expert
Just about every statistic on A/B test results says that most tests don’t create positive results (or any results at all). That’s partly because of the inherent uncertainties of testing. But a big part is the usual lack of a real plan.
Actually, you need two plans.
The first plan, the big picture one, is there to keep you focused on testing the right parts of your marketing. It tells if you should spend most of your energy on testing landing pages, prices, or perhaps webinar content.
The second plan is there to make sure you’re creating impactful differences in your tests. So instead of testing two headlines that mean essentially the same thing (e.g. “Get good at golf fast” and “Improve your golf skills quickly”), you test things that are likely to create a different conversion rate (e.g. “3-hour practice recommended by golf pros”). And when you see increased or decreased conversion rates, you create the next test based on those results.
With good plans, you can get positive results from 50–75% of your tests.
Roger Dooley, Author of Brainfluence
Simple A/B testing often leads to a focus on individual elements of a landing page or campaign – a graphic, a headline, or a call to action. This can produce positive results, but often distracts one from looking at the bigger picture. My emphasis is on using behavior science to improve marketing, and that approach works best when applied to multiple elements of the customer journey.
Conversion rate (CR) is a measure of your ability to persuade visitors to take action the way you want them to. It’s a reflection of your effectiveness and customer satisfaction. For you to achieve your goals, visitors must first achieve theirs. Conversion rate, as a metric, is a single output. CR is a result of the many inputs that make up a customer experience. That experience has the chance to annoy, satisfy, or delight them. We need to optimize the inputs. Ad hoc A/B tests cannot do this. Companies that provide a superior experience are rewarded with higher conversion rates. Focus on improving customer experience, and you’ll find the results in your P&L, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow statements.
Thinking beyond the individual A/B test as optimization is a natural part of gaining experience. We all probably started off by running a handful of ad hoc tests and that’s okay—that’s how we learn. However, as we grow, three things may happen which bring us closer towards becoming more strategic:
1. We become conscious of ways in which we can prioritize our testing ideas.
2. We become conscious of the structure of experiments and how tests can be designed.
3. We think of a series of upcoming tests which may or may not work together to maximize returns.
Here is one example of one test strategy/structure: The Best Shot Test. It aims to maximize the effect size and minimize the testing duration, while doing so at the cost of a blurred cause-effect relationship.
Running basic A/B tests based on best practices is okay for a start. But to really get to the next level, it’s important to see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. This gives us a better understanding of what exactly we’re testing for and reach for results that fit the specific goals of the organization.
Kristi Hines, Certified Digital Marketer
Depending on your business and the size of your marketing team, you may want to go beyond just testing your website or a landing page. You may want to expand your A/B testing to your entire online presence.
For example, try changing your main thing (keyword phrase, catch phrase, elevator pitch, headline, etc.) not just on your website, but also on all your homepage’s meta description, your social media bios and intros, your email signatures, etc.
Why? Because here’s what’s going to happen. If you have consistent messaging across a bunch of channels that someone follows you on, and all of a sudden, they come to your landing page with an inconsistent message (the variant, if you will), then they may not convert simply because of the inconsistency of your message. Not because it wasn’t a good message, but because it wasn’t the message they were used to receiving from you.
As my own personal case example, when I change my main phrase “Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, business blogger, and certified digital marketer.” I don’t do it just on my website. I do it everywhere. And I don’t do it for just a week. I do it for at least two to three months unless it’s a complete dud (i.e., no leads in the first week at all).
But what I usually find is when I find a good phrase, I’ll start getting leads from all over the place. And usually they will say they went from one channel to the next. Hence, don’t just test. Test consistency across your entire presence, if possible. The results may be astonishing.
I do think that Conversion Rate Optimization as a marketing discipline goes beyond just a series of A/B and/or Multivariate tests. As external factors such as your brand and what other people say about the business (reviews and referrals) can also heavily impact how a site can perform in terms of attracting more actions from its intended users/visitors.
For instance, positive social proof (number of people sharing/liking a particular product or a brand on different social networks) can also influence your customer’s buying process. And improving on this aspect of the brand involves a whole different campaign – which would involve a more holistic approach to be integrated to your CRO program. Another factor to consider is the quality of traffic your campaign is getting (through SEO, PPC, paid social campaigns, content marketing, etc.) The more targeted traffic you’re able to acquire, the better your conversions will be.
A full-fledged conversion optimization program goes a long way and is a lot more beneficial than ad hoc testing.
So what are you waiting for? Let stepping up to conversion optimization be your #1 goal in the new year.
A/B testing works… sometimes. But more often than not, you’re simply “moving deck chairs around the Titanic” as Larry Kim puts it (making small changes that only generate small returns). Instead, the ‘unicorns’ – or the A/B tests regularly topping 10% conversions – are focused on overhauling their offers and restructuring the flows and funnels through their website. Here’s the step-by-step process my company used to optimize a website’s user flow to deliver 166% increase in leads after three months. Why A/B Testing Isn’t Always That Great A/B tests are awesome in theory. You barely have to lift a mental…