Is your website optimization program managed by a HIPPO? That is, the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion?

If so, you’re likely stuck in a rut of making site changes, analyzing behavior and conversion rates, implementing new changes as a result, analyzing those changes, and so on.

Multivariate testing (MVT) stops the endless cycle of change-and-analyze dead in its tracks. It shows with certainty—and without guessing or relying on HIPPOs—what impact the different elements of your site are having on the behaviors, conversions and experiences of your customers.

Looking for a way out of the rut? Here’s how to get started.

Realize that you’re not alone

Marketers know that online testing and content targeting improve conversions for every interaction along the buy flow. In fact, MarketingSherpa’s recent Site Optimization Benchmark Report shows that 89% of marketers rank website optimization as a priority. (Chart 1)sherpa.chart.1

Despite the nearly overwhelming dependence on website optimization, only 15% of the time are changes driven by test results—a surprising discrepancy! (Chart 2)

Why the big gap? Often, the problem is that the opinion of the highest paid person in the room drives business—instead of the data.

Mind the gap: data vs. opinion

Typically even the biggest HIPPO is interested in the data. It’s just that the HIPPO’s interpretation of the data may be based on things not related to the data at all. He or she may be looking at data through a lens of past experience, industry trends or personal preference, thereby swaying decisions.sherpa.chart.2

That is why it’s so important to not just uncover data through analytics, but to test the assumptions made from these insights.

For example, you may have an analytics report that highlights an area of the funnel where customers aren’t progressing from one step to the next. You can identify which parts of the funnel are abandoned or not abandoned, but do you know what changes will improve results? With testing, you will.

Testing delivers real results

Testing cuts through the change-analyze process, scientifically determining the impact of changes and how those changes work together to improve outcomes. Testing greatly advances the understanding of your business.

For example, let’s say you run a report to analyze the purchase path. You discover that a much smaller than expected percentage of people are clicking from the product detail page to the shopping cart.

The HIPPO thinks it is because of the text on the “proceed to checkout” button. But hundreds of factors (button color, messaging, placement and layout, font size, graphics displayed or not displayed, etc.) could be influencing this behavior. Without testing, you’ll probably just implement the HIPPO’s recommendation, and change the button text—then monitor to see what happens.

But implementing a well planned testing program—in particular, MVT—takes your analytics learnings to a whole new level.

With MVT, you can test several series of concepts, understand how they work together, discover the best performing combination, and most importantly, why each element performed the way it did, and the amount of influence it has on the conversion. Analytics can never give you that. And neither can a HIPPO.

Instead, in just a short amount of time, you can know with certainty—and without guessing or relying on opinions—what impact the different elements of your site are having on the behaviors, conversions and experiences of your customers.

While analytics is a great place to start, and is necessary to the process of understanding the customer journey, testing is critical to a full understanding of your online business—and to increasing conversions.

If you would like to learn more about A/B and MVT, watch our webinar on A Complete Walkthrough of Multivariate Testing.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series on analytics to optimization to learn about which analytics reports can guide the most insightful MVT and A/B tests.