By Alex Hazlett at Mashable:
Attention is the currency of the Internet, and the brands that can capture and capitalize on it stand to gain a great deal. Their conversions increase, their acquisition rate will improve and their bounce rate will lower. Perhaps just as importantly for businesses, marketers will be able to know if the time and money they invested in creating a campaign was well spent.
“You have to be obsessed, diligent, genuine and personal to win over your customers at every turn. To keep customers happy and engaged across every channel, you have to be customer-obsessed first and foremost,” says Michael Blumenfeld, consultant for U.S. financial/insurance services at Maxymiser.
In our Metrics That Matter series, Mashable is speaking with digital marketers about the metrics they pay attention to and why. While creativity and originality are key components of a successful campaign, it's also essential to analyze and evaluate the campaign while it's running and after it's finished to gauge success and ROI, and learn lessons for future campaigns. Many marketers turn to A/B testing and in-page analytics to learn what's working and tweak campaigns.
Sort Through the Noise
"The amount of data we as marketers are privy to in today's business world is both a gift and a curse," says Dan Scalco, the founder of Digitalux. There’s more knowledge about customers than ever before, but there are also mountains of data to sift through. On top of that, there's the challenge of turning data into actionable, measurable conclusions.
"This is where A/B and multivariate testing, real-time data and micro-segment discovery all become mission-critical in creating customer experiences of the personalized kind,” says Blumenfeld.
A/B testing, as opposed to multivariate testing, isolates one variable in your campaign and serves up an alternate version (version B) to a segment of your visitors, while the remaining visitors receive the original version (version A). You can then track how a particular metric correlates with each version and evaluate success. It's essentially a controlled experiment, in which you can isolate the effects of a specific change.
Suppose you wanted to determine whether a call-to-action button was more effective in green or red. The A/B test would serve up a red version to some visitors, and the green version to others. By changing only the button color and measuring how many people sign up, you can learn whether red or green is more effective and update the design accordingly.
Other testing variables could be copy wording, images, colors or fonts. Any detail can be A/B tested — and tech giants such as Google famously use the method.
“A/B testing provides actionable data that enables marketers to deliver a better experience to customers at scale,” says Dan Siroker, CEO of Optimizely. In the past, A/B testing required weeks of planning, coding and execution. Optimizely is one of a new crop of companies making A/B testing simple and easy to use, eliminating what had been one of the biggest barriers to widespread adoption.
Observe and Adjust
Crafting engaging messages depends on knowing what your target audience responds to. “With the ever increasing impressions on the Internet, understanding what drives consumers to act is critical. Being able to systematically test is now a 'must-have' discipline for all digital marketers,” says Lawrence Whittle, SVP of business development at Persado. The difference between the results of the best and worst campaigns is 800%, says Whittle, and that translates to real money on the line.
Another benefit of A/B testing is that you collect data — and upticks — in real time. “We see immediate lifts in clicks and time spent on-site when we A/B test,” says Kellee Khalil, founder and CEO of Loverly. The wedding planning site focuses heavily on user retention metrics, because once a user crosses a certain threshold of engagement, she’s likely to continue using the site and even become a "power user." A/B testing optimizes the homepage elements and other aspects of the experience to encourage conversion and engagement.
Engage Across Platform
Optimization across devices is becoming more important as traffic and audience tilt toward mobile. “We A/B test landing pages like crazy and are in a constant state of design and redesign with landing page templates to ensure we can capture all users across all devices,” says Alexis Anderson, director of marketing & partnerships at PureWow.
Know What to Look For
Marketers must consider key measurements when A/B testing. The validity of the test depends on looking at the right metric in the right way. Siroker suggests that marketers identify “common, quantifiable success metrics that will be present in every experiment that is run." These metrics should tie in to other in-page analytics, such as homepage bounce rates, category or product page views, and all stages of the purchasing funnel.
Thoughtful, well-designed A/B tests can point to conclusions that are counterintuitive, or would otherwise have been missed. Coupled with the right in-page analytics, A/B testing is a valuable tool that guides marketers toward more effective campaigns and improves user experience, paying off for both companies and their customers alike.
Does your company utilize A/B testing to evaluate marketing campaigns or site design? Tell us about your success story in the comments.