by Mike Ricotta - January 15, 2019
The concept of micro-optimization is not new, especially within the tech community. Software developers have debated the concept of micro-optimizing code for over ten years. The premise is that meticulously refining small bits of code could correct relative performance issues. Although the verdict is still out amongst developers, I am advocating for the practice of this concept creating and executing digital marketing strategy.
In a previous post, Digital Strategy Is Micro-Optimization, I provided an overview of the micro-optimization digital marketing strategy using three key macro-data points website traffic, conversion rate, and average order value. Anyone who has been in digital marketing for a while can tell you that increasing the value of any one of these macro-data points will have a positive effect on your bottom-line. This, of course, makes perfect sense and leads us to ask the obvious question. Take conversion rate, for example, we know that if we improve the conversion rate, revenue will increase if the other variables remain the same. So, we ask the question, How do we raise our conversion rate? This is the wrong question and it has too many answers to efficiently pack into a strategic plan. The question we should be asking is what are all the elements feeding into our current conversion rate. The process of answering this question is the art of micro-optimization strategy.
The reason I think of this concept as an art form rather than a data science exercise is that some of the elements driving conversion rate cannot be distilled down into measurable data points. However, making a change somewhere along the customer journey that you think/feel just might improve an existing data point can be measured. The art is to find the hidden treasure. All of us can see the underperforming data and suggest corrective measures. But beyond that, we must seek the underperforming data disguised as normal data.
Underperforming Data – As you begin the process of micro-optimization, you must first address all of the blatantly underperforming data points that are contributing to the macro-data point you are trying to improve. Simple testing will reveal many of these issues. There are many conversion rate optimization (CRO) tools available today. Here is a great post from VentureHarbour describing 16 of their favorite CRO tools. Each of these tools is designed to help you identify issues that may be contributing to your underperforming conversion rate. In addition, they can help you test different elements of underperforming pages. Sometimes it’s not the content of a page but the configuration that fails to retain the customer. This process of using available tools to assess your website, and correcting any issues discovered can be a tedious process. Make sure you can assess each issue and prioritize your work. For example, start your testing on your top 5 landing pages. From there, move to your checkout pages and test. Make your micro-optimizations where they will have the most impact. Use your analytics software to determine where potential customers are leaving your site. Run tests on these exit pages to see if you can pin down the reason(s) they abandoned the site at this point. Work smartly through the list your testing phase revealed.
Underperforming Data Disguised as Normal – Once you have completed the micro-optimization of your underperforming data, it is time to begin sussing out conversion killers disguised as normal website elements. There are two reasons that conversion rate issues may not be detected, no red flags were raised during testing and operator bias. Either way, this is where the artistic approach comes in and where the fun really begins. Try a couple of experiments. Select one of your top ten landing pages, now fully optimized, and A/B test the page once again. But, this time make a big change to your variant. Up until now, your split tests have involved subtle changes in your variant type. Such testing addresses the subconscious behavior of the user. For example, switching the location of the image and the copy may not even be detected by the user but may instigate a subconscious shift in the user that leads to a higher conversion rate. This time, however, change the look and feel of the page. Add a completely new image or image carousel. Or, completely upend the existing copy by radically changing the tone. The idea is that the greater difference in the test variants should result in greater differences in the conversion rates. It may be that a page once perceived to be performing well can be improved beyond what the testing data revealed.
I know this next thought will be difficult for designers and brand managers to hear but you need to create a variant change that escapes the confines of your outdated style guide! A brand is an evolving thing, do not let your brand become stale. Brand parameters you documented two years ago should not dictate brand related actions today Just because something worked yesterday doesn’t mean it will work today. What if you changed the voice of a popular product page and it converted 2% greater than the “perfectly branded” page. Would you consider making the same sort of changes on other popular landing pages even if it meant breaking the rules? Would you consider changing your style guide and brand voice to achieve a 2% increase in conversion rate? Try to look at it like this, brand guidelines are useful until they aren’t. Ask yourself this, Has your customer demographic changed since your brand guidelines were created? Has the technology changed? What is your rate of new customer acquisition and how do they differ from long-term existing customers?
In Summary – Identify your most important macro-data points. Use your favorite analytics tools to completely strip down those macro-data points. See if you can understand all of the micro-data that is feeding into these important KPIs. Now, use your favorite CRO tools to optimize each of these micro-data points. Once you have corrected all of your underperforming data issues uncovered by your CRO tools, you are ready to begin the art of creative optimization. Pick a popular page, create a variant and make a single, noticeable (ie. dramatic) change. Measure the performance of the page carefully. If the conversion rate drops, kill the variant and create a completely different variant and test it. Rinse and repeat!
If you are having trouble developing creative twists to existing pages, ask your customers. Establish a customer focus group or send a survey to your VIPs. You might be surprised what types of issues you can identify this way. Change those suggestions into A/B test variants and off you go. Just remember, great digital marketing is a combination of data-driven improvement and tested creative enhancement.
We have developed a process for auditing digital infrastructure, strategy and performance we would like to share with you. We can help you develop a micro-optimization strategy that will lift all of your macro-KPIs. Contact us today to set up a free one-hour digital strategy consultation.
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