Commentary

You Really Need To Ask The Target Audience

Clients tend to ask for my opinion on which landing page to use when linking their banner creative.  Of course, my recommendation is going to be based on the campaign type (e.g., branding, direct response) and its objectives (e.g., drive leads, product awareness). I have an idea which existing Web site page will create the best user experience based on continuity of message and logic, but, more often than not, I am not in the campaign's targeted demographics.

We recently completed three different landing page tests, using two different approaches. One was for a financial institution, an e-commerce site, and the other an over-the-counter medication.

The test for the financial institution started with a methodological A/B/C split test, followed by multi-variant to further optimize the winning page. We started with the control that had two tabs (to explain its two-step offer), and tested it against two one-tabbed designs. They were identical except for different background colors. I was surprised when one beat the other by 20%. I was convinced the green would win. I was more amazed at how different the results were, and all just because we changed the accent color.

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Phase II was more surprising, when we found adding a hero image beat out the control by an astounding rate, more than 30%. Had the client asked me to choose which page to use instead of testing the landing pages, I would have hindered the campaign success to the tune of over 1,000 new customers.

The e-commerce site was having trouble getting consumers to add items to their cart. We tested the "add to cart" button first, and the control button won by a few percentage points. Then we shifted the product image to the right of the product page from the left. At first, it looked like, again, the control was the stronger performer -- until we segmented the results by traffic source. There was an increase of over 20% in revenue from Google-driven site visitors -- just by moving the image from right to left.  Slight and subtle changes were all it took.

The objective of the landing page test for the OTC medication was to determine if consumers were more likely to click for the coupon from the homepage or the product page. We created duplicate pages for each (so users couldn't get to the page unless they came from a display ad), and drove equal traffic to each of the two pages. Again, if the client asked me which page we should use for the landing page, I would have told them to use the product page to give the consumer an opportunity to read the benefits about the product. And, I would have been wrong. The click-to-coupon conversion rate was more than 25% from the homepage, compared to the product page.

The moral of the story is that advertisers need to test, test, and test again. We (media and creative professionals alike, and self-proclaimed numbers geeks like myself) think we know what is right, but we don't. We are often not our client's target audience.

Landing page testing does not need to cost anything but time. Start by doing an A/B split on site traffic (which you can set up in under 10 minutes); you would be amazed at how you can optimize your campaigns without changing one thing on your media buy.

6 comments about "You Really Need To Ask The Target Audience".
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  1. MediaMark Walker, May 18, 2010 at 1:30 p.m.

    Isn't it amazing what a little bit of change can do for results? I know it seems hard to believe but it's the little things that matter!

  2. Rob Griffin from Almighty, May 18, 2010 at 3:44 p.m.

    Brilliant write up Sharon. We dont think enough in this area. I heard a statistic recently that says for every $80 we spend driving traffic to a site we only spend $1 trying to convert that visitor. What you are writing about is the ticket to addressing this discrepancy of budget allocation.

  3. Steven Skroce from Lycos, Inc., May 18, 2010 at 4:04 p.m.

    The great thing about doing this sort of testing is that the numbers speak for themselves and it's not the opinion of some HiPPO (HIghest Paid Person's Opinion - as Avinash would say!) as to what is right or wrong.

  4. Justin Shaw from Two West, May 19, 2010 at 10:32 a.m.

    Great insight. It's amazing what a little testing can do. We try and advise our clients on the power (and savings) of forethought. Perspectives like this really help bolster the case against those who just want to get to market quickly.

  5. Jeff Tippett, June 30, 2010 at 11:32 a.m.

    Great post. Working on a couple test now. Very helpful article.

  6. Steven Graff from Bloofusion Inc., June 30, 2010 at 11:46 a.m.

    Once you start looking at compounded value, even the smallest gains from Page Optimization make a very big difference.

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