End-to-end testing is a term usually reserved for the product team. Put simply, such testing ensures a product will complete the tasks it is intended to when used in real life conditions, from beginning to end.
Interestingly, end-to-end testing is a proven content marketing strategy as well. From The Wirecutter’s in-depth gadget reviews to Michelle Phan’s face care and makeup tutorials, reviewers have turned their end-to-end product experiences into content.
So why do they work? Let’s go over three concrete examples that show how different companies execute end-to-end testing in their content marketing.
1. Gain Consumer Trust to Convert Users
End-to-end testing can be a concrete way to build trust as long as you are honest in reporting the results. This approach is particularly useful if you’re building an affiliate business or have an online shop and you still need to establish why your recommendations are trustworthy. If you have your own product, you can still test products that complement yours, as long as testing your own comes with some clear biases.
Not only does end-to-end testing increase credibility, it helps users make purchasing decisions without having to test a product themselves, thus gaining customer loyalty and increasing conversions.
Case study: The Wirecutter
The approach: The Wirecutter claims that they spend weeks and sometimes months on product testing and working with experts to give you an informed well-researched review. Their updates remind you that they took an additional 30 hours or so to revise their decisions. They are known for testing 100 headphones and getting audiophiles, sound engineers, and musicians to blind test them.
Source: The Wirecutter
They have also had former construction workers test duct tape, which resulted in the manufacturers asking them how to improve the product.
Source: The Sweethome
The result: They were bought by the New York Times for nearly $30 million, and the newspaper’s revenue increased by 5% the following quarter.
Why it works: In each review, they describe the credibility of the reviewer, their efforts, and the methodology of their review process – establishing to readers why the review is worthwhile. In an age of fake news and anyone being able to set up an affiliate site, this thoroughness sets them apart and keeps buyers coming back.
Source: The Wirecutter
2. Attract Advertisers and Improve Deals
If users appreciate the comprehensiveness of your reviews, traffic will likely increase. As a result, advertisers are going to want in on that, and your endorsements will increase in value. You can also improve existing advertising deals in your favor.
You may already have a large following, but your readers might fall asleep reading a 3,000-word review on earbuds.
So how do you make end-to-end testing engaging? There are many opportunities for mishaps, reactions, and conversations when you go end-to-end with product reviews. The practice also creates a repeatable content creation process, as there are endless products to test. And if you prioritize the enjoyment of the user and mix in non-sponsored services and experiences, product placement will appear native and natural.
Case study: Buzzfeed’s The Try Guys
The approach: BuzzFeed’s The Try Guys is a YouTube series documenting the ups, downs, and reactions of 4 dudes testing out anything from therapy to the “weirdest beauty trends.”
Making product designers shake their heads, The Try Guys often test outside the common use cases – trying products not designed for men and eating fast food drunk –
which perhaps should be part of the product testing.
Although you may want to try some of the products and activities you see on their channel, you’re likely inspired to do so because of how much fun they’re having rather than due to an informed review.
The result: Videos with at least 2 million views attracting advertisers like Slim Jims, UFC, and Ancestry DNA.
Why it works: I don’t need to explain that BuzzFeed is entertaining, but the approach by the Try Guys (and other BuzzFeed product comparisons) demonstrates how end-to-end testing doesn’t have to aim for objectivity. Their misadventures are highly shareable, bring millions of views, and when BuzzFeed wants to do their native marketing thing and slip in a sponsored product or collaboration, they already have your attention and there’s a natural format for making the plug.
3. Build Relationships with Industry Press, Consultants, and Organizations
From staying on the pulse of industry to getting product press to attracting clients, there can be a number of reasons to build credibility and relationships with the influencers of your industry.
In the SEO game, these relationships are key to getting relevant links that Google will appreciate. If done meaningfully, creating content around end-to-end testing can be a reason to connect, as it adds new information and demonstrates your respect for the industry.
The study can increase the profile of your company and the researchers themselves. Industry media and blogs have a reason to want a guest post, get a quote, and cite the research. If the testing is relevant enough, the results can also provide reasons to speak at industry events, which can generate links from the conference agenda.
Of course, being tapped into the industry community can keep you informed on new research, provide feedback for future projects, and lead to opportunities for partnerships that could further increase credibility.
I know this because the next example will feature a project I personally spearheaded.
Case study: Finder.com Money Transfer Awards
The approach: Personal finance comparison website, finder.com, applied end-to-end testing to their comparison of money transfer providers – services that send money internationally. To gain relevant links (and improve our product), we sent live transfers, generated thousands of quotes, and conducted usability testing to rank the products by category. We created a microsite that disclosed all the data and methodology to promote transparency.
We also created pages for winners of the awards to link to and videos logging the research to get the attention of money transfer industry nerds.
Result: Despite being new to the money transfer industry, we were written up in and guest-posted on dozens of payment publications and trade organizations, are now invited to speak at industry events, and provider product teams are incorporating findings from the research. Furthermore, the links from the awards, combined with product updates, improved search rankings enough to see money transfer commissions increase by 13% after two months.
Why it works: Essentially, conducting end-to-end testing for multiple products is market research, which adds value, especially when done thoroughly. Unlike The Wirecutter, we took the non-expert approach, as the average consumer is unfamiliar with the market. The trouble spots we ran into were likely the issues the consumers would run into, which is why money transfer providers, consultants, and trade organizations were interested in the results. Increasing transparency is also a theme in the industry, which this testing promoted.
In reality, each of these case studies benefited from a combination of all three of the reasons that end-to-end testing content marketing works. At finder.com, we’ve certainly attracted new clients and have plans to incorporate our end-to-end testing into comparisons as a result of our research. Still, it’s a good idea to prioritize and plan which one is your focus as you conduct your research in order to be efficient and avoid scope creep.
Finally, in case it didn’t get across without saying, the testing needs to be honest. It must reveal those that performed well and those that did not perform well to gain the trust of the user and industry insiders, which may make some of your clients uncomfortable. However, this just makes your endorsements that much more powerful.
About the Author: Olivia Chow is the Consumer Trends Expert at finder.com and Lead Researcher for the finder Money Transfer Awards. She specializes in prescriptive consumer and trend research, having been a founding member of the Hanesbrands Inc.