When you think about it, the Darwinian idea of evolution is not a far cry from the way we as marketers adapt and change to new technology. With new ways of selling, new channels for promoting a brand and new ways of engaging customers, we’re constantly evolving to stay ahead of the game. And now in the era of rock-solid online competition, we have to evolve even further and ask ourselves: What does it take to lead the online conversion movement?
When it comes to our online strategies, it’s easier than ever to use data-driven, scientific tools to inform ourselves about what is really making our customers click. Through an iterative process of testing and personalization, your online visitors will begin to unknowingly select the best-performing content for your site. And the weaker content should become extinct with all the other not-so-great content choices that have cycled through your site. But in the end, the strong content survives, and in turn produces a web environment that pays off: better customer experiences and higher conversion rates.
1. Learn from those who are bigger, faster and stronger
When it comes to site optimization, the fittest brands aren’t just surviving—they’re thriving. Leading retailers have realized that the deep analytics and insights gained from testing with online customers is not only improving the efficiency and effectiveness of their e-commerce site, but several other aspects of their businesses as well. By having a better understanding than ever before of who their customers are, how they buy, when they buy and what they buy, businesses are now able to do everything better. For example, they can offer experiences more suited to customer needs and wants, they can cross-sell and upsell in-store, online, on mobile, on tablets, even in social, and they can drive more sales than ever before (which they figured out via constant, but relatively straightforward, changes to these sites).
2. Test your theory
Want to know the secrets of the most successful online retailing giants, eBay and Amazon? They test their websites constantly and as they go. Building on initial multivariate testing and website optimization programs that lead to increased site traffic, interaction and sales, those leaders roll out a variety of page and site variants to different customer segments to attain increasingly nuanced results and metrics.
Thanks to a continually evolving understanding of their customers’ behaviors, those powerful brands are able to regularly improve their websites in response to consumer needs and marketplace demands—all without disturbing the customer experience or implementing drastic changes that might compromise revenues.
3. Examine outliers
Online, everyone’s opinion matters—no matter how unexpected or seemingly bizarre an opinion might be. What you think customers want or how you think they should interact with your site just isn’t relevant because they will engage with you online exactly the way they want. That means that you need to start paying careful attention to everything they do. Ultimately, your visitors should design your website based on the choices they make on your pages. Testing will enable you to follow every aspect of their behavior and their interactions with your site, and it’s up to you to take that information into account to create the optimal site experience for your visitor.
Of course, customers don’t necessarily want the same things, and that’s where behavioral targeting and personalization comes in. With personalized web experiences for each customer, your website, mobile, tablet and social sites have the power to speak directly to individual customer needs, wants and interests—no matter how unique—thereby increasing customer loyalty, individual conversion rates and even purchases at checkout.
4. Select the best results, and apply your findings
Thanks to today’s cloud-based technology, you don’t need to wait thousands of years for the winning traits of your site to be revealed. Your testing efforts will begin to reveal data insights in a matter of days or weeks (though the lifespan of a test will vary depending on site traffic, conversion rate and uplift from the default).
Follow the 95% confidence rule when ending a test and identifying a “winner.” Here is the rule in layman’s terms: Based on what you observe in a test, you are 95 percent certain that the alternate or new version is better than the original.
Furthermore, that trait-selection process isn’t a one-off. Your site can be an ever- expanding and evolving centerpiece of your brand with a strategy for “continuous optimization.” Many factors can change how even your most loyal customers use your site, such as holiday seasons, promotions or just a maturing buying life cycle. With continual testing and optimization, you can ensure that your site is always in sync with consumer needs and behaviors.
Take it from Charles Darwin, the man who has been quoted as saying, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” The success of your e-commerce site isn’t driven by the size or cleverness of your marketing team; it’s driven by your team’s willingness to respond to the demands of customers and adjust accordingly. Only when you evolve will your consumers evolve into loyal, active buyers.