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Your frequently asked conversion optimization questions, answered!

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Got a question about conversion optimization?

Chances are, you’re not alone!

This Summer, WiderFunnel participated in several virtual events. And each one, from full-day summit to hour-long webinar, ended with a TON of great questions from all of you.

So, here is a compilation of 29 of your top conversion optimization questions. From how to get executive buy-in for experimentation, to the impact of CRO on SEO, to the power (or lack thereof) of personalization, you asked, and we answered.

As you’ll notice, many experts and thought-leaders weighed in on your questions, including:

Now, without further introduction…

Your conversion optimization questions

Optimization Strategy

  1. What do you see as the most common mistake people make that has a negative effect on website conversion?
  2. What are the most important questions to ask in the Explore phase?
  3. Is there such a thing as too much testing and / or optimizing?

Personalization

  1. Do you get better results with personalization or A/B testing or any other methods you have in mind?
  2. Is there such a thing as too much personalization? We have a client with over 40 personas, with a very complicated strategy, which makes reporting hard to justify.
  3. With the advance of personalization technology, will we see broader segments disappear? Will we go to 1:1 personalization, or will bigger segments remain relevant?
  4. How do you explain personalization to people who are still convinced that personalization is putting first and last name fields on landing pages?

SEO versus CRO

  1. How do you avoid harming organic SEO when doing conversion optimization?

Getting Buy-in for Experimentation

  1. When you are trying to solicit buy-in from leadership, do you recommend going for big wins to share with the higher ups or smaller wins?
  2. Who would you say are the key stakeholders you need buy-in from, not only in senior leadership but critical members of the team?

CRO for Low Traffic Sites

  1. Do you have any suggestions for success with lower traffic websites?
  2. What would you prioritize to test on a page that has lower traffic, in order to achieve statistical significance?
  3. How far can I go with funnel optimization and testing when it comes to small local business?

Tips from an In-House Optimization Champion

  1. How do you get buy-in from major stakeholders, like your CEO, to go with a conversion optimization strategy?
  2. What has surprised you or stood out to you while doing CRO?

Optimization Across Industries

  1. Do you have any tips for optimizing a website to conversion when the purchase cycle is longer, like 1.5 months?
  2. When you have a longer sales process, getting them to convert is the first step. We have softer conversions (eBooks) and urgent ones like demo requests. Do we need to pick ONE of these conversion options or can ‘any’ conversion be valued?
  3. You’ve mainly covered websites that have a particular conversion goal, for example, purchasing a product, or making a donation. What would you say can be a conversion metric for a customer support website?
  4. Do you find that results from one client apply to other clients? Are you learning universal information, or information more specific to each audience?
  5. For companies that are not strictly e-commerce and have multiple business units with different goals, can you speak to any challenges with trying to optimize a visible page like the homepage so that it pleases all stakeholders? Is personalization the best approach?
  6. Do you find that testing strategies differ cross-culturally?

Experiment Design & Setup

  1. How do you recommend balancing the velocity of experimentation with quality, or more isolated design?
  2. I notice that you often have multiple success metrics, rather than just one? Does this ever lead to cherry-picking a metric to make sure that the test you wanted to win seem like it’s the winner?
  3. When do you make the call for A/B tests for statistical significance? We run into the issue of varying test results depending on part of the week we’re running a test. Sometimes, we even have to run a test multiple times.
  4. Is there a way to conclusively tell why a test lost or was inconclusive?
  5. How many visits do you need to get to statistically relevant data from any individual test?
  6. We are new to optimization. Looking at your Infinity Optimization Process, I feel like we are doing a decent job with exploration and validation – for this being a new program to us. Our struggle seems to be your orange dot… putting the two sides together – any advice?
  7. When test results are insignificant after lots impressions, how do you know when to ‘call it a tie’ and stop that test and move on?

Testing and technology

  1. There are tools meant to increase testing velocity with pre-built widgets and pre-built test variations, even – what are your thoughts on this approach?

Your questions, answered

Q: What do you see as the most common mistake people make that has a negative effect on website conversion?

Chris Goward: I think the most common mistake is a strategic one, where marketers don’t create or ensure they have a great process and team in place before starting experimentation.

I’ve seen many teams get really excited about conversion optimization and bring it into their company. But they are like kids in a candy store: they’re grabbing at a bunch of ideas, trying to get quick wins, and making mistakes along the way, getting inconclusive results, not tracking properly, and looking foolish in the end.

And this burns the organizational momentum you have. The most important resource you have in an organization is the support from your high-level executives. And you need to be very careful with that support because you can quickly destroy it by doing things the wrong way.

It’s important to first make sure you have all of the right building blocks in place: the right process, the right team, the ability to track and the right technology. And make sure you get a few wins, perhaps under the radar, so that you already have some support equity to work with.

Further reading:

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Q: What are the most important questions to ask in the Explore phase?

Chris Goward: During Explore, we are looking for your visitors’ barriers to conversion. It’s a general research phase. (It’s called ‘Explore’ for a reason). In it, we are looking for insights about what questions to ask and validate. We are trying to identify…

  • What are the barriers to conversion?
  • What are the motivational triggers for your audience?
  • Why are people buying from you?

And answering those questions comes through the qualitative and quantitative research that’s involved in Explore. But it’s a very open-ended process. It’s an expansive process. So the questions are more about how to identify opportunities for testing.

Whereas Validate is a reductive process. During Validate, we know exactly what questions we are trying to answer, to determine whether the insights gained in Explore actually work.

Further reading:

  • Explore is one of two phases in the Infinity Optimization Process – our framework for conversion optimization. Read about the whole process, here.

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Q: Is there such a thing as too much testing and / or optimizing?

Chris Goward: A lot of people think that if they’re A/B testing, and improving an experience or a landing page or a website…they can’t improve forever. The question many marketers have is, how do I know how long to do this? Is there going to be diminishing returns? By putting in the same effort will I get smaller and smaller results?

But we haven’t actually found this to be true. We have yet to find a company that we have over-A/B tested. And the reason is that visitor expectations continue to increase, your competitors don’t stop improving, and you continuously have new questions to ask about your business, business model, value proposition, etc.

So my answer is…yes, you will run out of opportunities to test, as soon as you run out of business questions. When you’ve answered all of the questions you have as a business, then you can safely stop testing.

Of course, you never really run out of questions. No business is perfect and understands everything. The role of experimentation is never done.

Case Study: DMV.org has been running an optimization program for 4+ years. Read about how they continue to double revenue year-over-year in this case study.

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Q: Do you get better results with personalization or A/B testing or any other methods you have in mind?

Chris Goward: Personalization is a buzzword right now that a lot of marketers are really excited about. And personalization is important. But it’s not a new idea. It’s simply that technology and new tools are now available, and we have so much data that allows us to better personalize experiences.

I don’t believe that personalization and A/B testing are mutually exclusive. I think that personalization is a tactic that you can test and validate within all your experiences. But experimentation is more strategic.

At the highest level of your organization, having an experimentation ethos means that you’ll test anything. You could test personalization, you could test new product lines, or number of products, or types of value proposition messaging, etc. Everything is included under the umbrella of experimentation, if a company is oriented that way.

Personalization is really a tactic. And the goal of personalization is to create a more relevant experience, or a more relevant message. And that’s the only thing it does. And it does it very well.

Further Reading: Are you evaluating personalization at your company? Learn how to create the most effective personalization strategy with our 4-step roadmap.

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Q: Is there such a thing as too much personalization? We have a client with over 40 personas, with a very complicated strategy, which makes reporting hard to justify.

Chris Goward: That’s an interesting question. Unlike experimentation, I believe there is a very real danger of too much personalization. Companies are often very excited about it. They’ll use all of the features of the personalization tools available to create (in your client’s case) 40 personas and a very complicated strategy. And they don’t realize that the maintenance cost of personalization is very high. It’s important to prove that a personalization strategy actually delivers enough business value to justify the increase in cost.

When you think about it, every time you come out with a new product, a new message, or a new campaign, you would have to create personalized experiences against 40 different personas. And that’s 40 times the effort of having a generic message. If you haven’t tested from the outset, to prove that all of those personas are accurate and useful, you could be wasting a lot of time and effort.

We always start a personalization strategy by asking, ‘what are the existing personas?’, and proving out whether those existing personas actually deliver distinct value apart from each other, or whether they should be grouped into a smaller number of personas that are more useful. And then, we test the messaging to see if there are messages that work better for each persona. It’s a step by step process that makes sure we are only creating overhead where it’s necessary and will create value.

Further Reading: Are you evaluating personalization at your company? Learn how to create the most effective personalization strategy with our 4-step roadmap.

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Q: With the advance of personalization technology, will we see broader segments disappear? Will we go to 1:1 personalization, or will bigger segments remain relevant?

Chris Goward: Broad segments won’t disappear; they will remain valid. With things like multi-threaded personalization, you’ll be able to layer on some of the 1:1 information that you have, which may be product recommendations or behavioral targeting, on top of a broader segment. If a user falls into a broad segment, they may see that messaging in one area, and 1:1 messaging may appear in another area.

But if you try to eliminate broad segments and only create 1:1 personalization, you’ll create an infinite workload for yourself in trying to sustain all of those different content messaging segments. And it’s almost impossible for a marketing department practically to create infinite marketing messages.

Hudson Arnold: You are absolutely going to need both. I think there’s a different kind of opportunity, and a different kind of UX solution to those questions. Some media and commerce companies won’t have to struggle through that content production, because their natural output of 1:1 personalization will be showing a specific product or a certain article, which they don’t have to support from a content perspective.

What they will be missing out on is that notion of, what big segments are we missing? Are we not targeting moms? Newly married couples? CTOs vs. sales managers? Whatever the distinction is, that segment-level messaging is going to continue to be critical, for the foreseeable future. And the best personalization approach is going to balance both.

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Q: How do you explain personalization to people who are still convinced that personalization is putting first and last name fields on landing pages?

A PANEL RESPONSE

André Morys: I compare it to the experience people have in a real store. If you go to a retail store, and you want to buy a TV, the salesperson will observe how you’re speaking, how you’re walking, how you’re dressed, and he will tailor his sales pitch to the type of person you are. He will notice if you’ve brought your family, if it’s your first time in a shop, or your 20th. He has all of these data points in his mind.

Personalization is the art of transporting this knowledge of how to talk to people on a 1:1 level to your website. And it’s not always easy, because you may not have all of the data. But you have to find out which data you can use. And if you can do personalization properly, you can get big uplift.

John Ekman: On the other hand, I heard a psychologist once say that people have more in common than what separates them. If you are looking for very powerful persuasion strategies, instead of thinking of the different individual traits and preferences that customers might have, it may be better to think about what they have in common. Because you’ll reach more people with your campaigns and landing pages. It will be interesting to see how the battle between general persuasion techniques and individual personalization techniques will result.

Chris Goward: It’s a good point. I tend to agree that the nirvana of 1:1 personalization may not be the right goal in some cases, because there are unintended consequences of that.

One is that it becomes more difficult to find generalized understanding of your positioning, of your value proposition, of your customers’ perspectives, if everything is personalized. There are no common threads.

The other is that there is significant maintenance cost in having really fine personalization. If you have 1:1 personalization with 1,000 people, and you update your product features, you have to think about how that message gets customized across 1,000 different messages rather than just updating one. So there is a cost to personalization. You have to validate that your approach to personalization pays off, and that is has enough benefit to balance out your cost and downside.

David Darmanin: [At Hotjar], we aren’t personalizing, actually. It’s a powerful thing to do, but there is a time to deploy it. If personalization adds too much complexity and slows you down, then obviously that can be a challenge. Like most things that can be complex, I think that they are the most valuable, when you have a high ticket price or very high value, where that touch of personalization has a big impact.

With Hotjar, we’re much more volume and lower price points, so it’s not yet a priority for us. Having said that, we have looked at it. But right now, we’re a startup, at the stage where speed is everything. And having many common threads is as important as possible, so we don’t want to add too much complexity now. But if you’re selling very expensive things, and you’re at a more advanced stage as a company, it would be crazy not to leverage personalization.

Video Resource: This panel response comes from the Growth & Conversion Virtual Summit held this Spring. You can still access all of the session recordings for free, here.

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Q: How do you avoid harming organic SEO when doing conversion optimization?

Chris Goward: A common question! WiderFunnel was actually one of Google’s first authorized consultants for their testing tool, and Google told us is that they support optimization fully. They do not penalize companies for running A/B tests, if they are set up properly and the company is using a proper tool.

On top of that, what we’ve found is that the principles of conversion optimization parallel the principles of good SEO practice.

If you create a better experience for your users, and more of them convert, it actually sends a positive signal to Google that you have higher quality content.

Google looks at pogo-sticking, where people land on the SERP, find a result, and then return back to the SERP. Pogo-sticking signals to Google that this is not quality content. If a visitor lands on your page and converts, they are not going to come back to the SERP, which sends Google a positive signal. And we’ve actually never seen an example where SEO has been harmed by a conversion optimization program.

Video Resource: Watch SEO Wizard Rand Fishkin’s talk from CTA Conf 2017, “Why We Can’t Do SEO without CRO

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Q:When you are trying to solicit buy-in from leadership do you recommend going for big wins to share with the higher ups or smaller wins?

Chris Goward: Partly, it depends on how much equity you have to burn up front. If you are in a situation where you don’t have a lot of confidence from higher-ups about implementing an optimization program, I would recommend starting with more under the radar tests. Try to get momentum, get some early wins, and then share your success with the executives to show the potential. This will help you get more buy-in for more prominent areas.

This is actually one of the factors that you want to consider when prioritizing where to test. The “PIE Framework” shows you the three factors to help you prioritize.

PIE framework for A/B testing prioritization.
A sample PIE prioritization analysis.

One of them is Ease. Potential, Importance, and Ease. And one of the important aspects within Ease is political ease. So you want to look for areas that have political ease, which means there might not be as much sensitivity around them (so maybe not the homepage). Get those wins first, and create momentum, and then you can start sharing that throughout the organization to build that buy-in.

Further Reading: Marketers from ASICS’ global e-commerce team weigh in on evangelizing optimization at a global organization in this post, “A day in the life of an optimization champion

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Q: Who would you say are the key stakeholders you need buy-in from, not only in senior leadership but critical members of the team?

Nick So: Besides the obvious senior leadership and key decision-makers as you mention, we find getting buy-in from related departments like branding, marketing, design, copywriters and content managers, etc., can be very helpful.

Having these teams on board can not only help with the overall approval process, but also helps ensure winning tests and strategies are aligned with your overall business and marketing strategy.

You should also consider involving more tangentially-related teams like customer support. This makes them a part of the process and testing culture, but your customer-facing teams can also be a great source for business insights and test ideas as well!

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Q: Do you have any suggestions for success with lower traffic websites?

Nick So: In our testing experience, we find we get the most impactful results when we feel we have a strong understanding of the website’s visitors. In the Infinity Optimization Process, this understanding is gained through a balanced approach of Exploratory research, and Validated insights and results.

infinity optimization process
The Infinity Optimization Process is iterative and leads to continuous growth and insights.

When a site’s traffic is low, the ability to Validate is decreased, and so we try to make up for it by increasing the time spent and work done in the Explore phase.

We take those yet-to-be-validated insights found in the Explore phase, and build a larger, more impactful single variation, and test the cluster of changes. (This variation is generally more drastic than we would create for a higher-traffic client, since we can validate those insights easily through multiple tests.)

Because of the more drastic changes, the variation should have a larger impact on conversion rate (and hopefully gain statistical significance with lower traffic). And because we have researched evidence to support these changes, there is a higher likelihood that they will perform better than a standard re-design.

If a site does not have enough overall primary conversions, but you definitely, absolutely MUST test, then I would look for a secondary metric further ‘upstream’ to optimize for. These should be goals that indicate or guide the primary conversion (e.g. clicks to form > form submission, add to cart > transaction). However with this strategy, stakeholders have to be aware that increases in this secondary goal may not be tied directly to increases of the primary goal at the same rate.

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Q: What would you prioritize to test on a page that has lower traffic, in order to achieve statistical significance?

Chris Goward: The opportunities that are going to make the most impact really depend on the situation and the context. So if it’s a landing page or the homepage or a product page, they’ll have different opportunities.

But with any area, start by trying to understand your customers. If you have a low-traffic site, you’ll need to spend more time on the qualitative research side, really trying to understand: what are the opportunities, the barriers your visitors might be facing, and drilling into more of their perspective. Then you’ll have a more powerful test setup.

You’ll want to test dramatically. Test with fewer variations, make more dramatic changes with the variations, and be comfortable with your tests running longer. And while they are running and you are waiting for results, go talk to your customers. Go and run some more user testing, drill into your surveys, do post-purchase surveys, get on the phone and get the voice of customer. All of these things will enrich your ability to imagine their perspective and come up with more powerful insights.

In general, the things that are going to have the most impact are value proposition changes themselves. Trying to understand, do you have the right product-market fit, do you have the right description of your product, are you leading with the right value proposition point or angle?

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Q: How far can I go with funnel optimization and testing when it comes to small local business?

A PANEL RESPONSE

David Darmanin: What do you mean by small local business? If you’re a startup just getting started, my advice would be to stop thinking about optimization and focus on failing fast. Get out there, change things, get some traction, get growth and you can optimize later. Whereas, if you’re a small but established local business, and you have traffic but it’s low, that’s different. In the end, conversion optimization is a traffic game. Small local business with a lot of traffic, maybe. But if traffic is low, focus on the qualitative, speak to your users, spend more time understanding what’s happening.

John Ekman:

If you can’t test to significance, you should turn to qualitative research.

That would give you better results. If you don’t have the traffic to test against the last step in your funnel, you’ll end up testing at the beginning of your funnel. You’ll test for engagement or click through, and you’ll have to assume that people who don’t bounce and click through will convert. And that’s not always true. Instead, go start working with qualitative tools to see what the visitors you have are actually doing on your page and start optimizing from there.

André Morys: Testing with too small a sample size is really dangerous because it can lead to incorrect assumptions if you are not an expert in statistics. Even if you’re getting 10,000 to 20,000 orders per month, that is still a low number for A/B testing. Be aware of how the numbers work together. We’ve had people claiming 70% uplift, when the numbers are 64 versus 27 conversions. And this is really dangerous because that result is bull sh*t.

Video Resource: This panel response comes from the Growth & Conversion Virtual Summit held this Spring. You can still access all of the session recordings for free, here.

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Q: How do you get buy-in from major stakeholders, like your CEO, to go with an evolutionary, optimized redesign approach vs. a radical redesign?

Jamie Elgie: It helps when you’ve had a screwup. When we started this process, we had not been successful with the radical design approach. But my advice for anyone championing optimization within an organization would be to focus on the overall objective.

For us, it was about getting our marketing spend to be more effective. If you can widen the funnel by making more people convert on your site, and then chase the people who convert (versus people who just land on your site) with your display media efforts, your social media efforts, your email efforts, and with all your paid efforts, you are going to be more effective. And that’s ultimately how we sold it.

It really sells itself though, once the process begins. It did not take long for us to see really impactful results that were helping our bottom line, as well as helping that overall strategy of making our display media spend, and all of our media spend more targeted.

Video Resource: Watch this webinar recording and discover how Jamie increased his company’s sales by more than 40% with evolutionary site redesign and conversion optimization.

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Q: What has surprised you or stood out to you while doing CRO?

Jamie Elgie: There have been so many ‘A-ha!’s, and that’s the best part. We are always learning. Things that we are all convinced we should change on our website, or that we should change in our messaging in general, we’ll test them and actually find out.

We have one test running right now, and it’s failing, which is disappointing. But our entire emphasis as a team is changing, because we are learning something. And we are learning it without a huge amount of risk. And that, to me, has been the greatest thing about optimization. It’s not just the impact to your marketing funnel, it’s also teaching us. And it’s making us a better organization because we’re learning more.

One of the biggest benefits for me and my team has been how effective it is just to be able to say, ‘we can test that’.

If you have a salesperson who feels really strongly about something, and you feel really strongly that they’re wrong, the best recourse is to put it out on the table and say, ok, fine, we’ll go test that.

It enables conversations to happen that might not otherwise happen. It eliminates disputes that are not based on objective data, but on subjective opinion. It actually brings organizations together when people start to understand that they don’t need to be subjective about their viewpoints. Instead, you can bring your viewpoint to a test, and then you can learn from it. It’s transformational not just for a marketing organization, but for the entire company, if you can start to implement experimentation across all of your touch points.

Case Study: Read the details of how Jamie’s company, weBoost, saw a 100% lift in year-over-year conversion rate with and optimization program.

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Q: Do you have any tips for optimizing a website to conversion when the purchase cycle is longer, like 1.5 months?

Chris Goward: That’s a common challenge in B2B or with large ticket purchases for consumers. The best way to approach this is to

  1. Track your leads and opportunities to the variation,
  2. Then, track them through to the sale,
  3. And then look at whether average order value changes between the variations, which implies the quality of the leads.

Because it’s easy to measure lead volume between variations. But if lead quality changes, then that makes a big impact.

We actually have a case study about this with Magento. We asked the question, “Which of these calls-to-action is actually generating the most valuable leads?”. And ran an experiment to try to find out. We tracked the leads all the way through to sale. This helped Magento optimize for the right calls-to-action going forward. And that’s an important question to ask near the beginning of your optimization program, which is, am I providing the right hook for my visitor?

Case Study: Discover how Magento increased lead volume and lead quality in the full case study.

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Q: When you have a longer sales process, getting visitors to convert is the first step. We have softer conversions (eBooks) and urgent ones like demo requests. Do we need to pick ONE of these conversion options or can ‘any’ conversion be valued?

Nick So: Each test variation should be based on a single, primary hypothesis. And each hypothesis should be based on a single, primary conversion goal. This helps you keep your hypotheses and strategy focused and tactical, rather than taking a shotgun approach to just generally ‘improve the website’.

However, this focused approach doesn’t mean you should disregard all other business goals. Instead, count these as secondary goals and consider them in your post-test results analysis.

If a test increases demo requests by 50%, but cannibalizes ebook downloads by 75%, then, depending on the goal values of the two, a calculation has to be made to see if the overall net benefit of this tradeoff is positive or negative.

Different test hypotheses can also have different primary conversion goals. One test can focus on demos, but the next test can be focused on ebook downloads. You just have to track any other revenue-driving goals to ensure you aren’t cannibalizing conversions and having a net negative impact for each test.

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Q: You’ve mainly covered websites that have a particular conversion goal, for example, purchasing a product, or making a donation. What would you say can be a conversion metric for a customer support website?

Nick So: When we help a client determine conversion metrics…

…we always suggest following the money.

Find the true impact that customer support might have on your company’s bottom line, and then determine a measurable KPI that can be tracked.

For example, would increasing the usefulness of the online support decrease costs required to maintain phone or email support lines (conversion goal: reduction in support calls/submissions)? Or, would it result in higher customer satisfaction and thus greater customer lifetime value (conversion goal: higher NPS responses via website poll)?

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Q: Do you find that results from one client apply to other clients? Are you learning universal information, or information more specific to each audience?

Chris Goward: That question really gets at the nub of where we have found our biggest opportunity. When I started WiderFunnel in 2007, I thought that we would specialize in an industry, because that’s what everyone was telling us to do. They said, you need to specialize, you need to focus and become an expert in an industry. But I just sort of took opportunities as they came, with all kinds of different industries. And what I found is the exact opposite.

We’ve specialized in the process of optimization and personalization and creating powerful test design, but the insights apply to all industries.

What we’ve found is people are people, regardless of whether they’re shopping for a server, or shopping for socks, or donating to third-world countries, they go through the same mental process in each case.

The tactics are a bit different, sometimes. But often, we’re discovering breakthrough insights because we’re able to apply principles from one industry to another. For example, taking an e-commerce principle and identifying where on a B2B lead generation website we can apply that principle because someone is going through the same step in the process.

Most marketers spend most of their time thinking about their near-field competitors rather than in different industries, because it’s overwhelming to look at all of the other opportunities. But we are often able to look at an experience in a completely different way, because we are able to look at it through the lens of a different industry. That is very powerful.

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Q: For companies that are not strictly e-commerce and have multiple business units with different goals, can you speak to any challenges with trying to optimize a visible page like the homepage so that it pleases all stakeholders? Is personalization the best approach?

Nick So: At WiderFunnel, we often work with organizations that have various departments with various business goals and agendas. We find the best way to manage this is to clearly quantify the monetary value of the #1 conversion goal of each stakeholder and/or business unit, and identify areas of the site that have the biggest potential impact for each conversion goal.

In most cases, the most impactful test area for one conversion goal will be different for another conversion goal (e.g. brand awareness on the homepage versus checkout for e-commerce conversions).

When there is a need to consider two different hypotheses with differing conversion goals on a single test area (like the homepage), teams can weigh the quantifiable impact + the internal company benefits in their decision and make that negotiation of prioritization and scheduling between teams.

I would not recommend personalization for this purpose, as that would be a stop-gap compromise that would limit the creativity and strategy of hypotheses, as well as create a disjointed experience for visitors, which would generally have a negative impact overall.

If you HAVE to run opposing strategies simultaneously on an area of the site, you could run multiple variations for different teams and measure different goals. Or, run mutually exclusive tests (keeping in mind these tactics would reduce test velocity, and would require more coordination between teams).

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Q: Do you find testing strategies differ cross-culturally? Do conversion rates vary drastically across different countries / languages when using these strategies?

Chris Goward: We have run tests for many clients outside of the USA, such as in Israel, Sweden, Australia, UK, Canada, Japan, Korea, Spain, Italy and for the Olympics store, which is itself a global e-commerce experience in one site!

There are certainly cultural considerations and interesting differences in tactics. Some countries don’t have widespread credit card use, for example, and retailers there are accustomed to using alternative payment methods. Website design preferences in many Asian countries would seem very busy and overly colorful to a Western European visitor. At WiderFunnel, we specialize in English-speaking and Western-European conversion optimization and work with partner optimization companies around the world to serve our global and international clients.

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Q: How do you recommend balancing the velocity of experimentation with quality, or more isolated design?

Chris Goward: This is where the art of the optimization strategist comes into play. And it’s where we spend the majority of our effort – in creating experiment plans. We look at all of the different options we could be testing, and ruthlessly narrow them down to the things that are going to maximize the potential growth and the potential insights.

And there are frameworks we use to do that. Its all about prioritization. There are hundreds of ideas that we could be testing, so we need to prioritize with as much data as we can. So, we’ve developed some frameworks to do that. The PIE Framework allows you to prioritize ideas and test areas based on the potential, importance, and ease. The potential for improvement, the importance to the business, and the ease of implementation. And sometimes these are a little subjective, but the more data you can have to back these up, the better your focus and effort will be in delivering results.

Further Reading:

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Q: I notice that you often have multiple success metrics, rather than just one? Does this ever lead to cherry-picking a metric to make sure that the test you wanted to win seem like it’s the winner?

Chris Goward: Good question! We actually look for one primary metric that tells us what the business value of a winning test is. But we also track secondary metrics. The goal is to learn from the other metrics, but not use them for decision-making. In most cases, we’re looking for a revenue-driving primary metric. Revenue-per-visitor, for example, is a common metric we’ll use. But the other metrics, whether conversion rate or average order value or downloads, will tell us more about user behavior, and lead to further insights.

There are two steps in our optimization process that pair with each other in the Validate phase. One is design of experiments, and the other is results analysis. And if the results analysis is done correctly, all of the metrics that you’re looking at in terms of variation performance, will tell you more about the variations. And if the design of experiments has been done properly, then you’ll gather insights from all of the different data.

But you should be looking at one metric to tell you whether or not a test won.

Further Reading: Learn more about proper design of experiments in this blog post.

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Q: When do you make the call for A/B tests for statistical significance? We run into the issue of varying test results depending on part of the week we’re running a test. Sometimes, we even have to run a test multiple times.

Chris Goward: It sounds like you may be ending your tests or trying to analyze results too early. You certainly don’t want to be running into day-of-the-week seasonality. You should be running your tests over at least a week, and ideally two weekends to iron out that seasonality effect, because your test will be in a different context on different days of the week, depending on your industry.

So, run your tests a little bit longer and aim for statistical significance. And you want to use tools that calculate statistical significance reliably, and help answer the real questions that you’re trying to ask with optimization. You should aim for that high level of statistical significance, and iron out that seasonality. And sometimes you’ll want to look at monthly seasonality as well, and retest questionable things within high and low urgency periods. That, of course, will be more relevant depending on your industry and whether or not seasonality is a strong factor.

Further Reading: You can’t make business decisions based on misleading A/B test results. Learn how to avoid the top 3 mistakes that make your A/B test results invalid in this post.

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Q: Is there a way to conclusively tell why a test lost or was inconclusive? To know what the hidden gold is?

Chris Goward: Developing powerful hypotheses is dependent on having workable theories. Seeking to determine the “Why” behind the results is some of the most interesting part of the work.

The only way to tell conclusively is to infer a potential reason, then test again with new ways to validate that inference. Eventually, you can form conversion optimization theories and then test based on those theories. While you can never really know definitively the “why” behind the “what”, when you have theories and frameworks that work to predict results, they become just as useful.

As an example, I was reviewing a recent test for one of our clients and it didn’t make sense based on our LIFT Model. One of the variations was showing under-performance against another variation, but I believed strongly that it should have over-performed. I struggled for some time to align this performance with our existing theories and eventually discovered the conversion rate listed was a typo! The real result aligned perfectly with our existing framework, which allowed me to sleep at night again!

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Q: How many visits do you need to get to statistically relevant data from any individual test?

Chris Goward: The number of visits is just one of the variables that determines statistical significance. The conversion rate of the Control and conversion rate delta between the variations are also part of the calculation. Statistical significance is achieved when there is enough traffic (i.e. sample size), enough conversions, and the conversion rate delta is great enough.

Here’s a handy Excel test duration calculator. Fortunately, today’s testing tools calculate statistical significance automatically, which simplifies the conversion champion’s decision-making (and saves hours of manual calculation!)

When planning tests, it’s helpful to estimate the test duration, but it isn’t an exact science. As a rule-of-thumb, you should plan for smaller isolation tests to run longer, as the impact on conversion rate may be less. The test may require more conversions to potentially achieve confidence.

Larger, more drastic cluster changes would typically run for a shorter period of time, as they have more potential to have a greater impact. However, we have seen that isolations CAN have the potential to have big impact. If the evidence is strong enough, test duration shouldn’t hinder you from trying smaller, more isolated changes as they can lead to some of the biggest insights.

Often, people that are new to testing become frustrated with tests that never seem to finish. If you’ve run a test with more than 30,000 to 50,000 visitors and one variation is still not statistically significant over another, then your test may not ever yield a clear winner and you should revise your test plan or reduce the number of variations being tested.

Further Reading: Do you have to wait for each test to reach statistical significance? Learn more in this blog post: “The more tests, the better!” and other A/B testing myths, debunked

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Q: We are new to optimization (had a few quick wins with A/B testing and working toward a geo targeting project). Looking at your Infinity Optimization Process, I feel like we are doing a decent job with exploration and validation – for this being a new program to us. Our struggle seems to be your orange dot… putting the two sides together – any advice?

Chris Goward: If you’re getting insights from your Exploratory research, those insights should tie into the Validate tests that you’re running. You should be validating the insights that you’re getting from your Explore phase. If you started with valid insights, the results that you get really should be generating growth, and they should be generating insights.

Part of it is your Design of Experiments (DOE). DOE is how you structure your hypotheses and how you structure your variations to generate both growth and insights, and those are the two goals of your tests.

If you’re not generating growth, or you’re not generating insights, then your DOE may be weak, and you need to go back to your strategy and ask, why am I testing this variation? Is it just a random idea? Or, am I really isolating it against another variation that’s going to teach me something as well as generate lift? If you’re not getting the orange dot right, then you probably need to look at researching more about Design of Experiments.

Q: When test results are insignificant after lots impressions, how do you know when to ‘call it a tie’ and stop that test and move on?

Chris Goward: That’s a question that requires a large portion of “it depends.” It depends on whether:

  • You have other tests ready to run with the same traffic sources
  • The test results are showing high volatility or have stabilized
  • The test insights will be important for the organization

There’s an opportunity cost to every test. You could always be testing something else and need to constantly be asking whether this is the best test to be running now vs. the cost and potential benefit of the next test in your conversion strategy.

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Q: There are tools meant to increase testing velocity with pre-built widgets and pre-built test variations, even – what are your thoughts on this approach?

A PANEL RESPONSE

John Ekman: Pre-built templates provide a way to get quick wins and uplift. But you won’t understand why it created an uplift. You won’t understand what’s going on in the brain of your users. For someone who believes that experimentation is a way to look in the minds of whoever is in front of the screen, I think these methods are quite dangerous.

Chris Goward: I’ll take a slightly different stance. As much as I talk about understanding the mind of the customer, asking why, and testing based on hypotheses, there is a tradeoff. A tradeoff between understanding the why and just getting growth. If you want to understand the why infinitely, you’ll do multivariate testing and isolate every potential variable. But in practice, that can’t happen. Very few have enough traffic to multivariate test everything.

But if you don’t have tons of traffic and you want to get faster results, maybe you don’t want to know the why about anything, and you just want to get lift.

There might be a time to do both. Maybe your website performance is really bad, or you just want to try a left-field variation, just to see if it works…if you get a 20% lift in your revenue, that’s not a failure. That’s not a bad thing to do. But then, you can go back and isolate all of the things to ask yourself: Well, I wonder why that won, and start from there.

The approach we usually take at WiderFunnel is to reserve 10% of the variations for ‘left-field’ variations. As in, we don’t know why this will work, but we’re just going to test something crazy and see if it sticks.

David Darmanin: I agree, and disagree. We’re living in an era when technology has become so cheap, that I think it’s dangerous for any company to try to automate certain things, because they’re going to just become one of many.

Creating a unique customer experience is going to become more and more important.

If you are using tools like a platform, where you are picking and choosing what to use so that it serves your strategy and the way you want to try to build a business, that makes sense to me. But I think it’s very dangerous to leave that to be completely automated.

Some software companies out there are trying to build a completely automated conversion rate optimization platform that does everything. But that’s insane. If many sites are all aligned in the same way, if it’s pure AI, they’re all going to end up looking the same. And who’s going to win? The other company that pops up out of nowhere, and does everything differently. That isn’t fully ‘optimized’ and is more human.

Optimization, in itself, if it’s too optimized, there is a danger. If we eliminate the human aspect, we’re kind of screwed.

Video Resource: This panel response comes from the Growth & Conversion Virtual Summit held this Spring. You can still access all of the session recordings for free, here.

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What conversion optimization questions do you have?

Add your questions in the comments section below!

The post Your frequently asked conversion optimization questions, answered! appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.

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Your frequently asked conversion optimization questions, answered!

Your mobile website optimization guide (or, how to stop pissing off your mobile users)

Reading Time: 15 minutes

One lazy Sunday evening, I decided to order Thai delivery for dinner. It was a Green-Curry-and-Crispy-Wonton kind of night.

A quick google search from my iPhone turned up an ad for a food delivery app. In that moment, I wanted to order food fast, without having to dial a phone number or speak to a human. So, I clicked.

From the ad, I was taken to the company’s mobile website. There was a call-to-action to “Get the App” below the fold, but I didn’t want to download a whole app for this one meal. I would just order from the mobile site.

Dun, dun, duuuun.

Over the next minute, I had one of the most frustrating ordering experiences of my life. Labeless hamburger menus, the inability to edit my order, and an overall lack of guidance through the ordering process led me to believe I would never be able to adjust my order from ‘Chicken Green Curry’ to ‘Prawn Green Curry’.

After 60 seconds of struggling, I gave up, utterly defeated.

I know this wasn’t a life-altering tragedy, but it sure was an awful mobile experience. And I bet you have had a similar experience in the last 24 hours.

Let’s think about this for a minute:

  1. This company paid good money for my click
  2. I was ready to order online: I was their customer to lose
  3. I struggled for about 30 seconds longer than most mobile users would have
  4. I gave up and got a mediocre burrito from the Mexican place across the street.

Not only was I frustrated, but I didn’t get my tasty Thai. The experience left a truly bitter taste in my mouth.

10 test ideas for optimizing your mobile website!

Get this checklist of 10 experiment ideas you should test on your mobile website.




Why is mobile website optimization important?

In 2017, every marketer ‘knows’ the importance of the mobile shopping experience. Americans spend more time on mobile devices than any other. But we are still failing to meet our users where they are on mobile.

Americans spend 54% of online time on mobile devices. Source: KPCB.

For most of us, it is becoming more and more important to provide a seamless mobile experience. But here’s where it gets a little tricky…

Conversion optimization”, and the term “optimization” in general, often imply improving conversion rates. But a seamless mobile experience does not necessarily mean a high-converting mobile experience. It means one that meets your user’s needs and propels them along the buyer journey.

I am sure there are improvements you can test on your mobile experience that will lift your mobile conversion rates, but you shouldn’t hyper-focus on a single metric. Instead, keep in mind that mobile may just be a step within your user’s journey to purchase.

So, let’s get started! First, I’ll delve into your user’s mobile mindset, and look at how to optimize your mobile experience. For real.

You ready?

What’s different about mobile?

First things first: let’s acknowledge that your user is the same human being whether they are shopping on a mobile device, a desktop computer, a laptop, or in-store. Agreed?

So, what’s different about mobile? Well, back in 2013, Chris Goward said, “Mobile is a state of being, a context, a verb, not a device. When your users are on mobile, they are in a different context, a different environment, with different needs.”

Your user is the same person when she is shopping on her iPhone, but she is in a different context. She may be in a store comparing product reviews on her phone, or she may be on the go looking for a good cup of coffee, or she may be trying to order Thai delivery from her couch.

Your user is the same person on mobile, but in a different context, with different needs.

This is why many mobile optimization experts recommend having a mobile website versus using responsive design.

Responsive design is not an optimization strategy. We should stop treating mobile visitors as ‘mini-desktop visitors’. People don’t use mobile devices instead of desktop devices, they use it in addition to desktop in a whole different way.

– Talia Wolf, Founder & Chief Optimizer at GetUplift

Step one, then, is to understand who your target customer is, and what motivates them to act in any context. This should inform all of your marketing and the creation of your value proposition.

(If you don’t have a clear picture of your target customer, you should re-focus and tackle that question first.)

Step two is to understand how your user’s mobile context affects their existing motivation, and how to facilitate their needs on mobile to the best of your ability.

Understanding the mobile context

To understand the mobile context, let’s start with some stats and work backwards.

  • Americans spend more than half (54%) of their online time on mobile devices (Source: KPCB, 2016)
  • Mobile accounts for 60% of time spent shopping online, but only 16% of all retail dollars spent (Source: ComScore, 2015)

Insight: Americans are spending more than half of their online time on their mobile devices, but there is a huge gap between time spent ‘shopping’ online, and actually buying.

  • 29% of smartphone users will immediately switch to another site or app if the original site doesn’t satisfy their needs (Source: Google, 2015)
  • Of those, 70% switch because of lagging load times and 67% switch because it takes too many steps to purchase or get desired information (Source: Google, 2015)

Insight: Mobile users are hypersensitive to slow load times, and too many obstacles.

So, why the heck are our expectations for immediate gratification so high on mobile? I have a few theories.

We’re reward-hungry

Mobile devices provide constant access to the internet, which means a constant expectation for reward.

“The fact that we don’t know what we’ll find when we check our email, or visit our favorite social site, creates excitement and anticipation. This leads to a small burst of pleasure chemicals in our brains, which drives us to use our phones more and more.” – TIME, “You asked: Am I addicted to my phone?

If non-stop access has us primed to expect non-stop reward, is it possible that having a negative mobile experience is even more detrimental to our motivation than a negative experience in another context?

When you tap into your Facebook app and see three new notifications, you get a burst of pleasure. And you do this over, and over, and over again.

So, when you tap into your Chrome browser and land on a mobile website that is difficult to navigate, it makes sense that you would be extra annoyed. (No burst of fun reward chemicals!)

A mobile device is a personal device

Another facet to mobile that we rarely discuss is the fact that mobile devices are personal devices. Because our smartphones and wearables are with us almost constantly, they often feel very intimate.

In fact, our smartphones are almost like another limb. According to research from dscout, the average cellphone user touches his or her phone 2,167 times per day. Our thumbprints are built into them, for goodness’ sake.

Just think about your instinctive reaction when someone grabs your phone and starts scrolling through your pictures…

It is possible, then, that our expectations are higher on mobile because the device itself feels like an extension of us. Any experience you have on mobile should speak to your personal situation. And if the experience is cumbersome or difficult, it may feel particularly dissonant because it’s happening on your mobile device.

User expectations on mobile are extremely high. And while you can argue that mobile apps are doing a great job of meeting those expectations, the mobile web is failing.

If yours is one of the millions of organizations without a mobile app, your mobile website has got to work harder. Because a negative experience with your brand on mobile may have a stronger effect than you can anticipate.

Even if you have a mobile app, you should recognize that not everyone is going to use it. You can’t completely disregard your mobile website. (As illustrated by my extremely negative experience trying to order food.)

You need to think about how to meet your users where they are in the buyer journey on your mobile website:

  1. What are your users actually doing on mobile?
  2. Are they just seeking information before purchasing from a computer?
  3. Are they seeking information on your mobile site while in your actual store?

The great thing about optimization is that you can test to pick off low-hanging fruit, while you are investigating more impactful questions like those above. For instance, while you are gathering data about how your users are using your mobile site, you can test usability improvements.

Usability on mobile websites

If you are looking take get a few quick wins to prove the importance of a mobile optimization program, usability is a good place to begin.

The mobile web presents unique usability challenges for marketers. And given your users’ ridiculously high expectations, your mobile experience must address these challenges.

mobile website optimization - usability
This image represents just a few mobile usability best practices.

Below are four of the core mobile limitations, along with recommendations from the WiderFunnel Strategy team around how to address (and test) them.

Note: For this section, I relied heavily on research from the Nielsen Norman Group. For more details, click here.

1. The small screen struggle

No surprise, here. Compared to desktop and laptop screens, even the biggest smartphone screen is smaller―which means they display less content.

“The content displayed above the fold on a 30-inch monitor requires 5 screenfuls on a small 4-inch screen. Thus mobile users must (1) incur a higher interaction cost in order to access the same amount of information; (2) rely on their short-term memory to refer to information that is not visible on the screen.” – Nielsen Norman Group, “Mobile User Experience: Limitations and Strengths

Strategist recommendations:

Consider persistent navigation and calls-to-action. Because of the smaller screen size, your users often need to do a lot of scrolling. If your navigation and main call-to-action aren’t persistent, you are asking your users to scroll down for information, and scroll back up for relevant links.

Note: Anything persistent takes up screen space as well. Make sure to test this idea before implementing it to make sure you aren’t stealing too much focus from other important elements on your page.

2. The touchy touchscreen

Two main issues with the touchscreen (an almost universal trait of today’s mobile devices) are typing and target size.

Typing on a soft keyboard, like the one on your user’s iPhone, requires them to constantly divide their attention between what they are typing, and the keypad area. Not to mention the small keypad and crowded keys…

Target size refers to a clickable target, which needs to be a lot larger on a touchscreen than it is does when your user has a mouse.

So, you need to make space for larger targets (bigger call-to-action buttons) on a smaller screen.

Strategist recommendations:

Test increasing the size of your clickable elements. Google provides recommendations for target sizing:

You should ensure that the most important tap targets on your site—the ones users will be using the most often—are large enough to be easy to press, at least 48 CSS pixels tall/wide (assuming you have configured your viewport properly).

Less frequently-used links can be smaller, but should still have spacing between them and other links, so that a 10mm finger pad would not accidentally press both links at once.

You may also want to test improving the clarity around what is clickable and what isn’t. This can be achieved through styling, and is important for reducing ‘exploratory clicking’.

When a user has to click an element to 1) determine whether or not it is clickable, and 2) determine where it will lead, this eats away at their finite motivation.

Another simple tweak: Test your call-to-action placement. Does it match with the motion range of a user’s thumb?

3. Mobile shopping experience, interrupted

As the term mobile implies, mobile devices are portable. And because we can use ‘em in many settings, we are more likely to be interrupted.

“As a result, attention on mobile is often fragmented and sessions on mobile devices are short. In fact, the average session duration is 72 seconds […] versus the average desktop session of 150 seconds.”Nielsen Norman Group

Strategist recommendations:

You should design your mobile experience for interruptions, prioritize essential information, and simplify tasks and interactions. This goes back to meeting your users where they are within the buyer journey.

According to research by SessionM (published in 2015), 90% of smartphone users surveyed used their phones while shopping in a physical store to 1) compare product prices, 2) look up product information, and 3) check product reviews online.

You should test adjusting your page length and messaging hierarchy to facilitate your user’s main goals. This may be browsing and information-seeking versus purchasing.

4. One window at a time

As I’m writing this post, I have 11 tabs open in Google Chrome, split between two screens. If I click on a link that takes me to a new website or page, it’s no big deal.

But on mobile, your user is most likely viewing one window at a time. They can’t split their screen to look at two windows simultaneously, so you shouldn’t ask them to. Mobile tasks should be easy to complete in one app or on one website.

The more your user has to jump from page to page, the more they have to rely on their memory. This increases cognitive load, and decreases the likelihood that they will complete an action.

Strategist recommendations:

Your navigation should be easy to find and it should contain links to your most relevant and important content. This way, if your user has to travel to a new page to access specific content, they can find their way back to other important pages quickly and easily.

In e-commerce, we often see people “pogo-sticking”—jumping from one page to another continuously—because they feel that they need to navigate to another page to confirm that the information they have provided is correct.

A great solution is to ensure that your users can view key information that they may want to confirm (prices / products / address) on any page. This way, they won’t have to jump around your website and remember these key pieces of information.

Implementing mobile website optimization

As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, the phrase “you should test” is peppered throughout this post. Because understanding the mobile context, and reviewing usability challenges and recommendations are first steps.

If you can, you should test any recommendation made in this post. Which brings us to mobile website optimization. At WiderFunnel, we approach mobile optimization just like we would desktop optimization: with process.

You should evaluate and prioritize mobile web optimization in the context of all of your marketing. If you can achieve greater Return on Investment by optimizing your desktop experience (or another element of your marketing), you should start there.

But assuming your mobile website ranks high within your priorities, you should start examining it from your user’s perspective. The WiderFunnel team uses the LIFT Model framework to identify problem areas.

The LIFT Model allows us to identify barriers to conversion, using the six factors of Value Proposition, Clarity, Relevance, Anxiety, Distraction, and Urgency. For more on the LIFT Model, check out this blog post.

A LIFT illustration

I asked the WiderFunnel Strategy team to do a LIFT analysis of the food delivery website that gave me so much grief that Sunday night. Here are some of the potential barriers they identified on the checkout page alone:

Mobile website LIFT analysis
This wireframe is based on the food delivery app’s checkout page. Each of the numbered LIFT points corresponds with the list below.
  1. Relevance: There is valuable page real estate dedicated to changing the language, when a smartphone will likely detect your language on its own.
  2. Anxiety: There are only 3 options available in the navigation: Log In, Sign Up, and Help. None of these are helpful when a user is trying to navigate between key pages.
  3. Clarity: Placing the call-to-action at the top of the page creates disjointed eyeflow. The user must scan the page from top to bottom to ensure their order is correct.
  4. Clarity: The “Order Now” call-to-action and “Allergy & dietary information links” are very close together. Users may accidentally tap one, when they want to tap the other.
  5. Anxiety: There is no confirmation of the delivery address.
  6. Anxiety: There is no way to edit an order within the checkout. A user has to delete items, return to the menu and add new items.
  7. Clarity: Font size is very small making the content difficult to read.
  8. Clarity: The “Cash” and “Card” icons have no context. Is a user supposed to select one, or are these just the payment options available?
  9. Distraction: The dropdown menus in the footer include many links that might distract a user from completing their order.

Needless to say, my frustrations were confirmed. The WiderFunnel team ran into the same obstacles I had run into, and identified dozens of barriers that I hadn’t.

But what does this mean for you?

When you are first analyzing your mobile experience, you should try to step into your user’s shoes and actually use your experience. Give your team a task and a goal, and walk through the experience using a framework like LIFT. This will allow you to identify usability issues within your user’s mobile context.

Every LIFT point is a potential test idea that you can feed into your optimization program.

Case study examples

This wouldn’t be a WiderFunnel blog post without some case study examples.

This is where we put ‘best mobile practices’ to the test. Because the smallest usability tweak may make perfect sense to you, and be off-putting to your users.

In the following three examples, we put our recommendations to the test.

Mobile navigation optimization

In mobile design in particular, we tend to assume our users understand ‘universal’ symbols.

Aritzia Hamburger Menu
The ‘Hamburger Menu’ is a fixture on mobile websites. But does that mean it’s a universally understood symbol?

But, that isn’t always the case. And it is certainly worth testing to understand how you can make the navigation experience (often a huge pain point on mobile) easier.

You can’t just expect your users to know things. You have to make it as clear as possible. The more you ask your user to guess, the more frustrated they will become.

– Dennis Pavlina, Optimization Strategist, WiderFunnel

This example comes from an e-commerce client that sells artwork. In this experiment, we tested two variations against the original.

In the first, we increased font and icon size within the navigation and menu drop-down. This was a usability update meant to address the small, difficult to navigate menu. Remember the conversation about target size? We wanted to tackle the low-hanging fruit first.

With variation B, we dug a little deeper into the behavior of this client’s specific users.

Qualitative Hotjar recordings had shown that users were trying to navigate the mobile website using the homepage as a homebase. But this site actually has a powerful search functionality, and it is much easier to navigate using search. Of course, the search option was buried in the hamburger menu…

So, in the second variation (built on variation A), we removed Search from the menu and added it right into the main Nav.

Mobile website optimization - navigation
Wireframes of the control navigation versus our variations.

Results

Both variations beat the control. Variation A led to a 2.7% increase in transactions, and a 2.4% increase in revenue. Variation B decreased clicks to the menu icon by -24%, increased transactions by 8.1%, and lifted revenue by 9.5%.

Never underestimate the power of helping your users find their way on mobile. But be wary! Search worked for this client’s users, but it is not always the answer, particularly if what you are selling is complex, and your users need more guidance through the funnel.

Mobile product page optimization

Let’s look at another e-commerce example. This client is a large sporting goods store, and this experiment focused on their product detail pages.

On the original page, our Strategists noted a worst mobile practice: The buttons were small and arranged closely together, making them difficult to click.

There were also several optimization blunders:

  1. Two calls-to-action were given equal prominence: “Find in store” and “+ Add to cart”
  2. “Add to wishlist” was also competing with “Add to cart”
  3. Social icons were placed near the call-to-action, which could be distracting

We had evidence from an experiment on desktop that removing these distractions, and focusing on a single call-to-action, would increase transactions. (In that experiment, we saw transactions increase by 6.56%).

So, we tested addressing these issues in two variations.

In the first, we de-prioritized competing calls-to-action, and increased the ‘Size’ and ‘Qty’ fields. In the second, we wanted to address usability issues, making the color options, size options, and quantity field bigger and easier to click.

mobile website optimization - product page variations
The control page versus our variations.

Results

Both of our variations lost to the Control. I know what you’re thinking…what?!

Let’s dig deeper.

Looking at the numbers, users responded in the way we expected, with significant increases to the actions we wanted, and a significant reduction in the ones we did not.

Visits to “Reviews”, “Size”, “Quantity”, “Add to Cart” and the Cart page all increased. Visits to “Find in Store” decreased.

And yet, although the variations were more successful at moving users through to the next step, there was not a matching increase in motivation to actually complete a transaction.

It is hard to say for sure why this result happened without follow-up testing. However, it is possible that this client’s users have different intentions on mobile: Browsing and seeking product information vs. actually buying. Removing the “Find in Store” CTA may have caused anxiety.

This example brings us back to the mobile context. If an experiment wins within a desktop experience, this certainly doesn’t guarantee it will win on mobile.

I was shopping for shoes the other day, and was actually browsing the store’s mobile site while I was standing in the store. I was looking for product reviews. In that scenario, I was information-seeking on my phone, with every intention to buy…just not from my phone.

Are you paying attention to how your unique users use your mobile experience? It may be worthwhile to take the emphasis off of ‘increasing conversions on mobile’ in favor of researching user behavior on mobile, and providing your users with the mobile experience that best suits their needs.

Note: When you get a test result that contradicts usability best practices, it is important that you look carefully at your experiment design and secondary metrics. In this case, we have a potential theory, but would not recommend any large-scale changes without re-validating the result.

Mobile checkout optimization

This experiment was focused on one WiderFunnel client’s mobile checkout page. It was an insight-driving experiment, meaning the focus was on gathering insights about user behavior rather than on increasing conversion rates or revenue.

Evidence from this client’s business context suggested that users on mobile may prefer alternative payment methods, like Apple Pay and Google Wallet, to the standard credit card and PayPal options.

To make things even more interesting, this client wanted to determine the desire for alternative payment methods before implementing them.

The hypothesis: By adding alternative payment methods to the checkout page in an unobtrusive way, we can determine by the percent of clicks which new payment methods are most sought after by users.

We tested two variations against the Control.

In variation A, we pulled the credit card fields and call-to-action higher on the page, and added four alternative payment methods just below the CTA: PayPal, Apple Pay, Amazon Payments, and Google Wallet.

If a user clicked on one of the four alternative payment methods, they would see a message:

“Google Wallet coming soon!
We apologize for any inconvenience. Please choose an available deposit method.
Credit Card | PayPal”

In variation B, we flipped the order. We featured the alternative payment methods above the credit card fields. The focus was on increasing engagement with the payment options to gain better insights about user preference.

mobile website optimization - checkout page
The control against variations testing alternative payment methods.

Note: For this experiment, iOS devices did not display the Google Wallet option, and Android devices did not display Apple Pay.

Results

On iOS devices, Apple Pay received 18% of clicks, and Amazon Pay received 12%. On Android devices, Google Wallet received 17% of clicks, and Amazon Pay also received 17%.

The client can use these insights to build the best experience for mobile users, offering Apple Pay and Google Wallet as alternative payment methods rather than PayPal or Amazon Pay.

Unexpectedly, both variations also increased transactions! Variation A led to an 11.3% increase in transactions, and variation B led to an 8.5% increase.

Because your user’s motivation is already limited on mobile, you should try to create an experience with the fewest possible steps.

You can ask someone to grab their wallet, decipher their credit card number, expiration date, and ccv code, and type it all into a small form field. Or, you can test leveraging the digital payment options that may already be integrated with their mobile devices.

The future of mobile website optimization

Imagine you are in your favorite outdoor goods store, and you are ready to buy a new tent.

You are standing in front of piles of tents: 2-person, 3-person, 4-person tents; 3-season and extreme-weather tents; affordable and pricey tents; light-weight and heavier tents…

You pull out your smartphone, and navigate to the store’s mobile website. You are looking for more in-depth product descriptions and user reviews to help you make your decision.

A few seconds later, a store employee asks if they can help you out. They seem to know exactly what you are searching for, and they help you choose the right tent for your needs within minutes.

Imagine that while you were browsing products on your phone, that store employee received a notification that you are 1) in the store, 2) looking at product descriptions for tent A and tent B, and 3) standing by the tents.

Mobile optimization in the modern era is not about increasing conversions on your mobile website. It is about providing a seamless user experience. In the scenario above, the in-store experience and the mobile experience are inter-connected. One informs the other. And a transaction happens because of each touch point.

Mobile experiences cannot live in a vacuum. Today’s buyer switches seamlessly between devices [and] your optimization efforts must reflect that.

Yonny Zafrani, Mobile Product Manager, Dynamic Yield

We wear the internet on our wrists. We communicate via chat bots and messaging apps. We spend our leisure time on our phones: streaming, gaming, reading, sharing.

And while I’m not encouraging you to shift your optimization efforts entirely to mobile, you must consider the role mobile plays in your customers’ lives. The online experience is mobile. And your mobile experience should be an intentional step within the buyer journey.

What does your ideal mobile shopping experience look like? Where do you think mobile websites can improve? Do you agree or disagree with the ideas in this post? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

The post Your mobile website optimization guide (or, how to stop pissing off your mobile users) appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.

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Your mobile website optimization guide (or, how to stop pissing off your mobile users)

Your mobile website optimization guide (or, how to stop frustrating your mobile users)

Reading Time: 15 minutes

One lazy Sunday evening, I decided to order Thai delivery for dinner. It was a Green-Curry-and-Crispy-Wonton kind of night.

A quick google search from my iPhone turned up an ad for a food delivery app. In that moment, I wanted to order food fast, without having to dial a phone number or speak to a human. So, I clicked.

From the ad, I was taken to the company’s mobile website. There was a call-to-action to “Get the App” below the fold, but I didn’t want to download a whole app for this one meal. I would just order from the mobile site.

Dun, dun, duuuun.

Over the next minute, I had one of the most frustrating ordering experiences of my life. Labeless hamburger menus, the inability to edit my order, and an overall lack of guidance through the ordering process led me to believe I would never be able to adjust my order from ‘Chicken Green Curry’ to ‘Prawn Green Curry’.

After 60 seconds of struggling, I gave up, utterly defeated.

I know this wasn’t a life-altering tragedy, but it sure was an awful mobile experience. And I bet you have had a similar experience in the last 24 hours.

Let’s think about this for a minute:

  1. This company paid good money for my click
  2. I was ready to order online: I was their customer to lose
  3. I struggled for about 30 seconds longer than most mobile users would have
  4. I gave up and got a mediocre burrito from the Mexican place across the street.

Not only was I frustrated, but I didn’t get my tasty Thai. The experience left a truly bitter taste in my mouth.

10 test ideas for optimizing your mobile website!

Get this checklist of 10 experiment ideas you should test on your mobile website.




Why is mobile website optimization important?

In 2017, every marketer ‘knows’ the importance of the mobile shopping experience. Americans spend more time on mobile devices than any other. But we are still failing to meet our users where they are on mobile.

Americans spend 54% of online time on mobile devices. Source: KPCB.

For most of us, it is becoming more and more important to provide a seamless mobile experience. But here’s where it gets a little tricky…

Conversion optimization”, and the term “optimization” in general, often imply improving conversion rates. But a seamless mobile experience does not necessarily mean a high-converting mobile experience. It means one that meets your user’s needs and propels them along the buyer journey.

I am sure there are improvements you can test on your mobile experience that will lift your mobile conversion rates, but you shouldn’t hyper-focus on a single metric. Instead, keep in mind that mobile may just be a step within your user’s journey to purchase.

So, let’s get started! First, I’ll delve into your user’s mobile mindset, and look at how to optimize your mobile experience. For real.

You ready?

What’s different about mobile?

First things first: let’s acknowledge that your user is the same human being whether they are shopping on a mobile device, a desktop computer, a laptop, or in-store. Agreed?

So, what’s different about mobile? Well, back in 2013, Chris Goward said, “Mobile is a state of being, a context, a verb, not a device. When your users are on mobile, they are in a different context, a different environment, with different needs.”

Your user is the same person when she is shopping on her iPhone, but she is in a different context. She may be in a store comparing product reviews on her phone, or she may be on the go looking for a good cup of coffee, or she may be trying to order Thai delivery from her couch.

Your user is the same person on mobile, but in a different context, with different needs.

This is why many mobile optimization experts recommend having a mobile website versus using responsive design.

Responsive design is not an optimization strategy. We should stop treating mobile visitors as ‘mini-desktop visitors’. People don’t use mobile devices instead of desktop devices, they use it in addition to desktop in a whole different way.

– Talia Wolf, Founder & Chief Optimizer at GetUplift

Step one, then, is to understand who your target customer is, and what motivates them to act in any context. This should inform all of your marketing and the creation of your value proposition.

(If you don’t have a clear picture of your target customer, you should re-focus and tackle that question first.)

Step two is to understand how your user’s mobile context affects their existing motivation, and how to facilitate their needs on mobile to the best of your ability.

Understanding the mobile context

To understand the mobile context, let’s start with some stats and work backwards.

  • Americans spend more than half (54%) of their online time on mobile devices (Source: KPCB, 2016)
  • Mobile accounts for 60% of time spent shopping online, but only 16% of all retail dollars spent (Source: ComScore, 2015)

Insight: Americans are spending more than half of their online time on their mobile devices, but there is a huge gap between time spent ‘shopping’ online, and actually buying.

  • 29% of smartphone users will immediately switch to another site or app if the original site doesn’t satisfy their needs (Source: Google, 2015)
  • Of those, 70% switch because of lagging load times and 67% switch because it takes too many steps to purchase or get desired information (Source: Google, 2015)

Insight: Mobile users are hypersensitive to slow load times, and too many obstacles.

So, why the heck are our expectations for immediate gratification so high on mobile? I have a few theories.

We’re reward-hungry

Mobile devices provide constant access to the internet, which means a constant expectation for reward.

“The fact that we don’t know what we’ll find when we check our email, or visit our favorite social site, creates excitement and anticipation. This leads to a small burst of pleasure chemicals in our brains, which drives us to use our phones more and more.” – TIME, “You asked: Am I addicted to my phone?

If non-stop access has us primed to expect non-stop reward, is it possible that having a negative mobile experience is even more detrimental to our motivation than a negative experience in another context?

When you tap into your Facebook app and see three new notifications, you get a burst of pleasure. And you do this over, and over, and over again.

So, when you tap into your Chrome browser and land on a mobile website that is difficult to navigate, it makes sense that you would be extra annoyed. (No burst of fun reward chemicals!)

A mobile device is a personal device

Another facet to mobile that we rarely discuss is the fact that mobile devices are personal devices. Because our smartphones and wearables are with us almost constantly, they often feel very intimate.

In fact, our smartphones are almost like another limb. According to research from dscout, the average cellphone user touches his or her phone 2,167 times per day. Our thumbprints are built into them, for goodness’ sake.

Just think about your instinctive reaction when someone grabs your phone and starts scrolling through your pictures…

It is possible, then, that our expectations are higher on mobile because the device itself feels like an extension of us. Any experience you have on mobile should speak to your personal situation. And if the experience is cumbersome or difficult, it may feel particularly dissonant because it’s happening on your mobile device.

User expectations on mobile are extremely high. And while you can argue that mobile apps are doing a great job of meeting those expectations, the mobile web is failing.

If yours is one of the millions of organizations without a mobile app, your mobile website has got to work harder. Because a negative experience with your brand on mobile may have a stronger effect than you can anticipate.

Even if you have a mobile app, you should recognize that not everyone is going to use it. You can’t completely disregard your mobile website. (As illustrated by my extremely negative experience trying to order food.)

You need to think about how to meet your users where they are in the buyer journey on your mobile website:

  1. What are your users actually doing on mobile?
  2. Are they just seeking information before purchasing from a computer?
  3. Are they seeking information on your mobile site while in your actual store?

The great thing about optimization is that you can test to pick off low-hanging fruit, while you are investigating more impactful questions like those above. For instance, while you are gathering data about how your users are using your mobile site, you can test usability improvements.

Usability on mobile websites

If you are looking take get a few quick wins to prove the importance of a mobile optimization program, usability is a good place to begin.

The mobile web presents unique usability challenges for marketers. And given your users’ ridiculously high expectations, your mobile experience must address these challenges.

mobile website optimization - usability
This image represents just a few mobile usability best practices.

Below are four of the core mobile limitations, along with recommendations from the WiderFunnel Strategy team around how to address (and test) them.

Note: For this section, I relied heavily on research from the Nielsen Norman Group. For more details, click here.

1. The small screen struggle

No surprise, here. Compared to desktop and laptop screens, even the biggest smartphone screen is smaller―which means they display less content.

“The content displayed above the fold on a 30-inch monitor requires 5 screenfuls on a small 4-inch screen. Thus mobile users must (1) incur a higher interaction cost in order to access the same amount of information; (2) rely on their short-term memory to refer to information that is not visible on the screen.” – Nielsen Norman Group, “Mobile User Experience: Limitations and Strengths

Strategist recommendations:

Consider persistent navigation and calls-to-action. Because of the smaller screen size, your users often need to do a lot of scrolling. If your navigation and main call-to-action aren’t persistent, you are asking your users to scroll down for information, and scroll back up for relevant links.

Note: Anything persistent takes up screen space as well. Make sure to test this idea before implementing it to make sure you aren’t stealing too much focus from other important elements on your page.

2. The touchy touchscreen

Two main issues with the touchscreen (an almost universal trait of today’s mobile devices) are typing and target size.

Typing on a soft keyboard, like the one on your user’s iPhone, requires them to constantly divide their attention between what they are typing, and the keypad area. Not to mention the small keypad and crowded keys…

Target size refers to a clickable target, which needs to be a lot larger on a touchscreen than it is does when your user has a mouse.

So, you need to make space for larger targets (bigger call-to-action buttons) on a smaller screen.

Strategist recommendations:

Test increasing the size of your clickable elements. Google provides recommendations for target sizing:

You should ensure that the most important tap targets on your site—the ones users will be using the most often—are large enough to be easy to press, at least 48 CSS pixels tall/wide (assuming you have configured your viewport properly).

Less frequently-used links can be smaller, but should still have spacing between them and other links, so that a 10mm finger pad would not accidentally press both links at once.

You may also want to test improving the clarity around what is clickable and what isn’t. This can be achieved through styling, and is important for reducing ‘exploratory clicking’.

When a user has to click an element to 1) determine whether or not it is clickable, and 2) determine where it will lead, this eats away at their finite motivation.

Another simple tweak: Test your call-to-action placement. Does it match with the motion range of a user’s thumb?

3. Mobile shopping experience, interrupted

As the term mobile implies, mobile devices are portable. And because we can use ‘em in many settings, we are more likely to be interrupted.

“As a result, attention on mobile is often fragmented and sessions on mobile devices are short. In fact, the average session duration is 72 seconds […] versus the average desktop session of 150 seconds.”Nielsen Norman Group

Strategist recommendations:

You should design your mobile experience for interruptions, prioritize essential information, and simplify tasks and interactions. This goes back to meeting your users where they are within the buyer journey.

According to research by SessionM (published in 2015), 90% of smartphone users surveyed used their phones while shopping in a physical store to 1) compare product prices, 2) look up product information, and 3) check product reviews online.

You should test adjusting your page length and messaging hierarchy to facilitate your user’s main goals. This may be browsing and information-seeking versus purchasing.

4. One window at a time

As I’m writing this post, I have 11 tabs open in Google Chrome, split between two screens. If I click on a link that takes me to a new website or page, it’s no big deal.

But on mobile, your user is most likely viewing one window at a time. They can’t split their screen to look at two windows simultaneously, so you shouldn’t ask them to. Mobile tasks should be easy to complete in one app or on one website.

The more your user has to jump from page to page, the more they have to rely on their memory. This increases cognitive load, and decreases the likelihood that they will complete an action.

Strategist recommendations:

Your navigation should be easy to find and it should contain links to your most relevant and important content. This way, if your user has to travel to a new page to access specific content, they can find their way back to other important pages quickly and easily.

In e-commerce, we often see people “pogo-sticking”—jumping from one page to another continuously—because they feel that they need to navigate to another page to confirm that the information they have provided is correct.

A great solution is to ensure that your users can view key information that they may want to confirm (prices / products / address) on any page. This way, they won’t have to jump around your website and remember these key pieces of information.

Implementing mobile website optimization

As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, the phrase “you should test” is peppered throughout this post. Because understanding the mobile context, and reviewing usability challenges and recommendations are first steps.

If you can, you should test any recommendation made in this post. Which brings us to mobile website optimization. At WiderFunnel, we approach mobile optimization just like we would desktop optimization: with process.

You should evaluate and prioritize mobile web optimization in the context of all of your marketing. If you can achieve greater Return on Investment by optimizing your desktop experience (or another element of your marketing), you should start there.

But assuming your mobile website ranks high within your priorities, you should start examining it from your user’s perspective. The WiderFunnel team uses the LIFT Model framework to identify problem areas.

The LIFT Model allows us to identify barriers to conversion, using the six factors of Value Proposition, Clarity, Relevance, Anxiety, Distraction, and Urgency. For more on the LIFT Model, check out this blog post.

A LIFT illustration

I asked the WiderFunnel Strategy team to do a LIFT analysis of the food delivery website that gave me so much grief that Sunday night. Here are some of the potential barriers they identified on the checkout page alone:

Mobile website LIFT analysis
This wireframe is based on the food delivery app’s checkout page. Each of the numbered LIFT points corresponds with the list below.
  1. Relevance: There is valuable page real estate dedicated to changing the language, when a smartphone will likely detect your language on its own.
  2. Anxiety: There are only 3 options available in the navigation: Log In, Sign Up, and Help. None of these are helpful when a user is trying to navigate between key pages.
  3. Clarity: Placing the call-to-action at the top of the page creates disjointed eyeflow. The user must scan the page from top to bottom to ensure their order is correct.
  4. Clarity: The “Order Now” call-to-action and “Allergy & dietary information links” are very close together. Users may accidentally tap one, when they want to tap the other.
  5. Anxiety: There is no confirmation of the delivery address.
  6. Anxiety: There is no way to edit an order within the checkout. A user has to delete items, return to the menu and add new items.
  7. Clarity: Font size is very small making the content difficult to read.
  8. Clarity: The “Cash” and “Card” icons have no context. Is a user supposed to select one, or are these just the payment options available?
  9. Distraction: The dropdown menus in the footer include many links that might distract a user from completing their order.

Needless to say, my frustrations were confirmed. The WiderFunnel team ran into the same obstacles I had run into, and identified dozens of barriers that I hadn’t.

But what does this mean for you?

When you are first analyzing your mobile experience, you should try to step into your user’s shoes and actually use your experience. Give your team a task and a goal, and walk through the experience using a framework like LIFT. This will allow you to identify usability issues within your user’s mobile context.

Every LIFT point is a potential test idea that you can feed into your optimization program.

Case study examples

This wouldn’t be a WiderFunnel blog post without some case study examples.

This is where we put ‘best mobile practices’ to the test. Because the smallest usability tweak may make perfect sense to you, and be off-putting to your users.

In the following three examples, we put our recommendations to the test.

Mobile navigation optimization

In mobile design in particular, we tend to assume our users understand ‘universal’ symbols.

Aritzia Hamburger Menu
The ‘Hamburger Menu’ is a fixture on mobile websites. But does that mean it’s a universally understood symbol?

But, that isn’t always the case. And it is certainly worth testing to understand how you can make the navigation experience (often a huge pain point on mobile) easier.

You can’t just expect your users to know things. You have to make it as clear as possible. The more you ask your user to guess, the more frustrated they will become.

– Dennis Pavlina, Optimization Strategist, WiderFunnel

This example comes from an e-commerce client that sells artwork. In this experiment, we tested two variations against the original.

In the first, we increased font and icon size within the navigation and menu drop-down. This was a usability update meant to address the small, difficult to navigate menu. Remember the conversation about target size? We wanted to tackle the low-hanging fruit first.

With variation B, we dug a little deeper into the behavior of this client’s specific users.

Qualitative Hotjar recordings had shown that users were trying to navigate the mobile website using the homepage as a homebase. But this site actually has a powerful search functionality, and it is much easier to navigate using search. Of course, the search option was buried in the hamburger menu…

So, in the second variation (built on variation A), we removed Search from the menu and added it right into the main Nav.

Mobile website optimization - navigation
Wireframes of the control navigation versus our variations.

Results

Both variations beat the control. Variation A led to a 2.7% increase in transactions, and a 2.4% increase in revenue. Variation B decreased clicks to the menu icon by -24%, increased transactions by 8.1%, and lifted revenue by 9.5%.

Never underestimate the power of helping your users find their way on mobile. But be wary! Search worked for this client’s users, but it is not always the answer, particularly if what you are selling is complex, and your users need more guidance through the funnel.

Mobile product page optimization

Let’s look at another e-commerce example. This client is a large sporting goods store, and this experiment focused on their product detail pages.

On the original page, our Strategists noted a worst mobile practice: The buttons were small and arranged closely together, making them difficult to click.

There were also several optimization blunders:

  1. Two calls-to-action were given equal prominence: “Find in store” and “+ Add to cart”
  2. “Add to wishlist” was also competing with “Add to cart”
  3. Social icons were placed near the call-to-action, which could be distracting

We had evidence from an experiment on desktop that removing these distractions, and focusing on a single call-to-action, would increase transactions. (In that experiment, we saw transactions increase by 6.56%).

So, we tested addressing these issues in two variations.

In the first, we de-prioritized competing calls-to-action, and increased the ‘Size’ and ‘Qty’ fields. In the second, we wanted to address usability issues, making the color options, size options, and quantity field bigger and easier to click.

mobile website optimization - product page variations
The control page versus our variations.

Results

Both of our variations lost to the Control. I know what you’re thinking…what?!

Let’s dig deeper.

Looking at the numbers, users responded in the way we expected, with significant increases to the actions we wanted, and a significant reduction in the ones we did not.

Visits to “Reviews”, “Size”, “Quantity”, “Add to Cart” and the Cart page all increased. Visits to “Find in Store” decreased.

And yet, although the variations were more successful at moving users through to the next step, there was not a matching increase in motivation to actually complete a transaction.

It is hard to say for sure why this result happened without follow-up testing. However, it is possible that this client’s users have different intentions on mobile: Browsing and seeking product information vs. actually buying. Removing the “Find in Store” CTA may have caused anxiety.

This example brings us back to the mobile context. If an experiment wins within a desktop experience, this certainly doesn’t guarantee it will win on mobile.

I was shopping for shoes the other day, and was actually browsing the store’s mobile site while I was standing in the store. I was looking for product reviews. In that scenario, I was information-seeking on my phone, with every intention to buy…just not from my phone.

Are you paying attention to how your unique users use your mobile experience? It may be worthwhile to take the emphasis off of ‘increasing conversions on mobile’ in favor of researching user behavior on mobile, and providing your users with the mobile experience that best suits their needs.

Note: When you get a test result that contradicts usability best practices, it is important that you look carefully at your experiment design and secondary metrics. In this case, we have a potential theory, but would not recommend any large-scale changes without re-validating the result.

Mobile checkout optimization

This experiment was focused on one WiderFunnel client’s mobile checkout page. It was an insight-driving experiment, meaning the focus was on gathering insights about user behavior rather than on increasing conversion rates or revenue.

Evidence from this client’s business context suggested that users on mobile may prefer alternative payment methods, like Apple Pay and Google Wallet, to the standard credit card and PayPal options.

To make things even more interesting, this client wanted to determine the desire for alternative payment methods before implementing them.

The hypothesis: By adding alternative payment methods to the checkout page in an unobtrusive way, we can determine by the percent of clicks which new payment methods are most sought after by users.

We tested two variations against the Control.

In variation A, we pulled the credit card fields and call-to-action higher on the page, and added four alternative payment methods just below the CTA: PayPal, Apple Pay, Amazon Payments, and Google Wallet.

If a user clicked on one of the four alternative payment methods, they would see a message:

“Google Wallet coming soon!
We apologize for any inconvenience. Please choose an available deposit method.
Credit Card | PayPal”

In variation B, we flipped the order. We featured the alternative payment methods above the credit card fields. The focus was on increasing engagement with the payment options to gain better insights about user preference.

mobile website optimization - checkout page
The control against variations testing alternative payment methods.

Note: For this experiment, iOS devices did not display the Google Wallet option, and Android devices did not display Apple Pay.

Results

On iOS devices, Apple Pay received 18% of clicks, and Amazon Pay received 12%. On Android devices, Google Wallet received 17% of clicks, and Amazon Pay also received 17%.

The client can use these insights to build the best experience for mobile users, offering Apple Pay and Google Wallet as alternative payment methods rather than PayPal or Amazon Pay.

Unexpectedly, both variations also increased transactions! Variation A led to an 11.3% increase in transactions, and variation B led to an 8.5% increase.

Because your user’s motivation is already limited on mobile, you should try to create an experience with the fewest possible steps.

You can ask someone to grab their wallet, decipher their credit card number, expiration date, and ccv code, and type it all into a small form field. Or, you can test leveraging the digital payment options that may already be integrated with their mobile devices.

The future of mobile website optimization

Imagine you are in your favorite outdoor goods store, and you are ready to buy a new tent.

You are standing in front of piles of tents: 2-person, 3-person, 4-person tents; 3-season and extreme-weather tents; affordable and pricey tents; light-weight and heavier tents…

You pull out your smartphone, and navigate to the store’s mobile website. You are looking for more in-depth product descriptions and user reviews to help you make your decision.

A few seconds later, a store employee asks if they can help you out. They seem to know exactly what you are searching for, and they help you choose the right tent for your needs within minutes.

Imagine that while you were browsing products on your phone, that store employee received a notification that you are 1) in the store, 2) looking at product descriptions for tent A and tent B, and 3) standing by the tents.

Mobile optimization in the modern era is not about increasing conversions on your mobile website. It is about providing a seamless user experience. In the scenario above, the in-store experience and the mobile experience are inter-connected. One informs the other. And a transaction happens because of each touch point.

Mobile experiences cannot live in a vacuum. Today’s buyer switches seamlessly between devices [and] your optimization efforts must reflect that.

Yonny Zafrani, Mobile Product Manager, Dynamic Yield

We wear the internet on our wrists. We communicate via chat bots and messaging apps. We spend our leisure time on our phones: streaming, gaming, reading, sharing.

And while I’m not encouraging you to shift your optimization efforts entirely to mobile, you must consider the role mobile plays in your customers’ lives. The online experience is mobile. And your mobile experience should be an intentional step within the buyer journey.

What does your ideal mobile shopping experience look like? Where do you think mobile websites can improve? Do you agree or disagree with the ideas in this post? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

The post Your mobile website optimization guide (or, how to stop frustrating your mobile users) appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.

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Your mobile website optimization guide (or, how to stop frustrating your mobile users)

[Case Study] Ecwid sees 21% lift in paid plan upgrades in one month

Reading Time: 2 minutes

What would you do with 21% more sales this month?

I bet you’d walk into your next meeting with your boss with an extra spring in your step, right?

Well, when you implement a strategic marketing optimization program, results like this are not only possible, they are probable.

In this new case study, you’ll discover how e-commerce software supplier, Ecwid, ran one experiment for four weeks, and saw a 21% increase in paid upgrades.

Get the full Ecwid case study now!

Download a PDF version of the Ecwid case study, featuring experiment details, supplementary takeaways and insights, and a testimonial from Ecwid’s Sr. Director, Digital Marketing.



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

A little bit about Ecwid

Ecwid provides easy-to-use online store setup, management, and payment solutions. The company was founded in 2009, with the goal of enabling business-owners to add online stores to their existing websites, quickly and without hassle.

The company has a freemium business model: Users can sign up for free, and unlock more features as they upgrade to paid packages.

Ecwid’s partnership with WiderFunnel

In November 2016, Ecwid partnered with WiderFunnel with two primary goals:

  1. To increase initial signups for their free plan through marketing optimization, and
  2. To increase the rate of paid upgrades, through platform optimization

This case study focuses on a particular experiment cycle that ran on Ecwid’s step-by-step onboarding wizard.

The methodology

Last Winter, the WiderFunnel Strategy team did an initial LIFT Analysis of the onboarding wizard, and identified several potential barriers to conversion. (Both in terms of completing steps to setup a new store, and in terms of upgrading to a paid plan.)

The lead WiderFunnel Strategist for Ecwid, Dennis Pavlina, decided to create an A/B cluster test to 1) address the major barriers simultaneously, and 2) to get major lift for Ecwid, quickly.

The overarching goal was to make the onboarding process smoother. The WiderFunnel and Ecwid optimization teams hoped that enhancing the initial user experience, and exposing users to the wide range of Ecwid’s features, would result in more users upgrading to paid plans.

Dennis Pavlina

Ecwid’s two objectives ended up coming together in this test. We thought that if more new users interacted with the wizard and were shown the whole ‘Ecwid world’ with all the integrations and potential it has, they would be more open to upgrading. People needed to be able to see its potential before they would want to pay for it.

Dennis Pavlina, Optimization Strategist, WiderFunnel

The Results

This experiment ran for four weeks, at which point the variation was determined to be the winner with 98% confidence. The variation resulted in a 21.3% increase in successful paid account upgrades for Ecwid.

Read the full case study for:

  • The details on the initial barriers to conversion
  • How this test was structured
  • Which secondary metrics we tracked, and
  • The supplementary takeaways and customer insights that came from this test

The post [Case Study] Ecwid sees 21% lift in paid plan upgrades in one month appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.

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[Case Study] Ecwid sees 21% lift in paid plan upgrades in one month

How pilot testing can dramatically improve your user research

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Today, we are talking about user research, a critical component of any design toolkit. Quality user research allows you to generate deep, meaningful user insights. It’s a key component of WiderFunnel’s Explore phase, where it provides a powerful source of ideas that can be used to generate great experiment hypothesis.

Unfortunately, user research isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

Do any of the following sound familiar:

  • During your research sessions, your participants don’t understand what they have been asked to do?
  • The phrasing of your questions has given away the answer or has caused bias in your results?
  • During your tests, it’s impossible for your participants to complete the assigned tasks in the time provided?
  • After conducting participants sessions, you spend more time analyzing the research design rather than the actual results.

If you’ve experienced any of these, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

Even the most seasoned researchers experience “oh-shoot” moments, where they realize there are flaws in their research approach.

Fortunately, there is a way to significantly reduce these moments. It’s called pilot testing.

Pilot testing is a rehearsal of your research study. It allows you to test your research approach with a small number of test participants before the main study. Although this may seem like an additional step, it may, in fact, be the time best spent on any research project.
Just like proper experiment design is a necessity, investing time to critique, test, and iteratively improve your research design, before the research execution phase, can ensure that your user research runs smoothly, and dramatically improves the outputs from your study.

And the best part? Pilot testing can be applied to all types of research approaches, from basic surveys to more complex diary studies.

Start with the process

At WiderFunnel, our research approach is unique for every project, but always follows a defined process:

  1. Developing a defined research approach (Methodology, Tools, Participant Target Profile)
  2. Pilot testing of research design
  3. Recruiting qualified research participants
  4. Execution of research
  5. Analyzing the outputs
  6. Reporting on research findings
website user research in conversion optimization
User Research Process at WiderFunnel

Each part of this process can be discussed at length, but, as I said, this post will focus on pilot testing.

Your research should always start with asking the high-level question: “What are we aiming to learn through this research?”. You can use this question to guide the development of research methodology, select research tools, and determine the participant target profile. Pilot testing allows you to quickly test and improve this approach.

WiderFunnel’s pilot testing process consists of two phases: 1) an internal research design review and 2) participant pilot testing.

During the design review, members from our research and strategy teams sit down as a group and spend time critically thinking about the research approach. This involves reviewing:

  • Our high-level goals for what we are aiming to learn
  • The tools we are going to use
  • The tasks participants will be asked to perform
  • Participant questions
  • The research participant sample size, and
  • The participant target profile

Our team often spends a lot of time discussing the questions we plan to ask participants. It can be tempting to ask participants numerous questions over a broad range of topics. This inclination is often due to a fear of missing the discovery of an insight. Or, in some cases, is the result of working with a large group of stakeholders across different departments, each trying to push their own unique agenda.

However, applying a broad, unfocused approach to participant questions can be dangerous. It can cause a research team to lose sight of its original goals and produce research data that is difficult to interpret; thus limiting the number of actionable insights generated.

To overcome this, WiderFunnel uses the following approach when creating research questions:

Phase 1: To start, the research team creates a list of potential questions. These questions are then reviewed during the design review. The goal is to create a concise set of questions that are clearly written, do not bias the participant, and compliment each other. Often this involves removing a large number of the questions from our initial list and reworking those that remain.

Phase 2: The second phase of WiderFunnel’s research pilot testing consists of participant pilot testing.

This follows a rapid and iterative approach, where we pilot our defined research approach on an initial 1 to 2 participants. Based on how these participants respond, the research approach is evaluated, improved, and then tested on 1 to 2 new participants.

Researchers repeat this process until all of the research design “bugs” have been ironed out, much like QA-ing a new experiment. There are different criteria you can use to test the research experience, but we focus on testing three main areas: clarity of instructions, participant tasks and questions, and the research timing.

  • Clarity of instructions: This involves making sure that the instructions are not misleading or confusing to the participants
  • Testing of the tasks and questions: This involves testing the actual research workflow
  • Research timing: We evaluate the timing of each task and the overall experiment

Let’s look at an example.

Recently, a client approached us to do research on a new area of their website that they were developing for a new service offering. Specifically, the client wanted to conduct an eye tracking study on a new landing page and supporting content page.

With the client, we co-created a design brief that outlined the key learning goals, target participants, the client’s project budget, and a research timeline. The main learning goals for the study included developing an understanding of customer engagement (eye tracking) on both the landing and content page and exploring customer understanding of the new service.

Using the defined learning goals and research budget, we developed a research approach for the project. Due to the client’s budget and request for eye tracking we decided to use Sticky, a remote eye tracking tool to conduct the research.

We chose Sticky because it allows you to conduct unmoderated remote eye tracking experiments, and follow them up with a survey if needed.

In addition, we were also able to use Sticky’s existing participant pool, Sticky Crowd, to define our target participants. In this case, the criteria for the target participants were determined based on past research that had been conducted by the client.

Leveraging the capabilities of Sticky, we were able to define our research methodology and develop an initial workflow for our research participants. We then created an initial list of potential survey questions to supplement the eye tracking test.

At this point, our research and strategy team conducted an internal research design review. We examined both the research task and flow, the associated timing, and finalized the survey questions.

In this case, we used open-ended questions in order to not bias the participants, and limited the total number of questions to five. Questions were reworked from the proposed lists to improve the wording, ensure that questions complimented each other, and were focused on achieving the learning goals: exploring customer understanding of the new service.

To help with question clarity, we used Grammarly to test the structure of each question.

Following the internal design review, we began participant pilot testing.

Unfortunately, piloting an eye tracking test on 1 to 2 users is not an affordable option when using the Sticky platform. To overcome this we got creative and used some free tools to test the research design.

We chose to use Keynote presentation (timed transitions) and its Keynote Live feature to remotely test the research workflow, and Google Forms to test the survey questions. GoToMeeting was used to observe participants via video chat during the participant pilot testing. Using these tools we were able to conduct a quick and affordable pilot test.

The initial pilot test was conducted with two individual participants, both of which fit the criteria for the target participants. The pilot test immediately pointed out flaws in the research design, which included confusion regarding the test instructions and issues with the timing for each task.

In this case, our initial instructions did not provide our participants with enough information on the context of what they were looking for, resulting in confusion of what they were actually supposed to do. Additionally, we made an initial assumption that 5 seconds would be enough time for each participant to view and comprehend each page. However, the supporting content page was very context rich and 5 seconds did not provide participants enough time to view all the content on the page.

With these insights, we adjusted our research design to remove the flaws, and then conducted an additional pilot with two new individual participants. All of the adjustments seemed to resolve the previous “bugs”.

In this case, pilot testing not only gave us the confidence to move forward with the main study, it actually provide its own “A-ha” moment. Through our initial pilot tests, we realized that participants expected a set function for each page. For the landing page, participants expected a page that grabbed their attention and attracted them to the service, whereas, they expect the supporting content page to provide more details on the service and educate them on how it worked. Insights from these pilot tests reshaped our strategic approach to both pages.

Nick So

The seemingly ‘failed’ result of the pilot test actually gave us a huge Aha moment on how users perceived these two pages, which not only changed the answers we wanted to get from the user research test, but also drastically shifted our strategic approach to the A/B variations themselves.

Nick So, Director of Strategy, WiderFunnel

In some instances, pilot testing can actually provide its own unique insights. It is a nice bonus when this happens, but it is important to remember to always validate these insights through additional research and testing.

Final Thoughts

Still not convinced about the value of pilot testing? Here’s one final thought.

By conducting pilot testing you not only improve the insights generated from a single project, but also the process your team uses to conduct research. The reflective and iterative nature of pilot testing will actually accelerate the development of your skills as a researcher.

Pilot testing your research, just like proper experiment design, is essential. Yes, this will require an investment of both time and effort. But trust us, that small investment will deliver significant returns on your next research project and beyond.

Do you agree that pilot testing is an essential part of all research projects?

Have you had an “oh-shoot” research moment that could have been prevented by pilot testing? Let us know in the comments!

The post How pilot testing can dramatically improve your user research appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.

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How pilot testing can dramatically improve your user research

Beyond A vs. B: How to get better results with better experiment design

Reading Time: 7 minutes

You’ve been pushing to do more testing at your organization.

You’ve heard that your competitors at ______ are A/B testing, and that their customer experience is (dare I say it?) better than yours.

You believe in marketing backed by science and data, and you have worked to get the executive team at your company on board with a tested strategy.

You’re excited to begin! To learn more about your customers and grow your business.

You run one A/B test. And then another. And then another. But you aren’t seeing that conversion rate lift you promised. You start to hear murmurs and doubts. You start to panic a little.

You could start testing as fast as you can, trying to get that first win. (But you shouldn’t).

Instead, you need to reexamine how you are structuring your tests. Because, as Alhan Keser writes,

Alhan Keser

If your results are disappointing, it may not only be what you are testing – it is definitely how you are testing. While there are several factors for success, one of the most important to consider is Design of Experiments (DOE).

This isn’t the first (or even the second) time we have written about Design of Experiments on the WiderFunnel blog. Because that’s how important it is. Seriously.

For this post, I teamed up with Director of Optimization Strategy, Nick So, to take a deeper look at the best ways to structure your experiments for maximum growth and insights.

Discover the best experiment structure for you!

Compare the pro’s and con’s of different Design of Experiment tactics with this simple download. The method you choose is up to you!



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Warning: Things will get a teensy bit technical, but this is a vital part of any high-performing marketing optimization program.

The basics: Defining A/B, MVT, and factorial

Marketers often use the term ‘A/B testing’ to refer to marketing experimentation in general. But there are multiple different ways to structure your experiments. A/B testing is just one of them.

Let’s look at a few: A/B testing, A/B/n testing, multivariate (MVT), and factorial design.

A/B test

In an A/B test, you are testing your original page / experience (A) against a single variation (B) to see which will result in a higher conversion rate. Variation B might feature a multitude of changes (i.e. a ‘cluster’) of changes, or an isolated change.

ab test widerfunnel
When you change multiple elements in a single variation, you might see lift, but what about insights?

In an A/B/n test, you are testing more than two variations of a page at once. “N” refers to the number of versions being tested, anywhere from two versions to the “nth” version.

Multivariate test (MVT)

With multivariate testing, you are testing each, individual change, isolated one against another, by mixing and matching every possible combination available.

Imagine you want to test a homepage re-design with four changes in a single variation:

  • Change A: New hero banner
  • Change B: New call-to-action (CTA) copy
  • Change C: New CTA color
  • Change D: New value proposition statement

Hypothetically, let’s assume that each change has the following impact on your conversion rate:

  • Change A = +10%
  • Change B = +5%
  • Change C = -25%
  • Change D = +5%

If you were to run a classic A/B test―your current control page (A) versus a combination of all four changes at once (B)―you would get a hypothetical decrease of -5% overall (10% + 5% – 25% +5%). You would assume that your re-design did not work and most likely discard the ideas.

With a multivariate test, however, each of the following would be a variation:

mvt widerfunnel

Multivariate testing is great because it shows you the positive or negative impact of every single change, and every single combination of every change, resulting in the most ideal combination (in this theoretical example: A + B + D).

However, this strategy is kind of impossible in the real world. Even if you have a ton of traffic, it would still take more time than most marketers have for a test with 15 variations to reach any kind of statistical significance.

The more variations you test, the more your traffic will be split while testing, and the longer it will take for your tests to reach statistical significance. Many companies simply can’t follow the principles of MVT because they don’t have enough traffic.

Enter factorial experiment design. Factorial design allows for the speed of pure A/B testing combined with the insights of multivariate testing.

Factorial design: The middle ground

Factorial design is another method of Design of Experiments. Similar to MVT, factorial design allows you to test more than one element change within the same variation.

The greatest difference is that factorial design doesn’t force you to test every possible combination of changes.

Rather than creating a variation for every combination of changed elements (as you would with MVT), you can design your experiment to focus on specific isolations that you hypothesize will have the biggest impact.

With basic factorial experiment design, you could set up the following variations in our hypothetical example:

VarA: Change A = +10%
VarB: Change A + B = +15%
VarC: Change A + B + C = -10%
VarD: Change A + B + C + D = -5%

Factorial design widerfunnel
In this basic example, variation A features a single change; VarB is built on VarA, and VarC is built on VarB.

NOTE: With factorial design, estimating the value (e.g. conversion rate lift) of each change is a bit more complex than shown above. I’ll explain.

Firstly, let’s imagine that our control page has a baseline conversion rate of 10% and that each variation receives 1,000 unique visitors during your test.

When you estimate the value of change A, you are using your control as a baseline.

factorial testing widerfunnel
Variation A versus the control.

Given the above information, you would estimate that change A is worth a 10% lift by comparing the 11% conversion rate of variation A against the 10% conversion rate of your control.

The estimated conversion rate lift of change A = (11 / 10 – 1) = 10%

But, when estimating the value of change B, variation A must become your new baseline.

factorial testing widerfunnel
Variation B versus variation A.

The estimated conversion rate lift of change B = (11.5 / 11 – 1) = 4.5%

As you can see, the “value” of change B is slightly different from the 5% difference shown above.

When you structure your tests with factorial design, you can work backwards to isolate the effect of each individual change by comparing variations. But, in this scenario, you have four variations instead of 15.

Mike St Laurent

We are essentially nesting A/B tests into larger experiments so that we can still get results quickly without sacrificing insights gained by isolations.

– Michael St Laurent, Optimization Strategist, WiderFunnel

Then, you would simply re-validate the hypothesized positive results (Change A + B + D) in a standard A/B test against the original control to see if the numbers align with your prediction.

Factorial allows you to get the best potential lift, with five total variations in two tests, rather than 15 variations in a single multivariate test.

But, wait…

It’s not always that simple. How do you hypothesize which elements will have the biggest impact? How do you choose which changes to combine and which to isolate?

The Strategist’s Exploration

The answer lies in the Explore (or research gathering) phase of your testing process.

At WiderFunnel, Explore is an expansive thinking zone, where all options are considered. Ideas are informed by your business context, persuasion principles, digital analytics, user research, and your past test insights and archive.

Experience is the other side to this coin. A seasoned optimization strategist can look at the proposed changes and determine which changes to combine (i.e. cluster), and which changes should be isolated due to risk or potential insights to be gained.

At WiderFunnel, we don’t just invest in the rigorous training of our Strategists. We also have a 10-year-deep test archive that our Strategy team continuously draws upon when determining which changes to cluster, and which to isolate.

Factorial design in action: A case study

Once upon a time, we were testing with Annie Selke, a retailer of luxury home-ware goods. This story follows two experiments we ran on Annie Selke’s product category page.

(You may have already read about what we did during this test, but now I’m going to get into the details of how we did it. It’s a beautiful illustration of factorial design in action!)

Experiment 4.7

In the first experiment, we tested three variations against the control. As the experiment number suggests, this was not the first test we ran with Annie Selke, in general. But it is the ‘first’ test in this story.

ab testing marketing control
Experiment 4.7 control product category page.

Variation A featured an isolated change to the “Sort By” filters below the image, making it a drop down menu.

ab testing marketing example
Replaced original ‘Sort By’ categories with a more traditional drop-down menu.

Evidence?

This change was informed by qualitative click map data, which showed low interaction with the original filters. Strategists also theorized that, without context, visitors may not even know that these boxes are filters (based on e-commerce best practices). This variation was built on the control.

Variation B was also built on the control, and featured another isolated change to reduce the left navigation.

ab testing marketing example
Reduced left-hand navigation.

Evidence?

Click map data showed that most visitors were clicking on “Size” and “Palette”, and past testing had revealed that Annie Selke visitors were sensitive to removing distractions. Plus, the persuasion principle, known as the Paradox of Choice, theorizes that more choice = more anxiety for visitors.

Unlike variation B, variation C was built on variation A, and featured a final isolated change: a collapsed left navigation.

Collapsed left-hand filter (built on VarA).
Collapsed left-hand filter (built on VarA).

Evidence?

This variation was informed by the same evidence as variation B.

Results

Variation A (built on the control) saw a decrease in transactions of -23.2%.
Variation B (built on the control) saw no change.
Variation C (built on variation A) saw a decrease in transactions of -1.9%.

But wait! Because variation C was built on variation A, we knew that the estimated value of change C (the collapsed filter), was 19.1%.

The next step was to validate our estimated lift of 19.1% in a follow up experiment.

Experiment 4.8

The follow-up test also featured three variations versus the original control. Because, you should never waste the opportunity to gather more insights!

Variation A was our validation variation. It featured the collapsed filter (change C) from 4.7’s variation C, but maintained the original “Sort By” functionality from 4.7’s control.

ab testing marketing example
Collapsed filter & original ‘Sort By’ functionality.

Variation B was built on variation A, and featured two changes emphasizing visitor fascination with colors. We 1) changed the left nav filter from “palette” to “color”, and 2) added color imagery within the left nav filter.

ab testing marketing example
Updated “palette” to “color”, and added color imagery. (A variation featuring two clustered changes).

Evidence?

Click map data suggested that Annie Selke visitors are most interested in refining their results by color, and past test results also showed visitor sensitivity to color.

Variation C was built on variation A, and featured a single isolated change: we made the collapsed left nav persistent as the visitor scrolled.

ab testing marketing example
Made the collapsed filter persistent.

Evidence?

Scroll maps and click maps suggested that visitors want to scroll down the page, and view many products.

Results

Variation A led to a 15.6% increase in transactions, which is pretty close to our estimated 19% lift, validating the value of the collapsed left navigation!

Variation B was the big winner, leading to a 23.6% increase in transactions. Based on this win, we could estimate the value of the emphasis on color.

Variation C resulted in a 9.8% increase in transactions, but because it was built on variation A (not on the control), we learned that the persistent left navigation was actually responsible for a decrease in transactions of -11.2%.

This is what factorial design looks like in action: big wins, and big insights, informed by human intelligence.

The best testing framework for you

What are your testing goals?

If you are in a situation where potential revenue gains outweigh the potential insights to be gained or your test has little long-term value, you may want to go with a standard A/B cluster test.

If you have lots and lots of traffic, and value insights above everything, multivariate may be for you.

If you want the growth-driving power of pure A/B testing, as well as insightful takeaways about your customers, you should explore factorial design.

A note of encouragement: With factorial design, your tests will get better as you continue to test. With every test, you will learn more about how your customers behave, and what they want. Which will make every subsequent hypothesis smarter, and every test more impactful.

One 10% win without insights may turn heads your direction now, but a test that delivers insights can turn into five 10% wins down the line. It’s similar to the compounding effect: collecting insights now can mean massive payouts over time.

– Michael St Laurent

The post Beyond A vs. B: How to get better results with better experiment design appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.

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Beyond A vs. B: How to get better results with better experiment design

Build the most effective personalization strategy: A 4-step roadmap

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Whaddya mean, ‘personalization strategy

It’s Groundhog Day again.

Do you remember the Groundhog Day movie? You know… the one where Bill Murray’s character repeats the same day over and over again, every day. He had to break the pattern by convincing someone to fall in love with him, or something like that.

What an odd storyline.

Yet today, it’s reminding me of a pattern in marketing. Marketing topics seem to be pulled by an unstoppable force through fad cycles of hype, over-promise, disappointment, and decline – usually driven by some new technology.

I’ve watched so many fad buzzwords come and go, it’s dizzying. Remember Customer Relationship Marketing? Integrated Marketing? Mobile First? Omnichannel?

A few short years ago, everyone was talking about social media as the only topic that mattered. Multivariate testing was sexy for about five minutes.

Invariably, similar patterns of mistakes appear within each cycle.

Tool vendors proliferate on trade show floors, riding the wave and selling a tool that checks the box of the current fad. Marketers invest time, energy, and budget hoping for a magic bullet without a strategy.

But, without a strategy, even the best tools can fail to deliver the promised results.

(Side note: That’s why I’ve been advocating for years for marketers to start their conversion optimization programs with a strategy in addition to the best tools.)

Now, everyone is swooning for Personalization. And, so they should! It can deliver powerful results.

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From simple message segmentation to programmatic ad buying and individual-level website customization, the combination of big data and technology is transforming the possibilities of personalization.

But the rise of personalization tools and popularity has meant the rise of marketers doing personalization the wrong way. I’ve lost track of the number of times we’ve seen:

  • Ad hoc implementation of off-the-shelf features without understanding what need they are solving.
  • Poor personalization insights with little data analysis and framework thinking driving the implementation.
  • Lack of rigorous process to hypothesize, test, and validate personalization ideas.
  • Lack of resources to sustain the many additional marketing messages that must be created to support multiple, personalized target segments.

That’s why, in collaboration with our partners at Optimizely, we have created a roadmap for creating the most effective personalization strategy:

Featured_Roadmap

  • Step 1: Defining personalization
  • Step 2: Is a personalization strategy right for you?
  • Step 3: Personalization ideation
  • Step 4: Personalization prioritization

Step 1: Defining personalization

Personalization and segmentation are often used interchangeably, and are arguably similar. Both use information gathered about the marketing prospect to customize their experience.

While segmentation attempts to bucket prospects into similar aggregate groups, personalization represents the ultimate goal of customizing the person’s experience to their individual needs and desires based on in-depth information and insights about them.

You can think of them as points along a spectrum of customized messaging.

Personalization spectrum
The marketing customization spectrum.

You’ve got the old mass marketing approach on one end, and the hyper-personalized, 1:1, marketer-to-customer nirvana on the other end. Segmentation lies somewhere in the middle. We’ve been doing it for decades, but now we have the technology to go deeper, to be more granular.

Every marketer wants to provide the perfect message for each customer — that’s the ultimate goal of personalization.

The problem personalization solves

Personalization solves the problem of Relevance (one of 6 conversion factors in the LIFT Model®). If you can increase the Relevance of your value proposition to your visitor, by speaking their language, matching their expectations, and addressing their unique fears, needs and desires, you will see an increase in conversions.

Let me show you an example.

Secret Escapes is a flash-sale luxury travel company. The company had high click-through rates on their search ads and directed all of this traffic to a single landing page.

Personalization strategy ad
Secret Escapes “spa” PPC ad in Google.

The ad copy read:

“Spa Vacations
Save up to 70% on Spa Breaks. Register for free with your email.”

But, the landing page didn’t reflect the ad copy. When visitors landed on the page, they saw this:

personalization strategy secret escapes
Original landing page for Secret Escapes.

Not super relevant to visitors’ search intent, right? There’s no mention of the keyword “spa” or imagery of a spa experience. Fun fact: When we are searching for something, our brains rely less on detailed understanding of the content, and more on pattern matching, or a scent trail.

(Note: some of the foundational research for this originated with Peter Pirolli at PARC as early as the 90’s. See this article, for example.)

In an attempt to convert more paid traffic, Secret Escapes tested two variations, meant to match visitor intent with expectations.

personalization strategy secret escapes 1
Variation 1 used spa imagery and brought the keyword “spa” into the sub-head.
personalization strategy secret escapes 2
Variation 2 used the same imagery, but mirrored the ad copy with the headline copy.

By simply maintaining the scent trail, and including language around “spa breaks” in the signup form, Secret Escapes was able to increase sign-ups by 32%. They were able to make the landing page experience sticky for this target audience segment, by improving Relevance.

Step 2: Is a personalization strategy right for me?

Pause. Before you dig any deeper into personalization, you should determine whether or not it is the right strategy for your company, right now.

Here are 3 questions that will help you determine your personalization maturity and eligibility.

Do I have enough data about my customers?

Hudson Arnold Personalization

Personalization is not a business practice for companies with no idea of how they want to segment, but for businesses that are ready to capitalize on their segments.

Hudson Arnold, Strategy Consultant, Optimizely

For companies getting started with personalization, we recommend that you at least have fundamental audience segments in place. These might be larger cohorts at first, focused on visitor location, visitor device use, single visitor behaviors, or visitors coming from an ad campaign.

Personalization Strategy Segments
Where is your user located? Did they arrive on your page via Facebook ad? Are they browsing on a tablet?

If you haven’t categorized your most important visitor segments, you should focus your energies on segmentation first, before moving into personalization.

Do I have the resources to do personalization?

  • Do you have a team in place that can manage a personalization strategy?
  • Do you have a personalization tool that supports your strategy?
  • Do you have an A/B testing team that can validate your personalization approach?
  • Do you have resources to maintain updates to the segments that will multiply as you increase your message granularity?

Personalization requires dedicated resources and effort to sustain all of your segments and personalized variations. To create a truly effective personalization strategy, you will need to proceduralize personalization as its own workstream and implement an ongoing process.

Which leads us to question three…

Do I have a process for validating my personalization ideas?

Personalization is a hypothesis until it is tested. Your assumptions about your best audience segments, and the best messaging for those segments, are assumptions until they have been validated.

Hudson Arnold Personalization

Personalization requires the same inputs and workflow as testing; sound technical implementation, research-driven ideation, a clear methodology for translating concepts into test hypotheses, and tight technical execution. In this sense, personalization is really just an extension of A/B testing and normal optimization activities. What’s more, successful personalization campaigns are the result of testing and iteration.

– Hudson Arnold

Great personalization strategy is about having a rigorous process that allows for 1) gathering insights about your customers, and then 2) validating those insights. You need a structured process to understand which insights are valid for your target audience and create growth for your business.

WiderFunnel’s Infinity Optimization Process™ represents these two mindsets. It is a proven process that has been refined over many years and thousands of tests. As you build your personalization strategy, you can adopt parts or all of this process.

infinity optimization process
The Infinity Optimization Process is iterative and leads to continuous growth and insights.

There are two critical phases to an effective personalization strategy: Explore and Validate. Explore uses an expansive mindset to consider all of your data, and all of your potential personalization ideas. Validate is a structured process of A/B testing that uses a reductive mindset to refine and select only those ideas that produce value.

Without a process in place to prove your personalization hypotheses, you will end up wasting time and resources sending the wrong messages to the wrong audience segments.

Personalization without validation is simply guesswork.

Step 3: Personalization ideation

If you have answered “Yes” to those three questions, you are ready to do personalization: You are confident in your audience segments, you have dedicated resources, perhaps you’re already doing basic personalization. Now, it’s time to build your personalization strategy by gathering insights from your data.

personalization strategy curiosity
“How do I get ideas for customized messaging that will work?”

One of the questions we hear most often when it comes to personalization is, “How do I get ideas for customized messaging that will work?” This is the biggest area of ongoing work and your biggest opportunity for business improvement from personalization.

The quality of your insights about your customers directly impacts the quality of your personalization results.

Here are the 3 types of personalization insights to explore:

  • Deductive research
  • Inductive research
  • Customer self-selected

You can mix and match these types within your program. We have plenty of examples of how. Let’s look at a few now.

1) Deductive research and personalization insights

Are there general theories that apply to your particular business situation?

Psychological principles? UX principles? General patterns in your data? ‘Best’ practices?

Deductive personalization starts with your assumptions about how your customers will respond to certain messaging based on existing theories…but it doesn’t end there. With deductive research, you should always feed your ideas into experiments that either validate or disprove your personalization approach.

Let’s look at an example:

Heifer International is a charity organization that we have been working with to increase their donations and their average donation value per visitor.

In one experiment, we decided to test a psychological principle called the “rule of consistency”. This principle states that people want to be consistent in all areas of life; once someone takes an action, no matter how small, they strive to make future behavior match that past behavior.

We asked visitors to the Heifer website to identify themselves as a donor type when they land on the site, to trigger this need to remain consistent.

client spotlight psychological persuasion
What kind of donor are you?

Notice there’s no option to select “I’m not a donor.” We were testing what would happen when people self-identified as donors.

The results were fascinating. This segmenting pop up increased donations by nearly 2%, increased the average donation value per visitor by 3%, and increased the revenue per visitor by more than 5%.

There’s more. In looking at the data, we saw that just 14% of visitors selected one of the donation identifications. But, that 14% was actually 68% of Heifer’s donors: The 14% who responded represent a huge percentage of Heifer’s most valuable audience.

personalization strategy heifer donors
Visitors who self-identify as ‘Donors’ are a valuable segment.

Now, Heifer can change the experience for visitors who identify as a type of donor and use that as one piece of data to personalize their experience. Currently, we’re testing which messages will maximize donations even further within each segment.

2) Inductive research and personalization insights

Are there segments within your data and test results that you can analyze to gather personalization insights?

If you are already optimizing your site, you may have seen segments naturally emerge through A/B testing. A focused intention to find these insights is called inductive research.

Inductive personalization is driven by insights from your existing A/B test data. As you test, you discover insights that point you toward generalizable personalization hypotheses.

Here’s an example from one of WiderFunnel’s e-commerce clients that manufactures and sells weather technology products. This company’s original product page was very cluttered, and we decided to test it against a variation that emphasized visual clarity.

personalization strategy variations
We tested the original page (left) against a variation emphasizing clarity (right).

Surprisingly, the clear variation lost to the original, decreasing order completions by -6.8%. WiderFunnel Strategists were initially perplexed by the result, but they didn’t rest until they had uncovered a potential insight in the data.

They found that visitors to the original page saw more pages per session, while visitors to the variation spent a 7.4% higher average time on page. This could imply that shoppers on the original page were browsing more, while shoppers on our variation spent more time on fewer pages.

Research published by the NN Group describes teen-targeted websites, suggesting that younger users enjoy searching and are impatient, while older users enjoy searching but are also much more patient when browsing.

With this research in mind, the Strategists dug in further and found that the clear variation actually won for older users to this client’s site, increasing transactions by +24%. But it lost among younger users, decreasing transactions by -38%.

So, what’s the takeaway? For this client, there are potentially new ways of customizing the shopping experience for different age segments, such as:

  1. Reducing distractions and adding clarity for older visitors
  2. Providing multiple products in multiple tabs for younger visitors

This client can use these insights to inform their age-group segmentation efforts across their site.

(Also, this is a great example of why one of WiderFunnel’s five core values says “Grit – We don’t quit until we find an answer.”)

3) Customer self-selected personalization

Ask your prospects to tell you about themselves. Then, test the best marketing approach for each segment.

Customer self-selected personalization is potentially the easiest strategy to conceptualize and implement. You are asking your users to self-identify, and segment themselves. This triggers specific messaging based on how they self-identified. And then you can test the best approach for each of those segments.

Here’s an example to help you visualize what I mean.

One of our clients is a Fortune 500 healthcare company — they use self-selected personalization to drive more relevant content and offers, in order to grow their community of subscribers.

This client had created segments that were focused on a particular health situation, that people could click on:

  • “Click on this button to get more information,”
  • “I have early stage disease,”
  • “I have late stage disease,”
  • “I manage the disease while I’m working,”
  • “I’m a physician treating the disease,” and,
  • “I work at a hospital treating the disease.”

These segments came from personas that this client had developed about their subscriber base.

personalization strategy messaging
The choices in the header triggered the messaging in the side bar.

Once a user self-identified, the offers and messaging that were featured on the page were adjusted accordingly. But, we wouldn’t want to assume the personalized messages were the best for each segment. You should test that!

In self-selected personalization, there are two major areas you should test. You want to find out:

  1. What are the best segments?
  2. What is the best messaging for each segment?

For this healthcare company, we didn’t simply assume that those 5 segments were the best segments, or that the messages and offers triggered were the best messages and offers. Instead, we tested both.

A series of A/B tests within their segmentation and personalization efforts resulted in a doubling of this company’s conversion rate.

Developing an audience strategy

Developing a personalization strategy requires an audience-centric approach. The companies that are succeeding at personalization are not picking segments ad hoc from Google Analytics or any given study, but are looking to their business fundamentals.

Once you believe you have identified the most important segments for your business, then you can begin to layer on more tactical segments. These might be qualified ‘personas’ that inform your content strategy, UX design, or analytical segments.

Step 4: Personalization prioritization

If this whole thing is starting to feel a little complex, don’t worry. It is complex, but that’s why we prioritize. Even with a high-functioning team and an advanced tool, it is impossible to personalize for all of your audience segments simultaneously. So, where do you start?

Optimizely uses a simple axis to conceptualize how to prioritize personalization hypotheses. You can use it to determine the quantity and the quality of the audiences you would like to target.

Personalization strategy matrix

The x-axis refers to the size of your audience segment, while the y-axis refers to an obvious need to personalize to a group vs. the need for creative personalization.

For instance, the blue bubble in the upper left quadrant of the chart represents a company’s past purchasers. Many clients want to start personalizing here, saying, “We want to talk to people who have spent $500 on leather jackets in the last three months. We know exactly what we wanna show to them.”

But, while you might have a solid merchandising strategy or offer for that specific group, it represents a really, really, really small audience.

That is not to say you shouldn’t target this group, because there is an obvious need. But it needs to be weighed against how large that group is. Because you should be treating personalization like an experiment, you need to be sensitive to statistical significance.

The net impact of any personalization effort you use will only be as significant as the size of the segment, right? If you improve the conversion rate 1000% for 10 people, that is going to have a relatively small impact on your business.

personalization strategy matrix 2

Now, move right on the x-axis; here, you are working with larger segments. Even if the personalized messaging is less obvious (and might require more experimentation), your efforts may be more impactful.

Food for thought: Most companies we speak to don’t have a coherent geographical personalization strategy, but it’s a large way of grouping people and, therefore, may be worth exploring!

You may be more familiar with WiderFunnel’s PIE framework, which we use to prioritize our ideas.

How does Optimizely’s axis relate? It is a simplified way to think about personalization ideas to help you ideate quickly. Its two inputs, “Obvious Need” and “Audience Size” are essentially two inputs we would use to calculate a thorough PIE ranking of ideas.

The “Obvious Need” axis would influence the “Potential” ranking, and “Audience Size” would influence “Importance”. It may be helpful to consider the third PIE factor, “Ease”, if some segmentation data is more difficult to track or otherwise acquire, or if the maintenance cost of ongoing messaging is high.

To create the most effective personalization strategy for your business, you must remember what you already know. For some reason, when companies start personalization, the lessons they have learned about testing all of their assumptions are sometimes forgotten.

You probably have some great personalization ideas, but it is going to take iteration and experimentation to get them right.

A final note on personalization: Always think of it in the context of the bigger picture of marketing optimization.

Insights gained from A/B testing inform future audience segments and personalized messaging, while insights derived from personalization experimentation informs future A/B testing hypotheses. And on and on.

Don’t assume that insights gained during personalization testing are only valid for those segments. These wins may be overall wins.

The best practice when it comes to personalization is to take the insights you validate within your tests and use them to inform your hypotheses in your general optimization strategy.

** Note: This post was originally published on May 3, 2016 as “How to succeed at segmentation and personalization” but has been wholly updated to reflect new personalization frameworks, case studies, and insights from Optimizely. **

Still have questions about personalization? Ask ’em in the comments, or contact us to find out how WiderFunnel can help you create a personalization strategy that will work for your company.

The post Build the most effective personalization strategy: A 4-step roadmap appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.

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Build the most effective personalization strategy: A 4-step roadmap

Disrupting the norm: 4 ways to tap into your team’s creativity

Reading Time: 6 minutes

It’s easy to get stuck in a work routine.

To go to the office every Monday to Friday, use a particular set of skills, sit at the same desk, talk to the same team members, eat at the same lunch spot…

While routine can be a stabilizing force, it can also lead to stagnation and a lack of inspiration (a worrisome situation for any marketer).

Companies take great care to put structures in place to improve productivity and efficiency, but too often de-prioritize creativity. And yet, creativity is essential to driving innovation and competition—two vital components of business growth.

At WiderFunnel, we believe in the Zen Marketing mindset. This mindset recognizes that there is an intuitive, inspired, exploratory side to marketing that imagines potential insights, as well as a qualitative, logical, data-driven side that proves whether the insights really work.

In order to come up with the very best ideas to test, you must have room to get creative.

So, how can you make creativity a priority at your company?

Last month, the WiderFunnel team set out to answer that question for ourselves. We went on a retreat to one of British Columbia’s most beautiful islands, with the goal of learning how to better tap into and harness our creativity, as individuals and as a team.

creativity_setting
It’s hard to not be creative with a view like this.

We spent three days trying to unleash our creative sides, and the tactics we brought back to the office have had exciting effects! In this post, I’m going to share four strategies that we have put into practice at WiderFunnel to help our team get creative, that you can replicate in your company today.

As Jack London said,

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.

An introduction to creativity

There are many ways to think about creativity, but for our purposes, let’s consider the two types of creativity: technical creativity and artistic creativity. The former refers to the creation of new theories, new technologies, and new ideas. The latter revolves around skills, technique, and self-expression.

As a company, we were focused on tapping into technical creativity on our retreat. One of the main elements of technical creativity is lateral thinking.

Your brain recognizes patterns: faces, language, handwriting. This is beneficial in that you can recognize an object or a situation very quickly (you see a can of Coke and you know exactly what it is without having to analyze it).

But, we can get stuck in our patterns. We think within patterns. We problem-solve within patterns. Often, the solutions we come up with are based on solutions we’ve already come up with to similar problems. And we do this without really knowing that our solutions belong to other patterns.

Lateral thinking techniques can help you bust out of this…well…pattern.

While structured, disciplined thinking is vital to making your products and services better, lateral thinking can help you come up with completely new concepts and unexpected solutions.

The following 4 tactics will help you think laterally at work, to find truly original solutions to problems.

1. Put on a different (thinking) hat

One of our first activities on the island was to break into groups and tackle an internal company challenge with the six thinking hats. Developed by Edward de Bono, the “six thinking hats” is a tool for group discussion and individual thinking.

The idea behind the six hats is that our brains think in distinct ways that we can deliberately challenge. Each hat represents a direction in which the brain can be challenged. When you ‘put on a different hat’, your brain will identify and bring into conscious thought certain aspects of the problem you’re trying to solve, according to your hat.

6-hats-creativity
The Six Thinking Hats.

None of these hats represent completely natural ways of thinking, but rather how some of us already represent the results of our thinking.

In our exercise, we began a discussion each wearing one of the six hats. As the conversation progressed, we were forced to switch hats and continue our discussion from entirely different perspectives. It was uncomfortable and challenging, but the different hats forced each of us to explore the problem in a way that was totally alien.

creativity_thinkinghats
Before we could have our discussion, we had to make our own thinking hats.
Our thinking cards.
Our thinking cards.

The outcome was exciting: people who are normally quiet were forced to manage a discussion, people who are normally incredulous were forced to be optimistic, people who are normally dreamers were forced to ask for facts…it opened up totally new doors within the discussion.

In WiderFunnel’s main meeting room, there are six cards that represent each of the six hats. Whenever I find myself stuck, dealing with a challenge I can’t seem to solve, I wander into that meeting room and try to tackle the problem ‘wearing each hat’. Disrupting my normal thinking patterns often leads to ‘A-ha!’ moments.

To encourage lateral thinking, you could: create something physical and tangible (cards, hats, etc.) that your team can utilize when they are stuck to challenge the ‘normal’ ways in which they think.

2. Solve puzzles (literally)

A man jumps out of a window of a 30-story building. He falls all the way to the ground and lands on solid concrete with nothing to cushion his fall, yet he is completely uninjured. How is this possible?

There are 20 birds on a fence. A woman shoots one of the birds. How many birds are left?

There is an egg carton holding a dozen eggs on a table. Twelve people take one egg each, but there is still one egg left in the carton. How?

During our retreat, we spent some time solving word problems just like these, in order to disrupt our day-to-day thinking patterns.

creativity_puzzle
A recently completed WiderFunnel puzzle!

Riddles like these challenge our brains because they are difficult to think through using straightforward logic. Instead, you have to think outside of the content within the puzzle and use your knowledge of language and experience to solve it.

Puzzles require you to use reasoning that is not immediately obvious, and involve ideas that you may not arrive at using traditional step-by-step logic.

When you are faced with a puzzle like one of the riddles above, your mind is forced to think critically about something you might otherwise dismiss or fail to understand completely.

The thinking involved in solving puzzles can be characterized as a blend of imaginative association and memory. It is this blend…that leads us to literally see the pattern or twist that a puzzle conceals. It is a kind of “clairvoyance” that typically provokes an Aha! effect.

– Marcel Danesai, Ph.D. in “Puzzles and the Brain

To encourage creative, critical thinking, you could: incorporate puzzles into your day-to-day. Email your team a word problem every morning, or set up a physical puzzle somewhere in your office, so that people can take puzzle breaks!

3. Unpack your assumptions

Often, when we are faced with a question or problem, we have already classified that question or problem by its perceived limitations or rules. For example, you have assumptions about your users (most likely backed by data!) about what they want and need, what their pain points are, etc.

But, these assumptions, even if they are correct, can sometimes blind you to other possibilities. Unpacking your assumptions involves examining all of your assumptions, and then flipping them upside down. This can be tough because our assumptions are often deeply ingrained.

On the island, WiderFunnel-ers listed out all of our assumptions about what our clients want. At the top of that list was an assumption about what every marketer wants: to increase ROI. When we flipped that assumption, however, we were left with a hypothetical situation in which our clients don’t care at all about ROI.

creativity_assumptions
Various WiderFunnel-ers unpacking their assumptions.

All of a sudden, we were asking questions about what we might be able to offer our clients that has nothing to do with increasing ROI. While this hypothetical is an extreme, it forced us to examine all of the other areas where we might be able to help our clients.

To encourage creative problem-solving, you could: advise your team to list out all of their assumptions about a problem, flip ‘em, and then look for the middle ground.

4. Think of the dumbest idea you possibly can

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

– Sylvia Plath

To wrap up day 1 of our retreat, we did an activity called Dumbest Idea First. We walked around in a circle in the sunshine, shouting out the dumbest ideas we could think of about how to encourage more creativity at WiderFunnel.

The circle was quiet at first. Because being dumb, sounding dumb, looking dumb is scary. But, after a few people yelled out some really, really dumb ideas, everyone got into it. We were all moving, and making ridiculous suggestions, and in the midst of it all, one person would shout out a gem of an idea.

For instance, someone suggested a ‘brainstorm bubble’: a safe space within the office where you can go when you’re stuck, and your co-workers can see you and join you in the bubble to help you brainstorm.

(We have since started doing this at the office and it has been awesome!)

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes limit myself during a brainstorm—I find myself trying to be creative while still being pragmatic.

But, when you give yourself permission to be dumb, all of a sudden the possibilities are endless. And I guarantee you will surprise yourself with the great ideas you stumble upon.

Encourage creativity by allowing yourself and your team time and space to be unapologetically dumb.

What are some of the strategies you use to keep things creative at your company? Have you tried or improved upon any of the aforementioned strategies? Let us know in the comments!

The post Disrupting the norm: 4 ways to tap into your team’s creativity appeared first on WiderFunnel Conversion Optimization.

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Disrupting the norm: 4 ways to tap into your team’s creativity