Author: Quin McGlaughlin

Exploring the Mobile Customer Experience: Three discoveries for designing an effective mobile experience

Mobile adds a challenging layer of complexity when optimizing your online marketing funnel. Testing a winning desktop experience can often produce the opposite effect on mobile performance, leaving us to diagnose where and why our good idea went wrong.

We know that users interact differently on mobile and that there are slightly differing variables at play. Yet with the rapid evolution of the space, the exact nature of those differences are still being discovered. Below you’ll find some of the mobile discoveries we’ve made in the last year of testing. And to help you put these discoveries into action, we’ve created the free MECLABS Mobile Micro Course.

Discovery #1. Design for your customer

On the extreme end, many webpages and offers try to accomplish too much. The eye path is cluttered with competing ads and calls-to-action, a saturation of colors and images, and too many boxes and options — all of which distract the user. Another extreme is when marketers fail to address critical questions in the mind of the consumer. Webpage space is peppered with hero images, irrelevant art, artistic code and design and generic qualitative claims.

For desktop, and especially mobile since concision is key (as discussed later in this article), a webpage’s objective(s) is the barometer you use to measure the relevance of your design and page elements.  The goal of your page should be narrow enough to avoid confusing and overwhelming the customer. Yet your design and copy should contain enough relevant value to keep users engaged and progressing toward a macro-conversion.

Design and copy can showcase our style, but ultimately, it’s all for the customer. A webpage should be designed to perform, not to impress. Usability and clarity trump clever design every time. This is not to say that page design is not important, but that each element of the design should support and contribute to the core message — and that core message itself is the sum of your perceived value proposition.

If a significant portion of your traffic is mobile, then it is important to treat mobile as a separate experience since users almost always behave to some degree differently than on desktop. If your traffic is predominantly mobile, then don’t treat mobile as the secondary experience; treat it as the primary. Usability is even more important for keeping consumers engaged in mobile since mobile is a compressed customer experience.

“If mobile is your primary audience, always design mobile first. Your mobile audience should not get a lesser experience if they are your primary [or significant] audience,” said Jonathan Yates, Digital Marketing Lead at MECLABS Institute.

Discovery #2. Long-form is not your enemy, irrelevance is

Take a look at this example from a test conducted for a well-known university seeking to increase enrollment:

In our analysis of the control page, we determined that while customers are motivated and interested, the messaging and sequence of information fails to provide a clear, controlled thought sequence that matches the key questions in the mind of the consumer.

To optimize the thought sequence on this page, not only was the information resequenced to better match the user’s thought sequence but against many mobile best practices, information was added to create a longer-form page.

While marketers often shy away from information-heavy mobile design, it isn’t the amount of information that influences user engagement, but rather the perceived relevance of that information. It is far more important to understand the necessary sequence of questions and conclusions in the mind of the user than to adhere to rigid best-practice-rules.

There is an inverse relationship between the complexity of a product or service and the amount of information required to make a purchase a decision. When communicating a more simple, transactional product, less information might be sufficient. But failing to provide enough information can be equally detrimental to conversion as overwhelming the customer.

In this case, the longer-form version with revised messaging produced a 32% increase in conversion rate.

“Don’t be afraid to have a longer page. If the content is valuable and relevant, prospects will read it. Just remember to make it clear …” Yates said. (He led the marketing experiment above.)

Discovery #3. [BUT] Concision is critical  

While the amount of information should be informed by the questions and micro-decisions on the part of the consumer, it is the marketer’s responsibility to make that information as easy as possible to consume.

In the test above, more information was added but also translated from desktop-style long-form paragraphs to simple, easy bullet points with clear headlines and visuals to guide the user. Put simply, the customer should inform what and how much information is needed, but the marketer should design the information in the clearest, simplest and easiest format for the customer.

Mobile is a compressed customer experience. On the desktop, a user has greater autonomy over how they choose to experience a page since the eye path can vary due to screen-size and design. However, in mobile, the customer experience is necessarily sequential and linear — meaning that the customer experiences one page element at a time instead of multiple competing elements. This is why it is critical to ensure that the information presented is relevant, easy-to-digest, and aligned with the customer’s sequence of questions and conclusions.

Countless marketing mistakes are made because of assumptions based on insufficient data or rationale, and every marketer should be skeptical toward the litany of “best practices” and noisy ideas in the marketplace. Mobile shopping and browsing continue to grow and become ever more important, and the only way to truly understand it is through testing.

Understanding always trumps ideas over time. There are common variables and important differences between your desktop and mobile user behavior that vary depending on your product, model, industry and audience. So, to be truly effective in mobile, we must treat mobile as different and seek to understand how, to what degree and why.

Stay tuned for more research and insights as we continue to learn about what works in mobile marketing and why.

Related Resources

Most Popular MarketingSherpa Articles of 2018

Mobile Ad Campaign Optimization: 6 tactics from a high-performing marketer to increase conversion

MarketingSherpa Podcast Episode #1: The role of the human connection in your marketing

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Designing Hypotheses that Win: A four-step framework for gaining customer wisdom and generating marketing results

There are smart marketers everywhere testing many smart ideas — and bad ones. The problem with ideas is that they are unreliable and unpredictable. Knowing how to test is only half of the equation. As marketing tools and technology evolve rapidly offering new, more powerful ways to measure consumer behavior and conduct more sophisticated testing, it is becoming more important than ever to have a reliable system for deciding what to test.

Without a guiding framework, we are left to draw ideas almost arbitrarily from competitors, brainstorms, colleagues, books and any other sources without truly understanding what makes them good, bad or successful. Ideas are unpredictable because until you can articulate a forceful “because” statement to why your ideas will work, regardless of how good, they are nothing more than a guess, albeit educated, but most often not by the customer.

20+ years of in-depth research, testing, optimization and over 20,000+ sales path experiments have taught us that there is an answer to this problem, and that answer involves rethinking how we view testing and optimization. This short article touches on the keynote message MECLABS Institute’s founder Flint McGlaughlin will give at the upcoming 2018 A/B Testing Summit virtual conference on December 12-13th.  You can register for free at the link above.

Marketers don’t need better ideas; they need a better understanding of their customer.

So if understanding your customer is the key to efficient and effective optimization and ideas aren’t reliable or predictable, what then? We begin with the process of intensively analyzing existing data, metrics, reports and research to construct our best Customer Theory, which is the articulation of our understanding of our customer and their behavior toward our offer.

Then, as we identify problems/focus areas for higher performance in our funnel, we transform our ideas for solving them into a hypothesis containing four key parts:

  1. If [we achieve this in the mind of the consumer]
  2. By [adding, subtracting or changing these elements]
  3. Then [this result will occur]
  4. Because [that will confirm or deny this belief/hypothesis about the customer]

By transforming ideas into hypotheses, we orient our test to learn about our customer rather than merely trying out an idea. The hypothesis grounds our thinking in the psychology of the customer by providing a framework that forces the right questions into the equation of what to test. “The goal of a test is not to get a lift, but to get a learning,” says Flint McGlaughlin, “and learning compounds over time.”

Let’s look at some examples of what to avoid in your testing, along with good examples of hypotheses.

Not this:

“Let’s advertise our top products in our rotating banner — that’s what Competitor X is doing.”

“We need more attractive imagery … Let’s place a big, powerful hero image as our banner. Everyone is doing it.”

“We should go minimalist … It’s modern, sleek and sexy, and customers love it. It’ll be good for our brand. Less is more.”

But this:

 “If we emphasize and sample the diversity of our product line by grouping our top products from various categories in a slowly rotating banner, we will increase clickthrough and engagement from the homepage because customers want to understand the range of what we have to offer (versus some other value, e.g., quality, style, efficacy, affordability, etc.).”

“If we reinforce the clarity of the value proposition by using more relevant imagery to draw attention to the most important information, we will increase clickthrough and ultimately conversion because the customer wants to quickly understand why we’re different in such a competitive space.”

“If we better emphasize the primary message be reducing unnecessary, less-relevant page elements and changing to a simpler, clearer more readable design, we will increase clickthrough and engagement on the homepage because customers are currently overwhelmed by too much friction on this page.”

The golden rule of optimization is “Specificity converts. The more specific/relevant you can be to the individual wants and needs of your ideal customer, the more likely the probability of conversion. To be as specific and relevant as possible to a consumer, we use testing not as merely an idea-trial hoping for positive results, but as a mechanism to fill in the gaps of our understanding that existing data can’t answer. Our understanding of the customer is what powers the efficiency and efficacy of our testing.

In Summary …

Smart ideas only work sometimes, but a framework based on understanding your customer will yield more consistent, more rewarding results that only improve over time. The first key to rethinking your approach to optimization is to construct a robust customer theory articulating your best understanding of your customer. From this, you can transform your ideas into hypotheses that will begin producing invaluable insights to lay the groundwork for how you communicate with your customer.

Looking for ideas to inform your hypotheses? We have created and compiled a 60-page guide that contains 21 crafted tools and concepts, and outlines the unique methodology we have used and tested with our partners for 20+ years. You can download the guide for free here: A Model of Your Customer’s Mind

Related Resources

A/B Testing Summit free online conference – Research your seat to see Flint McGlaughlin’s keynote Design Hypotheses that Win: A 4-step framework for gaining customer wisdom and generating significant results

The Hypothesis and the Modern-Day Marketer

Customer Theory: How we learned from a previous test to drive a 40% increase in CTR

The post Designing Hypotheses that Win: A four-step framework for gaining customer wisdom and generating marketing results appeared first on MarketingExperiments.

Low-Hanging Fruit for the Holiday Season: Four simple marketing changes with significant impact

Testing and optimization can be difficult — from the challenges of deciding what to test amidst a dizzying array of priorities and ideas, to the time-intensive manual labor of implementing sophisticated back-end changes. With the year coming to a close and big marketing plans in the making, it’s important before making big changes and commitments to be sure that you have the right foundation to maximize the return from your grander strategy. That’s why we created this list of simple changes that can produce significant results and set your marketing strategy for the next stage on the right foundation.

20+ years and over 20,000+ sales paths have taught us that one of the foundational principles in which all marketing should be grounded is that marketers must always be at war with the temptation to prioritize company logic over customer logic. Over time, we grow so familiar with our product, our process, our brand and our own objective that we risk severe and expensive assumptions about what the customer wants and needs to know to make a purchase decision.

The goal of optimization is not to make changes to a page — but to make changes in the mind of the customer. Changing even a few words can alter the conclusion formed by the customer depending upon their levels of motivation and expectation. This means that even minor changes to our message can produce radical lifts in performance, as we have seen in thousands of experiments time and time again. So here are some simple, easy-to-implement ways you can shift from communicating company logic to customer logic and optimize the thought-sequence of your offer:

  1. Headlines — From hype to conversation

“Headlines are first impressions, pick-up lines. Use buzz/power-words, use numbers, make it value-first, make a promise, etc.,” are all ideas espoused often by some successful marketers. While some of these might be good ideas of how you could write a headline, they often leave us asking, “Why should I use this tactic over another?” When and how we deploy our tactics is determined by our objective, and all communication should be grounded in an understanding of your audience and a rationale for why.

Any idea might be considered a good or bad one until you have a purpose against which to evaluate it. Years of incrementally testing and refining research questions have demonstrated that a headline has at least two fundamental, primary purposes: 1) To capture attention, and then 2) convert it to interest. There are dozens of ways an effective headline could be crafted, but ultimately, it should be measured by how much attention it captures (from the right people) and how effectively that converts to a committed interest

  1. Copy — From marketer-value to customer-value

While variables like long copy versus short copy, or hero imagery, or ideal eye-path structure and prioritization of value are questions which can only be truly answered through testing and understanding, one universal mistake often made is failing to translate generalized claims and specific features about our product or service into clear benefits to the consumer. The customer is never simply choosing which product to buy, but also which product from who, how and when. It is critical to understand that your offer and the consequent micro-decisions required of the customer are always perceived in the context of their competing alternatives.

A simple but fun and effective question that MECLABS founder Flint McGlaughlin says should be applied to every marketing claim is, “So what?” That is to say, the customer is always asking, and we must always be answering the question: Why should I do what you want me to do rather than anything else right now?

“So what that you’re an industry leader?”

“So what that your product has these specifications?”

“So what that you offer a personalized solution, customer-service or integrated functionality”

On any given website, customers often expect to find words like “most,” “best,” “fastest,” “trusted,” “leader,” “all” and “customer-first.” Qualifying claims like this carry no measurable weight and, ironically, set a precedent of distrust unless somehow validated. Customers want to believe you, so you must give them reasons by clarifying your qualifying claims with measurable evidence. Quantify and specify wherever possible and appropriate so that your customers have no need to question the credibility of your claims, and they will trust you when you make others.

  1. Images — From irrelevant art to relevant messaging

Images are not only highly valuable real-estate but one of the marketer’s most effective tools for guiding the eye path. Yet so often, images are chosen based on personal opinion, the design department’s decision, how it looks and feels on the page, or its color scheme, cleverness, or worse, simply because it’s supposed to be there. Images, like each and every element in your marketing funnel, are part of and should contribute to the overall value proposition of your organization/solution.

When used properly, images are not merely decorative accents to liven a webpage’s personality; they should illustrate or support the core marketing message, and therefore be measured primarily by relevance and clarity. Ultimately, your core message (your value proposition) should be supported 1) Continuously, and 2) Congruently.

Continuity – The Continuity principle posits that your value proposition should be stated or supported continuously throughout each step of your sales process.

Congruence – The Congruence Principle posits that each element of your page or collateral should either state or support your value proposition (this is particularly relevant for imagery).

  1. Objectives — From multiple options to the primary focus

“What is the goal of this page or email?” A question we’ve asked countless times when working with marketers and organizations, and we’ve found surprisingly often that either the goal of the page is unclear or attempting to fulfill numerous goals other than its primary purpose. Since ideally each element of your page should move the target customer toward the “macro-yes” — conversion. Each distraction we place in the customers’ path risks leading them into tangential and unsupervised thinking rather than a controlled thought-sequence toward the objective.

The objective of the page is the benchmark against which we measure the relevance and efficacy of all the supporting elements. Avoiding things like evenly weighted calls-to-action, distracting images, competing ads and irrelevant page elements streamlines the customers’ path toward the objective. Clearly defining the action you want the customer to take and stripping away unnecessary elements to organize around the objective can be powerfully impactful in the psychology of the consumer.

Together, each one these subtle shifts in communication can produce outstanding lifts when executed well and set your messaging on the right foundation. We hope that you’ll find the same amazing results from becoming more customer-oriented that we have seen from testing these core principles time and time again.

In the meantime, Happy Holidays from MarketingExperiments!

Related Resources

Design Hypotheses that Win: A 4-Step Framework for Gaining Customer Wisdom and Generating Significant Results (register for the free A/B Testing Summit online conference and hear Flint McGlaughlin’s keynote session)

Ecommerce: 6 takeaways from a 42-day analysis of major retailers’ holiday marketing

Email Marketing: Last-minute holiday deals preview wins with customer-centric approach

Increase Mobile Conversion Rates (free micro course from MECLABS Institute)

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