AB testing and website optimisation have been around for many years and it is commonplace amongst large enterprises and many ecommerce focused websites. These organisations have reaped the benefits of providing optimised content and continue to focus heavily on testing each and every element of every page. However, many if not most of these organisations either rely on in-house optimisation expertise or use an external agency to do it for them, both of which can seem an expense that has to be carefully considered in times of ROI scrutiny.
In smaller companies the chances of having internal expertise is less likely. Optimisation Consultants (OC’s) are still relatively rare, they can demand high salaries and are often courted by big brands. This potentially leaves only two options – hire an external agency/supplier or use existing marketing expertise to get to grips with the technology.
Fortunately, AB testing and optimisation technologies have advanced greatly over the years so that you don’t need a degree in psychology or mathematics to ‘dabble your toes’ to get the best return from your website. You don’t need to be a HTML expert either. They also have become less expensive and many, (including our Optimize product), are available as a self-service option.
In most cases AB tests created by OC’s stem from a hypothesis (OK so I just said that you don’t need a degree in maths and I’m already spouting mathematical jargon), so let’s just call it a gut feeling. And they then use tools to either prove or disprove their theory. Yet, marketers tend to be driven from a slightly different angle. They are often driven by action, be it Black Friday, Christmas, too much stock, or wanting more subscribers. However, the outcome of both positions is usually the same; improve the customer journey and stimulate additional conversions.
Marketers are inclined to use promotional tactics such as special offer banners, exit intent or urgency messaging to encourage action and are less concerned with seeing if one version of content resonates better. These tactics are usually implemented using the website content management system (CMS) and although can be effective, understanding if the content can be improved by testing, is outside of the CMS capabilities.
To relate how effective website optimisation and AB testing can be to a marketer, I decided to “eat my own dog food” and see what, with a little knowledge and no expertise, I could do.
As a hands-on marketer myself, I wanted to increase the number of people who downloaded a white paper that we were promoting on PPC. I came up with what I thought was reasonable copy, a nice design and a form for people to fill in. Job done! I waited for the new subscribers to roll in. The results were ok but not amazing and the conversion rate was around 3.4% – I thought that I should see if they could be improved.
Let me firstly say I am not an OC, nor have a degree, but was surprised how easily using an optimisation tool (our own of course) was and very surprised by the outcome. Just by tweaking a few words on the copy, changing the image slightly and reducing a couple of fields on the form saw over a 100% increase in conversions at around 8.4%. My gut feeling (hypothesis) never came into it, I just looked at my original copy and put myself in the position of the reader and tried a few different variants of the landing page.
Whilst my test was relatively simple and only used modified content, I didn’t have to use our CMS. I could have used welcome messaging or exit intent from within our optimisation product, but for this test it was not appropriate. I improved the results I got and saw the benefits with increased conversions. I am now off to see what other areas of our website can be improved…. watch this space. In the meantime take a look at another of our white papers – A marketers guide to website optimisation.