Driving Personalization through Marketing and A/B Testing

This article was written by our partner REO, as part of our series highlighting direct insights from our large ecosystem of partners.

In 2019, for the first time ever, digital ad spend represented more than 50% of total global marketing spend. Whilst the UK was considerably ahead of this trend (63.8% of UK’s total ad spend was attributed to digital in 2018, 66.4% in 2019), the US has now joined the group with online ad spend going from 48.6% in 2018 to 54.2% in 2019. With eMarketer forecasting a 17.6% year-on-year growth (to $333.25M) in worldwide digital marketing spend, the need to ensure each of your marketing channels is delivering the best possible ROI has never been higher.

Within the conversion rate optimization (CRO) space, most brands conduct A/B testing without fully considering which marketing channel or source their customers have come from. Customers are typically bucketed into various user segments based on their purchase history, onsite behavior, geographic and demographic data. However, users within the same audience segment can often demonstrate varying behavioral attributes when navigating through the purchase funnel, across countless online and offline touchpoints.

Let’s Take Paid Search as An Example

If a user arrives on your website via paid search, you already know what they searched for and which ad they clicked on; however, users who click on the same ad, but searched for different terms/items, will often experience the same customer journey. For instance, if a customer has searched for “luxury men’s white shirt” – not only do you know the item they are looking for, you also know they are looking at the higher end of the market.

A/B Testing the landing page a user is taken to is quite common, but you can go a step further and explore how to change the experience for the customer based on their search criteria.

A potential testing idea could involve pre-sorting these shirts by highest price first, and on the Product Listing Page (PLP), displaying all the available men’s white shirts. This can develop into personalization if the user has visited the site previously, within the cookie period; e.g. by storing size data within the cookie, you could pre-select the shirt size which the user filtered by on their previous visit. 

Reducing the number of clicks and filters it takes a user to find their item can only have a positive impact on conversion rate, especially on mobile. So, by showing a customer the items they’re looking for, sorted by their desired price point and filtered by their size, you will make the purchase journey more tailored to that specific customer.

Understanding a visitor’s context (location, date and time of day, device, internet connection, etc) as well as their intent (are they here to complete a quick purchase, to research and compare products, to seek inspiration, to test a coupon, etc) add an invaluable layer of behavioral understanding to your analysis, and will allow you to execute a more impactful form of personalization.

Making the Affiliation between A/B Testing and Voucher/Cashback Partners

By applying this testing method to the affiliate channel, you can optimize the largest click and revenue drivers; namely voucher and cashback websites. After all, you can already assume that users coming from these two affiliate types are both online-savvy and price-sensitive.

Voucher and discount websites should have a conversion rate of at least 20-25% on mature affiliate programs – so any of these affiliates who have a conversion rate lower than that, represents an opportunity for incremental revenue. For cashback sites, expect this figure to be upwards of 40%.

A test idea for these two affiliate types could be to re-enforce the discount or cashback offer listed on the affiliates’ website. For instance, if the deal was “Save £15 when you spend over £100” – you could use a “loading bar” at the top of the page which gradually fills up as you add items to your basket, until the user hits the spend threshold to activate the discount. 

For cashback sites, you could test a cashback calculator onsite, which automatically calculates the amount of cashback the user will earn if they purchase everything currently in their basket. This type of gamification can be incredibly effective in increasing the number of units per sale and, in turn, the average order value.

Serve Less Content, but More Dynamically

“Content is King” – we’ve all heard it before, but how can you be smarter in how you serve it? Content, and specifically dynamic content, is another channel where source-based A/B testing can improve engagement, click-through-rates and leads/ sales. If you know the article or blog post a user has come from, you can use this insight to serve them relevant and dynamic content, making their customer journey more seamless and less detached across the two sites.

User journey analysis shows that visits to content sites usually happen in the “Discovery Phase” of the sales funnel – including on product review sites, influencer social posts, news/magazine sites and blogs. Such content is informative and persuasive; perfect to push the user towards the bottom of the funnel.

Some of the more content-heavy merchants, such as insurance brands or high-end technology retailers, will have an eclectic and extensive array of content across their website, making navigation more muddled. A solution? Reducing the amount of content on-site and instead, storing the less frequently visited content pages elsewhere, to then be served dynamically.

For example, if a user looking to buy insurance is reading up on excess and the impacts it has on a claim and future premiums, the existing content about excess could be tweaked accordingly – which could be as simple as changing the title of an article, calling out the keywords or changing the order of the content on that page.

Again, a granular analysis of how customers are interacting with individual elements of content will help paint the complete picture of engagement. Measuring clicks alone will only tell one part of the customer behavior story: tracking metrics such as exposure, attractiveness and conversion rate per click (to name a few) will give a more complete view of how content is contributing to (or stalling) the user journey.

As the capabilities of A/B testing and personalization platforms continue to evolve, the way you test and analyze a customer journey should follow suit. One of the major challenges of channel/source-specific testing can be a lack of traffic volume. If you have insufficient traffic, it will take a while before a test reaches significance. For example, the 5th highest paid search term, or 4th largest voucher site probably won’t have the volume to justify running an A/B Test on.

Want to Know More?

Contact us! REO is a digital experience agency. We are an eclectic mix of bright and creative thinkers, embracing the best of research, strategy, design and experimentation to solve our clients’ toughest challenges. We work across a variety of sectors, with companies such as Amazon, M&S, Tesco and Samsung. 

Also invaluable to our company is our scope of partners, including Contentsquare, which allows our customers to capture the nuances of their end users’ behavior for even more sophisticated segmentation and ultimately, deeper personalization.  

Whatever the challenge may be, REO applies design thinking to identify and deliver big growth opportunities.

 

Hero image: Adobe Stock, via blankstock

The Digital Happiness Index: Quantifying Your Customer Experience

Although conversions are the desired outcome of a good customer experience, they are not the end-all be-all for brands. A happy customer may make a purchase, but more importantly, a happy customer will return.

But how exactly do you define customer happiness? How do you understand the nuances of customer frustration and pinpoint what exactly fosters engagement? And how do you turn all this intelligence into an effective retention strategy and greater customer lifetime value? 

There are plenty of systems designed to measure user experience; these primarily and, for the most part, deal with the locations users visit on your site, conversions and the oft-cited biggest UX failure: bounces. 

But a basic set of analyses on user experience won’t cut it, and certainly won’t glean any discernment on the nuances of users’ digital happiness. The good news is that, for brands interested in quantifying the user experience as a whole, there’s a metric that does exactly that.

Calculated from several other behavioral metrics and consolidated into one mega metric, the Digital Happiness Index (DHI) is a unique measure of visitor satisfaction, providing an objective view of whether or not your overall experience is hitting the right notes.

 


What Is Digital Happiness And How Can You Achieve It?

Before we delve into the DHI, let’s focus on digital happiness. A rather simple concept, it denotes the convenience, satisfaction and even the pleasure of interacting with a website or online interface such as a search engine results page (SERP). 

As a feeling, it is incidentally difficult to pin down, even in the digital realm. But with the new, futuristic metric that is the DHI, you can determine how happy your site visitors are, based on their experience with your site or app. 

The first of its kind, the DHI combines KPIs from the 5 key strands that contribute to overall customer satisfaction:

Is navigation seamless and friction-free? Is your content proving effective to helping visitors reach their goals? Are visitors coming back to your site? Are they exiting early or completing their journeys? And finally, are they finding what they’re looking for — be that information or products?

By quantifying these various strands of experience, and combining metrics into one score, the DHI provides brands with an objective grasp of whether or not visitors are enjoying a positive experience.

Calculating the DHI: the 5 Dimensions of Digital Experience 

Here is a look at what comprises the Digital Happiness Index and what makes it tick.

Using behavioral data from our tool, the DHI separates the data into 5 dimensions to filter the numbers into intelligible concepts behind visitors’ digital happiness. Our clients get a comparison to industry standards, and every score represents an aggregate of every session on the website.

As we mentioned earlier, the DHI has 5 components, aka the 5 dimensions that make up its final score, a number out of 100, which is the average of the 5 scores of each dimension. To come up with this rating, we consider the following five dimensions:

Each of these 5 individual scores is determined by its own calculations, based on metrics like time spent on site, time spent engaging with pages/elements, bounce rates, and more. 

It also takes into account if users have reached their destinations and the way they’ve done so. It captures whether users ran into UX issues like non-intuitive navigation — clicks on non-clickable content, misleading clicks, et al.

Making Sense of the Digital Happiness Index

Innovations in SaaS and marketing have led to more avant-garde methods of measuring digital customer experience and benchmarking customer satisfaction. 

Although the complex, 5-tier system of our mega metric is supplemental, it is very much in line with our granular approach to behavioral analytics. 

The fact that the 5 dimensions deal with different occurrences in the UX means the DHI is casting as wide a net as possible to capture your customer’s mindset. Based on this score, you can shine light on areas of friction and other obstacles in the customer decision journey

Customers today will not hesitate to review a poor UX or give one star for a session that doesn’t meet their expectations. But they are also giving you continuous feedback on your site or app through their interactions — with every tap, click, scroll or hover, they are voicing their feelings about your CX. 

Here at Contentsquare, we’ve got a horde of people dedicated to helping you hear and understand what your customers feel and want — in fact, we’ve got 170 people in R&D and innovation alone. 

Happiness of any kind is difficult to pin down to a numerical format. With a consolidation of 5 distinct aspects of the UX, you will come as close as possible to determining how digitally happy your visitors are with your content.

 

How a Good UX Plays a Role in Conversion Funnel Optimization

Conversions rarely occur on a whim; usually, there is a layered process behind ecommerce purchases. Known as the conversion funnel — or the sales funnel — this model shows the conduit between the least aware prospects to those who are most aware, interested and bent on conversions.  

Brands have to be both wary and strategic in the ways they set up conversions, and that is where the concept of the conversion funnel comes into utility. While no one can truly “set up” conversions, you can set the scene and command all the workings that bring visitors closer to converting by heeding the conversion funnel and optimizing it. 

As UX-perts, we like to blare the horns on the importance of UX, so it should come as no surprise that a good UX plays an important role in conversion rate optimization. Let’s take a look at how you can optimize your conversion rate by way of working in a good UX to the different stages of the conversion funnel.

What is the Conversion Funnel in Marketing?

The conversion funnel denotes a process in which brands work to turn potential customers into converting customers.

It is comprised of several stages, with each one indicating your customers’ level of brand awareness, interest, and willingness to buy — along with the gradual steps/ undertakings you can to take to lead users further down.

While the stages in each conversion funnel may differ from brand to brand, each shares the ultimate goal of “pushing” site users down to the very last step, which, evidently, represents conversions.

Through this structure, brands can group their potential customers into easy-to-understand categories, thereby dictating several efforts they can maneuver to encourage prospects further down the funnel.

There are various marketing tactics to drive customers down the conversion funnel; they can be deployed through more than one stage. Let’s dig deeper.

Via sabelskaya / Adobe Stock


Good UX in Conversion Funnel Optimization

Now that you know what a conversion funnel is, the next thing to cover is how to apply good UX practices that relate to each stage in the conversion funnel. The following spells out the ways brands can enhance their UX per each stage of the conversion funnel to optimize it and garner greater conversions.

Stage 1: Awareness

Sitting atop the conversion funnel as the entry point, the awareness stage is the stage with the least… awareness of your brand or offering. It’s also the stage with mounting awareness, as potential clients become cognizant of your business and click onto your website, the act which carries with it the possibility to spawn possible interest. 

But that requires capturing new customers. Think of Stage 1 as a person attempting to swoop butterflies into a net. They’d have to reach out to catch them with careful movements to assure they don’t miss out on snatching their butterflies, or in marketing, their business opportunities.

The same should go for your Stage 1 marketing endeavors. You need to be careful and methodical so you can securely create a heightened awareness of what your brand does. 

Educating potential customers to your brand involves using common practices such as:

You have to keep your target audience in mind and create your campaigns accordingly. But once you’ve brought new people onto your site, the UX must be optimized, or at least suitable to pique interest within visitors (lead them to step 2), or — even better — make them convert on the spot.

There is a slew of general ways to improve upon the user experience. But in regards to stage 1, users usually arrive at your site via a landing page. 

The UX has to be top tier on this page. Keep the copy and imagery relevant to the conversion goal, while making it clear what your brand does. The latter is more important since you’re introducing new prospects to your company. The copy and other contents on landing pages should be to the point, so steer clear of wasting users’ time. In short, don’t overload it.

Most importantly, construct the landing page so that it is relevant to the message that led visitors to click on it in the first place. 

Stage 2: Interest

Next, we reach the stage of interest. Now that prospective customers know your company exists, they have to frequent your website; simply knowing about your offering does not ensure they’ll return to your site or engage with your site or social media content.

Content is key in this step, as it can foster and maintain interest within your prospects. There’s a twofold approach for optimizing the conversion funnel: the first is the nature of the content and the second concerns the UX, or the feelings and attitudes users develop over their experience. 

The first element deals with the core of the content — the content type, its subject matter, how it can help with your prospects’ problems, its visual identity, etc. You would need to establish a blog with relevant posts to your industry or niche. 

Other useful content for stimulating user interest are:

You would have to make sure these align with the needs/interests of your vertical as well as making your content stand out and offer something different. Videos and other content, for example, should not focus on the product alone, but offer something of value — whether that’s inspirational content, news related to your niche or something else. 

As for the attitudes toward the content, i.e. the UX, consider the amount of content on your page; is it slowing down your site? If so, reduce it so that you never have issues with loading speeds. 

Make sure everything can be easily seen and accessed. This will encourage further browsing. For example, if you have an in-page element that requires scrolling, the width of it, at the very least, needs to be wide enough so all the content can be easily read. 

You should limit scrollable in-page content to one type of scrolling function (either by length or width, never both.) This is generally length, as this is easier to look through. Use carousels, in-page recommendations and links to other pages to incite browsing.

In fact, when it comes to the UX in general, be sure to keep it continually optimized so that all content elements are easy to understand and seamless. The best way to gauge customer understanding and frustration is of course to measure interactions with each element.

Via Artram / Adobe Stock

Stage 3: Desire

Once you’ve developed some level of interest, you need to propel prospects towards the lower half of the conversion funnel, which starts with desire. Representing a heightened interest, desire attracts users to your actual offering aside from your content alone. 

At this stage, you should make your product or service, as the stage suggests, desirable. It’s also where you have to distinguish your offering from that of your competitors, specifically, by positioning your company as the better option. 

This can be done by:

The users with the highest level of interest will sign up for a newsletter or other form of email communication. This is vital, as it enables you to see exactly who your most interested prospects are and market to them directly. 

For the Desire stage, your best bet is to arrange a drip campaign, or an automated email campaign, which can be set off by different triggers and sent at strategic periods. For example, when someone signs up or makes a purchase, you can then sent prewritten emails during key periods, such as sales, new blog posts, company news, etc.

Also, although they’re prewritten content, assure that emails are personalized with the prospects’ names or their company names. Emails that appear roboticized yield a poor UX.

As you may have gathered, content is as weighty a component at this stage as in others. You need to eliminate any traces of a poor UX, such as an image that appears clickable, but doesn’t actually take users to a landing page, enlarging the image instead, a common UX problem. Nothing spoils a customer journey like obstacles in the digital experience — another reason to measure user behavior.

Stage 4: Action

Last, but certainly not least, we’ve reached the final stage: action. This is the most targeted stage of the conversion funnel for obvious reasons. After pumping out UX-optimized content and building a relationship with potential customers, only a small portion of them will make it to this stage. 

Most will hang in the balance of desire and action, toggling between the two until they make the decision to either buy or bounce. This is where your UX can make or break you.

First, you need to ensure that the navigation of your product pages are neatly organized so that products are easy to find. Don’t succumb to the UX sin of overstuffing your navigation. Finding your product/service should be a seamless experience.

As for the product pages, each must have selection tools that make it easier for customers to filter out products by way of their particular needs. (Think of common product organization types like size, color, price, etc.)

Additionally, all aspects of this experience must promote purchases, from the ability to zoom in, to quick load times of the actual product pages (when clicked on from a multi-product page), to the product image quality.

Any element can be off-putting at this stage, including non-design bits like pricing, so make sure your UX is superb and built around actual customer intelligence.

VIa Mymemo / Adobe Stock


UX Insights Throughout the Conversion Funnel

Measuring the success of your marketing efforts does not end while you embark on optimizing the conversion funnel. In fact, you should not approach the conversion funnel as a standalone marketing tactic to reel in more conversions. 

This is because not all user experience exists in such a linear way. As such, it may ring true for some users but not all. Particularly, the customer decision journey can be seen as a contrast to the funnel. This can be observed by viewing user paths and segmenting your users to narrow behavior-based categories. 

By tackling a specific segment, you can customize the UX to that segment, to assure an optimized journey that reduces exists and bounces. For example, pure player brands understand that their content will not be consumed by a general audience. Only specific segments will visit their sites and social channels. As such, they create content that aligns with the interests of their segmented users.

 

Hero Image: Visual Generation / Adobe Stock

Why Digital Experience Analytics Matters

Analytics have made a splash in the realm of marketing, to say the least. The need for data is more apparent than ever, as more brands are marketing themselves under the coveted category of “data-driven.” In reality, they are not becoming data-driven fast enough, if at all. 

We can vouch for the fact that data trumps intuition, but aside from arming yourself with industry data that relates to your vertical for market research, it’s also vital to compile site data on your own site visitors. That’s where digital experience analytics solution enters the picture, and it does so in a substantial way. 

Most web analytics platforms show how a websites is accessed, along with some of the activity that occurs on it. Granular digital experience analytics takes this further, in a concerted effort to measure digital customer experience (CX). As such, it offers acute data sets, visualizations and metrics that evaluate and quantify how visitors interact with the individual elements of your website. But not all user experience analytics solutions provide the same granularity of data.  

Most analytics platforms do not take user insights a step further, so they do not give you a more granular performance review of your site or app, meaning that you wouldn’t be able to comprehend how each in-page element is used and how it contributes to a broad set of KPIs. 

In short, user experience analytics is a functionality designed to give you insights into visitors’ user experience. It’s incredibly important for both marketers, web developers and designers alike, as it dictates their strategy and implementations. But not all DX platforms offer the same capabilities.

So why exactly does digital experience analytics matter? Let’s find out.

Understanding Your Customers

If you don’t understand your customers, your website will show, leading to reduced activity, heightened bounces and poor conversion rates. Digital experience analytics allows you to segment your audience based on their behavior, and unlock a much deeper understanding of their needs and expectations.

From what visitors are trying to achieve and how they want to go about achieving it, to what causes frustration along their customer journey, analytics gives brands a nuanced read of these occurrences. Pure play brands are masters at leveraging this type of customer intelligence as they hyper-target their offerings to specific segments. With this approach, they are not attempting to be all things to all users, but are tapping into the minds of their most profitable segments, implementing high levels of customization.  

Behavioral analytics can highlight visitors’ distinctive behaviors on your website, such as where they are most engaged, where they click and how often, the frequency of their hovers on a particular part of a page, the time they spend per page or element and much more.

We recently helped, travel leader Pierre & Vacances identify customer preferences for targeted optimizations. After analyzing customer behavior on its holiday property search results page, the brand found that site visitors were interacting heavily with the “number of rooms” filter (it had a high click rate and a hearty dose of conversions).

However, this filter was lost among a wealth of other filtering options. Based on this intelligence, the brand placed the filter in the second position on the filter bar, making it easier for users to find it. 

The moral of their story is that once you’ve figured out through  DX analysis what your users’ precise intentions are, you can then go about improving your digital experience to allow them to seamlessly complete their intended tasks without incurring any frustration. 

Additionally, it’s interesting to learn about online behaviors of visitors in different regions of the world. As per our Global UX Map, a comprehensive report on the user behavior of visitors in 7 countries, we’ve found just that.

For example, we learned that visitors China are happy to engage with visuals, with a slideshow click rate of 5.5, so adding product images on your China site makes for a great UX. On the contrary, using a lot of visuals like slideshows is less well-received by visitors in the US and Italy, which have the respective click rates of 1.3 and 2.5 on the slideshow, the lowest of all the surveyed countries. 

In both of these cases, DX analytics has the prowess to empower digital teams with localizing knowledge that can assure a positive UX for global users. 

Creating Data-Driven CX Decisions 

Digital experience analytics matter where website design is concerned, as it dictates what the experience will look like for visitors. If it doesn’t, chances are, your analytics platform isn’t very robust and offers little else aside from a traditional traffic analysis. 

A granular user experience analytics space empowers its users to make data-driven CX (customer experience) decisions, and if you couldn’t tell from this blog, CX is not something to ignore. It is critical for the sake of both acquisition and retention, especially the latter, which is important for maintaining a steady revenue stream.

With data providing multiple reference points to optimize your content, you can do so innovatively and confidently. An optimized CX will make it so that you can streamline your customer journeys and remove frustrations, the latter of which impedes conversions. It can also help you detect if there are any errors in the elements that yield conversions themselves, such as CTAs, form fields and buttons that signal making a purchase.

But it doesn’t end with conversion-bound elements. A deep experience analysis can identify a host of other faulty site elements which stir your site visitors into leaving. That’s where a data-driven analysis comes into play, finding pesky problems in the design and structure of your website that can have grim consequences on your CX.

A data-backed CX optimization plan acts as a security net for brands seeking to try new things on their sites. Perhaps there’s a trendy feature you want to try out or a new setup of a crucial site element. Delving into new implementations is a rocky road, but with data on your side, you’ll be informed as to what works and what doesn’t.

Furthermore, making data-driven decisions allows all team members to own business goals, measure the contribution of their revenue and quantify the ROI of the experience.

Making Headway in Conversions

After you’ve done your CX homework, testing what strategies work and keeping close tabs on how your website is used, you check to see the impact. Which ROI is more important than conversions? Most marketers would agree that conversions are of the utmost importance for a business if not one of the most important.

Aside from boosting conversions, digital experience analytics assists in all the steps leading up to conversions, as it visualizes user flows with customer journey mapping. Understanding how users navigate your site is the first marker of what needs to be improved, along with indicating what works and what drives interest among visitors.

As such, granular analytics provides the relevant data and metrics for CRO (conversion rate optimization). Optimizing conversions always starts with measuring the experience on your site and/or app. As for preserving retention, a chief business goal, digital experience insights will assure you know what works and what doesn’t — essentially giving you more knowledge into how to retain conversions by keeping hold of the same site visitors.

Getting The Most Out Of Digital Experience Insights 

Digital experience analytics carry weight with the entirety of your user experience, as it can quantify a host of user data: their interactions, hesitations, frustrations, etc. on your website. Because of this, it should be a top-priority implementation into your marketing plans. However, not all user experience platforms have the same built-in capabilities — particularly the actionable, full-picture data of all the goings-on of your website. 

For example, not all of such platforms analyze individual site elements and how they fare in traditional metrics, let alone more robust ones. So you should be selective when choosing your experience analytics software. Don’t forget: you ought to aim for retention over acquisition, as once your users visit your site and enjoy what they experience, the likelihood of them returning shoots up.