Ten digital marketing lessons learned in 2010
This year promises to be an even bigger year for online consumption, especially with mobile and tablet PC usage on the rise. More marketers are using content optimisation solutions to improve digital conversion rates, subsequently increasing revenues, brand loyalty and marketing ROI, according to Mark Simpson, founder of web site conversion specialist Maxymiser.
Many marketers have already adopted some form of A/B or multivariate testing, behavioural targeting, or web site personalisation. But for those who are yet to optimise their digital marketing strategy, Simpson offers the following ten lessons learned so far:
- Be prepared for the real buying season Retail and travel sites undoubtedly stay busy all year-round, with peak selling times during the obvious seasons. But if you've waited to test and optimise your promotions or discount offers on the day before Christmas, you're probably too late.
Take holiday makers for example. While we know the peak holiday times (in the Northern hemisphere at least) occur in June to August and November to December, most consumers have begun their search, booking and buying efforts months beforehand. Web site conversion rates (and revenues) are more likely to skyrocket when you're optimising destinations and promotions in March and September. The key here is to focus on product recommendations and behavioural targeting strategy to upsell, cross sell and increase engagement.
- Never stop optimising Most marketers currently running A/B and multivariate testing should be following the 95% confidence rule: knowing when to end a test, and identify a 'winner'. However, over the course of running thousands of tests, with millions of users, for hundreds of clients, Maxymiser has found that using a continuous optimisation methodology is a good route to consistently increasing web site conversion rates, by always serving the best performing content.
Your web site should be treated as a growing and evolving centrepiece for your brand. Many factors can change how even your most loyal customers use your site, perceive your brand, and impact the products they are purchasing. If at some point your tests reveal a winning combination, there's a great possibility that they could very well discover a new one later on, based on your live, ever-changing, visitor feedback.
- Watch your tone (and copy) Web site wording is an often-overlooked area when it comes to optimization plans. Most brands have a universal standard on brand tone and copy, but using this one-size-fits-all approach on a website can be a conversion rate killer.
Ensure that your copy is both brand and consumer friendly by testing a variety of copy and language tones, such as neutral/passive versus the aggressive voice, or casual versus conservative tone. For example, financial services sites often convert better with passive tones, due to the highly sensitive nature of information being transmitted by users. Be mindful of your various traffic sources, and test copy across multiple landing pages and promotional offers.
- Don't overdo dynamic elements Flash, video, Flash, music, pop-up ads, Flash (you get the idea). While executing Flash elements or banner ads on your web site can allow you to circulate more advertising or give your site an added professional quality, you'll annoy your visitors if it's too much. Numerous tests have shown that visitors need at least 1 or 2 static page elements in order to maintain their focus, and thus their ability to convert.
- Clean up your errors Error messaging is an important component for any site, especially when it comes to sealing the deal with a customer, since most user-input errors occur during the check-out or registration process. Pay careful attention to the location, design, display and wording of your error messages. Don't just leave a web programmer to decide on the wording (or spelling) - these messages are part of your brand communication strategy, and they're critical because they're only seen when your visitor isn't making progress the way they expected to! If a visitor doesn't see the message or even understand it, repeated frustrations will only lead to them abandoning your web site before the most important conversion of all: the sale.
- Stop repeating yourself While it's good that you've decided to hold a sale or introduce a promotion, but mentioning words like "free", "discounted" or "improved" too much will only make visitors question your offer or product and diminish the likelihood that they convert beyond your promotional page. Test the location, font, and number of times that certain eye-catching or promotional words appear on landing pages, and you will usually discover the truth behind the phrase "less is more".
- Play nice, corporately speaking It's no secret that it takes many forms (and people) of marketing in order to meet a brand's revenue goals. Today's internet-savvy consumer population is sure to land on your web site at some point, so it's best to keep the lines of optimisation communication open. Ensure that all marketing departments and relevant employees are in the loop, so that SEO, direct mail, email, PPC, call centres, and so on are all primed to collect and use the right optimisation data when you're ready to move to a true multi-channel marketing approach.
- Play with pricing presentation Time and time again, marketers are surprised at the impact that font, location, showing/not showing, and colour of product pricing has on web site conversion rates. While no single pricing strategy is correct for all brands, don't be afraid to test it. Maxymiser has found that some sites perform better without revealing the price before the product gets to the cart, while others convert visitors better by being up front about it. See what your visitors think, and the results may surprise you.
- Determine the relevance of everything A 'general audience' approach to your digital marketing strategy will only get you so far, but delivering tailored, relevant messaging to individuals will ensure conversion rate increases along with improvements in revenue per visit, cart sizes and consumer lifetime values. Look into deploying web site personalisation techniques alongside content optimisation. One of Maxymiser's European airline clients dynamically targeted 'Featured Destinations' on their 'Inspire Me' page using behavioural targeting techniques, and drove an immediate 35% increase in conversions and higher levels of customer loyalty.
- Don't be afraid to let go of brand guidelines Multivariate (MVT) and A/B testing is an investigation not only into your web site elements, but also your brand. If your consumers perceive you differently than you believe them to, your web site approach could be hurting conversions. Sticking strictly to the brand guidelines - whether in what you choose to test or change - might never lead you to discover that some brand-approved copy, tone, colours, page template, or call-to-actions, are holding you back from higher conversion rates. MVT and A/B testing solutions provide an opportunity to survey consumers without them knowing it, offering live brand insights, and of course greater revenues and loyalty, if you're willing to adjust your guidelines accordingly.