The ugly truth that no one wants to admit at a digital marketing agency is how many decisions are made based only on underlying assumptions. Of course, there is experience and research involved, but so infrequently will you hear a guarantee that one practice is more successful than another. When it comes to consumer behavior, there is simply no such thing as a sure thing.

Testing seems like an obvious solution to these questions, so why don’t we do it enough? A few reasons:

  • a fear of revenue loss from leads that may not convert as planned
  • a misunderstanding that it is hard to develop such tests
  • the idea that the company doesn’t have the time to either set up the tests or evaluate the results

The result of marketers not testing enough is a plateaued return on investment (ROI) and the continuation of the guessing game. Alas, there is an affordable, user-friendly way to improve your testing habits. Enter A/B testing.

Check Out This Example

ab testing

AB testing for better conversions. Photo credit: VisualWebsiteOptimizer.com

A/B testing, also known as split testing, essentially compares two versions of a web page to see which one performs better. Visual Website Optimizer is one of the better-known tools used for implementing A/B testing. They recently released a case study focusing on conversion rates associated with “directional cues.”  Directional cues, simply put, are techniques used to guide the user’s attention.

In this specific case study — an ad for a hair care product — they tested the difference between having the woman in the ad look straight ahead versus having her look at the product itself. In this case, with 200 participants, 84% of the users looked at the product when the woman in the ad did. Only 6% looked at the product when the woman on the page looked straight ahead.

With just a simple test, we now have results we can apply across the board. It’s pretty clear that featuring a person is most effective when he or she is looking at the product. We might have suspected this—but now we have the numbers to back it up. This is a valuable finding.

Applying Directional Cues

Directional cues are easy to implement. It takes only the forethought to design your ad or site appropriately. Here are a few very simple ways to implement directional cues:

  1. Give the eye one thing to focus on. When there is too much to look at, the user gets lost in the big picture. You need to funnel them through your conversion path, and this requires strategic decision-making about placement, colors, images and text on your page.  How badly do you not want to read anything on this site, for example? There is way too much to look at to take any of it in.
  2. Use your images to lead the eye movement to the call to action. It’s not just in the eyes. And I don’t mean by having the subject point — we’re talking IMPLICT directional cues here, not explicit ones. Here is an example of what I mean. See how the image moves from blurred to focused, and this leads the user’s eyes straight to the girl on the far right (and not coincidentally next to a stand-out orange “Get Quote” button)? It’s so subtle and so effective.
  3. Don’t be afraid of white space. One of the most common woes I hear when discussing designs with clients is not wanting to “waste space” with white or blank space. Having a clean design allows you to add content and visuals that pop. The Red Cross uses their white space perfectly to focus their viewers on the banner image and, specifically, their stand-out, red call to action buttons that prompt you with very specific action items.

We Need Continuous Testing

There is no one shoe that fits all in marketing. Even with the hard statistic of the case study above, there is no way to know whether that is specific to the product market or even the geographic demographic. Your design and strategy should grow as you continue to test and apply your conclusions.

Bottom line? As marketers, we simply do not test enough. And with all the easy to use, price-friendly tools out there, we have no excuse. Start by checking out Google Content Experiments (FREE), Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer. If you are able to spend the big bucks, Adobe Test & Target and Monetate are excellent choices as well.

Happy intentional designing, and let’s get to testing!

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