Are Your Digital Experiences 2017…But Your Forms 2007?

[Originally published September 16th, 2008 on GrokDotCom.com, an award-winning, but now defunct, Marketing Optimization blog.]

I was recently reminded, for the millionth time it seems, that forms are the “bread and butter” of almost every website, app, and digital experience. Whether it’s the Contact Us form on a B2B site, the Sign Up form on a social networking site, or the Checkout of an eCommerce site, they all have forms in common. And in every case, forms are what stands between our site visitors and the action we’ve persuaded them to take.

The irony is that companies spend thousands, sometimes millions, on making their sites functional, accessible, usable, intuitive, and sometimes even persuasive, but don’t always spend enough on making their transactional experiences (forms) as optimized as possible. Add to that the money spent starting a relationship with customers via online or offline marketing. And when it’s time to take that relationship the next level and close the deal, online forms have the responsibility.

So like the title of this post, I have questions:

  • How much have you spent on your homepage and landing pages in the last 12 months? (Design, UX, Content, etc.)
  • How much have you spent on your forms?
  • How many resources work on your homepage and landing pages? (Design, UX, Content, etc.)
  • How many resources work on your forms?
  • Do you A/B and Multivariate test your homepage and landing pages?
  • Do you A/B and Multivariate test your forms?
  • Do your homepage and landing pages employ the latest technology, code, and standards?
  • Do your forms…?

If you’re like most companies and marketing organizations, and answered honestly, there was a heavy skew towards focusing on digital experiences, yet oddly little focus on forms, the places where the “rubber meets the road.”

Of course homepages and landing pages are important, and deserve lots of attention. But don’t forget that the bottom of your conversion funnel is where all the serious action is. It’s where dollars either flow into your bank account or…elsewhere.

So what can you do to start to rebalance the focus and give your forms more love?

  1. Start a “Forms Task Force” within your company–make it cross-disciplinary–and take a good, hard look at your forms.
  2. Conduct User Tests that prompt interaction with your forms.
  3. Look at every question on your forms. To paraphrase Web Form Design by Luke Wroblewski, consciously decide to “keep,” “cut,” “postpone,” or “explain” every question you ask your customers.
  4. Once you’ve revisited your forms, begin (or revitalize) the ongoing process of form testing and optimization.

Don’t Dismiss the Base Hits

[Originally published September 3rd, 2008 on GrokDotCom.com, an award-winning, but now defunct, Marketing Optimization blog.]

Readers of my blog, and especially those involved in testing, know that conversion rate optimization is the goal we’re after. It’s a great feeling to know that a test you worked on increased conversion or some other KPI, especially when it’s a “Home Run.” I define Home Runs as triple-digit increases in conversion rate.

But one of the dangers of early testing efforts is the problem that some baseball players have: “swinging for the fences.” (Apologies for the baseball references, but it’s getting to be that time of year.) What if your test, or series of tests, doesn’t appear to raise conversion rate? Do you dismiss the tests as failures because they’re not home runs?

Of course not!

Worst case scenario is that you’ve learned something about executing meaningful tests, and about what does or doesn’t resonate with your customers. But more often than not, you are affecting your website in more subtle ways. Remember that conversion rate is often a blended, averaged, blunt instrument. Especially when it’s averaged across large volumes of organic search traffic, SEM traffic, email house list traffic, different product lines, etc.

Here are some things you can monitor when your tests aren’t having huge impacts on your overall conversion rate:

  1. Micro-conversion rates – If you’re testing product detail page layouts and “Add to Cart” buttons, check if those test variables are having an effect on the micro-conversion rate of adding products to the cart.
  2. Funnel conversion rates – If you’re testing lots of minor copy changes to your shopping cart, check for changes in your funnel conversion rate.
  3. Bounce rates – If you’re testing images, copy, or other changes designed to build up the credibility of your site, watch for changes in bounce rates.
  4. Conversion rate by segment – If a key traffic source’s conversion rate goes up in a test, but is “averaged down” by other less important traffic sources, that may in fact be a successful test.

These types of incremental improvements are test results to get excited about! If your micro-conversion rate increases, and your funnel conversion rate stays the same, that’s still more money in your bank account. If you reduce the bounce rate, you’ve gained the chance to convert that customer later, instead of your competitor.

So don’t dismiss the base hits because you’re disappointed about not hitting a home run (this time.) Take it from a patient analyst who’s favorite baseball player was famous for lots of base hits and not all that many home runs 🙂

Information Overload: Why Less is the New More

[Originally published June 24th, 2008 on GrokDotCom.com, an award-winning, but now defunct, Marketing Optimization blog.]

A new report entitled Information Overload: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us was written up recently in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Commissioned by Basex, it details how information overload, particularly task interruptions, costs the Enterprise $650 billion a year in lost productivity.

That’s a very large price to pay for having everything at our fingertips, all the time, in any format.

Our decision-making processes can’t always keep up with our choices. The same challenge applies to website design and content. The Web is a fantastic place to shop, research, and be entertained, but sometimes when I’m online, I notice physical fatigue when I’m trying to figure out where to go next!

When I’m evaluating a vendor’s Services page, should I:

  • Sign up for their newsletter?
  • Read about the awards they’ve won?
  • Look at a list of clients?
  • Read the CEO’s blog?

When I’m shopping for a health supplement, should I:

  • Read about related products?
  • Read about their latest “green” program?
  • View my empty shopping cart?
  • Become an affiliate?

Even though we come to a website with the best intentions, we’re by nature drawn to the shiny distractions that marketers and designers put along our path. We go down rabbit holes in websites and sometimes by the time we find our way back to the trail, we’ve lost our momentum . . . or maybe we’ve been interrupted and have to go back to work 😉

So I’m wondering: How much money is lost each year because we overload our potential customers with information on our web pages? How many visitors are driven away by cluttered designs, too many messages, too many offers, and too many choices?

Here’s the problem: Marketers naturally want to use messaging, offers, promotions and more to persuade web visitors. But in their efforts, they often contribute to information overload, which is proven to hamper the decision-making process. Also, companies tend to add more content to their websites over time and rarely retire content that’s outdated or irrelevant.

The solution: Most web pages should have only one primary goal. If there are alternate options, offers, or next steps, that’s fine. But don’t interrupt the task at hand, and don’t overload your visitors with distractions.

The one exception I can think of is the homepage, which should, at a minimum, a) communicate Unique Value Proposition, and b) route visitors.

Should you remove these secondary goals and choices? Maybe, but sometimes making them less prominent is enough to move the needle. It comes down to a business decision whether your “Sizzlin’ Hot Summer Giveaway” promotion is worth distracting a certain percentage of visitors from their primary goal.

What if you don’t know the goal of all of your site’s pages? You could start with rediscovering who your customers really are, or some analysis of your website’s “data dump,” or you could hypothesize and run some tests. Sometimes the purpose of a page is simply to present options. That’s fine, but don’t distract visitors from understanding their options and making a decision.

So let’s get practical here:

  • Category page primary goal = route visitors to sub-category or product page
  • Product page primary goal = persuade visitors to purchase
  • In the News page primary goal = build brand credibility
  • Shopping cart page primary goal = get the cash!
  • General content page primary goal = build persuasive momentum

Although it seems hard at first, it’s actually pretty easy to find a single, primary goal for most pages on your site. Then you have the harder task of deciding how to do away with unnecessary distractions, get rid of design clutter, and allow visitors freedom without information overload.

Sometimes having a new pair of eyes look at your site can really speed this process up.

If you’re overloading customers with info, you’re not alone. Many world-class, million-dollar sites are guilty of information overload, and even the best online marketers need to work on it constantly.

Best of luck. To avoid information overload, let’s focus on answering three essential questions of site Optimization:

  • Who is your visitor?
  • What action do you want them to take?
  • What will persuade them to take that action?

Video Podcast on Optimization Testing Hypotheses

marketing optimization podcast series logoHi Readers! I’ve not been posting lately, which is sad. I’ll try to get back on the horse in 2014 😉

What I have been up to is a fun video interview and podcast with Alex Harris of the Marketing Optimization podcast series. In it, we discuss my framework of the 5 ingredients of a world-class testing hypothesis. Better yet, we do live optimization on landing page designs, showing you how to use the framework on your site pages!

Check out the session here »

 

And, if you’re the podcast-listening sort, make sure to subscribe to the Marketing Optimization podcast on iTunes, which features a new podcast with a digital marketing expert every week!

Email Marketing Optimization Using the AIDA Framework

A lot has been written about how to pursue Email Marketing Optimization, often with emphasis on tactics like subject line testing, email creative testing, and landing page optimization for email campaigns.

All great topics, but what I haven’t read about is an overarching framework to use while doing email optimization that will guide you through the process in a strategic way. In my day-to-day world of Conversion Optimization, there are many frameworks that one can follow. For example, the Persuasion Architecture™ developed in the early days at FutureNow, or the LIFT Model™ used by WiderFunnel up in British Columbia.

These frameworks give you guideposts to follow, things to think about, and ways to prioritize work in the field of Conversion Optimization. Maybe some experts have developed similar frameworks for Email Marketing that I don’t know about?

No matter: I’ve got one that I think will work! But I didn’t invent the framework “AIDA,” I’m just going to map it to Email Marketing optimization. Continue reading

How to Prioritize Your Optimization Roadmap

changing prioritiesWhile case studies about conversion rate lift and increases in revenue from testing get a majority of the “press” these days, there is something far less sexy and far more important to be thinking about: The order in which you execute your test ideas.

I know, that’s way more boring than, Learn how company X increased their sales by 4,000% with one simple change!!!!! I don’t blame anyone for wanting to share exciting test results, but what if you burn an hour on an webinar and find out you’ve already made the change they’re talking about? Or, you’ve already tested that change and it didn’t make a difference on your marketing?

That’s why we’re going to talk about something “boring” that is guaranteed to help you get results over a longer time frame. Prioritization – the way you apply resources to Optimization work to get the best ROI. Continue reading

The 5 Ingredients of a World-Class Marketing Hypothesis

5 ingredients marketing hypothesisI recently had a young Optimizer ask me, “How do you turn analytics data into a hypothesis?” My answer was probably unexpected: “You don’t.” My curt answer was meant to alert this young pup that a single input isn’t enough to form the basis of a good marketing hypothesis.

Today’s post will overview what I believe are the 5 key ingredients of a great marketing hypothesis. Plenty of posts I’ve read have instructed you how to leverage the Scientific Method to write a Conversion Optimization hypothesis. They usually instruct you to make sure it’s provable/disprovable, clearly stated, based on a specific Key Performance Indicator, etc.

This is all good advice, but assuming you know all that, I want to cover the inputs. These inputs, IMO, are the difference between a legitimate hypothesis and a world class hypothesis. Some of these 5 key inputs are probably obvious, but a few may have evaded you. Or, perhaps you thought it was “uncool” to have them as inputs?

Continue reading

Multivariate Testing for the Resource Constrained

I posted nearly a year ago about how multivariate testing is a flawed method when you use a “recipe” approach. And I haven’t written much about multivariate testing (MVT) on my blog, except to get tactical and talk about how I’d use MVT to experiment with testimonials.

In the spirit of fairness, there are plenty of ways to leverage MVT for business benefit, and plenty of testing scenarios that call for multivariate experiments. One such use case occurred to me when working with a client that was what I call “resource-constrained.” Continue reading