Test And Learn

BLOG / Digital Strategy

You know what’s better than making pretty work? Knowing that pretty work is doing its job.

Every project we take on - from complex e-commerce websites to digital advertising campaigns - involves multiple decision points where we need to determine which creative approach, message, or user flow to move forward with. The problem with this situation is… how do we KNOW we’re making the right choice? We can make educated guesses based on our experience and best practices, but the best answer here is to test variables to arrive at an objective conclusion.

There are two primary testing options that are important to consider - A/B and Multivariate testing - and in either case, it’s pretty common for us to hear that the extra effort required to create multiple variables to test just isn’t in our clients’ budgets. But, when you think about the fact that even a 2% increase in conversion rates at each stage of  a standard 3-step purchase funnel could result in nearly 12% lift in revenue, the question to consider is...

CAN YOU AFFORD NOT TO TEST?

What happens when you improve conversion rates by just 2 percent?

Testing - regardless of which option you choose - has two unmistakable benefits:

Conversion optimization: Testing allows us to find out which combination of variables yields the most conversions. Whether you’re trying to acquire leads, drive sales, or increase sale value (or all three!), testing different options helps you learn what works and what doesn’t.

Objective decision-making: There’s a common joke about how dangerous a “focus group of one” can be; we know that our clients are intimately familiar with their audience and industry, but digital trends move quickly and sometimes we find that what might have been a good answer a year ago just isn’t the case now. Testing allows for us to come to an objective decision based on real-world user data, and keeps both our team and our clients focused on the shared end goal of making effective digital experiences.

The two most common approaches to testing are good ‘ol A/B testing, and its (much) more complex counterpart, Multivariate testing.

A/B testing is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: Pitting “A” version against a “B” version and seeing which one works best. A/B testing can be done with websites, email marketing, digital advertising and more to improve clickthrough rates at each stage of the user journey.

PROS: A/B testing is straightforward, useful, and can be used over time to continually improve conversion rates. It’s also relatively inexpensive, and can be effective even with small testing audiences.

CONS: A/B testing can take a lot of time to arrive at a truly “optimized” experience, and often requires more manual labor to design and implement testing variables. Depending on the type of experience and the backend analytics available, it may also require more legwork to measure improvements over time.

Multivariate testing is a souped-up version of A/B testing, where we can test a huge amount of variables in a live environment simultaneously. This allows us to answer questions about which combination of creative message, user flow, and design elements produces the best result very quickly.

PROS: Multivariate testing is the gold standard in arriving at statistically significant confidence levels. With the right volume of user input, we can arrive at conclusions very quickly and therefore reap the benefits of a truly optimized experience over a longer period of time than with A/B testing. MV test platforms, such as Optimizely, are designed to be easy to manage and have built-in analytics that are simple to navigate and measure results.

CONS: Multivariate testing can be more expensive to implement initially - the volume of creative variables is nearly infinite. Successful Multivariate testing relies on significant traffic to your website to gain statistically relevant feedback, so it’s best combined with an advertising campaign designed to drive clicks to your site.

With all of those “Testing Basics” it’s important to keep in mind that testing isn’t a trend - it’s a lifestyle. Having a “test-and-learn” approach to any project allows us to continue to optimize and modify along the way to keep conversion rates (and our clients’ businesses!) healthy and growing.

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