The first key to successful testing online is to take a full commitment to the process, said Stephen Cheng, marketing manager at online bookseller Alibris, in his session at last month’s Mid Market eTail conference in San Francisco. “Accept the fact that you will have duds, ideas that just don’t work when you test them,” Cheng said. Following are his tips for a better online testing process.
1. Establish a cross-functional team suited to the task. A Web site test shouldn’t be run just by the marketing team or the IT person responsible for the site, Cheng said. Both departments should be involved, as well as staff from other relevant departments. For example, if you’re testing alternate landing pages for onsite merchandise search, be sure to include someone from your merchandising team.
2. Develop a method to split traffic to your desired tests. Testing is great, but if you can’t control the path of traffic, you can’t perform a valid test, Cheng noted.
3. Use robust analysis tools that you understand. “A Web analytics platform is only as good as your ability to understand what it’s telling you,” Cheng cautioned. Don’t pay for more analytics than you can use, but make sure your platform has the ability to provide you with clear results of the tests you have in mind.
4. Expect the unexpected. “Customers will do things you don’t expect,” Cheng said. Don’t bring any preconceptions to the table, and don’t be surprised if your pet idea doesn’t pan out. “The source of ideas to test is irrelevant to your customers,” he added, “so it shouldn’t matter to you either.”