UX testing may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about improving your marketing efforts, and yet loads of smart marketers (smarketers?) are now using UX testing to get better marketing results.
So, for all you smarketers out there, here’s how you can add UX testing to your marketing mix to:
Let’s dive in to the detail…
Who here loves A/B testing? At least enough to give a tiny pathetic ‘woop’ in the office?
I do. (Woop.)
Problem is, the results you get out of it are only as good as what you put in. Meaning: once you run out of big ideas to test, you can end up chasing +0.01% improvements on a hunch that came to you one night in a cactus-induced fever dream.
Reckon #40E0D0 is a slightly more compelling shade of turquoise for your CTA button than #40E0D1? Maybe you’re onto something there, Goethe! But what you might be missing is the bigger issue that Firefox users can’t submit the damn form. (Ah. That.)
In a nutshell:
While A/B Testing can give you an idea of what is and isn’t working. UX testing can tell you why that is—and help you fix it.
So how can you get your UX testing and A/B testing working harmoniously together towards a common goal, like sales and marketing (theoretically) do?
Well, you can:
When you run out of meaningful hypotheses to test, you should make your customers suffer.
Wait, that sounds bad. What I mean is: Capitalise on your customers’ innermost pain and frustration to feed your diabolical marketing experiments.
Because letting your users loose on your site and observing them on key journeys can help you find the real-world pain points that impact your conversions—and help you prioritise exactly what you should be A/B testing next.
Note: by “real-world”, I don’t mean that one time your boss made you drop everything because he couldn’t access a landing page from his phone on a train. That was going through a tunnel. On a Sunday. In fact, you can use UX insights to tell him he’s wrong, and to get a new phone.
The result? Now you can stop pulling guesses out of your sparse list of hunches and start testing variants derived from actual user pain points. Your customers will suffer no more and your conversion rates will skyrocket. Probably.
Some initiatives require more insight than you can get from A/B testing alone. Or at least more patience and time than the average digital marketer has for setting up a thousand variants that give you inconclusive results.
Think the navigation menu on your site needs rearranging to get more people to visit your key pages?
How many combinations are you going to test to prove it?
How long will that take to set up?
WAIT, WASN’T THAT CAMPAIGN DUE YESTERDAY?
You can use UX testing to quickly bypass the hassle (or impossibility) of setting up complex A/B tests, running card sorting or tree testing with your users to let them show you what’s best.
…you can then use A/B testing to refine and optimise what you have after the fact.
Best of both worlds.
The success of your A/B testing will only be as good as the quality of the variants you test to begin with. So if these don’t address the root cause issue, you’ll be on a fool’s errand.
And you’re no fool. You’re a certified Smarketer™.
So if you have some radical ideas for a new site layout, don’t just make it happen and then start A/B testing willy-nilly—gather UX insight on your mock-ups first, and add your sexy UX improvements in during the design phase, before you drop your annual budget with that edgy agency.
Upping the quality of your variants will ensure what you are testing has already had some degree of validation with your audience, leaving A/B testing to do what it does best—optimising.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to see your competitors’ sites through the eyes of your customers?
What about seeing your site through the eyes of your competitors’ customers?
Well, using benchmark UX testing, you can observe your customers (or those of your heinous rivals) on your site or app and answer questions like:
Let’s admit it:
As much as we may talk down the vastly inferior competition, it can be hard not to wonder how their marketing initiatives are working out for them. Particularly in those moments when the boss sends you an email with a subject line that says “we need to do this”, followed by a link to your nemesis’ shiny new home page.
Well, wonder no longer:
After a little UX testing with your customers across both of your sites or apps, you can start building up a better picture of how you and your competitors are perceived by your target audiences, and make the changes you need to get a leg up on the competition—based on real-world feedback, and not a knee-jerk reaction.
You might find out that the cool new layout they launched last week is actually confusing as absolute hell, and impossible to navigate. Or it is EVERYTHING to your audience and you NEED TO DO THIS RIGHT NOW (I guess your boss was right that time).
Either way, at least you’ll know!
I always ignore the ads on Google (or, more accurately, they are blocked before I see them so my virtual door is never darkened by their presence).
But, you know what? Maybe I really am as special and exceptional as I believe myself to be, and my ninja-level Google-fu is so super advanced that everyone else is foolishly clicking on those ads like the chumps they are.
That’s not true (although I am special).
What is true though is that your users won’t always behave in the way you want or expect them to when it comes to your best-laid marketing plans. That includes clicking on your well-crafted Adwords copy, and getting sucked in by all the meta tag blood sacrifices you made to appease the SEO gods.
Seeing as you are not your users, UX testing is the perfect way to find out how they engage with your PPC ads and SEO efforts, beyond imagining how they might behave.
“Rubbish!” I hear you cry, “You can’t measure PPC and SEO effectiveness with UX testing! We use cool graphs and analytics stuff for that! You’re an idiot!”
That’s a fair point, even if you did hurt my feelings a little. But hear me out:
Observing the search behaviour of your target audience adds a qualitative dimension to your PPC and analytics data that helps you better understand the root cause behind those figures—through the lens of your buyers.
After all, you can’t use Google Analytics to see what happened before someone landed on your site, or indeed the string of expletives that left their mouths when they clicked on your ad and went to a landing page that didn’t match what they expected (although that would make for some interesting reporting).
So, try running UX testing to ask questions such as:
Again, it’s about answering the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. Knowing what’s effective is all well and good, but understanding the root cause can inform your strategy further and get you to #1 on Google.*
Don’t wait for your campaign to go live before you realise you just sent a piece of crap out to the thousands of people in your database.
Send a piece of crap out to a few lucky people ahead of time and watch it get polished into a diamond before your very eyes.
Here are a few ideas you can play with:
How is your messaging shaping up? Can a first-time visitor to your site understand what the hell your business actually does?
Testing your copy with users in your target market can help you understand how real people interpret and act upon your messaging and CTAs, and help you better align your messaging with how your audience thinks.
Yes, A/B testing your emails is a great way of pitting your subject lines against each other to determine a winner.
But what happens if you put two bad fighters in the ring together?
You might get a winner at the end of it… but it’s gonna be a crappy fight.
UX testing your email marketing ideas with real-life people can help you improve the quality of your variants before you throw them into the ring—and lead to better open rates and clickthroughs down the line.
You might be able to answer the following questions:
Armed with that information, you’ll be starting off from a better position when it does come to A/B testing.
Got design drafts? Mock-ups? Ads, eBooks, infographics?
Get the low-down from your users before go-live (and before you invest too much of your time and money).
Seriously, you can UX test a whole lot of stuff.
If you have a persona-led or buyer-first marketing strategy, you probably have a number of personas in your marketing toolbox, like “Pet Food Taster Patricia”, or “Funeral Director Frankie” (those are our main ones; if we’ve done our research correctly you are definitely one of those).
You’ve got their profile: they’re 94 years old, play golf in a panda costume at sunset on Tuesdays, dropped their iPhone in the toilet one day and switched to Android, and own three selfie sticks.
But do you really know how they behave? Sure, you can conduct interviews and other research to dig into their challenges.
While these methods are extremely valuable when building a persona, there’s the little problem of cognitive bias when it comes to the reliability of self-reporting. Meaning those pesky kids have probably unknowingly lied to you about everything they’ve ever said.
To combat that:
Use UX testing to reveal what surveys and interviews won’t tell you—through the way people engage with your marketing efforts.
That way you can validate or challenge your assumptions and research into your personas using the actual content you produced to appeal to them in the first place (see above for some tests you can run).
Build testing panels of specific audiences that take into account factors such as age, income, device preferences and other qualifying criteria, and run tests with these groups.
You could even narrow your testing panel to 94-year-old Android users who play golf in panda costumes at sunset on Tuesdays (although you might not get enough to achieve the ideal number of users for your UX test).