Conversion Optimization: Go Beyond A/B Testing and MVT

A/B testing and MVT are a great way to help you drive more conversion on your website. A/B testing and MVT help you decide the best layout, headlines, images, message copy etc. that motivates the visitors to complete a transaction.

However, A/B testing and MVT will only get you so far. If a visitor does not complete a transaction during later steps of the funnel then there are generally other reasons than those that can be simply fixed by changing the page layout, copy, images etc. . Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you can’t improve conversions by optimizing later steps of the funnel. You can, but you will get to a point of diminishing return and you will need something else to drive more conversions. Moreover, the learning from A/B and MVT will only help you going forward but you will lose many customers while you are doing the tests.

Keep in mind that as a visitor moves down the conversion funnel his/her commitment to complete the transaction (convert) increases. If you are able to capitalize on that motivation in time, you will drive higher conversions.

Here are some of the ways to help you drive conversions from those visitors who walked away without converting (sales, download etc.):

  1. On-Site Targeting – This is very effective technique to drive user to take desired actions. You can target visitors with personalized message/offer, prompting them to complete a transaction, when they come back to your site at a later time.
  2. Remarketing or Retargeting via Ads– This works great to bring the potential customers, who have wandered away on the internet, back to your site. Using a service like Google Adwords you can reach your visitors on various sites which use Google Adsense. There are several remarketing services that you can use but Google Adwords, though not very sophisticated, is a good way to get started. Read my post on Google Adwords Remarketing before moving forward.
  3. Online Chat – Online chats are a great way to make a human connection with the visitors while he/she is still on the site and in the buying mode. Some products/people need human interaction to persuade and a triggered online chat might just do the trick.
  4. SMS – Everybody seems to own a cell phone these day, follow-up the shopping cart abandoners with an SMS message, hit the iron while it is still hot. SMS marketing is not very prevalent in US but is heavily used in many other countries.
  5. Email Follow-upFollowing up with an email is another excellent and widely used way to drive conversions from those unfinished conversions.
  6. Phone Calls – Similar to online chat, phone calls have a human element to them. Phone calls work very effectively even in converting a person who might have decided otherwise. Phone conversion rate is generally a lot higher than web conversion rates and phone salesperson can even do upsell to drive more revenue/visitors, though the cost also goes up. Striking a right balance is critical and needs proper assessment and strategy.
  7. Direct Mail – Yes it still does work in many cases.

Keep in mind that timing and right follow up strategy is very critical when contacting those that did not convert. If you do need help in this area send me a note.

Questions/Comments?

Are you Optimizing the Wrong Steps of the Conversion Process?

Due to organizational structure, many marketers/analysts get a partial view of the customers’ conversion process data.  This result in them optimizing the wrong steps of the conversion funnel /channel.

Read below about a shopping experience I recently had, it will make it clear how this narrow view can come in the way of an organization’s ability to effectively optimize the right step/channel in the conversion path.

 I was recently in the market to buy a laptop. I had a Lenovo laptop in past, which I really liked, so I decided to buy another Lenovo laptop.

I went to their site, configured the laptop and chose various options. When I got to the last step, I decided to contact a live person because I was not sure of all the options that I had picked. I clicked on the little chat button on their site and connected with a sales guy. The person asked me to save my order (create an account etc.) so that he can find the order and help me with it.

I did what he told me to but to my disappointment, the sales guy (online chat) was not able to find my order even when I gave him the email address I used to create the account. 

I had my credit card ready and was willing to make a purchase but they just could not close the deal. 

Where do think the problem is in this conversion process? Which steps are you going to optimizing?

Someone just focusing and looking at online channel data will not know the complete pictures. They will see a drop-off at the last step of the funnel and if there are a significant number of visitors like me, they will most likely focus their attention on optimizing (A/B testing, MVT etc.) the last step. Right? This is where the problem lies.  You may live in your little silo of online optimization but customers don’t follow your organizational boundaries. They will flow from one channel to other and convert from the channel that they are most comfortable with.  You can go ahead and A/B test all you want to the last step of the funnel but if the issue is not with the page layout, heading, fonts, colors etc. then you A/B test are not going to help.

As an analyst you should go beyond your designated channel. If there are other channels (e.g. contact center) that the visitors can use to complete the process then don’t ignore them.  Get a complete view of the data so that you don’t end up optimizing the wrong steps in the conversion process.

Underline the Clickable Text and Link the Pictures

Sometimes there are things that you know are not right and need to be fixed immediately rather than testing and waiting for the result. Such was a case that I recently encountered and the results were amazing.

Recently, I was working with a client who sells people expertise (I am purposely vague here because I don’t want to reveal the name of the client). The “Expert” search is the start of the process and then “Expert Search result” page is a second step in the process.

On the expert search page, each expert is listed with a small blurb and the name of the expert was linked to the next step of the “checkout process”.

When analyzing the “checkout” process we noticed that there were 2 things missing

  1. The name of Expert was not underlined – it was linked to the next step in the “checkout” funnel but not underlined. Also, that was the only call to action on that page i.e. to click on the experts name to go to the next step.
  2. The picture of the Expert was static and had no link whatsoever.

Recommendation

Usually I recommend doing A/B testing before making any changes to a page/process but I also do rely on best practices from time to time. In this case underlining the Expert’s name (“product name”) to get more information and to link the image to either next step or the enlarged version of the image with more info made total sense. I was confident that I did not need any test (I sound like a HiPPO, right?). So
So rather than waiting to conduct an A/B test we went ahead and made those changes.
(of couse a clear to call to action link or button might have worked too but that was not an option)

Result

  • Exits from that page dropped from 38% to 33%
  • Funnel conversion rate went up from 40% to 47% (Though 40% conversion was amazing considering there was no highly visible way to get to the next step of the process).

I am sure if you look at your own site you will find plenty of such opportunities for improvement.
Thoughts? Comments?

5 Things That Could Be Hindering Your Conversions

Forms are everywhere on the internet, some convert great while other don’t. There are several factors such as call to action, images, copy etc. that all contribute to the success of a form. However, even a well designed form might not convert well if some fundamental things are not taken care of. In this post I am listing 5 fundamental things that could be preventing the visitors from converting.

  1. Consistency in Call to Actions – Consistency in call to action is critical for conversions. You cannot underline few links and not the other within the same context. Be consistent with your formatting. Making some links underlined while other not underlined makes user think harder than he/she should and increases the chances of bailout. See below; do you see the inconsistency in the links? I almost gave up on finding that “Register Now” link (yes it is obvious now because I have highlighted it).

  2. Captcha – Captcha is meant to stop automated computer programs (spiders) from filling the forms but do you know that a Captcha can also deter people who are genuinely trying to fill your form? I suggest doing a simple A/B test on your form with a captcha and without a captcha to see if you captcha is eating up your conversions. This will help you determine if the captcha is worth the loss in conversion.

  3. Confirmation Fields – Confirmation fields are the field that require users to fill in the same information again to ensure that user that has not mistyped the information e.g. password, email etc. However, confirmation adds one extra field that the user has to fill in, thus coming in the way of conversion. Take a close look at your confirmation fields and determine if you really need them. For example, is it really required to have the user confirm the password? If the user has mistyped the password during registration then won’t she be able to easily get it via “Forgot Password?” link? If yes, then do you really need to confirm the password during registration? Do you really need confirmation on sensitive information such as social security? It is scary (for most people) to provide social security number online and confirming it again just gives users another chance to bail out.

  4. Form Validations – Validations on form fields ensure that the data user is entering is in the correct format. However many validations are not really required and come in the way of user trying to complete a form. Check your validations to ensure they are absolutely required, e.g. @symbol in the email address field, or not, e.g. “-“ between area code and phone number. Do not force the users into unnecessary and annoying validations. Keep in mind that a lot of data formatting can be done via client side JavaScript or backend processing without putting the customer through a lot of pain.

  5. Data Fields – It appears to me that many companies like to collect the data just for the sake of collecting it without thinking how it will be used. Yes every piece of data you collect can eventually provide you more information about your customer but should it be really on your form at the expense of lost conversions? Your customers have limited time and adding more fields on your form might turn them away. Go through your form and remove any unwanted fields. If you don’t want to remove anything at this point, identify the fields and do a simple A/B test (one version as it is and the other one without those fields) to see how your conversions are getting affected.

Questions? Comments?


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Best Time to Tweet?

Do you know what the best time to tweet is? Recently a client asked me this question and I am sure there are a lot of you wondering the same thing. When you tweet you want to make sure it reaches a lot of people (can I say that you want to get the biggest chirp for the tweet?).

So I did some research to find out what other have to say and here is what I found

  • According to Gary McCaffry, based on the traffic to his site from twitter, the best time to tweet is anywhere between 9 AM – 3 PM PST.
  • Another blogger, Malcolm Coles, who surveyed 120 twitter users to find out the best time time to tweet,, says that the best time to tweet is 4:01 PM.
  • Social Media Guide says that best time to tweet is 9:00 AM PST, this will allow you to hit people across the globe
  • Fasctompany says that the best time to get Retweeted is 4:00 PM EST. Fast company also lists many other factors that can help in Retweets.
  • According to techandlife.com, if you have a large international following then you should repeat your message, 3-4 times a day to make sure it reaches all your followers. Personally I have not followed this rule but I repeat my message at different times on different days. I guess it is time for me to do some testing.
  • Guy Kawasaki says – “take your most interesting tweets (as measured by how many people retweet them, perhaps) and post them again three times, eight to twelve hours apart. “
  • If you can identify your influencer (I will discuss those tools in another post) on twitter then you can use Tweet o’Clock to figure out when is the best time to reach your influencers.

What does this all means? When should you tweet?

Based on this information I suggest the following

  1. Tweet at 9:00 AM PST (If all of your follower are in one time zone then tweet at 9:00 AM in your time zone).
  2. Tweet again the same message at 1:00 PST (4:00 EST) – (you might skip this if your followers are local.
  3. Tweet again the same message at 4:00 PST( If all of your follower are in one time zone then tweet at 4:00 PM in your time zone).

Analyze the data and see which tweets got the most clicks, @ or RTs. Repeat this few times and see if the pattern holds. If it does then you will know the best time to tweet. Once you figure out the best time, use that time to tweet and vary your other tweet to a different time and see which one works the best (A/B testing of Tweet time).

If tweeting at particular time is an issue then keep track of the day/time you tweet and see if there is a pattern. This experiment should help you determine the best time to tweet for you. You might also be interested in:


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5 Questions to ask before starting a Retargeting Campaign

Retargeting or Remarketing is way to put your ad in front of the people who have been to your site before and are likely to respond to you ads and offers.

Retargeting via Google Adwords

Retargeting is not new, I have been writing about it since 2006 and working in this area since 2003. Recently, Google Remarketing, via adwords, has brought retargeting to the masses. Though, in my opinion, Google has not done a good job in educating advertiser on how to effectively engage in retargeting. To start with, Google says, you should retarget every visitor who came to your site. That is a wrong approach and I highly discourage it. As you read through this post , you will know my reasoning behind it. You have to understand remarketing to effectively use it. I am listing 5 questions that you should ask before you put that JavaScript code to start remarketing.

5 questions to ask before starting a Retargeting Campaign

  1. What is the purpose of this retargeting campaign?
    This is first question you should always ask. Also ask, Why are we doing this? What is the purpose of retargeting? As you answer this question, you will automatically start to answer some of the questions listed below.
  2. Who are your target customers?
    Remarketing to all of you visitors, in most cases, not a good idea. If you are a portal, news site, have daily updates then it might (maybe) make sense to remarket anybody and everybody who visited your site. For most of the sites it doesn’t make sense to retarget everybody. Think about this, why would you want to target me with an ad to sell TV when I recently bought a TV from your site?

    Trying to sell ice to the Eskimo?  Try it. You’ll be sorry. To be effective, you should segment your visitor base and understand their needs. For example, by targeting the shopping card abandoner you have a better chance of conversion. By targeting those who have already downloaded a whitepaper, you have better chance of selling your free trial. The message (ad) you will put in front of these visitors will speak to their needs and hence will be more attractive than a generic message. Which leads to our third question.

  3. What will be your message?
    If you know the purpose and audience segment for the campaign then it is much easier to write your message (ad copy). Your ad copy has to be effective to drive people to take action. Make it right. Say you want to target all the people who downloaded a whitepaper on A/B Testing but did not sign up for free trial then your message can be “You know A/B Testing leads to higher conversions. Get started with a Free trial of xyz tool”. Alternatively, if you are trying to remarket to all the visitors who came to your site, reviewed few page and left without downloading the whitepaper then your message should drive them to download the whitepaper. Remember, one message does not fit all. Message has to resonate with the segment that you are targeting.
  4. Where will the visitors land?
    You have identified why you want to engage in remarketing and who you are targeting, now you have to make you sure that when customers arrive on your site they get the relevant information and clear call to action on the page they land. Sending visitors to an appropriate landing page is critical for the success of remarketing .
  5. How will you know you are successful in remarketing?
    You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Define your KPIs so that you can measure the effectiveness of remarketing. Properly defined success measures will also allow you to take necessary actions (test and fine tune ad copy, message or even the segments) to ensure you achieve your goals.

Google Remarketing Gone Wild.

Recently I came across two examples of remarketing where, in my opinion, the thought was given to the first 2 questions. I have an example to share with you. A while ago I visited Lyris newsletter template download page via a newsletter link. I gave my email address and downloaded the templates. Since I am done downloading, I don’t have a need to download them again.

However, the remarketing campaign keeps remarketing to me with a message inviting me to download the whitepaper (see below). If they have something new to offer then I might go back. If they have to offer the next logical step in moving me towards the sales, I might pay attention to it but I am not going to go back again to download the same templates that I downloaded few days ago. Seriously! Do not waste your impressions on me. If increasing brand awareness is the goal of this campaign then they should have a different message in the ad copy.


(Note: Currently there is a limitation in Google Adword retargeting which makes it harder to segment and target that segment only. If you are interested in segmenting and targeting then send me an email and I will provide you a solution that will help you target efficiently.) 

Sidebar: Below are some of the ways you can use remarketing
  • Cart Abandonment – Target visitors who have abandoned the shopping cart to bring them back to the site and complete the purchase. This is the most widely used and talked about use of remarketing.
  • Next Steps towards Conversion – Target visitors who took some prelim steps but did not complete the next steps towards purchase. E.g. Target the visitors who downloaded a whitepaper but have not come back to sign up for free trial.
  • Cross Sell/New Products – Target past customer with an up sell or cross sell. If a visitor bought a shirt recently maybe it is time to show them an ad for a tie that will go well with that shirt.
  • Brand Awareness – Remarket to people who have visited your site in past. Remarketing can put your brand right in front of them to further build brand awareness. Though this one is difficult to measure.


Thoughts/ Comments? Are you doing remarketing?


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Web Analytics is Money


How do you convey the value of Web Analytics to an organization that has never used web analytics or has used it but at a very elementary level? This is one of the questions that I constantly get from students of my UBC Web Analytics classes, where I am an online tutor.

My answer to them is they should start the conversation with something like, “Web Analytics is Money” or “Web Analytics helps companies make more money” etc.

When you say those words, you are very likely to get audience who want to know more. Money invokes curiosity.

You should not tell the CEO how web analytics can help the company understand customer behavior, find bottlenecks in the site, improve bounce rates etc. You should show him/her the impact in terms of dollars (or Euros, Rupees etc.).

Every web site analysis can lead to actions that have an impact on the money. You can tie web analytics to:

  • Additional revenue
  • Cost Savings
  • Profit
  • Doing more with less money (particularly for non-profits)

Example:

Let’s take a simple example to illustrate this.

Reducing Bounce Rate

If you are not getting any traction, I assume your analysis might look something like:
“Home page is the top most landing page with 80% of the visits entering through this page. However, 60% of the visits bounce i.e. leave the site immediately, after landing on this page. 60% bounce rate is very high as compared to the industry average.* There is a huge opportunity for us to lower the bounce rate on this page by testing the page layout…..(you provide your reasoning on what should be changed and why).”
Great. As an analyst I can understand and you can understand it. But what about CEO of the company? Will he/she understand it? Why should he/she care about the bounce rate?

*Typical Bounce Rates by Anil Batra

Now, try the following:

Generating More Revenue

“Our analysis shows that there is an opportunity for us to increase our revenue by $300,000 for the year by optimizing our home page. Home page is the top most landing page with 80% of the visits entering through this page. However, 60% of the visits bounce i.e. leave the site immediately, after landing on this page. 60% bounce rate is a very high number compared to the industry average.* There is an opportunity for us to lower the bounce rate on this page by testing different page layouts. Lower bounce rate will help us drive more people to the purchase funnel and even if our funnel completion rate remains at 20%, by sending more people to the top of the funnel we will have additional 3000 sales leading to $300,000 in additional revenue for the year.”

Tying your analysis and recommendations to money makes it easier to understand the benefit of Web Analytics. Money will make it easier for you to overcome organization barriers and make you a hero.
Web Analytics is money!!!

What do you think?


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Conversion Tip: Making the Most of the Email Confirmation Thank you Page

Email sign-ups are a very common ways for businesses to capture a potential lead. Visitors who are interested in your product or services will likely take a step towards providing their email address to you.

Your job as a marketer in not complete when a visitor gives you’re your email address. You need to make sure that you provide proper scent (links, messages etc.) for them to engage with your site/content/brand etc.

Almost every contact with a potential customer provides a conversion opportunity i.e. an opportunity to engage them to view more content, products and /or sell. If you do not take advantage of that opportunity then you might miss out on many conversions that you could have had.

Email sign-up confirmation page is one such opportunity that is so often forgotten by the marketers. The main reason for that seems to be the use of 3rd party to manage your email subscription list. Often the small details are missed in a hurry to get the system live. I hope you are not making this mistake.
I am going to share two examples to illustrate my point.

Example 1: Missed Opportunity

This is from a site called Daily Checkout. I loved what they had to offer so I decided to sign up for their daily email.

After providing my email address on their site, here is an email that I got from them. (so far so good, though the “from” email address is the address of 3rd party they are using to manage their email list).

I clicked on the link to confirm my email subscription and I was taken to the page below:

That’s all I got. The title of the page shows me some other company’s name. I am sorry, which site did I sign up for? Where is the rest of the page? I want to look at more products on your site, how do I do that? MISSED OPPORTUNITY.

Example 2: Making the most of the thank you page.

This page provides a nice confirmation thank you page and also provides me a link to explore more content. Well Done.

What do you think? Do you have any examples of the email confirmation pages that totally miss the mark or the pages that do it perfectly? If yes, I would love to see them.


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Landing Page Optimization Analyst, at Red Ventures (Fort Mill, SC)

Significance of Statistically Significant Results in A/B Testing

You are running an A/B test (or multivariate test) but are in a hurry to make a decision to pick the winning page. Should you pick a winner based on initial few days of the data before your tool has actually declared a clear winner? This question comes up quite often during the conversations with the clients.

I always warn against such an approach and advice to be patient and get statistically significant results before pulling a plug on an underperforming variation o declaring a winner. I wanted to share few graphs with you to illustrate my point.

The following example is from a test that I am currently running.
First Two Weeks: If you make a decision without completely getting through the test, you will pick “Yellow” as the winner while declaring “Blue” a loser.

Month Later: There does not seem to be a clear winner.

Few More Days Later: Seems like “Blue” is trending higher. Should you pick “Blue” now?

Finally: We don’t have a clear winner yet.

As you can see, picking a winner or dropping a loser in the early stages of test, without having a statistical significant result, would have been a wrong decision.

Comments? Questions?


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Are Form Validations Invalidating Your Conversions?

Form validations are a great way to ensure that the data you collect from your users is clean and in the right format. However form validations can also frequently lead to lost conversions. CAPTCHA is one such type of validation.

Some validation put unnecessary formatting burden on your customer/visitor leading them to abandon your forms and go to your competitors. A lot of data formatting can be done via client side JavaScript or backend processing without putting the customer through a lot of pain. I am not suggesting to remove all required data and data formatting requirement, all I am saying is that be if you can handled formatting with scripts/code then do not make your customer do it. Let the users finish the form.

Your analytics tool will show you the abandonment rate of your forms. What it won’t tell you is how many of those abandonments were a result of form validations. Most of the analyst/optimization specialist will suggest reducing the number of fields and/or conducting A/B testing with a different layout to decrease abandonment. But if you validations are a problem then A/B testing will not help you. You need to get your validations correct first before your jump into changing the number of fields, layouts etc.

Below are some examples of the fields that might require special formatting and are generally the cause of data validation errors:

  • Social Security Number – If you do collect social security then do not force the user to add the data in XXX-XX-XXXX format, i.e. do not force them to enter “-“ between the numbers. If you do provide one box for entry then either let them enter the numbers in free format or provide 3 input boxes with character limit of 3,2, and 4 receptively.
  • Phone Number – Do not force the users to enter “(“ , “)”, “-“, or spaces between the numbers just because that’s the format you want to store the data in. You can do all the formatting in the backend or front end code before the data gets submitted to your database.
  • Account Numbers – I recently came across a site that manages my new 401K plan. The form asked me to enter the company account number, which was provided to me by our payroll department. I entered the account number into the appropriate field, clicked on the “Submit” button and got an error that something was wrong with my social security, last name or account number. It did not tell me which exact field was the problem field. I checked everything and tried it again and then again. Finally I got frustrated with and called their toll free number. It turns out that I was required to enter “-“ after the 2nd digit. What a waste of time and cause of frustration that was. Since it was my 401K plan I had no choice but to call the phone number, if this were a shopping cart form I would have quit immediately.
  • Email Addresses – Email address format is universal and most of the customers/visitors know that they have to enter an “@” and a “.” Enforcing such a formatting rule in the form validation is expected. However one validation that I recently came across was totally unexpected. My business email address has a “.us” extension and not a “.com”, but a not so “wisemarketer.com” rejected the “.us” domain. According to them “There are some e-mail domains and patterns that, in our experience, are more difficult to communicate with than others.” Apparently “.us” domain falls under one of those blocked emails domains. Really??? You got to be kidding me. “Wisemarkter” lost a valid conversion.

Showing the Error Messages

People do miss required fields or enter data in the wrong formats leading to errors. If an error occurs it is the site owner’s responsibility to make sure that the proper error messages are shown to the users. Two things that you need to keep in mind when showing error messages to the users (or visitors or customers):

  1. Clearly state the error message – Make sure to highlight the fields in error and let the visitors know exactly what is required. Cryptic or generic error message is not going to help. Be sure to provide “prescriptive guidance”. Wisemarketer does not make the error clear, users have to click on the “Why” link to see the description of the error message.
  2. Show the error message where the customers can see them – What’s the point of showing an error message if the visitors can’t see them. Many sites forget this simple principal. If an error occurs automatically scroll to the error message so that the visitor can see the error message. One of the offenders of this is mighty “Google”. The following form on “Google Website Optimizer” has an error but it is hard to see that error message on the screen.

The error occurs when you miss filling data in one of the fields and then click on the “Continue” button. The error occurs but the page does not scroll to where the error message is displayed. To the user it looks like that nothing happened, no error and no form submission. The user has to scroll to the top of the page to see the error message.

Have you come across a form validation that drove you nuts? Send me the link. Comments?

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