If You Must Tweak Your Way to E-Commerce Success, Then Pay Attention to These Two Steps
Some websites are so broken that tweaks really aren't the best approach. Yes, you can split test your way into some minor gains, but if most of your users can't GET to your product page, or at least not the right one, then boosting conversions on product pages by single-digit percentages isn't going to make anyone very happy.
If, however, your success rates are fairly high — in online analytics parlance, this translates to low bounce rates for navigation pages as well as user surveys saying MOST users can get to the product they need — then tweaks are your friend. This doesn't mean you should only be running split tests to make minor improvements, but it does mean you're closer to that point.
Before you run your A/B tests, however, it makes sense to do your homework. Consider the following two points:
1. Run usability tests and fix the worst problems before split testing. There are a lot of tests in online marketing, and the three of the critical ones — user acceptance testing, split or multivariant testing, and usability testing — tend to confuse some marketers. The latter two are particularly prone to getting misunderstood, so let's clear this up:
- Split or multivariant tests involve serving multiple versions of a page to users, and seeing which one performs better (the goal can be lower bounce rate, better conversion rate, more sales, etc.).
- Usability tests involve giving a small number of users some tasks and observing them as they conduct the tasks, watching out for problems.
By running usability tests, you can make the correct tweaks to your website BEFORE you hone in on more targeted goals. Before you run split or multivariant tests, it makes sense to ensure that users don't have critical, visit-ending mistakes first. Steve Krug, one of the biggest names in usability, indicates that by watching three people navigate your site and identifying the worst offenders, and then using the simplest possible fixes to correct your site, you can do a world of good.
Tim Ash is the author of the bestselling book Landing Page Optimization, and CEO of SiteTuners. A computer scientist and cognitive scientist by education (his PhD studies were in Neural Networks and Artificial Intelligence), Tim has developed an expertise in user-centered design, persuasion and understanding online behavior, and landing page testing. In the mid-1990s he became one of the early pioneers in the discipline of website conversion rate optimization. Over the past 15 years, Tim has helped a number of major US and international brands to develop successful web-based initiatives. Companies like Google, Expedia, Kodak, eHarmony, Facebook, American Express, Canon, Nestle, Symantec, Intuit, AutoDesk and many others have benefitted from Tim's deep understanding and innovative perspective.
Connect with Tim on Google+