It goes without saying that websites are important parts of most companies’ marketing strategies. Websites educate customers about your products and services, drive promotions, and — perhaps most importantly — help you drive more revenue.
However, as important as web-driven marketing is for many businesses, some companies take a “set it and forget” approach after their website launches. For some marketing leaders, making changes to their website might seem too risky or not worth the investment.
Respectfully, we disagree. Based on our experience driving thousands of personalizations for data-driven marketers, and we’ve laid out a framework and some suggestions below that we think could help you take a more strategic and revenue-generating approach with your website while still mitigating risk.
First things first: What’s the goal of your website?
Before talking about optimization, it’s important to ask yourself:
- Why does our company have a website in the first place?
- Where does it fit in with our sales and marketing approach?
- What role does the website fulfill with prospects and customers?
Or, if you have made some changes or ran tests on your website in the past, you might ask yourself, “Why did we invest time and money in updating our website?”
Typically, the answers to these questions fall into one or all of the following categories, depending on the type of business you’re marketing:
- Acquiring more customers
- Driving more revenue
- Driving more leads to your sales team
With these goals in mind, can you take risks that have the potential to create bigger benefits for your business? Can you minimize the risk while you’re exploring new approaches?
We think the answer to both of those questions should be a resounding yes. Here are some ways that marketers are already optimizing websites, the pros and cons of these approaches, and some strategies you may want to take with website optimization to drive more revenue.
Why A/B testing alone won’t cut it
While some marketers might take the “set it and forget it” approach we mentioned earlier, others have tried A/B testing: pitting two website ideas against one another concurrently with a 50/50 split. This is a great start, because you’re taking a data-driven approach to website optimization.
However, it’s also a bit risky because you’re going to give half of your traffic to an idea that may generate little business value or even hurt revenue. That could cost you a lot of money, and you’re only testing one idea at a time. Here are some other common shortcomings related to A/B testing:
- Long waiting periods: It can take weeks or months before A/B testing can surface a clear winner, depending on the traffic to your site.
- Inconclusive results: Even after waiting, you might not get a definitive answer.
- It takes a lot of work: Marketers typically check their A/B tests every day. Then, if one idea reveals itself to be a clear winner, their engineering team is then tasked with implementing the winning idea across their site.
- You’re treating everyone the same: Your customers have different motivations driving their purchasing decisions, and their buying behaviors change over time. With A/B testing, you’re searching for a “one-size-fits-all” winner that you’ll use permanently.
Why personalization is more effective
Personalization is the next step in website optimization. With this approach, multiple versions of your website run at the same time with the goal of linking specific offerings to your prospects’ unique context.
If you rolled back the clock 10 years ago to tell someone that companies were going to have multiple versions of their websites live at the same time, most web marketing experts would have told you that the website would look broken and it creates too much risk.
However, a lot has changed since then. Many people now expect, want, and value personalization, in no small part due to our consumer experiences with companies like Amazon and Netflix. People are now comfortable going to websites and seeing curated experiences to help them find the products and services that resonate most with their needs and wants.
Mitigating risks with website personalization
If you believe in giving your customers a personalized approach with your website, then you want to take an approach that lets you test multiple ideas while minimizing risk and accelerating gains.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Try a lot of ideas
In our experience helping companies launch thousands of personalizations, we’ve discovered that no one really knows which idea is going to be right in the moment for each visitor. One way to to mitigate risk with this? Test many ideas in parallel to see which of your ideas rise to the top.
Keep in mind that with personalization, your success is situation- and individual-specific. Website variations that help drive one customer to a purchase may turn off the next visitor. This is a different frame of mind than picking a single “one-size-fits-all” winner as you would with A/B testing. However, with personalization, the goal is not to find a universal winner, but rather finding the winning experience for each unique visitor in the moment.
Since there are no hard and fast rules with website personalization, as your customers and their buying patterns change over time, the key to success is being able to try a lot at once and then iterate quickly on the ideas that most positively impacted your prospects.
2. Drive buy-in at your organization
As a leader in your organization, laying out a personalization program typically requires buy-in and alignment from the rest of your executive team.
You should also ensure that the key stakeholders within your marketing organization, whether they are content strategists, creative professionals, or growth marketers, understand your approach to personalization and how they tie into your company’s goals.
This alignment can lead to better outcomes. For example, often we find some of the best ideas come from people who are on the front lines with customers every single day, such as your sales team or customer success team. Getting buy-in from outside of marketing is not only great for overall alignment, but it can be a great place to get ideas on what to try to address the core pain points of your prospects and customers.
3. Create a ‘hold-back’ group while testing
What is a ‘hold-back’ group? A hold-back group is a portion of your web traffic that’s shown the “base” version of your website (from before you started testing).
Why do you need a ‘hold-back’ group’? Hold-back groups are great for comparing pre-personalization and post-personalization results. Let’s say your current conversion rate is 5%. The next day, your team ran some website tests and the conversion rate was 3%.
You won’t actually know if those tests drove the 3% decline. Maybe you also changed the messaging on your ads, and the overall conversion would have gone to 2%, but because of the testing you were running, it only went down to 3%.
To eliminate this uncertainty, you need a hold-back group while running website personalizations to compare apples to apples. Not only will the comparison offer more clarity into what’s working with your variations, but the rest of your marketing org can gain comfort in the risk involved when you’re trying new personalization ideas.
4. Really get to know your customers
It goes without saying that customers should be a priority for any business in general, but there are several key benefits from taking a customer-centric stance on your website:
- You’ll lower risks simply by testing better, more targeted ideas. The more focus you put on your customers’ needs and pain points, the better your tests are likely to be. Customer empathy doesn’t just help mitigate risk: It’s an important part of delivering compelling messaging and connecting your products and services to your visitors’ daily lives.
- You’ll help the organization understand that your buyers are not all the same. This can help you paint more vivid pictures of different customer segments. For instance, you could illustrate that your teen audience resonates with a specific type of messaging compared to an older audience based on the variations you’ve tested for each, and you could speak to those more directly.
5. Be transparent
It’s important to be transparent about which of your ideas worked and which didn’t. Website personalization is less of a power struggle of what is right and what is wrong and more of an ongoing, iterative process of idea → test → result → idea. Even failed website optimization ideas are learning experiences because they give your team insight into what direction you should not take with your customers, and those are also worth sharing with your team.
When it comes to website optimization, it’s important to take some risks with the ideas you are testing as a team when you have solid strategy set in place and buy-in from the rest of your marketing organization. To learn more about personalization approaches and how they can drive more revenue for your business, simply click the “Request Demo” button on our website.