Testing, Testing, Can You Hear Me?

Scene: A Web analytics team is sitting at a conference table with the head of marketing and several other influential executives in the room.
CMO: "We need to be doing more testing."
Exec: "Web site optimization is critical. Web analytics manager, let's start testing.  You take it from here."
Analyst leaves room and bangs head against wall.
Analyst (interior monologue): "Where do I even start?"

Close curtain

Has this happened to you?  If you're in an organization with an online presence, the topic of AB and multivariate testing is bound to come up in conversation at some point.  Getting a testing program off the ground is not as difficult as it sounds if you take it one step at a time (literally).  Here are a few recommendations for getting your testing program up and running.

1.    Call it a testing "program," not a testing "project." Many organizations make the mistake of referring to testing as a project and never fully absorb it into their cultural DNA.  It needs to become a way of doing business, not just something with a defined beginning and end.

2.    Dust off your project management skills and treat each test as a project -- that means writing requirements, setting timelines and managing deliverables (because you'll have multiple departments contributing to make the test come together).

3.    Document the key conversion points or events that represent value on your site.

4.    Identify the landing pages and funnel that lead to that conversion.  The funnel is the set of pages, steps or clicks that a user must navigate through to successfully complete the conversion process.

5.    Define success! This is a business modeling exercise (think P&L). Start at the top of the conversion funnel and understand where users are dropping off prior to conversion. If exit rates are 25% from step 1, the goal might be to lower that percentage to 15% or 20%.  Know these trigger points in your model.  Optimizing each step pushes more volume through the funnel and increases the number of conversions. This can be quantified if you know the gross profit and costs of your Web site.  If you don't know them, ask Finance -- they need to be a partner in the process, too.

6.    Get an executive sponsor -- nothing happens quickly enough without the support of the big guns!

7.    Technology -- some organizations can perform testing without a technology partner (bravo if you are one of them), but most cannot. Your Web analytics vendor most likely has testing technology that will integrate well with your Web Analytics tool.

8.    KISS - "Keep it simple, stupid."  Seriously, don't bite off too much on the first round.  Identify one point in your conversion process that you want to improve.  Stay focused. Get one test under your belt.  Reflect and then plan the next test.

9.    Communicate the learnings and the action items.  Once the test is complete, the results need to be communicated to the stakeholders (and not just the big wigs).  TIP - don't forward a spreadsheet out to the team!  Power up the PowerPoint and give the visuals with the numbers.  The story will be much more powerful and compelling to the reader.

10.    Rinse, lather and repeat.  Celebrate the improvements you make.  Don't repeat the setbacks and then start the process again.

Testing doesn't have to be as daunting as it sounds.  Yes, you do need some technical expertise to understand how to deploy a test.  However, the ability to coordinate resources and drive process will take you much farther than you'd imagine.

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