Author: Daniel Burstein

A/B Testing Prioritization: The surprising ROI impact of test order

I want everything. And I want it now.

I’m sure you do, too.

But let me tell you about my marketing department. Resources aren’t infinite. I can’t do everything right away. I need to focus myself and my team on the right things.

Unless you found a genie in a bottle and wished for an infinite marketing budget (right after you wished for unlimited wishes, natch), I’m guessing you’re in the same boat.

When it comes to your conversion rate optimization program, it means running the most impactful tests. As Stephen Walsh said when he wrote about 19 possible A/B tests for your website on Neil Patel’s blog, “testing every random aspect of your website can often be counter-productive.”

Of course, you probably already know that. What may surprise you is this …

It’s not enough to run the right tests, you will get a higher ROI if you run them in the right order

To help you discover the optimal testing sequence for your marketing department, we’ve created the free MECLABS Institute Test Planning Scenario Tool (MECLABS is the parent research organization of MarketingExperiments).

Let’s look at a few example scenarios.

Scenario #1: Level of effort and level of impact

Tests will have different levels of effort to run. For example, it’s easier to make a simple copy change to a headline than to change a shopping cart.

This level of effort (LOE) sometimes correlates to the level of impact the test will have to your bottom line. For example, a radical redesign might be a higher LOE to launch, but it will also likely produce a higher lift than a simple, small change.

So how does the order you run a high effort, high return, and low effort, low return test sequence affect results? Again, we’re not saying choose one test over another. We’re simply talking about timing. To the test planning scenario tool …

Test 1 (Low LOE, low level of impact)

  • Business impact — 15% more revenue than the control
  • Build Time — 2 weeks

Test 2 (High LOE, high level of impact)

  • Business impact — 47% more revenue than the control
  • Build Time — 6 weeks

Let’s look at the revenue impact over a six-month period. According to the test planning tool, if the control is generating $30,000 in revenue per month, running a test where the treatment has a low LOE and a low level of impact (Test 1) first will generate $22,800 more revenue than running a test where the treatment has a high LOE and a high level of impact (Test 2) first.

Scenario #2: An even larger discrepancy in the level of impact

It can be hard to predict the exact level of business impact. So what if the business impact differential between the higher LOE test is even greater than in Scenario #1, and both treatments perform even better than they did in Scenario #1? How would test sequence affect results in that case?

Let’s run the numbers in the Test Planning Scenario Tool.

Test 1 (Low LOE, low level of impact)

  • Business impact — 25% more revenue than the control
  • Build Time — 2 weeks

Test 2 (High LOE, high level of impact)

  • Business impact — 125% more revenue than the control
  • Build Time — 6 weeks

According to the test planning tool, if the control is generating $30,000 in revenue per month, running Test 1 (low LOE, low level of impact) first will generate $45,000 more revenue than running Test 2 (high LOE, high level of impact) first.

Again, same tests (over a six-month period) just a different order. And you gain $45,000 more in revenue.

“It is particularly interesting to see the benefits of running the lower LOE and lower impact test first so that its benefits could be reaped throughout the duration of the longer development schedule on the higher LOE test. The financial impact difference — landing in the tens of thousands of dollars — may be particularly shocking to some readers,” said Rebecca Strally, Director, Optimization and Design, MECLABS Institute.

Scenario #3: Fewer development resources

In the above two examples, the tests were able to be developed simultaneously. What if the test cannot be developed simultaneously (must be developed sequentially) and can’t be developed until the previous test has been implemented? Perhaps this is because of your organization’s development methodology (Agile vs. Waterfall, etc.), or there is just simply a limit on your development resources. (They likely have many other projects than just developing your tests.)

Let’s look at that scenario, this time with three treatments.

Test 1 (Low LOE, low level of impact)

  • Business impact — 10% more revenue than the control
  • Build Time — 2 weeks

Test 2 (High LOE, high level of impact)

  • Business impact — 360% more revenue than the control
  • Build Time — 6 weeks

Test 3 (Medium LOE, medium level of impact)

  • Business impact — 70% more revenue than the control
  • Build Time — 3 weeks

In this scenario, Test 2 first, then Test 1 and finally Test 3, along with Test 2, then Test 3, then Test 1 were the highest-performing scenarios. The lowest-performing scenario was Test 3, Test 1, Test 2. The difference was $894,000 more revenue from using one of the highest-performing test sequences versus the lowest-performing test sequence.

“If development for tests could not take place simultaneously, there would be a bigger discrepancy in overall revenue from different test sequences,” Strally said.

“Running a higher LOE test first suddenly has a much larger financial payoff. This is notable because once the largest impact has been achieved, it doesn’t matter in what order the smaller LOE and impact tests are run, the final dollar amounts are the same. Development limitations (although I’ve rarely seen them this extreme in the real world) created a situation where whichever test went first had a much longer opportunity to impact the final financial numbers. The added front time certainly helped to push running the highest LOE and impact test first to the front of the financial pack,” she added.

The Next Scenario Is Up To You: Now forecast your own most profitable test sequences

You likely don’t have the exact perfect information we provided in the scenarios. We’ve provided model scenarios above, but the real world can be trickier. After all, as Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”

“We rarely have this level of information about the possible financial impact of a test prior to development and launch when working to optimize conversion for MECLABS Research Partners. At best, the team often only has a general guess as to the level of impact expected, and it’s rarely translated into a dollar amount,” Strally said.

That’s why we’re providing the Test Planning Scenario Tool as a free, instant download. It’s easy to run a few different scenarios in the tool based on different levels of projected results and see how the test order can affect overall revenue. You can then use the visual charts and numbers created by the tool to make the case to your team, clients and business leaders about what order you should run your company’s tests.

Don’t put your tests on autopilot

Of course, things don’t always go according to plan. This tool is just a start. To have a successful conversion optimization practice, you have to actively monitor your tests and advocate for the results because there are a number of additional items that could impact an optimal testing sequence.

“There’s also the reality of testing which is not represented in these very clean charts. For example, things like validity threats popping up midtest and causing a longer run time, treatments not being possible to implement, and Research Partners requesting changes to winning treatments after the results are in, all take place regularly and would greatly shift the timing and financial implications of any testing sequence,” Strally said.

“In reality though, the number one risk to a preplanned DOE (design of experiments) in my experience is an unplanned result. I don’t mean the control winning when we thought the treatment would outperform. I mean a test coming back a winner in the main KPI (key performance indicator) with an unexpected customer insight result, or an insignificant result coming back with odd customer behavior data. This type of result often creates a longer analysis period and the need to go back to the drawing board to develop a test that will answer a question we didn’t even know we needed to ask. We are often highly invested in getting these answers because of their long-term positive impact potential and will pause all other work — lowering financial impact — to get these questions answered to our satisfaction,” she said.

Related Resources

MECLABS Institute Online Testing on-demand certification course

Offline and Online Optimization: Cabela’s shares tactics from 51 years of offline testing, 7 years of digital testing

Landing Page Testing: Designing And Prioritizing Experiments

Email Optimization: How To Prioritize Your A/B Testing

The post A/B Testing Prioritization: The surprising ROI impact of test order appeared first on MarketingExperiments.

Customer Motivation: How a craft brewery tapped into the element that most affects conversion

If you want conversion rate increases, the No. 1 factor to consider is customer motivation, according to the Conversion Sequence Heuristic from MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingExperiments).

That’s why the letter “m” has the biggest multiplier (4) in the heuristic.

When we talk about motivation, we often talk at a granular level — understanding where traffic is coming from or where customers are in the thought sequence to help your landing page optimization.

I recently came across a great example of an entire product built solely on customer motivation: A small brand went up against a giant competitor by tapping deeply into customer motivation. You may not be able to go this far with your products, but extreme examples like this are nice because they help us brainstorm possible outside-the-box ideas we can do with our own marketing.

“It begins with an ancient story”

Our story begins with the 2017 AFC Championship football game. The Jacksonville Jaguars versus the New England Patriots. David versus Goliath. If you’re unfamiliar with this part of the story, John Malkovich tells it far better than I can.

Except, when David slew Goliath, there were no referees involved to influence the outcome. In the case of the Jaguars versus the Patriots, a controversial call by the refs decided the outcome of the game. Goliath (the Pats) went on to the Super Bowl, and David (the Jags) was sent into a long offseason.

In case you’re unfamiliar with football, I’ll briefly overexplain what happened. If you’re totally uninterested in football, feel free to skip the next two paragraphs.

The most controversial call in the game came when Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack stripped the ball (took it away) from Patriots running back Dion Lewis in the fourth quarter of the game. After stripping the ball, Jack got up and started running to the end zone for a touchdown. But he stopped because the refs blew the whistle, in effect saying he was touched by Lewis, meaning he was down by contact and the play was over.

However, upon looking at the slow-motion replay, it appears that Lewis didn’t touch Jack, and therefore Jack wasn’t down. However, once a play is blown dead by the refs’ whistle in the NFL, they can’t overturn the call from the instant replay. If the refs had waited on the whistle, allowed the play to run its course, Jack likely would have scored a touchdown, the replay would have shown he was never touched and therefore never down, the Jaguars would have had an insurmountable lead and headed to their first Super Bowl.

Instead, Goliath won.

This botched call became a thing. A meme. It went viral. Whatever you want to call it, it created a deep and abiding motivation in a large percentage of people living in the Jacksonville area.

Which also created an opportunity.

Every marketer faces their own Goliath

Before I complete the story, let’s jump to a challenge you likely face — how to compete with a larger rival. How do you defeat your industry’s Goliath? Unless your brand dominates its market, you likely have to face a larger competitor. In ecommerce, that competitor is Amazon. In B2B, it might be IBM. In the beer industry, that company is Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV and its $246.13 billion in assets.

Intuition Ale Works is a Jacksonville-based craft brewery and taproom. I don’t know the value of its assets, but it is significantly less than AB InBev.

So how to compete?

You need a compelling story powered by a forceful value proposition because you’re fighting against a whole lot of money. Money that can drive logistical efficiencies that allow your bigger competitor to be profitable at a much lower cost than you can bear. Money that can buy loads of advertising and sponsorships and endorsement and expertise.

For Intuition Ale Works, part of its value proposition is beer brewed in Jacksonville. But actually, that isn’t unique. AB InBev also has a brewery in Jacksonville.

Another part of its value prop is that Intuition has a greater degree of intimacy with its customers. It is better able to tap into their motivations.

“We try to keep a close eye on the buying patterns of our customers,” Brad Lange, Chief Operating Officer, Intuition Ale Works said. “Every morning our sales team reviews updated metrics that show how our core beers are performing. (Core beers are available year-round in package and draft format throughout Jacksonville, as opposed to seasonal, specialty and limited-release beers that have shorter lifespans). We also check the previous day’s sales report in our taproom.”

He continued, “This gives us insight into how our seasonal and specialty beers have been selling. I’d say that we are obsessed with data, at least when it comes to consumer interest in our beers. Part of this interest is business related. But at a deeper level, we want to provide Intuition drinkers with beer that they are excited about. We let the sales numbers tell us what consumers like and what they don’t.”

Customers vote for their motivations with their wallets

Intuition had a new beer in the works, brewed by owner and founder Ben Davis, that needed a name. “Our brand is typically more outdoorsy and Florida-related, and the beer names are simple and straightforward. For example, Jon Boat Coastal Ale, I-10 IPA, and King Street Stout,” Lange told me.

However, they knew the whistle heard around the city had an undeniable allure to their customers. So they decided to stray from the brand in order to tap into the customer’s motivations. The customer’s motivations trumped the company-derived brand.

“As most people in Jacksonville know by now, the phrase ‘Myles Jack Wasn’t Down’ has gone viral locally. It’s become a rallying cry, of sorts. Ben mentioned it and we all thought it was great, even though it is completely off-brand in terms of how we normally name our beers,” Lange said.

And so Myles Jack Wasn’t Down! became the name of the brewery’s latest product.

Not all purchases are logical. Customers aren’t dismal scientists, coldly calculating how supply and demand affect their decisions. The purchases that tap most deeply into their motivations are based less on product features and benefits and more on an ability to express themselves in a cold, noisy and overpowering world. “I’m here. I matter. And this is what matters to me.”

Apple understood that with its legendary Think Different campaign. “I’m a misfit, I’m a rebel, I can’t buy a PC.”

Patagonia has tapped deeply into customer motivations with its environmental activism (probably less as a marketing strategy and more as a core belief). As a result, revenue and profit have quadrupled over the past 10 years, and the company now sells about $1 billion per year in outdoor clothing and gear.

It’s difficult for a customer to logically compare the features and functions of every jacket on the market and determine which will best serve their short- and long-term needs. However, it’s easy for a customer to understand that they have a deep motivation to support public lands. And they see Patagonia is fighting for public lands against Goliath (even though the refs are being unfair). So they subconsciously think, “While I might be a mere speck of dust in this universe, I’m going to stand with Patagonia and public lands and the environment by buying this jacket.”

And so it is with beer as well. While the actual product and the football play really have nothing to do with each other, the Myles Jack Wasn’t Down! beer name has had an undeniable effect. “It has sold incredibly well. We don’t try to actively market our beers. But once we announced the name, it sort of took on a life of its own. People came in right away to try it. A lot of them have been wearing Jaguars gear. It has been a pleasant surprise for sure. Myles Jack’s family actually contacted us and are planning on stopping by to try it,” Lange said.

While Lange says they don’t actively market their beers, I will disagree. Sure, in the typical business connotation they don’t. They don’t buy advertising, hold focus groups or build an official marketing plan. They don’t have a drip campaign built into their marketing automation platform.

But customer-first marketing doesn’t always look like the traditional definition of marketing at first glance. The core of customer-first marketing is understanding and serving a customer and then creating messaging so the customer perceives that your product will serve them. All that other stuff is just a means to get that message to your ideal customer. And in that sense, I think Lange and his team engage in some serious marketing.

It’s not always sunny in Jacksonville, Florida

I could have ended the story right there, on an up note. But the sun doesn’t always shine in the Sunshine State. As we’ve seen, David doesn’t always defeat Goliath. And sometimes, dark clouds form around products as well.

Part of customer intimacy and deeply understanding customer motivations is being able to say goodbye to products. Customer motivations aren’t static. They change. As your customers age. As new technology is developed. As competitors get a better fix on what customers want. As the shifting tide of trends and public opinions ebbs and flows.

For example, Intuition recently decided to retire one of its first beers.

“This was a really difficult decision because it played such a key role in the development of our brand the past seven-and-a-half years. When a beer doesn’t sell as well as it once did, it tells us that something has changed. Maybe a style isn’t that popular in the market anymore. Or we’ve developed a similar beer that just tastes better, and our customers prefer it. It’s our job to figure out why sales fell off and then to create something different that our customers will be excited about,” Lange said.

Grab your slingshot and go into battle

If your brand is facing down its own Goliath, I hope this story provided a bit of inspiration in your day. Remember, size isn’t everything.

Your slingshot is your understanding of the customer — whether you’re using data analysis or A/B testing, sales reports or in-person customer interviews.

Whichever brand understands customer motivations best, wins.

Related Resources

Five Questions to Ask to Understand Customer Motivation

Analyzing Customer Motivation to Create Campaign Incentives that Resonate

Harnessing Customer Motivation: How one company increased conversion by 65% by aligning page elements with customer desire

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Conversion Rate Optimization: 7 tips to improve your ecommerce conversion rates

We recently published median conversion rates for 25 ecommerce product categories in MarketingSherpa (MarketingExperiments’ sister publication).

That answers the first question most marketers have — how are my conversion rates compared to my competitors?

But the quick second question should be — how do I improve my conversion rates?

To tackle that topic, we look back at the original research that informed those benchmark conversion rates — The MarketingSherpa E-commerce Benchmark Study. In the study, we asked for quantitative information, like average conversion rates. But we also had free response fields where marketers could enter qualitative information as well.

In this article, we’ll go through some of that qualitative information, along with resources to help you put it into practice.

 

Tip #1: Conversion rate improvements are a continual process

Here are some thoughts from respondents …

“[Our challenge is] conversion rates … we have been making improvements in the website and our conversion rate is steadily climbing.”

“Current version of website is 2 years old. In the process of a re-build to enhance PPC and organic conversions.”

“Quickly changing landscape with our competitors, mainly in look and feel of sites. We’ve hired a conversion optimization team to assist with a website overhaul.”

“Revised and tested landing pages over and over again.”

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the continual process of making changes, testing them, learning from them, and make further improvements based on new knowledge.

It is continual. A website isn’t like a brochure that is fixed. The internet is constantly changing, and those changes can affect your site’s conversion from a Google algorithm change to a suddenly slower-loading plug-in on your site to shifting consumer preferences and whims.

Here are some resources on CRO:

Tip #2: Optimize your call-to-action

“We have seen improvements in the conversion rates by reducing clicks and improving CTAs [calls-to -action]. Instead of ‘View,’ we used ‘Buy’ and that proved to be a stronger CTA for conversions.”

The call-to-action can have a large impact on conversions since it is the point of decision for the customer. Just don’t run out and change your CTA from ‘view’ to ‘buy’ and accept a similar conversion increase.

In fact, we’ve run many experiments where we’ve seen that asking for more commitment in the CTA can drive down conversion. But it depends on the buyer’s journey. In the example from these marketers, they might have already been far down the buyer’s journey. Or they may simply be paying for clicks in an ad and only want to pay for very qualified traffic that will purchase. However, if you’re optimizing the CTA in the first email your prospect sees, a CTA of “Buy” may be asking too much too soon.

So test and see what works for your unique customers. And don’t assume the same CTA will be most effective in different stages of the buyer’s journey. Understand where the customer is at in their thinking, and what the most logical next step is.

Here are a few resources to help you optimize your CTAs:

Tip #3: Communicate your brand’s and products’ unique value proposition

“It is difficult to increase conversion rate without using incentives like discounts and offers.”

Yes, it certainly is. That’s why so many marketers revert to using discounts and offers. It’s a way to juice short-term results.

But selling on cost reduction alone is a difficult way to run a sustainably profitable business.

The answer to overcoming this challenge is the value proposition. If your product provides a true value to potential customers, and you do a good job of clearly articulating that value in a compelling way, you are more likely to be able to sell on value and not just cost reduction — increasing conversion rates and your margins.

A few helpful resources:

Tip #4: Make it easy for the customer

“It is obvious, but worth mentioning: making the eCommerce experience as simple as humanly possible.”

A well-articulated value proposition increases the likelihood of conversion, while friction decreases the likelihood of conversion.

You may have all sorts of internal policies, technological challenges or good faith reasons why the buy process is difficult for the customer. But those internal reasons don’t matter. The more friction there is, the more likely the customer will find someplace else to purchase (like that streamlined efficiency monster Amazon).

Here are a few resources to help you reduce friction:

This doesn’t mean your website can’t convert despite friction. There are other factors at play to optimizing conversion, as shown in the MECLABS Conversion Sequence Heuristic. But reducing friction will usually increase conversion. For example, this respondent was wise enough to know that while the site was converting well, friction was hampering the conversion rate.

“Our conversion rate is surprisingly good for a website that requires users to register before checking out.”

Tip #5: Less can be more

Another way to reduce friction is reducing the steps necessary to make a purchase, as this respondent describes. This is a common problem in ecommerce purchase funnels.

“Our conversion funnel from Cart Start to Purchase confirmation was a disaster. Too many steps, too much abandonment, and not enough messaging within the funnel to help the customer navigate. We did some thorough analysis on our purchase funnel. We identified all the major drop-out points (abandonment) and identified steps that could either be eliminated, skipped or consolidated. Our purchase funnel went from 12 steps down to six. We still have some testing and optimizing to do.”

Some ideas to help you remove steps that are hindering conversion in your funnel:

Tip #6: You don’t only need a clear value prop for customers, you need that clear value prop for internal and external decision makers as well

“Most of our clients only want a website. And most all of our clients have no understanding of the importance of creating a strategic marketing plan that integrates the website as a part of a traffic and conversion process. They also don’t understand the value and benefits of analytical tools on the back end to measure results and to modify marketing campaigns and testing for better conversion.”

Some marketers are so focused on selling to an end customer, they overlook the internal marketing that is crucial to any campaign or website’s success as well. For some reason, we get frustrated and think internal business decision makers or external clients should just get it.

Even though our art is communication and conversion, when it comes to those closest to us, we overlook the essential need to present a value proposition.

Here are a few ideas to help with your internal marketing:

Tip #7: Understand the conversion you need before the conversion you want

Optimizing conversion rate shouldn’t only be about the final sale. The marketer quoted below has done a good job understanding the necessary micro-yes that ultimately leads to higher sales — opt-ins to an email newsletter.

“We have three key items we check almost daily: number of visitors, conversion rate, and average order value (AOV). Where we see that number of visitors is increasing, conversion rate and AOV is more or less stable. By far, our most successful marketing instrument is our weekly newsletter with some special offers. That boosts sales dramatically. So we are also quite keen on having customers sign up for the newsletter.”

Some resources to help you understand the micro-yes sequence:

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Conversion Marketing and Landing Page Optimization: Don’t overlook the center of your marketing investment

About 10 years ago, conversion marketing and landing page optimization were similarly popular topics. But recently, conversion marketing has pulled away in popularity.

If you click on the chart above, it will reveal a larger version. As you can see, conversion marketing started out more popular. Then came the rise of the landing page. In August 2008, they both had a comparative search index of 24 (a number relative to the peak popularity of both search terms over this time frame).

But since then, conversion marketing has pulled away in popularity. In May 2018, conversion marketing had a comparative search index of 87 with landing page optimization at 14 (Data Source: Google Trends).

Let’s take a quick look at what each of these terms means, and why landing page optimization is essential to the successful marketer.

What is conversion marketing?

Explaining marketing terms is tricky. They’re not like science terms. A neutron is a neutron no matter what. Marketing terms tend to slightly vary based on a marketer’s experience, their goals, what tools they use and what vendors they listen to. So I’m not going to present this as an official conversion marketing definition, it’s just a quick explanation of the term.

Conversion marketing is the practice of improving conversion rates for marketing, also known as conversion optimization. It applies to many types of marketing, from email marketing to pay-per-click ads to, yes, landing pages. So, for example, if you’re trying to improve your email marketing conversion rate, that is conversion marketing. Landing page optimization fits under this umbrella as well.

What is landing page optimization?

Landing page optimization (LPO) is essentially landing page conversion optimization, a subset of conversion marketing.

To practice LPO, some marketers follow landing page optimization best practices or landing page optimization tips like “always put the call-to-action (CTA) above the fold” or “make the CTA button green.”

At MECLABS Institute, we suggest you follow overall principles instead of a specific best practice and then test to discover what works best for your ideal customer. We’ve even created a patented methodology — the MECLABS Conversion Sequence Heuristic — to help you come up with hypotheses for your experiments you can then test using landing page optimization tools like Optimizely, Google Analytics Experiments, Adobe Target and the like.

The center of your marketing investment

As I get older, the decline of many things saddens me because I view them as a negative harbinger of things to come. A parking lot that used to be a primordial forest. Print journalism. My hairline.

Glancing at that Google Trends chart, I’m afraid I may add landing page optimization to that list.

Because in 2018, just like in 2008, the landing page is still the heart and the soul of the buyer’s journey. Yes, there’s voice search. And mobile apps. And texting. And tweeting a pizza emoji to Domino’s to order a pizza.

But most people still want to see what they’re buying and not just trust a disembodied voice. Mobile apps are a closed universe. And most SMS promotions, including Domino’s tweet ordering gimmick, begin by sending you to a landing page anyway.

Regardless, this whiz-bang future technology is only on the margins. Where the money is made and where the money is spent, a landing page is usually involved.

Think about it. Display ads. Pay-per-click text ads. Search engine marketing. Social media advertising. Email marketing. Where does the call-to-action often lead? To your landing pages.

And the landing page’s centrality to marketing conversion isn’t limited to digital advertising. TV commercials. Print ads. Radio ads. Out-of-home advertising. Most of this investment leads to a landing page as well.

Yes, some ads are just for branding. And some include a phone number. But the vast majority of ads lead people to a landing page — $591,070,000,000 spent on advertising in 2017, and a landing page is often used to ultimately cash in on that investment.

And that doesn’t even include activity that doesn’t require paid media like email marketing, organic search, content marketing, social media marketing and the like. Even if your SEO is focused on getting customers from the search engine results page to a content article, that content article likely has a link or other call-to-action to a landing page for a white paper download, direct purchase, etc.

Why it’s so important to recognize LPO as a unique discipline

If LPO is a subset of conversion marketing, why is it important to recognize it as a distinct practice? Well, why does a football team have a placekicker and a punter? Why do you go to a cardiologist for serious heart problems and not just a general practitioner? Marketing is a subset of business, why have marketers?

Focus outperforms generality every time. Because a lot gets lost in that giant general bucket.

And since landing pages don’t require a distinct budget, unlike paid search engine marketing, for example, it can get overlooked and lumped in with marketing in general. Or even the IT department.

Last time we asked about website optimization tactics, only two-marketing experiments large companies said they implement unique landing pages for various marketing campaigns or brands (64% for large, 67% for medium), and less than half (42%) of small companies did. And only half of companies optimized design and content for conversions (44% of large, 50% of medium, 53% of small companies).

I’ll give you a specific example. I was in a Peer Review Session recently for a Research Partner with MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingExperiments). They buy search engine marketing that drives people to their website. But when we looked at where this paid traffic was heading, there was one very general mobile landing page version and one very general desktop landing page version for all the keywords they were buying (more than 1,000). Is it really an optimized landing page then?

These aren’t just keywords really. They represent customer motivations. The motivations of real people. Their hopes and dreams. Their fears and anxieties. If you’re engaged in active listening with a real person standing in front of you who is excited or scared, you repeat back what they say to you, so they know they are being heard.

Why should you do anything else just because there is a search engine and a computer or mobile phone involved? That’s still a real person expressing real desire and distress with their search activity. Don’t hit them with a general marketing message, serve them with a relevant communication. And test that communication to discover what really works best for those customers.

Even the overall top keyword phrase went to the same general landing page with a headline that said “Affordable [product offered].” The irony is, this company had a very relevant page on its website: “What is the difference between a [product offered] and [keyword search term].”

The downside of when conversion marketing overshadows landing page optimization

I’m not picking on this particular company. It’s just a fresh example in my mind since I saw it yesterday. The company was heavily involved in conversion marketing. They had an Excel document with eight spreadsheets — one with more than 1,000 lines — with all sorts of performance data (screen size, day of the week, etc.) for Google, Yahoo and Bing search keywords.

They’re clearly working hard to optimize the performance of that significant search engine marketing spend.

But when it came to landing page optimization, not so much. At the time they launched these campaigns, my guess is they just found a landing page or created a landing page for all their SEM, checked that off the list, and then focused on the conversion marketing they assumed mattered most — the SEM keywords.

And that’s where a lack of focus on the landing page can hurt you. It would be like optimizing a storefront to entice customers to come in. Window displays created by local artists. Solid oak doors with gold-plated handles. A beautifully designed sign with the store name. Free samples out front on the sidewalk.

But then when the customer walks into the store where the decision is actually made, the inside is a discombobulated mess that looks like a teenager’s bedroom.

Yes, conversion marketing to drive traffic is important. But don’t lose focus on the key customer decision point — the landing page.

Related Resources

MECLABS Institute Landing Page Optimization online certification course — Learn how to improve the efficiency of any landing page

Marketing 101: What is CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization)?

Landing Page Optimization: 6 common traits of a template that works

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Marketing Leadership: Aligning the entire team around the unifying vision is an integral part of project management

Back in high school, I was in a TV production class. And I LOVED it! It was a chance to flex my creative muscles, which I would later turn into a career. The exact same activities I got in trouble for in other classes, I got rewarded for in TV production.

But I had to make my way through calculus. And chemistry. And French class in order to get to TV production.

Is the professional world really so different from high school? There are the tasks and activities and goals we have a natural affinity and passion for. Where we shine. We’re in our flow. We’re the cheetah out on the grassland. The dolphin bow riding next to the boat. The dog whose leash just broke.

And then, there are the tasks we endure so that we can do those things that are in our natural flow. Tasks that make us feel like the tiger pacing in the cage.

A well-balanced marketing team has people who find their flow from a variety of different tasks. The artists and the scientists. The creatives and the data folks. And a good leader distributes and balances that work to benefit from the team’s skills and abilities, interests and passions.

But since many marketing projects require a multi-disciplinary team — complicated by the fact that many essential skills don’t reside in the organization but are in an ecosystem of agencies, consultants, design firms, dev shops, copywriting experts, etc., etc. — the successful marketing leader must be able to present a unifying vision.

The Unifying Vision of a Marketing Project

As Stephen Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.” I’d like to add to that with … “And tell people how you’re getting to the end.”

Here’s a nice example of a unifying vision I came across in a meeting with a prospective MECLABS Institute Research Partner (any identifying information about the prospective Research Partner has been removed to preserve anonymity).

Click on image to enlarge

There are three elements of this unifying vision that should keep a team informed, aligned and motivated.

The Project Objectives

“We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills …” — John F. Kennedy

Hey, JFK is a high bar. But he had a tough task. And he had to unite not only his team around it but the entire country. In 1962, the American space program’s biggest accomplishment was sending John Glenn around the Earth three times. A mission to the Moon would take so much more.

But this happened …

I use this example because projects can be a long, hard slog. Website redesign. New product launch. New software platform installation, integration or database migration. Rebranding.

You need the entire team aligned around the objective from the start and throughout the project. Vision leaks. Scope creeps. Morale flags. Keep the team focused on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Notice that there are two parts to each of the three objectives in the above diagram from MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingExperiments).

The first part explains what the team and the partnership will accomplish, for example.

“To develop a robust Customer Theory with high predictive power.”

The second part answers why the team wants to accomplish that. It explains the resulting experience of achieving the objective. For example:

“This will enable us to create ideal marketing collateral.”

The Project Plan

Oh, I know. You’ve got Gantt charts and Excels and Microsoft Projects set up.

But remember that diverse team of talent you have? Different people learn in different ways. And people can get lost in complexity.

It’s always helpful to communicate the project plan in a simplified, high-level, visually appealing manner. A few key steps in the project plan to call out:

  • Project Launch – Get the team aligned from the beginning and introduce the key players in the launch session. This is especially important if there are players from multiple companies or even multiple departments. Get a clear understanding of when and how the doers (weekly status call) and the leaders (quarterly executive strategy sessions) will monitor progress, overcome obstacles, collaborate and the like.
  • Value Proposition – Value chains can be complex. Multiple individuals within a company, multiple departments, and disparate agencies and other partners (from the ad agency to the contracted manufacturer) can significantly impact the ultimate value customers receive. Customers couldn’t care less about these internal silos. They expect a consistent experience that lives up to the brand promise made by your marketing organization. A clear, forceful value proposition will help all these groups successfully serve the customer.
  • Testing – What is your project’s feedback loop? How do you know you’re being successful? When should you stay the course, and when should you iterate to improve the outcome? Testing can help inform these decisions with data.

The Project Methodology

If a jam band is not playing in the same key, the output can sound like a cacophony. But when everyone is on the same page, you get magic.

The same goes for your projects. Is there any specific methodology you will be following? A commodity approach begets commodity results. An inconsistent approach yields inconsistent results.

Get your team aligned with any guiding principles that should shape the project, especially when difficult decisions are to be made. For example, if you take a customer-first marketing approach, difficult decisions might be solved by the principle that the customer should be the primary beneficiary of the project’s outcome. While of course, the company will benefit as well, it should come along with the customer, not at the expense of the customer.

Related Resources

Participate in a research project with MECLABS Institute and drive conversion increases

Customer Theory: How To Leverage Empathy In Your Marketing (With Free Tool)

Value Proposition: 3 Worksheets To Help You Craft, Express And Create Derivative Value Props

How to Prep Your Staff for Corporate Rebranding

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Landing Page Optimization: How Aetna’s HealthSpire startup generated 638% more leads for its call center

This case study was originally published on MarketingSherpa on April 11, 2018.

Denis Mrkva, General Manager, HealthSpire, recently visited MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingSherpa), and we had the opportunity to interview him about an interesting landing page experiment that was in progress at the time. Denis also shared what happened after the landing page — namely, how he staffs and runs a call center that truly provides value to customers.

Test Your Knowledge

Before you read or watch the full case study, it’s important to get in the right frame of mind. Which landing page do you think will perform better? And why? Think about that, then continue on to the case study to better understand your own assumptions and learn what the data showed. Perhaps you’ll discover a new paradigm to take your marketing to the next level.

 

 

Here, we offer an abbreviated 5-minute version of the video interview. Or you can watch the full 21-minute version. But if you prefer to read instead of watch, you can read the full transcript of the conversation below the article. Jump to full transcript.

SHORT 5-MINUTE VIDEO:

FULL 21-MINUTE VIDEO:

 

CUSTOMER

HealthSpire is a subsidiary of Aetna, a $63 billion managed health care company founded in 1853. HealthSpire serves Americans 65 and over with Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement insurance plans. It also offers ancillary products for dental, vision, cancer, heart attack and stroke.

HealthSpire also serves two other groups with its marketing — individuals who have yet to turn 65 but are beginning to research Medicare products and children or caregivers of people who are or will soon be eligible for Medicare.

CHALLENGE

About 18 months ago, HealthSpire created a landing page to get potential customers to learn more about Medicare through a phone or chat conversation and, ultimately, register for Medicare plans.

Creative Sample #1: Original landing page

HealthSpire 1

“Our hypothesis was that we want to have something that’s short and not confusing. What we were afraid of was that more information will create more confusion, resulting in a negative outcome. So we decided to go with a first control version, simple, just outlining products we have without going in depth. And giving them a chance to contact us via phone, schedule a call or chat with us,” said Denis Mrkva, General Manager, HealthSpire.

However, a few months after launching the page, Mrkva’s team realized that it wasn’t working.

“And then, I was fortunate to be referenced to MECLABS [Institute] and Flint [McGlaughlin] by my manager. And when we started talking to MECLABS, the lights went on. A light bulb went on.” — Denis Mrkva 

“I realized that this discipline that MECLABS has in actually understanding the relevant content, understanding the audience that we want to service, understanding the products, is the way to go,” Mrkva said.

“So we engaged with MECLABS to create a new set of landing pages that are actually focused on how a consumer would like to interact with us, and especially they’re very targeted [to] consumer segments who may not be that digitally savvy,” he explained.

[Partner with MECLABS Institute to drive growth in your organization]

The team analyzed the current HealthSpire landing page and identified a problem: It had a lack of credibility hurting its primary, process-, and product-level value propositions required to build trust with potential customers and create a perceived value in speaking with a HealthSpire agent.

After all, most customers are not excited about getting on the phone with an agent or a sales rep. They must first understand the value of that conversation to overcome the anxiety of a sales call, in addition to the time and effort they would invest in such a conversation.

CAMPAIGN

Based on that analysis, the team created the following research question:

Will the addition of primary and product-level value, coupled with the emphasis of value on a “Trusted Advisor,” drive additional calls?

And based on that, they created the hypothesis: By providing emphasis on the trusted advisor value rather than overwhelming prospects with the various Medicare products and plans options, we will generate more leads and requests for calls than the control.

From that hypothesis, they designed two treatment landing pages and launched an experiment.

Creative Sample #2: Treatment 1 — long page

HealthSpire 2

Creative Sample #3: Treatment 2 — Short page

HealthSpire 3

RESULTS

Denis visited in the middle of the experiment, and the results we discussed in the video were intermediate results before the experiment closed. The final results also showed that the longer landing page performed better, generating 638% more leads.

HealthSpire 4

Value of longer landing page outweighs its friction

Visitors (valid leads only) who saw the longer page — which included more HealthSpire/agent value copy and imagery — were more likely to call than those who saw the simpler page with less content about the agents and HealthSpire values.

In other words, the additional value presented in the longer page outweighed the additional friction from having a longer page.

Humanizing the brand added appeal and visualizing the agents reduced anxiety

Knowing that they were going to be speaking with a friendly agent may have helped them visualize how the conversation would be and reduced their anxiety.

Creative Sample #4: TeleAgent Tip from winning landing page treatment

“What we found out by working with MECLABS and testing things is that, at the end of the day, what we are asking somebody to do is call us and talk to a person,.”  — Denis Mkrva 

“So having actually the person or the people who the customers will be talking to on the site, and actually having the opportunity to get to know the agents before they call, and provide the content that will actually create a relationship between the customer and the agent on the site even before they call us, are some of the reasons why we believe that Treatment 1 is doing a lot better.”

Creative Sample #5: Q&A with TeleAgent from winning landing page treatment

HealthSpire 6

It all begins with creating real value for the customer

The longer landing page worked because it did a better job of increasing the perceived value of contacting a TeleAgent. However, for this strategy to work, Mrkva first made sure to create real value in interacting with the TeleAgents, that could then be communicated on the landing page.

“Part of that value is the people we employ. If you think about the agents that work for HealthSpire, all of our agents are college graduates,” Mkrva said. “The question became, how can we create a call center culture that becomes a value proposition for the college graduates?”

One way Mrkva’s team creates the value proposition for college graduates is by creating an environment the employees can thrive in. For example, they balance time on the phone with time reflecting on what they learned from previous calls — to help understand the psychology behind conversations they previously had and optimize future conversations. Understanding the people they’re talking to, not just the products they’re selling and a script they’re reading.

“It is perhaps the hardest sale you can make.What you’re trying to do is, in real time without looking at the person, persuade the person that if you have the right product for them and their needs, this is the right thing to do and to make a decision that will be very impactful on their well-being and financial health of their household budget.” — Denis Mrkva

A customer-first marketing approach

Not only is there value for customers who call into HealthSpire because the TeleAgents are well educated, but value also comes from the type of people the company hires and the customer-first philosophy behind the advice these agents offer on the calls.

“What we look for is — and it’s not easy, it’s not easy to evaluate people in an interview — is integrity. You have to do the right thing,” Mrkva said.

“We’re trying to find the right solution for the customer. And if there is no right solution for the customer with us, we will not sell.” — Denis Mrkva 

“Actually, we’ll recommend either stay with what you have, or maybe you should go and call other providers that have a product, because we can help them find the better product. Even though we cannot sell to them, we can tell them there is … company X [that] has this product, so you may want to go to this site,” he said.

This approach helps with employee satisfaction and engagement as well.

“It’s human nature. Our nature is to help somebody. So we need to enable people to be people in the workplace,” Mrkva said. “If you have the right people and if you make them happy and content, our customers will be happy and content.”


Sources

HealthSpire

Related Resources

MECLABS Research Partnerships — Participate in a research project and drive conversion increases

Landing Page Optimization: 57 guides, case studies, examples and experiments to help you increase conversion and sales

Email Marketing: Landing Page Testing Less Popular But More Effective

Landing Page Optimization: How The New York Times Generated A 1,052% Cumulative Conversion Gain

Web Usability: Long Landing Page Nets 220% More Leads Than Above The Fold Call-To-Action

Landing Page Optimization: 262% Increase In Lead Rate

MECLABS Institute Landing Page Optimization online certification course (from the parent research institute of MarketingSherpa)

Call Center Optimization: How The Globe and Mail cut number of calls in half while increasing sales per hour

Call-to-Action Optimization: 132% increase in clickthrough from changing four simple words

Full Transcript of Video Interview

Daniel Burstein: In our marketing, we have a lot of assumptions about what we think will work. We have that golden gut. One of those assumptions is, long form doesn’t work. People want short, they want quick. They want quippy. Well, that’s why you’ve got to test and experiment and see what works. And we’re going to look at an experiment today that challenges that model.

    Hi, I’m Daniel Burstein. I’m the Senior Director of Content at Marketing and MECLABS Institute. And I’m joined by Denis Mrkva, the General Manager of HealthSpire, a subsidiary of Aetna. Thanks for joining us, Denis.

Denis Mkrva:     Thank you for having me.

Daniel:     So, here we’re going to look at an experiment that your team ran with MECLABS Institute. So let’s just start, pull it up on the screen, and we’ve got the control and Treatment 1 and Treatment 2. Let’s just start by telling us about HealthSpire briefly. Who are they? How does HealthSpire serve a customer?

Denis:     Well, HealthSpire is an Aetna subsidiary. And as such, we offer a portfolio of Medicare products for the seniors in the country that are eligible to purchase Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, as well as ancillary products such as dental and vision, cancer, heart attack and stroke. Really we’re trying to protect as much as we can and enable people to have that protection holistically for their health.

Daniel:     Okay. And so when we look at this landing page, what was the goal of the landing page?

Denis:     Well, the goal of the landing page, if you look at the first, the control version, that’s when HealthSpire started a year and a half ago. And as you said, we all want things to be shorter, cleaner and to the point. Unfortunately, when you deal with very complex products in an industry such as healthcare, it is not that easy to do.

    However, a year and a half ago when we started HealthSpire, the assumption was, or hypothesis was, that we want to have something that’s short and not confusing. What we were afraid of was that more information would create more confusion, more friction, hence, resulting in a negative outcome. So we decided to go with a first control version, simple, just outlining products we have without going in depth. And giving them a chance to contact us via phone, schedule a call or chat with us.

Daniel:     Let’s take a look at it. So what were you trying to do with these two treatments?

Denis:     Okay, then a few months after starting up that page, we realized it’s not working. We realized something is going on. And then I was fortunate to be referenced to MECLABS and Flint by my manager. And when we started talking to MECLABS, the lights went on. A light bulb went on. I realized that this discipline that MECLABS has in actually understanding the relevant content, understanding the audience that we want to service, understanding the products, is the way to go.

    So we engaged with MECLABS to create a new set of landing pages that are actually focused on how a consumer would like to interact with us and especially {inaudible} very targeted consumer segments who may not be that digitally savvy.  And so we started working on a few different prototypes.

    Again, we wanted to have something that has a bit more information, it’s more informative, but give two different looks and feels. One would be with a lot more information, in depth. Another one with less information, that would really service almost as a passthrough to people who have already done their research. And then we launched.

Daniel:     Yeah. So now you can see, if you’re watching too, look at the short versus the long. And think about that for a second. I think most people would assume, you can see how much longer that page is, short is going to work better. It’s quick, everything is right there, people don’t want to read through things that are long. Let’s take a quick look at the results.

    So now let me mention these results. They’re pretty astounding. We’re still in the middle of this experiment. Denis just happens to be joining us at our headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida, here. So that’s why we’re discussing it now. The results aren’t complete yet. But look at those early numbers. That’s pretty astounding of how well the long form is doing.

Denis:     It’s doing great, actually. And what we found out by working with MECLABS and testing things is that, at the end of the day, what we are asking somebody to do is call us and talk to a person. So having actually the person or the people that the customers will be talking to on the site, and actually having the opportunity to get to know the agents before they call, and providing the content that will actually create a relationship between the customer and the agent on the site even before they call us, are some of the reasons why we believe that Treatment 1 is doing a lot better.

Daniel:     I think what you’re doing there is a process level value proposition. Right?

Denis:     Yes.

Daniel:     You’re not trying to sell all of HealthSpire, all of your entire product. All you’re trying to do is get someone to make a call. And that could be a reason why the long form works better because who among us is like, “Yes, I want to get on a call with someone to sell me. That’s what I want to do. Let me grab that phone number right now.” No. You have to sell them on the value of the call, right?

Denis:     Yes. And the part of that value is the people we employ. If you think about the agents that work for HealthSpire, all of our agents are college graduates. We believe that since the product itself and the industry is actually very complex compared to some other industries I worked in, such as consumer finance or the P&C insurance industry — it is heavily regulated, it has a diverse set of products and plans, and to actually understand that, we do want to employ people who have cognitive skills. And I think a certificate of having cognitive skills in the country is having a college degree.

    So we wanted to really try to figure out how do we — and I ran analytics for some time in my previous career where we had always an opportunity to hire people with a high level of education — the question became, “How can we create a call center culture that becomes a value proposition for the college graduates who just spent maybe $40,000 or $50,000 on their education, and now we’re asking them to be on the phone?” It wouldn’t be appealing to me at all.

    And then also, inform our customers that in order for us to service them, it has to start with our employees first, how we train them, how we treat them, how we work with them, how we develop them. And that connection that’s being done on the digital landing page or the longer version is showing results. It’s working.

Daniel:     If we take a look deeper into the results of conversions, we see there’s also more conversions for the longer page. It’s clear, you’re not just getting more people, you’re getting probably better leads. But also, what you’re doing on the call center side is working.

    So let me ask you about that because we recently did a case study with The Globe and Mail, a large Canadian newspaper, and they have a call center there. And what they were telling me is, the real challenge is, (you probably have a bigger challenge than this) is there is such high turnover in call centers that they don’t really get people who understand the product enough. Right? So what they had to do is create this messaging guide and really give them all the information necessary to even someone who’s only there a short time to understand the product.

    It’s interesting what you talk about. You have even a bigger challenge. Understanding a newspaper is one thing. Understanding a complex product that you probably yourself don’t use because you’re not a senior citizen, is more difficult. So what are some of your tactics to, one, reduce turnover and create a working environment that’s amenable, and two, to educate them so they can help educate their customers and really understand the product?

Denis:     Well, that’s interesting because let’s suppose that we are running a basketball team. That’s our business, and as a coach and general manager, we show up for a game and we realize that our players don’t know how to play the game. Whose fault is that? It’s the coach and the manager’s. So the very first thing that we realized is that in order for people to do their jobs, we not only need to find the right talent and onboard that, but we need to continuously work on coaching them day in and day out.

    And through the process, the hardest part is how do you find a balance between them doing their job and having enough time to develop them into effective employees. But not only at a professional level, how do you help them personally develop themselves and get them ready for some other jobs within the company or outside the company? So very quickly we realized it all comes down to culture and environment.

    What I mean by that is that, see, when we ask somebody to be on the phone 9 or 10 hours, it’s humanly impossible to be focused on talking to customer after customer without having the ability to actually take some time off and reflect on, “What was I talking about in the last call that made me do well versus now?”

    Then we need to enable them to start learning about the fact that talking on the phone with somebody is perhaps the hardest sale you can make, and it has a lot to do with the psychology of people rather than just learning the product. Because what you’re trying to do is, in real time without looking at the person, persuade the person that if you have the right product for them and their needs with that, this is the right thing to do and to make a decision that will be very impactful on their well-being and financial health of their household budget.

    Now to do that you also need to take out product knowledge, you need to start helping them to understand the importance of listening, importance of being able to lead people in the conversation through certain decision-making that you have to do on their behalf. So very quickly we realized it’s not only about knowing the product and having a script that you can read, it’s about exploring behind, what’s behind a sale. On the phone, it has to do with the psychology of people and ability of people to adjust their approach to the customer given the differences they have listened to on the phone.

Daniel:     It sounds like empathy.

Denis:    It is.

Daniel:    Is that something that you look for when you’re hiring? Empathy?

Denis:     What we look for is — and it’s not easy, it’s not easy to evaluate people in an interview — is integrity. You have to do the right thing. And what are we doing here? We’re trying to find the right solution for the customer. And if there is no right solution for the customer with us, we will not sell. 

    Actually, we’ll recommend. Either stay with us or maybe you should go and call other providers that have a product — because we can help them find the better product. Even though we cannot sell to them, we can tell them, “Company X has this product, so you may want to go to this site.”

Daniel:     So that’s very interesting. I don’t want to lose that point because I assume you’re investing significant amounts to just get these calls, to begin with, on the landing page. And each call is valuable to you. So you’re saying that you train your call center employees when you don’t have the right product for them, to find the right product for them, wherever it’s from, to point them in another direction.

Denis:     Indeed.

Daniel:     That’s outstanding.

Denis:     That’s I think, if you think about HealthSpire, as I said, is a subsidiary of Aetna. Aetna has been in existence for more than 160 years. And if you take a look at our competition, perhaps the one that’s the second oldest one is most likely a hundred years younger than us. There’s a reason why Aetna survived all those decades or century and a half, more than a century and a half, and that’s the ability not only to anticipate change that is coming but actually to be around people who believe that our job is, our fiduciary responsibility is, to make money for our shareholders and to maximize that. But the way, how we achieve that is the right way. And when you put these two together I think you maximize both. You maximize the financial performance of the company and you maximize an employee satisfaction engagement that then allows you to sustain the business model.

Daniel:     It’s more fulfilling to employees to really serve the customer even when they’re not selling their own product, it sounds like.

Denis:     It’s human nature. I’d be surprised if you, maybe not every one of us, but if you take us in general, our nature is to help somebody. Would you agree?

Daniel:     Totally.

Denis:     So we need to enable people to be people in the workplace.

Daniel:     Let me ask you about that because enabling people to be people in the workplace, that could be a challenging call center. So I wonder how you monitor individual performance. Because a lot of what you’re talking about would go against the metrics we see in a lot of other call centers. It’s about the amount of calls they can make in a day or getting off the phone quickly, some of these things. It almost seems like a factory production. So how do you monitor individual performance and allow people to be people in a call center?

Denis:     It’s interesting you said that because before taking this position about 18 months ago, I never ran a business, a startup. I was in the area of analytics my entire career. It’s a function of support which you contribute, but it’s really not directly responsible for the performance of the business. And when I started learning about this, when I started my job, I reached out to people to see how other people do that. It’s new to me.

    I started thinking about things such as average handling time, minimizing average handling time. And I was thinking, and I realized, “No, I want to maximize the average handling time, given the maximum productivity.” In other words, we don’t monitor average handling time. With our agents, we have goals, what we need to sell, and then we have a very strict process on how we sell.

    That process ensures that we stay in compliance with the federal as well as state regulations because some products are regulated by the federal government, some by state. The process in which we ensure that going from introducing yourself to sale is not two minutes because in two minutes you cannot understand consumer needs. And even if they call you with a specific, preconceived notion of what they want to buy, we still want you to understand their needs because given how complex the industry is, many people actually need more education.

    So it’s easy to us. We employ people to sell but do it in a way that we want it to be done, which is actually serving that customer. And that’s what we monitor. We monitor productivity and quality. How many calls you took, how much time spent, if you sold two policies today and that’s your goal, you’re going to go home. You go home. 

    You have to allow people, give people goals, enable them with the support they have and make sure that you hire people who are accountable. And accountability comes down to making sure that one does his or her job. Part of that is not how long we talk on the phone, how many calls. It’s actually how you’re doing the right thing and how we’re meeting our goals.

Daniel:     And it sounds like diverging from the script when it’s necessary?

Denis:     Yeah, because the script guides you through the framework of sales. What I mean by that is, often if you call somebody to buy insurance products, most likely they sell only one product. And when you sell only one product, you don’t want to know the consumer needs. Because if the needs tell you they need product B, which you don’t sell, guess what? You don’t have to sell. So you’re pitching the product you have.

    Now we have every product that’s out there. So a script allows them to systematically go through the process. And that’s important because most of our people that work for HealthSpire, including myself, we don’t have sales experience. And after a while, you see that the agents start not only memorizing, it becomes very natural for them, but we still let them be them. 

    Their personalities have to come to the phone. The way they assess the situations come to the phone. It cannot be a robot talking on the other end of the phone and reading word for word, which in some cases you have to do when you get to the certain regulated things. But in the process of assessing the needs, selling, we want them to be themselves.

Daniel:     Yeah, if you want people to be robots you could just use AI at this point, right? You bring that humanity and their personality into it, sounds like?

Denis:     You have to because the difference between buying a retail item, piece of clothing, and buying insurance is different. We’re talking about, what I would say, is this emotional purchase, “I like this jacket. I want this jacket. Do I have enough money? That’s the only thing I need to know. Do I like it? Do I have enough money? Then I’m going to buy it.”

    Health insurance is a rational decision. And in that rational decision given the complexity, it’s good to have another human being thinking with you through what the implications are, what my options are. “How do I choose between these options?” And even though I do believe in numbers and technology, I don’t think AI can get us that at this point in time. Even then, you’ll still need to have some human aspect in the process.

Daniel:     Absolutely. Let me ask you lastly. You mentioned Aetna is a 160-year-old company. HealthSpire is a startup within that company.

Denis:     Yes.

Daniel:     So what have you learned from that from maybe learning the best from an established enterprise company and learning the best from startup culture?

Denis:     If you think about Aetna and HealthSpire, its relationship between Aetna investing in HealthSpire and taking a risk to invest in a different business model that doesn’t exist today. Well, at least doesn’t exist at the large scale. So what I learned is that as in any startup it really takes a few things. 

    The first becomes, “Are there people who are willing to invest, that have a vision of where they want to go?” I was lucky enough to be part of the company that has senior leadership who realized that the market is changing, the consumer demographics are changing, the profile of people that we employ is changing. So we need to learn this. And secondly, a person that wants that job has to have a vision that’s aligned with the overall vision of people that are willing to invest. You have to have a certain level of courage to try things that are not tried before.

    And most importantly, you have to surround yourself with people who have similar traits. People who are curious. People who are not afraid of challenges. People who are willing to sacrifice their time when the time comes to make things work. And most importantly, people understand that the success of their organization is not in having the products or the processes; It’s actually having the people on the team. If you have the right people and if you make them happy and content, our customers will be happy and content.

Daniel:  Excellent. All right. Well, thank you very much, Denis.

Denis:      You’re very, very welcome.

Daniel:  Thank you for sharing this test, and I hope you enjoyed this experiment and learning a little more about call center optimization.


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Mental Cost: Your customers pay more than just money

What payment options do you give customers? Credit card? Debit card? Maybe you’re on the cutting edge and allow Bitcoin?

Regardless of the final payment methods for a product, you are asking your customers to pay in other ways as well, a way that is all too easily overlooked by brands to the detriment of their conversion rates — mental costs.

“I have to do this much”

A mental cost is essentially your customer thinking, “I have to do this much.” It could be to purchase a product. But it could be for another conversion goal, like simply reading your content marketing.

This is above and beyond the material cost — the actual price, maintenance charges or other monetary expenses.

If you don’t understand them well, mental costs can be detrimental to conversion because they add to the cost of the decision beyond just the price of a product. And when the cost side is too heavy in the exchange sum (i.e., how the customer weighs whether an action is worth taking), you will lose customers. The image above is from the book The Marketer as Philosopher, and it illustrates the customer’s choice process. (Click here to see a larger image)

“Mental costs represent the ‘soft’ elements, especially friction and anxiety. The marketer must remember cost is not just a mathematical calculation; it is especially a psychological calculation. A low material cost does not necessarily mean a low mental cost.” 

— Flint McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director, MECLABS Institute

Friction — psychological resistance

These mental costs exist for paid products, but they also exist for conversion actions that don’t require any payment.

For example, I was doing my taxes recently, and usually I get the income statement forms in the mail. Well, for one account I have, I didn’t get the form in the mail. I simply got an email telling me I had to log-in to the online account to download the form.

This process involved far more friction than simply opening my mailbox. It made me re-consider further investing money with this company. I literally thought, “I have to do this much just to get my tax forms?”

And note, this didn’t involve any elements of the actual material cost or value like fees on the account or the return I’m getting for my investment.

Other examples of friction include:

  • Making a customer log into an account before purchasing
  • Text that is too small or reversed out of a dark background
  • Popups that are difficult to exit out of (if you have a pop-over, allow visitors to easily exit with a clear “x” close button in the upper right or by simply clicking on the background)

Reduce friction. Ask yourself, what elements of the conversion process are a pain in the butt for customers? What hoops do you make them jump through? And how can you ease the process for them?

Anxiety – psychological concern

While friction is the level of effort required on the customer’s part, anxiety is the level of concern.

To use the previous example, not only was their friction from finding the proper form, there was anxiety as well. The first account I went into didn’t have the tax form. The email I received only said the form was ready, but I had multiple accounts with the financial institution and didn’t realize it was in another account.

This caused anxiety — first, because I couldn’t find the form. But then after I successfully found and printed the tax form, what if there were other forms I was missing? Again, this causes more anxiety than simply receiving the tax form in the postal mail.

This is true for many online-only processes and communication mechanisms – from email to online billing to online accounts of all sorts. There will naturally be more friction and anxiety so it’s necessary to ensure intuitive usability as well as trusting-building measures like easy and convenient customer service through chat, phone, email, social media, however your customers prefer to communicate.

If not, the cost of doing business with your institution – the mental cost that is – may cause you to lose customers.

Other examples of anxiety include:

  • Not clearly communicating shipping costs
  • Being unclear about when a customer will receive a product
  • An email or landing page with typos, poor grammar, or one that clearly isn’t written by a native speaker of that language
  • Asking for sensitive information (Social Security number, income, etc.) without communicating why you need it and how it will be used

You can find the right balance between mental and material costs

A product with a strong value force can command high mental and material costs from customers. Tesla attained 518,000 preorders for the Model 3 electric car before it was even built. Not only were customers willing to pay a high material cost (no haggling or discounts on these cars) they paid a high mental cost — the friction of waiting to receive the car and the anxiety of buying a car sight unseen.

On the flip side, have you ever received a free ticket to a concert or event that you chose not to attend? In that case, the material cost was zero. However, the perceived value was so low you were unwilling to pay the mental cost of attending.

Most products or other conversion goals are between the two extremes of this spectrum. And while you want to increase the perceived value above the perceived cost to increase your conversion rate, keep in mind that you can also try to find the right balance between mental and material costs on the cost side.

For example, you might discover that some customers are willing to pay the mental cost of tracking down a coupon or promo code in order to save on material costs. Some customers are willing to pay the mental costs of picking up a product in-store to save the material costs of shipping. However, other customers prefer paying a higher material cost in order to minimize mental costs.

By testing offers and getting to know your customer personas better, you can find the right mix of mental and material costs for your customer segments.

Related Resources

Learn more about mental cost in MECLABS Value Proposition Development online certification course.

Value Proposition: NFL’s Jaguars increase revenue with customer-centric marketing

Copywriting: How to tip the scale so customers act

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Heuristic Cheat Sheet: 10 methods for improving your marketing

We were recently asked, “Is there a heuristic cheat sheet published that shows all of them at a glance?”

MarketingExperiments and its parent research organization, MECLABS Institute, have become well known for our heuristics.

If you’re already familiar with what a heuristic is, feel free to scroll down to see the cheat sheet.

If heuristics are new to you, first a quick explanation.

A heuristic isn’t an equation to solve, it’s more of a thought tool to help understand a process or method.

While other areas of the business have well-defined methodologies, techniques and tools to help organizations work toward process improvement (e.g., Six Sigma, Lean manufacturing, TQM, ISO 9001), marketing has lacked a systematic method, tending to rely on individual high performers with a “golden gut” who just “get it.”

Since not every person in a marketing department or advertising agency just preternaturally “gets it,” performance can be lumpy, and it’s hard to field a marketing team that performs well across the board.

MECLABS Institute has developed a series of patented methodologies (Pat. No. 8,155,995) to help marketing, advertising and business leaders bring rigor to the way their teams think about executing marketing tactics as well as serving a customer with their marketing.

These heuristics were developed from patterning the results of our research library. The goal of these heuristics is to systematically diagnose the inefficiencies in your sales, marketing and conversion process. They are tools to help identify where to focus your energies when moving through a conversion opportunity.

Here is a quick glance at these heuristics, with links to more in-depth information.

The MECLABS Conversion Index Optimization Heuristic

This is our most well-known heuristic, so you’ve probably seen it around before. Since it is the most fundamental heuristic — after all, the main goal of marketing is to inform potential customers to get them to act — I will go into this heuristic in the most detail.

The MECLABS Conversion Index sequence seeks to identify the factors you can influence to help increase the probability of conversion (C in the above heuristic). It can help you step out of your marketing department and get in the shoes of the customer.

Motivation

Motivation (m) has the highest coefficient (4) because it is the most important deciding factor in the sales process. It consists of two components:

  • The nature of the customer’s demand for the product (why)
  • The magnitude of the customer’s demand for the product (want)

An effective strategy is to target customers or channels that have a higher motivation to buy your product.

To understand a user’s motivation and design relevant webpages to their needs, you must analyze the behavior of both online and offline traffic channels.

Value Proposition

Value Proposition (v) is the primary reason why your prospect should buy from you rather than any of your competitors. There are four elements to a powerful value proposition.

  • Appeal (“I want it”) — Three factors contribute directly to a prospect’s degree of “want”: relevance, importance and
  • Exclusivity (I can’t get it anywhere else”) — Exclusivity is related to the number of competing options. The lower the number, the better.
  • Credibility (“I believe in it/you”) — How to intensify credibility: specificity, quantification and
  • Clarity (“I understand it/you”) — Is the message clearly articulated, and can the prospect easily find the message?

Friction

Friction (f) is the psychological resistance to a given element in the sales process. There is a minus sign before friction because friction is an element that hinders conversion. It is composed of two components:

  • Length — This might be the number of fields or the number of steps from Point A (desire to buy) to Point B (purchase).
  • Difficulty — This might be the nature of the fields, a disruptive eye path or page elements that cause visitor annoyance.

The objective is to minimize not eliminate friction. If you eliminate all friction, you eliminate “the sale” (for example, you cannot remove a credit card field).

Anxiety

Anxiety is psychological concern stimulated by a given element in the sales or “buy” process.

You must seek to relieve and/or correct for anxiety at three different levels:

  • Specificity — Corrective measures address the precise source of anxiety.
  • Proximity — Visitor experiences corrective measures at the same time and place as anxiety is experienced.
  • Intensity — Corrective measures are amplified to overcome irrational fears.

Incentive

Incentive is an appealing element such as a discount, a bonus or special offer introduced to stimulate a desired action.

Incentive is used to “tip the balance” of emotional forces from negative (exerted by friction elements) to positive.

 

An effective test plan tests the other elements in the Conversion Index first, then seeks to test the impact of an incentive for additional improvement.

To learn how to apply the Conversion Index Heuristic in your marketing, you can take the MECLABS Landing Page Optimization online certification course.

The MECLABS Perceived Value Differential Heuristic

As mentioned in the previous heuristic, the proper use of incentive can help increase the probability of conversion. This heuristic helps you identify the most effective incentive to use.

  • PVD: Perceived value differentials
  • Vp: Perceived value of incentive
  • C$n: Net delivered cost of incentive

You can learn more about the Perceived Value Differential Heuristic in the article Finding The Ideal Incentive: How We Increased Email Capture by 319%.

The MECLABS Return on Incentive Heuristic

Since incentives often have a monetary cost, the Return on Incentive Heuristic helps call out the need for determining which incentive is actually most effective. The danger with incentives is that you could use them to increase an intermediate metric but hurt your overall results. For example, you could offer free shipping and gain more sales. However, if you don’t keep an eye on the return on incentive, you might overlook the fact that you’re losing money on each sale because the shipping is so expensive.

  • ROIc: Total return on incentive
  • P$n: Net profit impact from incentive
  • C$n: Net delivered cost of incentive

To learn how to apply the Return on Incentive Heuristic to your business, you can take the MECLABS Landing Page Optimization online certification course.

The MECLABS Friction Heuristic

The Friction Heuristic takes a closer look at another element of the Conversion Index Heuristic.

  • fsc: Friction
  • lt: Length
  • dt: Difficulty

To learn how to use the Friction Heuristic on your marketing, you can take the MECLABS Landing Page Optimization online certification course.

The MECLABS Net Value Force Heuristic

The Net Value Force Heuristic helps you understand which elements to adjust to increase the force of a value proposition.

  • Nf: Net force of the value proposition
  • Vf: Gross force of the value
  • Cf: Gross force of the cost
    • Mt: Material (I have to pay this much)
    • Mn: Mental (I have to do this much)
  • Ac: Acceptance (aka reception)

Learn more about using this heuristic with your business in the Value Proposition Development online certification course.

The MECLABS Optimization Sequence Heuristic

The MECLABS Optimization Sequence guides the order in which you should optimize your sales and marketing funnel. Namely, make sure you have a high-quality, valuable product before you craft a landing page for it. And make sure you have a good product and an optimized landing page before you start driving traffic to it.

Learn more about the Optimization Sequence Heuristic in the video How to approach a Minimum Viable Product.

The MECLABS Email Conversion Heuristic

The previous heuristic shows the proper priority of channel optimization. The MECLABS Email Conversion Heuristic helps you optimize your messaging specifically for an email channel to increase your effectiveness.

  • eme: Email messaging effectiveness
  • rv: Relevance to the consumer
  • of: Offer value (why)
  • i: Incentive to take action
  • f: Friction elements of the process
  • a: Anxiety elements of the process

You can learn more about the Email Conversion Heuristic in the article Email Marketing: 91% of marketers find target audience testing effective.

Email Messaging Optimization Index Heuristic

The Email Messaging Optimization Index helps you improve email effectiveness by prioritizing your email marketing optimization efforts.

  • ec: Email capture
  • op: Open rate
  • ct: Clickthrough
  • lp: Landing page

Learn more about the Email Messaging Optimization Index Heuristic in Internet Marketing for Beginners: Email marketing optimization 101.

The MECLABS Ad Messaging Index Heuristic

The Ad Messaging Index Heuristic provides a framework for optimizing a significant channel for most marketers — advertising — to create an effective ad.

  • ea: Effective ad
  • at: Ability to capture attention
  • I: Ability to turn attention into interest
  • as: Force of the “ask”

Learn more about the Ad Messaging Index in the article Banner Ad Design: The 3 key banner objectives that drove a 285% lift.

The MECLABS Online Testing Heuristic

All the heuristics help identify changes marketers can make to improve conversion. But ultimately, these changes should inform research questions and hypotheses that you then test with potential customers to discover what works best. The Online Testing Heuristic helps you understand the factors necessary for effective tests.

To learn how to apply the Conversion Index Heuristic in your marketing, you can take the MECLABS Online Testing online certification course.

The post Heuristic Cheat Sheet: 10 methods for improving your marketing appeared first on MarketingExperiments.

Conversion Optimization Testing: Validity threats from running multiple tests at the same time

A/B testing is popular among marketers and businesses because it gives you a way to determine what really works between two (or more) options.

However, to truly extract value from your testing program, it requires more than simply throwing some headlines or images into a website testing tool. There are ways you can undermine your testing tool that the tool itself can’t prevent.

It will still spit out results for you. And you’ll think they’re accurate.

These are called validity threats. In other words, they threaten the ability of your test to give you information that accurately reflects what is really happening with your customer. Instead, you’re seeing skewed data from not running the test in a scientifically sound manner.

In the MECLABS Institute Online Testing certification course, we cover validity threats like history effect, selection effect, instrumentation effect and sampling distortion effect. In this article, we’ll zoom in on one example of a selection effect that might cause a validity threat and thus misinterpretation of results — running multiple tests at the same time — which increases the likelihood of a false positive.

Interaction Effect — different variations in the tests can influence each other and thus skew the data

The goal of an experiment is to isolate a scenario that accurately reflects how the customer experiences your sales and marketing path. If you’re running two tests at the same time, the first test could influence how they experience the second test and therefore their likelihood to convert.

This is a psychological phenomenon known as priming. If we talk about the color yellow and then I ask you to mention a fruit, you’re more likely to answer banana. But if we talk about red and I ask you to mention a fruit, you’re more likely to answer apple. 

Another way interaction effect can threaten the validity is with a selection effect. In other words, the way you advertise near the beginning of the funnel impacts the type of customer and the motivations of the customer you’re bringing through your funnel.

Taylor Bartlinski, Senior Manager, Data Analytics, MECLABS Institute, provides this example:

“We run an SEO test where a treatment that uses the word ‘cheap’ has a higher clickthrough rate than the control, which uses the word ‘trustworthy.’ At the same time, we run a landing page test where the treatment also uses the word ‘cheap’ and the control uses ‘trustworthy.’  The treatments in both tests with the ‘cheap’ language work very well together to create a higher conversion rate, and the controls in each test using the ‘trustworthy’ language work together just as well.  Because of this, the landing page test is inconclusive, so we keep the control. Thus, the SEO ad with ‘cheap’ language is implemented and the landing page with ‘trustworthy’ language is kept, resulting in a lower conversion rate due to the lack of continuity in the messaging.”

Running multiple tests and hoping for little to no validity threat

The level of risk depends on the size of the change and the amount of interaction. However, that can be difficult to gauge before, and even after, the tests are run.

“Some people believe (that) unless you suspect extreme interactions and huge overlap between tests, this is going to be OK. But it is difficult to know to what degree you can suspect extreme interactions. We have seen very small changes have very big impacts on sites,” Bartlinski says.

Another example Bartlinski provides is where there this is little interaction between tests. For example, testing PPC landing pages that do not interact with organic landing pages that are part of another test — or testing separate things in mobile and desktop at the same time. “This lowers the risk, but there still may be overlap. It’s still an issue if a percentage gets into both tests; not ideal if we want to isolate findings and be fully confident in customer learnings,” Bartlinski said.

How to overcome the interaction effect when testing at the speed of business

In a perfect scientific experiment, multiple tests would not be run simultaneously. However, science often has the luxury of moving at the speed of academia. In addition, many scientific experiments are seeking to discover knowledge that can have life or death implications.

If you’re reading this article, you likely don’t have the luxury of taking as much time with your tests. You need results — and quick. You also are dealing with business risk, and not the high stakes of, for example, human life or death.

There is a way to run simultaneous tests while limiting validity threats — running multiple tests on (or leading to) the same webpage but splitting traffic so people do not see different variations at the same time.

“Running mutually exclusive tests will eliminate the above validity threats and will allow us to accurately determine which variations truly work best together,” Bartlinski said.

There is a downside though. It will slow down testing since an adequate sample size is needed for each test. If you don’t have a lot of traffic, it may end up taking the same amount of time as running tests one after another.

What’s the big idea?

Another important factor to consider is that the results from grouping the tests should lead to a new understanding of the customer — or what’s the point of running the test?

Bartlinski explains, “Grouping tests makes sense if tests measure the same goal (e.g., reservations), they’re in the same flow (e.g., same page/funnel), and you plan to run them for the same duration.”

The messaging should be parallel as well so you get a lesson. Pointing a treatment ad that focuses on cost to a treatment landing page that focuses on luxury, and then a treatment ad that focuses on luxury pointing to an ad that focuses on cost will not teach you much about your customer’s motivations.

If you’re running multiple tests on different parts of the funnel and aligning them, you should think of each flow as a test of a certain assumption about the customer as part of your overall hypothesis.

It is similar to a radical redesign. Much like testing multiple steps of the funnel can cause an interaction effect, testing multiple elements on a single landing page or in a single email can cause an attribution issue. Which change caused the result we see?

Bartlinski provides this example, “On the same landing page, we run a test where both the call-to-action (CTA) and the headline have been changed in the treatment. The treatment wins, but is it because of the CTA change or the headline? It is possible that the increase comes exclusively from the headline, while the new CTA is actually harming the clickthrough rate. If we tested the headline in isolation, we would be able to determine whether the combination of the new headline and old CTA actually has the best clickthrough, and we are potentially missing out on an even bigger increase.”

While running single-factorial A/B tests is the best way to isolate variables and determine with certainty which change caused a result, if you’re testing at the speed of business you don’t have that luxury. You need results and you need them now!

However, if you align several changes in a single treatment around a common theme that represents something you’re trying to learn about the customer (aka radical redesign), you can get a lift while still attaining a customer discovery. And then, in follow-up single-factorial A/B tests, narrow down which variables had the biggest impact on the customer.

Another cause of attribution effect is running multiple tests on different parts of a landing page because you assume they don’t interact. Perhaps, you run a test on two different ways to display locations on a map in the upper left corner of the page. Then a few days later, while that test is still running, you launch a second test on the same page but in the lower right corner on how star ratings are displayed in the results.

You could assume these two changes won’t have an effect on each other. However, the variables haven’t been isolated from the tests, and they might influence each other. Again, small changes can have big effects. The speed of your testing might necessitate testing like this; just know the risk involved in terms of skewed results.

To avoid that risk, you could run multivariate tests or mutually exclusive tests which would essentially match each combination of multiple variables together into a separate treatment. Again, the “cost” would be that it would take longer for the test to reach a statistically significant sample size since the traffic is split among more treatments.

Test strategically

The big takeaway here is — you can’t simply trust a split testing tool to give you accurate results. And it’s not necessarily the tool’s fault. It’s yours. The tool can’t possibly know ways you are threatening the validity of your results outside that individual split test.

If you take a hypothesis-driven approach to your testing, you can test fast AND smart, getting a result that accurately reflects the real-world situation while discovering more about your customer.

You might also like:

Online Testing certification course — Learn a proven methodology for executing effective and valid experiments

Optimization Testing Tested: Validity threats beyond sample size

Validity Threats: 3 tips for online testing during a promotion (if you can’t avoid it)

B2B Email Testing: Validity threats cause Ferguson to miss out on lift from Black Friday test

Validity Threats: How we could have missed a 31% increase in conversions

The post Conversion Optimization Testing: Validity threats from running multiple tests at the same time appeared first on MarketingExperiments.

A Simple Guide for the Busy Marketer: Using data from online marketing and web analytics tools

How does Adobe define bounce rate? What’s the difference between exit and bounce rate? And how can these numbers be meaningfully used to better serve customers and ultimately improve results?

Let’s take a closer look at some of the numbers you see in your digital marketing analytics platform to help answer this question.

We’ll focus on terminology used by Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics since they are the two most popular analytics platforms. For example, 74% of the Internet Retailer Top 500 use Google Analytics, 41% use Adobe Analytics and only 16% use others (IBM Digital Analytics, WebTrends, etc.).

Also, since many organizations use multiple platforms (as you can see the above numbers), it’s helpful to understand when different platforms use different terminology to mean essentially the same thing.

Bounce Rate

What it is: Google Analytics defines bounce rate as “The percentage of single-page sessions in which there was no interaction with the page.” Adobe Analytics has a similar definition. It’s important to note that exit rate includes bounces, but it also includes instances when a visitor did interact with something (e.g., a previous page) and this was simply the last page they viewed on your site.

How to use it: This one strikes fear into the heart of many marketers. “People are just bouncing off my site? Simply bouncing? And it’s not a Tigger type of friendly bounce.”

However, many marketers should ease their anxiety and focus elsewhere. Bounce Rate is usually most helpful for a business that sells traffic, like a publisher that sells ads on its site. In that case, the goal of most pages (which tend to be content, like an article or blog post) is to get people to view more pages and thereby generate more ad revenue.

But if you’re selling a product or service, your focus shouldn’t be getting visitors to simply view another page. It should be to walk them through a thought sequence to help them make the best purchase decision. Essentially, a funnel.

A word of caution: “For funnel optimization, I tend to focus more on exit rates and clickthrough rates to other steps in the funnel,” said Rebecca Strally, Associate Director, Strategy Development, MECLABS Institute.

“It’s not that bounces aren’t salvageable, it’s that source/medium reporting has gotten spottier over the years so it’s difficult to assign a bounce to a specific off-site source and therefore we are hard-pressed to determine what motivation may be lacking on the page. I’ve seen better long-term results when we just focus on moving more people deeper into the funnel rather than worrying about how to reduce bounces specifically,” she said.

Exit Rate and Exits

What it is: The number of a particular webpage’s views that were last in the session. Google Analytics provides an exit rate and shows a percentage, Adobe Analytics shows exits and provides a total number. As mentioned above, exit rate includes bounces, but it also includes instances when a visitor did interact with something (e.g., a previous page) and this was simply the last page they viewed on your site.

Also, keep in mind how the denominators are different between exit rate and bounce rate. Since bounce rate essentially mentions a one-page session, the bounce rate is only measuring against entries to that page. Exit rate includes both people who entered the site on the webpage you’re looking at metrics for, but also anyone who viewed the webpage and entered from a different page.

How to use it: It can help you understand the biggest leaks in your funnel. This may be the place in the buyer’s journey that is most ripe for conversion optimization work to improve your overall results. Why are people leaving before purchasing or becoming a lead? And what information can you provide to encourage more of them to continue the journey through your funnel?

A word of caution: People will naturally leave at certain stages of your funnel more frequently than others, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that step of the funnel is underperforming. For example, if the first step of your purchase funnel asks people to select the color so they can see what their future couch will look like in that color, and the second step asks for a credit card and purchase, people are far more likely to exit on the credit card step even if you’re executing it quite well due to the nature of the ask.

Visits, Sessions and Unique Pageviews

What it is: The number of visits within the time of your report. Adobe Analytics refers to this as “visits,” and Google Analytics refers to this as “sessions” (for multiple pages in a single visit) and “unique pageviews” (for an individual page, even over multiple sessions).

How to use it: This can help you see how many times people are coming to your website. For many products and services, a customer may have to visit your website and get information about your company over time (while building trust) before making a purchase.

“In order to tell how many times people are coming to the site you need to do a calculation — visits per visitor will tell you this,” advised Taylor Bartlinksi, Senior Manager, Data Analytics, MECLABS Institute. “A visit per visitor value of 2 means that on average, users come to your site twice in the date range you have set. You can also compare visits per visitor on a page basis to see if users are returning to any particular page more often than others.”

But a word of caution: This is an engagement metric. While it can be an important step in the funnel to lead to an ultimate conversion, it likely isn’t your end goal. So you may want to focus less on getting an increased number of visits and focus more on getting visits from your ideal customer. More visits from your ideal customer are what will ultimately lead to more sales and conversion.

Page Views

What it is: The number of times a page is … wait for it … viewed. Unlike with unique pageviews or visits, this metric can include multiple views from the same person, even if they simply hit refresh. While Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics refer to this by the same name, they differ slightly on the grammar: Adobe calls it page views and Google calls it pageviews.

How to use it: It could give you a sense of how popular certain pages are on your website. If you engage in conversion optimization on the most popular pages, you can increase your chances of getting more leads and more sales.

But a word of caution: As mentioned above, people hit refresh on webpages. They go back to a page multiple times just because they’re distracted by something else. This measurement could be showing not just popularity, but simply distracted browsing and user habits.

Clickthrough Rates

What it is: Essentially, clicking on a link. This could be clicking on a homepage link to get deeper into a site, for example. Or clicking on a specific product on a product gridwall. But it can also be clicks from offsite to the website, like clicks from an online advertisement or an email. This is shown in terms of total number of clicks as well as clickthrough rate (CTR) percentage.

How to use it: This metric can help you track the effectiveness of not only parts of your website but also elements of your channel at driving prospects to the next step of the funnel.

When to de-emphasize it: If you’re paying for traffic (for example, a pay-per-click ad), your goal shouldn’t be to get the highest clickthrough rate on that particular advertisement. The goal should be to get the most clicks from customers who ultimately get through your funnel and make a purchase or take some other ultimate conversion action.

Unique Visitors and Users

What it is: The number of unduplicated visitors to your website within the time of your report. Adobe Analytics uses the term “unique visitors,” and Google Analytics uses the term “users.” One important caveat, different platforms calculate this metric in a different way (more on that below).

How to use it: This metric helps you determine how many actual people you’re reaching with your website. It can ultimately help you determine how many people take the desired action you want them to take, and help you optimize that number by running A/B and multivariate testing.

A simple word of caution: This metric may not be perfectly tracking how many people visit your website. This is probably the most difficult metric to measure of any listed in this article since customers use multiple devices and some use private browsing modes or otherwise hinder cookies so analytics tools could double- (or triple-) count some of your visitors. It’s also important to understand how unique visitors and users are counted if you’re testing on your website.

Because of this, Adobe and Google might count unique visitors and users differently. For example, if a visitor was logged in to their Gmail account and visited the same website using a desktop device and a mobile device, Google may be able to track those visits as being from the same visitor where Adobe wouldn’t. And there are likely scenarios where Adobe would be able to tell a visitor is the same on multiple devices where perhaps Google could not.

A more complex word of caution: If you really want to get into the weeds, let’s address this question — how do unique visitors differ between Google Analytics, Google Content Experiments, Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target?

Keep in mind, a unique visitor is only unique in reference to a certain timeframe. So, the way you pull data from your testing platform (like Adobe Target or Google Content Experiments) when running a test may show a different number than your analytics platform because it may be accounting for a different timeframe.

To explain this better, Rebecca Strally provided the following scenario:

  • I ran a test for the entire month of May (31 days)
  • Visitor A came to my site once in May
  • Visitor B came to my site three times on three different days in May
  • Visitor C came to my site two times in a single day in May

All of these platforms define unique visitors in the same way, so if we were to pull a monthly report from each platform, we would have three unique visitors.

Where the discrepancy comes in is when you begin pulling daily data.

If you are pulling daily data from either Adobe Analytics or Google Analytics to cross-reference to your results from Adobe Target or Google Content Experiments you will get different numbers. This is because Adobe Target and Google Content Experiments will not pull daily data; they will pull aggregate data for the entire test period.

Let’s look back at the scenario. If we pulled daily data from Adobe Analytics or Google Analytics, we would get five unique visitors (Visitor A = 1, Visitor B = 3, Visitor C = 1), but Adobe Target and Content Experiments would only be showing three unique visitors (Visitor A = 1, Visitor B = 1, Visitor C=1), because they are looking at the entire month of May.

For your tests, you should pull data aggregately so you don’t deflate the conversion rate with more unique visitors than really were in the test.

How This Data Can Be Used to Better Serve Customers and Improve Results

Keep in mind, there is one flaw with each metric we’ve discussed. It tells you about the past, not the future. That’s why the testing scenario in the previous section is so important.

You can, of course, use these numbers to better understand customers and start predicting their future actions and, more importantly, what changes you can make to affect those future actions.

You would create a hypothesis. And run an online test.

For example, if your goal for an SEO landing page is to click through to other pages with deeper info on the topic, and you run tests to improve the headlines for those topics and reduce bounce rate, those numbers and that test helped you better serve customers and improve results.

Or, if you have a five-step process to guide people through the process of choosing a nursing home, you run a test to reduce the friction necessary to move from step three to step four, and in so doing, reduce the exit rate; that is another example of using these metrics to better serve customers and improve results

From each online test, you learn more about your customers. You turn simple numbers in a spreadsheet into a Technicolor view of your customers to help serve them better, and in so doing, improve your business results.

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