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82% of Marketers Aren’t Testing Effectively – Here’s Why

by Talia Wolf

As conversion optimization becomes more of a priority in more and more companies, we’re seeing a lot of statistics on how marketers perform their tests, the tools they use and, most importantly, the tests they run.

These statistics are extremely important because they give us a window into what marketers are doing and how we can improve ourselves and our marketing strategies.

New research from Adobe uncovers two critical issues:

  • More than 8 out of 10 (82%) marketers say knowing how to test effectively is “somewhat” or “very” challenging.
  • Even more important (and distressing), nearly half (42%) say analyzing the A/B test results is the hardest part of conversion optimization.

Here’s the problem with that: Many marketing strategies and entire business plans are built on the results of testing and can, at times, completely alter products or services. This is why I chose to take a deeper look into these two stats, find the pain points and offer a few different ways to solve these issues.

Why analyzing tests is so hard

As with anything new, if you’re just beginning to test, it takes time to build a strategy. The most dominant strategy used today is the behavioral targeting strategy, or what many call the “testing elements” strategy.

In this strategy, one landing page is duplicated and gets a few small changes made to it. The most common changes are a different colored call-to-action button (green vs. red), a different title to the page, swapped locations of elements or a different main image.

The structure and the build of the original page remains the same, except for one change.

In the behavioral targeting methodology, we use the data we get on our users to personalize our landing pages—information such as the browser they come from, their geographic location, the time they came to the site and many other factors.

Below is a great visual by Visual Web Optimizer that shows the process of behavioral targeting.
Behavioral targeting
The issue with behavioral targeting (or testing individual elements) is that, once the test is completed and a winner has been declared, it’s difficult to understand the results.

For instance, if I change my main image on a landing page from a smiling woman to a cute puppy and the puppy variation wins, what do the results mean? Should I change my main site image to a puppy image? What have I learned from the test? And what do I test next?

By testing elements and not actual strategies, marketers find it extremely hard to learn from their tests and, more importantly, to scale them.

Unlocking Purchasing Habits

The key to scale, analyze and understand your tests is to test strategies, not elements, or as we describe it at Conversioner, test emotional triggers. Similar to any of your marketing efforts, conversion optimization needs a clear strategy and a plan for scaling based on your audience, not your product.

The idea of testing strategies comes from understanding why your customers want to buy your product or service. We’re not looking for the physical reason; we’re looking for the emotional reason.

People don’t buy products or services because of their features or their price. We buy them because of what they make us feel about ourselves. We see better versions of ourselves with these services/products, and that’s what motivates our purchasing habits.

Once you understand better what users receive from your product emotionally, you will be able to use different designs and elements to trigger these emotions and increase conversion on your landing page.

Testing Strategies

Emotional conversion optimization is based on testing strategies and concepts, focusing on why people buy products and not why they should.

So how does it look in actual practice?

Instead of two duplicated landing pages with one element altered for testing, each landing page represents a completely different strategy—with a different build, colors, images and messaging. The focus on these pages is not the elements. It’s what we want users to feel by landing on our landing page.

In the world of 2-second bounce rates, it’s important to understand that you have less than 3 seconds to convince your visitor that your product or service is the right one for them.

Once you’ve figured out what you want to make your users feel when they arrive on your landing page, you need to make sure they can feel this in less than 3 seconds.

There are two important elements you need to take into consideration to make sure of this:

  1. Our brains process Images 60,000 times quicker than text, meaning the image you show has a huge impact on your audience’s feelings and understanding of your product.
  2. Colors convey different emotions and can be used in many ways to direct users in the right way. You can find more information on the meanings of color here.

Let’s look at 2 case studies to see the difference between testing elements and testing strategies.

Case Study #1

In this case study, we’re taking a look at a presentation company. Their product allows you to build customizable presentations in a fast and easy way for any purpose. They had two immediate goals:

  1. Increase signups – get more people to sign up to their product
  2. Increase new presentations – get more people to complete the funnel and create presentations (not just sign up)

We started out by running our emotional trigger research and finding two main emotional triggers. Then we started building the pages:

  1. One page was built for a more tech savvy persona who prepares so many presentations, they’re starting to look alike and sound boring. The idea was to make sure they feel this product will be much easier than other presentation softwares but, more importantly, their presentations will stand out from their peers and be different.
  2. The second page spoke to a less tech savvy audience who has a hard time creating presentations. These are usually people who don’t create many presentations and find it extremely painful to create one. The landing page’s main goal was to make these people feel comforted and that they’re in good hands.

Variation 1:

Variation 1

Variation 2:
Variation 2
As you can see, each landing page is completely different from the other in design, color and, most importantly, in strategy.

The 10-day test run had 60,000 sessions. The results were a 316% increase in signups for variation 1 and 114.36% increase in new presentations.

Once the test was finished, we then moved on to testing different signup processes and a few other flow elements, but we didn’t do this until we finalized our strategy and realized what we want people to feel, which in this case, was special and different from their peers.

Case study #2

This case study was one of the first we ran for an e-card company. As is common, the company had a few common obstacles:

  • They have many competitors.
  • They’re the most expensive in their industry.
  • There’s no one-time payment, only yearly or monthly subscriptions.
  • Their product is a download product, meaning people have to download it to their computer before they can start using it.

This was their original landing page:

Original Control
During our research, we worked on finding out what people want to feel from using this product. Finishing the research we mapped out two types of emotional triggers:

  1. Self image – These are people who want to have the best party, have their friends over and make sure they have the time of their lives. They mainly want to feel good about their decisions, plans and executions.
  2. Social image – These people want their friends and relatives to talk about the amazing event they had, the amazing host, the gorgeous invitation they sent and the perfect party in general.

To convey these feelings, we created two different landing pages:

Variation 1:

Variation 1

Variation 2:

Variation 2
Variation 1 won and increased immediate revenue by 65% and, even more interesting, it increased the yearly signups dramatically. What did this mean? People were not only purchasing a subscription, many of them were now committing to a yearly subscription rather than a monthly one.

One thing that is important about emotional targeting is that you don’t need to go to the end of the funnel to make an impact. The common scenario for companies that want to increase their revenue is working on their checkout process first. But with emotional targeting, it’s a good idea to start at the top of the funnel and make your way down.

A simple landing page can change not only the amount of downloads and signups but also the actual revenue without touching the checkout process yet.

The emotional targeting funnel results

The common conversion optimization funnel looks like the image below. You run a test and the results impact the top part of the funnel and then each part of the lower funnel grows a little accordingly.

Optimization funnel

With emotional targeting you can still start at the top of the funnel and yet the results are different. This is the funnel from our second case study. Downloads, for example, grew by 12% as opposed to the 65% in the revenue. This impact was received from a landing page test, not a checkout test.

Emotional targeting funnel

Figuring Out Emotional Triggers

In order to understand why your customers want to buy your product and what they want to feel from using your product or service it, it’s important to understand why people actually make decisions in life and what those decisions are based on.

Believe it or not, our decision-making as humans is mostly irrational. Although we like to think of ourselves as completely rational people who make our decisions according to hard facts and data, we’re far from it.

We don’t know what we want in life. We have no idea what’s good for us and what isn’t. So we typically make decisions according to our surroundings. Meaning we make decisions by the way things are presented to us.

The decision on which car to buy, what insurance to choose, what laptop to get and how to split our checkings account with our partner comes from our surroundings and of what we compare it to.

The way you present your landing page, call to action, messaging and colors have a huge impact on your user’s decision-making and, if you want to help people choose your product, there are certain cognitive biases, or triggers, you should take into consideration.

Cognitive biases are tendencies to think in certain ways. They’re basically unconscious thinking patterns or triggers in our brains that help us make decisions. I’ve summed up a few cognitive biases to give you examples. Used right, they can help you convert people quicker and understand what customers are looking for emotionally in your product or service.

4 common cognitive biases

Anchoring

This is one of the most famous marketing tactics. We’ve all experienced it, often unawares.

Anchoring is the tendency to rely on the first piece of information we received when making a decision. For example, the initial price offered as a salary is used to for the rest of the negotiations. Once an anchor is set, all options are considered while compared to the anchor.

Steve Jobs himself used this tactic to sell the iPad when it came out. He told people that the iPad should cost $999 and then proceeded to talk about the iPad while the price was on the screen behind him.

Then he came out with a dramatic announcement that the iPad will only cost $499.

Now compared to $999 that’s cheap. But is it? It only sounded cheap in comparison to the value Jobs had given it.

A few ways to use anchoring to your advantage:

  • On pricing pages – This is a common use. Create one pricing plan much higher than the rest, then present it first so people have the anchor of a higher price and are pleasantly surprised by the “reasonable” price of the others.
  • Limitations – This one is extremely interesting. By limiting something not by time but by number, you can get more people to take an action. For example, you only allow people to invite up to 5 friends. Before the anchor people might have invited only 2, but now that the anchor is placed, the average goes up.

Endowment effect

The endowment effect (one of my personal favorites) is a state of mind in which a consumer’s valuation of an object (any object) increases once they’ve taken ownership of it.

Meaning, once I have something, even for a brief moment I consider it as my own and will not easily part with it (that’s why we have so much old stuff in our houses that we can’t get rid of).

There are many ways and tips for using the endowment effect to its full extent increase conversion. Several ways include:

  • Free trials – The idea is simple. Once a customer has used the product for enough time, customized it and gotten used to it, they won’t let a small thing like a payment get in the way of keeping it. In the 1950s there were door-to-door salespeople who would offer vacuums and other appliances for trials periods, assuring people that they could give them back for no charge at the end of the trial. These were a huge hit. Nine out of 10 (yes, a full 90%) did not give the product back.
  • Exit pops – These are great way to catch your user’s eye before they leave the landing page and tell them that they’re about to lose all their information. Similar to the emotional targeting method, you need to think about how you want people to feel while seeing this pop up.

Decoy effect

This is a great bias for unlocking pricing page success. In general it means that when we’re presented with more than two options, we tend to choose the first option. Weirdly, it looks better even though it might not be.

Many companies use the decoy effect to direct their visitors to a specific pricing plan and increase sales. The basics of this bias is that people look for an easy way to make a decision, one that doesn’t require thinking or analyzing.

(Further tips for using the decoy effect.)

Hyperbolic discounting

This trigger is great for inbound marketing. Hyperbolic discounting is the tendency of people to prefer more immediate rewards that are worth less than larger rewards that are further away.

For example, people would prefer to get less discount on a service right now than to work harder to get a larger discount in the future.

A great way to use this is by offering several coupons and rewards to your customers for inviting their friends, writing reviews and spreading the word. Here are a few proven ways to use hyperbolic discounting for your inbound marketing.

Bottom line

As your conversion optimization tests take a larger part of your marketing effort, it is important to be able to keep these tests scaling and growing.

In order to be testing effectively you should start start focusing on your prospects’ emotional needs. By continuously researching your audience and identifying their emotional needs, you will be able to learn from your tests, understand them and know what to test next.

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Talia Wolf

Talia is a conversion optimization expert & a skydiving junkie.
As CEO & founder at conversioner.com, she helps worldwide companies optimize their sales funnels & increase their revenue using emotional conversion optimization & neuromarketing. Talia helps companies build their conversion strategies, execute them and grow their business.

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