Tag Archives: Analysis

The Trust Trial: Could you sell an iChicken?

Would you buy an Apple iChicken? Our CEO, Flint McGlaughlin, often jokes that “If Apple released an iChicken, people would be lined up and down the streets to buy it.”

But why?

At some point or another, we’ve all bought a product because of the brand name. But why do we prefer name brand cereal over the store brand? Why are Yeezys so much cooler than the $20 knock-offs on Amazon? Most of the time, it’s because we expect a certain kind of experience from the brands we trust. Cute logos and catchy slogans cannot build a brand powerful enough to sell the world an iChicken. The only way to build an effective brand is to earn your customers’ trust.

Trust, however, is not a static element; it is constantly changing. Every interaction with your value proposition impacts your customers’ trust, and in turn, your brand. Consider, for instance, what might happen after people bought the iChicken. Assuming the metaphorical product is as useless as it sounds, customers’ expectations of Apple would likely be damaged. Next time a new product is released, customers might think twice before jumping in line. Apple may have spent years building trust, but if a brand fails to meet their customers’ expectations, that trust is diminished.

Thus, this raises a more important question for the marketer: How do you build a brand that could sell an iChicken?

The most successful companies in the world do not rely on a brand promise, they cultivate a brand expectation. In order to build a trustworthy brand, marketers must use inference as a tool with which to create an expectation in the mind of the customer, and then deliver on it consistently. But people are not simple, and likewise, this process of earning their trust is not simple.

The Trust Trial

When engaging in a decision-making process, customers begin a subconscious cycle in the mind called “The Trust Trial.” This trial goes through five repeating phases: Customers must (1) observe your offer, in order to form a (2) conclusion about that offer within the context of their own needs, leading them to (3) decide what action they will take. This decision is then paired with an (4) expectation of your offer, which is ultimately calibrated by the (5) experience. Once a customer has experienced your offer, the trust trial restarts.

Let’s take a closer look …

#1. Observation

While it may seem obvious, observation is a complex and important phase for your customers. Customers are not simply looking at your offer, they are searching for your value proposition — a reason to invest interest. Every piece of data presented to your customer must lead them to infer the value of your offer. Marketing cannot make claims, it must foster conclusions. We often focus so much on achieving a conversion, that we forget the many other things our customers are focused on. When a customer is in the observation phase of The Trust Trial, the marketer must present the right data, at the right time, in the right order, within the customer’s thought-sequence, to guide them toward the desired conclusions.

#2. Conclusion

A customer’s conclusions are inferred by the data that has been made available to them. It depends entirely on the marketer to encode their message in a way that the customer comes to two ultimate conclusions: The product can, and the company will. These two conclusions are happening in a sort of micro trust trial throughout the cycle of trust trials. The marketer has value that needs to be perceived and a truth that needs to be believed. Trust is contingent upon the marketer’s ability to foster these necessary conclusions. But the marketer must remember that the conclusion is tentative; it only locks when you experience it. And it must be consistently reinforced.

#3. Decision

The decision phase is more than just the final decision to purchase. While the final decision may be the most important for your bottom line, there are many micro-decisions customers must make first. Customers must decide whether to read past your headline, to click on “learn more,” to fill out a form, etc. If the marketer fails to carefully guide their customer through each of these micro-decisions, then they won’t even make it to the final decision. Using the power of inference, the marketer must leverage the observation and conclusion phases to reinforce, not only the company’s value proposition, but the particular product’s value proposition as well.

#4. Expectation

All of marketing serves to create an expectation in the mind of the customer. Many companies talk about their “brand-promise,” but most customers don’t even know what a brand-promise is. And if it doesn’t exist in the mind of the customer, then it really doesn’t exist at all. Companies should not be focused on creating a brand-promise, but rather on developing a brand-expectation through the consistent experience of the value proposition. Every interaction with your brand develops an expectation in the mind of the customer about what they are going to experience. Whether or not this expectation is met determines the strength of your brand.

#5 Experience

Ultimately, brand is the aggregate experience of the value proposition. Each experience, from the first to the last, compounds to either build or diminish trust. Sometimes, the longer you know someone, the more you trust them. And sometimes, it goes the other way … Consider, for instance, a president who wants to be re-elected. They spend months campaigning, making promises and creating an expectation of how they plan to run the country. Then, after being elected, they fail to keep those promises. Four years later and it’s time for the next election, but the country no longer trusts this president. The experience did not meet the expectation that was created for them. Now, what do you think the chances of that re-election would be? Every experience begins a new trust trial in the mind of the customer and determines the probability of a future engagement. While you can gain your customers’ confidence in the inference process, it is ultimately the experience that calibrates trust — and trust which drives the power of your brand.

An Experiment

We put this concept to the test in an experiment conducted by MECLABS Institute, the parent research organization of MarketingExperiments, with an organization that sells language learning products for people who want to learn a language fast. The group asked MECLABS to run a test with the goal of isolating the variable(s) leading to high order cancellations and fewer people choosing to keep their product.

When analyzing the original page, the team found a small disclaimer hidden beneath all their marketing copy. Their 30-day free trial wasn’t actually so free; for each course you keep during your trial, the company bills you four monthly payments of $64 dollars. The team hypothesized that customers may be missing this disclaimer until it shows up on their bill, leading them to doubt the company’s honesty. If the information was presented earlier in the funnel, customers may be less likely to convert — but the goal of a test is not to get a lift, but to get a learning. So, the team designed a treatment in which the disclaimer was communicated more clearly and emphasized earlier on the landing page. As expected, the results showed a 78.6% decrease in conversions.

While this result didn’t make the company more money, it revealed how their offer may have been misleading their customers. Marketers often tend to prioritize a conversion over the customer relationship, but this mistake can have long-term impacts on a business. You may be able to fool someone with your marketing once, but if you fail to deliver on your promises, you will fail your customers’ trust trial and lose their loyalty — which is worth far more over time than one conversion.

What does this mean for marketers?

The Trust Trial is not a marketing technique; it is the essence of building genuine relationships. Often, marketers forget the human-ness of our customers. We forget that trust is the currency of any relationship. Whether deciding on a college, a spouse or even a cell phone, people must be able to trust they have made the best choice.

If we hope to create sustainable competitive advantage and a lasting brand, we cannot treat customers merely as “leads” and “opportunities” whose sole purpose is to increase our revenue. We must understand and care for each milestone of the customer’s experience of our value proposition. In the end, regardless of the size of your company, your brand depends on your customer relationship, and in order to sustain it, the marketer must earn their customers’ trust. And then earn it again and again.

Related resources

The Prospect’s Perception Gap: How to bridge the gap between the results we want and the results we have

Customer-First Science: A conversation with Wharton about using marketing experimentation to discover why people say yes

Value Proposition: In which we examine a value prop fail and show you how to fix it

The post The Trust Trial: Could you sell an iChicken? appeared first on MarketingExperiments.

Marketing Multiple Products: How radical thinking about a multi-product offer led to a 70% increase in conversion

The following research was first published in the MECLABS Quarterly Research Digest, July 2014.

Many companies — large or small, B2C or B2B, ecommerce or subscription — have more than one product. If you fall into this category, you face a common challenge: finding the best way to market multiple products. You could take a couple of approaches:

  • Pack your pages with as many products as possible, hoping that the sheer numbers will pump up conversions
  • Slim down to the bare minimum, hoping to focus your prospects’ attention on just one product

Certainly, we can make experienced guesses based on intuition at the effectiveness of these approaches. But at the end of the day, that is not what MECLABS is about — nor you, we expect. We want hard numbers to guide our thinking, not intuition. This led us to an extremely interesting experiment and three key principles to observe when marketing multiple products.

Experiment: Which product presentation would increase revenue? 

This experiment, Test Protocol 1903 in the MECLABS Research Library, was conducted on behalf of our Research Partner, an independent manufacturer and distributor of vitamin supplements. Prospects only reached the page we tested after filling out a form and clicking a “Get My [Product] Now!” button. When reaching the page, the question prospects had to answer was not, “Do I want to buy this product?” It was more of, “Which version of this product do I want to purchase?”

The control page features a standard list format with radio buttons. The “Best Value” option, which is also the most expensive, is pre-checked. The treatment page uses a horizontal matrix that generated lifts in other tests.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.2

The extensive form beneath the matrix auto-populates, so only the payment information also required on the control page needs to be entered.

Figure 1.3

Figure 1.4

Figure 1.5

Did we see a similar lift in this case? No, the control page outperformed the treatment by 70% in terms of revenue, while conversion changes were insignificant. 

Now the ultimate question: Why? A little digging on our part revealed three key principles.

Keys to Marketing Multiple Products

Key Principle #1. People do not buy from product pages; people buy from people. The art of marketing is not conversion; it is conversation.

We’ve covered this idea in many MECLABS Web clinics. The focus of our efforts as marketers cannot be on creating better pages; it must be on creating clearer, more guided conversations.

You want to have a conversation with the customer that allows them to understand the value that is built into the page. The page should be rooted in that value but presented in a thought sequence prospects will understand. By doing so, we’re able to guide them to the action we wish them to take.   

Key Principle#2. The goal of a product page is not simply to give prospects more options or products, but to lead them to the “one” option that is most relevant, important and urgent to them.

More options on a single page does not equate to more conversions. We create more conversions by guiding prospects to the best option for them. We do that through the conversations we build on our pages.

Presenting a dozen variations of the same product can be confusing for prospects, especially if there is no product-level value proposition. They may have questions like: Do I want any version of this product? If so, what’s the difference between them all? Which one is right for me?

All this confusion could lead the prospect to leave the page and, ultimately, your website.

We can decrease this confusion and friction by guiding them to the product that best suits them. We’ll learn how to effectively do that through the objectives provided in the next key principle.

Key Principle #3. Therefore, the marketer must use three key objectives when selling multiple products: eliminate, emphasize and express.

Eliminate means to minimize the number of competing choices on your pages as much as possible. Emphasize involves using visual weight to sequence the presentation of products. Lastly, express entails ensuring the product-level value proposition is clearly communicated.

If you can achieve these three objectives, you will have created a conversation that guides a prospect’s thinking and leads them to the best product for them, rather than simply a webpage that presents them with options. In the balance of this article, we will look at how to do this.

Objective #1. Eliminate competing choices

Many times, we unintentionally create too many equally weighted options on a product page. What does this mean? Look at the page depicted in Figure 2.1. On this page, three options make up the sidebar. The marketers hypothesized that they could achieve a lift in conversion by removing the equally weighted choices and simply placing those options in a drop-down box for the user to choose from, as shown in Figure 2.2.

Did it work? Yes, to the tune of a 24% increase in revenue.

Figure 2.1

Figure 2.2

 Indeed, by eliminating unnecessary choices, you can increase conversion. However, there is a caveat. It is possible to eliminate too much. In Figure 2.3, you see a page with three size options for a product. We hypothesized that we could increase conversion by simplifying things and just focusing on the most popular size of the product (while eliminating the extra options). That is not how it worked out. Instead, the new page delivered a 35% decrease in conversion.

Figure 2.3

Figure 2.4

Testing new designs is the only way to find out whether you can produce a lift by eliminating competing options, but the research shows in most cases, you can.

To discover whether your pages are good candidates for elimination, ask yourself the following five questions:

  1. Are the products on my page the ones my customers want?
  2. Can I visually group my products so they appear as one?
  3. Can I eliminate one or more competing products?
  4. Can I segment my traffic in the channel so products are more personalized?
  5. Is there a gap in my product mix that indicates I have eliminated too much?

Objective #2. Emphasize desired choices

When multiple products or options are necessary, you want to be careful not to make them equally weighted. That can lead to “unsupervised thinking” on the part of the prospect. Rather, you want to guide them to the option that best suits them. In Figure 3.1, the webpage has five options that are equally weighted. There is no guidance. The treatment in Figure 3.2 trims the options down to three, but, more importantly, it also adds emphasis to the option on the right, steering prospects in that direction. The change resulted in a 66% increase in conversions.

Figure 3.1

If you are not handling emphasis well on your pages, consider the five elements below to get back on track. Of course, test the results.

  • Size: How large is the product on the page?
  • Shape: Does the shape of the product distinguish it from others?
  • Motion: Is there a tasteful way to emphasize the product with motion?
  • Color: Does the color of the product distinguish it from others?
  • Position: Is the product being emphasized in the main eye-path?

Objective #3. Express product values

Three levels form a value proposition: process level, product level and prospect level (Figure 4.1). When working with a page consisting of multiple products, it is absolutely critical that the product-level value proposition is crystal clear. That’s the one that explains why a specific product is the best choice in a specific situation. If the product-level value is unclear, prospects will not understand the difference between products or which product best meets their current needs.

Figure 3.2

Figure 4.1 – The Proposition Spectrum

In Figures 4.2 and 4.3, you see the control and treatment pages of a couple recent experiments. The control pages fail to clearly demonstrate the product-level value propositions of the products. The treatments take a more copy-heavy approach, allowing us to really flesh out the specific value propositions for each product. The result was a 61% increase in purchases for the first page and a 93% conversion lift for the second.

 

Figure 4.2

Figure 4.3

Experiment: How did our treatment meet the three objectives?

Let’s come full circle, back to the experiment that started it all. We wanted to understand why the control page outperformed the treatment that was based on other successful experimentation. Let’s look at how it meets the three objectives outlined previously.

Figure 5.1 and Figure 5.2

Eliminate

We did not eliminate any products from the control to the treatment, so that did not factor into this specific situation.

Emphasize

The control page visually emphasizes the most expensive “best value” version of the product by automatically checking the radio button of that choice. Our treatment, however, visually emphasizes the second “most popular” choice, as noted by the red boxes. This change guided more prospects toward choosing the less expensive option, which explains why conversion was roughly equivalent while revenue significantly decreased.

Express

Finally, in the treatment, we added a small “cost per serving” feature to the products. This showed that the “most popular” option produced a $0.66 savings per serving over the cheapest option. However, the “best value” option only produced a $0.12 savings over the middle option.

Figure 5.3

Increasing Conversion on Multiple Product Pages

If you find yourself in the same boat as most marketers (i.e., having to market multiple products), remember these key principles:

First, people do not buy from product pages; people buy from people. The art of marketing is not conversion; it is conversation.

Second, we must understand that our goal is to guide prospects through the multiple products to the “one” option that is most relevant, important and urgent to them.

Third, the marketer must use three key objectives when selling multiple products: eliminate, emphasize and express.

Related Resources

See more experiments in the MECLABS Research Catalog: www.meclabs.com/catalog

See how another Research Partner tested radio buttons and dropdowns against one another

Explore the MarketingExperiments Research Directory to see past clinics

Learn more about product-level value propositions

Download a special report by MarketingExperiments on unsupervised thinking, “No Unsupervised Thinking: How to increase conversion by guiding your audience”

 

For permissions: research@meclabs.com

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Optimizing Web Forms: How one company generated 226% more leads from a complex web form (without significantly reducing fields)

The following research was first published in the MECLABS Quarterly Research Digest, July 2014.

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

— Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Case of Identity

It is highly unlikely that Sir Arthur was contemplating website forms when making the above statement. However, the sentiment certainly translates to our digital world, and is spot on in the case of web forms. Web forms might not elevate your heart rate, but these mundane little segments of your website actually contain some of your best opportunities to increase conversion.

In marketing, “friction” is anything that slows down the mental momentum that is driving the customer toward a buying decision. Web forms are essentially the definition of friction. By nature, people are wary of sharing their personal information. Asking them to enter that information requires two commitments from them:

  1. To decide if your offer is valuable enough to give out their contact Information
  2. To then take the time and effort to fill out the form

So to some extent, web forms cause mental and physical friction.

This is widely accepted. Most optimization strategies focus on reducing friction to increase conversion. This is worthy, but could there be a different approach? A strategy that is ultimately more effective? We ran a test to find out.

Experiment: Can form friction be negated?

The experiment, Test Protocol 1636, was conducted in partnership with a large news syndication company. The goal was to increase the number of leads the company received from a “Request More Information” web form. The form itself was not a core cog in its lead generation process, but the form received enough traffic to run a valid experiment.

The control form, as seen in Figure 1.1, contains 11 form fields, with 10 being required. It also features sidebar navigation and three equally weighted calls-to-action at the bottom of the page. We ran two treatments against this page.

Figure 1.1  (Click on images to enlarge)

 

Treatment A (Figure 1.2) eliminates the navigation and calls-to-action, but it also increases the number of total form fields to 15 — nine required ones. In Figure 1.3, Treatment B is similarly designed, but reduces the total number of form fields from 11 to 10, all of which are required.

Figure 1.2

 

Figure 1.3

Did either treatment improve the lead rate? If so, which treatment?

Both treatments outperformed the control. Treatment A produced a 109% lift, while Treatment B generated 87% more leads. Clearly, removing the side navigation and distracting calls-to-action were major contributors to the treatments’ successes, but when we further examined the test metrics, we discovered two puzzling and fascinating anomalies.

Web Form Anomalies that Impact Conversion

Anomaly #1. While Treatment A contained six optional form fields, every prospect who landed on the page filled in every field — without exception.

 Marketing intuition, and prior testing to some extent, trains us to assume that every additional form field decreases the probability of a prospect completing the form. Conversion rate decreases for every extra field you add. We know this, but now the data from this experiment stares us in the face and causes us to ask a simple question: Why did everyone who saw this form fill out every field, even the optional ones?

Anomaly #2. Even though both treatments outperformed the control, there was no statistically significant difference when we compared Treatment A to Treatment B.

The results conclusively showed the treatments both performed significantly better than the control.

However, when compared to each other, the treatments performed in a statistical dead-heat — we could not declare a winner. This raised another simple question: Why did the higher number of fields (more friction) not affect conversion rate?

Getting Higher-quality Leads without Sacrificing Conversion Rate

When we first began to analyze the control, we considered the objective of the form, which was to set up a phone call between the prospect and the business. Our analysts hypothesized that by helping the customer through the form, we could set an expectation for a productive in-person conversation. This led to the design choices you see in Treatment A (Figure 2.1). The tone of the copy is conversational, and at each step of the process, we ask a question that both personalizes the form and explains why the information is being sought from the prospect.

Figure 2.1

The result of this tone change is that the questions actually helped to reinforce the value proposition of the phone call the prospect was being asked to set up.

With whom will we be speaking?
(We collect your general information so we know with whom we will be speaking and how best to reach you.)

 Where are you located? 
(We collect information about your location in order to route you to the appropriate [company] representative.)

 What information are you interested in discussing?
(In order to make our conversation as productive as possible, we would like to know a couple of pieces of relevant information.)

The last question in particular was a key factor in building value. By explaining what they wished to discuss, prospects began to visualize the conversation and see themselves receiving the information they needed. This section consisted of the new optional fields added to the control’s form fields.

Fascinatingly, we increased the cost, in the minds of prospects, of filling out the form in Treatment A by adding form fields, while we decreased the cost in Treatment B by eliminating the optional field, as you can see represented in Figure 2.2. Yet, we generated the same lead rate on both pages because the value offered in Treatment A outweighed the value in Treatment B, as seen in Figure 2.3.

Figure 2.2 – Cost force

 

Figure 2.3 – Value force vs. Cost force

By guiding the visitor through the form and increasing the process-level value proposition, we were able to counterbalance the additional friction in the form — capturing higher-quality leads without sacrificing quantity.

How to Increase Conversion on Your Own Forms

In a bubble, this is an interesting case to study. But what does it mean for your own web forms? We uncovered three key principles to help you in your efforts.

Key Principle #1. Every action a customer is asked to take — even completing a form field — creates a psychological question in the mind of the customer: Is this really worth it?

It’s a weighing question – that’s what the fulcrum represents in the Value Proposition Heuristic (Figure 3.1). Is the cost greater than the value? Is the value outweighing the cost? Those are the questions the customer is asking.

If you can start seeing and breaking down your pages by cost and value, then you have a lot of control as a marketer.

Key Principle #2. Thus, optimizing web forms transcends simply reducing the number of fields. We must ensure that we build the right amount of value to offset the cost. Sometimes, the right “ask” at the right time can actually imply value.

 The way we present and communicate the “ask” can greatly impact how prospects interpret the amount of value. By communicating the benefits prospects will experience by answering the questions, we can offset the cost of giving up that information.

This resulted in two positives for this experiment. We could ask more questions without hurting conversion, and this, in turn, led to higher-quality leads.

Key Principle #3. Finally, we must see through our customers’ eyes. Our prospects personify our forms. They give them a tone, a voice, a personality. It is more than a transaction; it is a conversation — a conversation that you must guide.

How do we see through our customers’ eyes? We can’t think about our products and services in a company-centric manner. We should go through our checkout processes and fill out our forms as if we are the customers. Experience the experience of the customer. Only then can we engage them in meaningful conversation that will guide them in a way that makes sense.

When you begin to see your web forms through the lens of a conversation, rather than a transaction, you will immediately be better equipped to communicate value to the prospect. When you communicate value, you might actually increase cost and friction in the mind of the customer by asking for more information, and still keep your conversion rate the same.

If you are ready to tackle your forms and gain more leads from the traffic you already have, we have provided a seven-question checklist to get you started:

  • Does my form gather the information my company needs?
  • Can I reduce the number of required fields?
  • Should I increase the number of required fields for a higher-quality lead?
  • Can I group similar form fields and reduce the perceived length of my form?
  • Is there a justification (direct or implied) for why each field is presented?
  • How can I increase the perceived value of every field in my form?
  • Does the form logically guide the visitor through the process of filling it out?
Related Resources

Learn more about friction in the MarketingExperiments web clinic replay, Hidden Friction: The 6 silent killers of conversion

Review the methodology MECLABS uses when running tests for Research Partners

Learn about online testing and how to run a valid experiment in the MECLABS Online Testing Course

See how testing form field length reduced cost-per-lead by $10.66

Learn how optional form fields can affect form completions in the MarketingExperiments web clinic replay, Do Optional Form Fields Help (or Hurt) Conversion? How one required form field was hindering a 275% lift in conversion:

Read this MarketingExperiments Blog post to learn more about process-level value propositions, as well as the three other essential levels of value propositions:

Discover seven ways to reduce the perceived cost of lead generation offers

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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.

Product Pages Tested: How carefully pinpointing customer anxiety led to a 78% increase in conversion

The following research was first published in the MECLABS Quarterly Research Digest, July 2014.

 Product pages are a staple in nearly every business website in existence. Oftentimes, they represent the final hurdle before a prospect clicks “add to cart” or fills out your form. Therefore, if we can improve the performance of these key pages, we can see substantial increases in conversion and sales.

 

Figure 1.1

Look at the three pages in Figure 1.1. What do they have in common?

Granted, there could be multiple correct answers to this question. However, one similarity may have escaped your notice: anxiety. In every page, especially product pages, certain elements raise the anxiety level of the prospect. This should concern you for two very good reasons:

  1. In our experience, when we correct for anxiety, we see gains.
  2. The needed correction often involves only simple and small changes.

z

Figure 1.2

 

In the Marketingsherpa E-commerce Benchmark Study, we found ecommerce marketers are employing a variety of page elements that can be used to reduce anxiety (Figure 1.3).

Figure 1.3 – Page elements used by successful and unsuccessful ecommerce companies on product pages.
Anxiety-reducing elements highlighted.

We tested four of those minor elements to correct specific points of anxiety on the same page and to help us understand the interplay of anxiety and the corrections we make.

Experiment: Which anxiety correction had the biggest impact?

The experiment sought to improve the sales of e-books from a well-known retailer in the market. Our approach was to test four different variations of the product page against the control, with each treatment correcting for a different form of hypothesized anxiety:

  • Version A: Adjusting for anxiety regarding site security (Figure 1)
  • Version B: Adjusting for anxiety that the e-book would not be compatible  with their reading device (Figure 2.2)
  • Version C: Adjusting for anxiety that the e-book would not be of interest or value to them (Figure 2.3)
  • Version D: Adjusting for anxiety regarding the shipping time frame of the e-book (Figure 4)

What does your instinct tell you? Which, if any, of the corrections would most improve conversion?

The result: Version C was the winner, increasing conversion by 78%

After our complete analysis, we discovered three key principles as to why Version C was victorious, as well as what we can learn from the success of the other treatments.

How to correct for anxiety on product pages

Key Principle #1. Every element we tested on the page overcorrected some type of customer anxiety, with various elements performing more effectively than others.

It is crucial to note that while Version C produced the largest increase, each treatment page outperformed the control.  In other words, in every case where we took steps to alleviate customer anxiety, conversion went up. These results underscore the importance of this effort, as well as the relative ease with which gains can be achieved.

It is important to note the use of the term “overcorrect” here because anxiety is not always rational. You may know that flying in a plane is statistically safer than riding in your car, but, for many of us, our anxiety level is much higher in an airplane. Is it rational? No. Is it still very real? Yes. You may see no reason for concern about a given aspect of your page, but that does not mean anxiety is absent for customers.

Key Principle #2. The effectiveness of each corrective is directly related to how it matched the specific concern in the mind of the customer.

While all cases of anxiety correction produced lifts, one change impacted conversion significantly more than the others. Version C overcorrected for a concern that was most immediate to the prospect at the time. Therefore, it is crucial to discover the specific anxieties your customers are experiencing on your product pages. Among a plethora of options,  we have found some standard minor corrections you can make for specific anxieties:

Source                                                                             Correction

Product Quality Anxiety  ———————————> Satisfaction Guarantee

Product Reliability Anxiety  —————————–>  Customer Testimonials

Website or Form Security Anxiety  ——————->  Third-party Security Seals or Certificates

Price Anxiety  ————————————————>  Low-price Guarantee

Additionally, customer testimonials can be used to alleviate several different concerns. You want to choose testimonials that specifically deal with the point of anxiety the customer is experiencing (Figure 3.1).

Figure 3.1 – Examples of testimonials addressing specific points of customer anxiety

 

Key Principle #3. Location plays an important role. You can more effectively correct anxiety by moving a corrective element within close proximity to where the concern is experienced.

As in real estate, location is of utmost importance when correcting for anxiety on product pages. If you are correcting for form security concerns, you want the correction element right where the customer must click to submit the form. In Version C, we simply added a plot synopsis above the fold rather than farther down the page, and it led to the biggest jump in conversion. It’s not always about creating new elements, but instead, placing existing ones in a location that better serves the thought sequence of customers.

Overcorrecting for product page anxiety

Anxiety is lethal to product page conversion. It is always present, and it is not always rational.  By overcorrecting for predictable or discovered customer anxiety, you will empower more prospects to complete the sale.

The effectiveness of an anxiety corrective is dependent on two essential factors:

Specificity – How specific is the corrective to the source of anxiety?
Proximity – How close is the corrective to the moment of concern?

If you can identify the main cause of anxiety on the page and implement an overcorrection element in close proximity, you are on your way to higher conversion and more sales.

Related Resources

Landing Page Optimization: Addressing Customer Anxiety

MECLABS Research Catalog — Learn about other experiments performed in the MECLABS Laboratory

MECLABS methodology

Conversion Rate Optimization — Read how anxiety plays a role in building the “Ultimate Yes” to conversion

Online Testing: 6 Test Ideas To Optimize The Value Of Testimonials On Your Site

To learn more about anxiety and the factors that affect it, enroll in the MECLABS Landing Page Optimization Online Certification Course

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In Conversion Optimization, The Loser Takes It All

Most of us at some point in our lives have experienced that creeping, irrational fear of failure, of being an imposter in our chosen profession or deemed “a Loser” for not getting something right the first time. marketers who work in A/B testing and conversion optimization.

We are constantly tasked with creating new, better experiences for our company or client and in turn the customers they serve. Yet unlike many business ventures or fire-and-forget ad agency work, we then willingly set out to definitively prove that our new version is better than the old, thus throwing ourselves upon the dual fates of customer decision making and statistical significance.

And that’s when the sense of failure begins to creep in, when you have to present a losing test to well-meaning clients or peers who were so convinced that this was a winner, a surefire hit. The initial illusion they had — that you knew all the right answers — so clinically shattered by that negative percentage sign in front of your results.

Yet of course herein lays the mistake of both the client and peer who understandably need quick, short-term results or the bravado of the marketer who thinks they can always get it right the first time.

A/B testing and conversion optimization, like the scientific method these disciplines apply to marketing, is merely a process to get you to the right answer, and to view it as the answer itself is to mistake the map for the territory.

I was reminded of this the other day when listening to one of my favorite science podcasts, “The Skeptics Guide to the Universe,” hosted by Dr. Steven Novella, which ends each week with a relevant quote. That week they quoted Brazilian-born, English, Nobel Prize-winning zoologist Sir Peter B. Medawar (1915 -1987) from his 1979 book “Advice to a Young Scientist.” In it he stated, “All experimentation is criticism. If an experiment does not hold out the possibility of causing one to revise one’s views, it is hard to see why it should be done at all.”This quote for me captures a lot of the truisms I’ve learnt in my experience as a conversion optimization marketer, as well as addresses a lot of the confusion in many MECLABS Institute Research Partners and colleagues who are less familiar with the nature and process of conversion optimization.

Here are four points to keep in mind if you choose to take a scientific approach to your marketing:

1. If you truly knew what the best customer experience was, then you wouldn’t test

I have previously been asked after presenting a thoroughly researched outline of planned testing, that although the methodic process to learning we had just outlined was greatly appreciated, did we not know a shortcut we could take to get to a big success.

Now, this is a fully understandable sentiment, especially in the business world where time is money and everyone needs to meet their targets yesterday. That said, the question does fundamentally miss the value of conversion optimizing testing, if not the value of the scientific method itself. Remember, this method of inquiry has allowed us — through experimentation and the repeated failure of educated, but ultimately false hypotheses — to finally develop the correct hypothesis and understanding of the available facts. As a result, we are able to cure disease, put humans on the moon and develop better-converting landing pages.

In the same vein, as marketers we can do in-depth data and customer research to get us closer to identifying the correct conversion problems in a marketing funnel and to work out strong hypotheses about what the best solutions are, but ultimately we can’t know the true answer until we test it.

A genuine scientific experiment should be trying to prove itself wrong as much as it is proving itself right. It is only through testing out our false hypothesis that we as marketers can confirm the true hypothesis that represents the correct interpretation of the available data and understanding of our customers that will allow us to get the big success we seek for our clients and customers.

2. If you know the answer, just implement it

This particularly applies to broken elements in your marketing or conversion funnel.

An example of this from my own recent experience with a client was when we noticed in our initial forensic conversion analysis of their site that the design of their cart made it almost impossible to convert on a small mobile or desktop screen if you had more than two products in your cart.

Looking at the data and the results from our own user testing, we could see that this was clearly broken and not just an underperformance. So we just recommended that they fix it, which they did.

We were then able to move on and optimize the now-functioning cart and lower funnel through testing, rather than wasting everyone’s time with a test that was a foregone conclusion.

3. If you see no compelling reason why a potential test would change customer behavior, then don’t do it

When creating the hypothesis (the supposition that can be supported or refuted via the outcome of your test), make sure it is a hypothesis based upon an interpretation of available evidence and a theory about your customer.

Running the test should teach you something about both your interpretation of the data and the empathetic understanding you think you have of your customer.

If running the test will do neither, then it is unlikely to be impactful and probably not worth running.

4. Make sure that the changes you make are big enough and loud enough to impact customer behavior

You might have data to support the changes in your treatment and a well-thought-out customer theory, but if the changes you make are implemented in a way that customers won’t notice them, then you are unlikely to elicit the change you expect to see and have no possibility of learning something.

Failure is a feature, not a bug

So next time you are feeling like a loser, when you are trying to explain why your conversion optimization test lost:

  • Remind your audience that educated failure is an intentional part of the process:
  • Focus on what you learnt about your customer and how you have improved upon your initial understanding of the data.
  • Explain how you helped the client avoid implementing the initial “winning idea” that, it turns out, wasn’t such a winner — and all the money this saved them.

Remember, like all scientific testing, conversion optimization might be slow, methodical and paved with losing tests, but it is ultimately the only guaranteed way to build repeatable, iterative, transferable success across a business.

Related Resources:

Optimizing Headlines & Subject Lines

Consumer Reports Value Proposition Test: What You Can Learn From A 29% Drop In Clickthrough

MarketingExperiments Research Journal (Q1 2011) — See “Landing Page Optimization: Identifying friction to increase conversion and win a Nobel Prize” starting on page 106

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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

The post Customer Motivation: How a craft brewery tapped into the element that most affects conversion appeared first on MarketingExperiments.

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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