For most e-commerce retailers, the four-week period between Thanksgiving and Christmas needs to drive more revenue than any other period in the year. Because of this, competition for site-traffic is fierce. Paid search auctions, social media advertising, and email marketing all become more expensive, and since so many businesses are trying to be heard, it’s easy to get lost in the holiday noise. So, when you are actually able to drive a visitor to your site, a conversion becomes all the more important because you’re competing against numerous other enticing offers from your competitors. As your marketing investments become more expensive in the holiday season, you have to ensure that your return on that investment is going to be optimized. The best way to do this is testing. So, what tests are you doing? How do you know that your site experience, email promotion, or ad content is maximizing your conversion rate? I’m going to provide some testing recommendations to improve your MROI by testing key variables in the digital experience you’re offering customers.


Plan your Tests 

For most marketers, you’re planning the holiday marketing mix months in advance. After you’ve developed the basic framework of your promotions and holiday strategy, you need to build a testing calendar that complements the rest of your planning. The first step in developing a testing plan is understanding your business objectives for the holidays. For example, if your priority is leveraging your site to drive in-store sales, then your tests are going to be quite different from the brand that needs to hit record numbers in e-commerce sales this year. So decide on the ultimate goal, and then start developing tests that are tailored to your business needs. Your testing plan should be comprehensive and clear. If you’re able, you should build a timeline of your tests with a start date, resources required, and concise briefs for each test that define your success metric, hypothesis, and test setup. You should also have a post-test system to document results so that you’re not repetitive in your testing next year.

Helpful Tip #1: Get most of your testing done before November. This way, you have your results. You know which hero message drives a statistically significant conversion rate. Take your learnings, and implement them in November and December for the holiday win.

On-site Tests

Testing your website experience and e-commerce process can be one of the most effective ways to improve your holiday performance. You should start simple and focus on the big things here. Literally, the big things. Only one in five visitors will read the body of a webpage, but 80 percent will read the headline. For online retailers, the hero image is the headline. So, that might be a good place to start. You can test copy – does a word-laden or single-word hero image instigate click curiosity? Test the design – font size, color, product or lifestyle photo content – all will have a surprising effect on conversion. Test all of them, and combine the best outcomes to maximize the user experience. You can geo-target tests to see if visitors in different cities, states, or regions are more prone to your different types of promotional offers. Lastly, leverage first-party data to generate personalized site content. Show women’s pants to women in New York, and men’s shirts to men in Miami. The more you can personalize the site experience, the more likely that visitor is going to make a purchase.

Helpful Tip #2: Leverage an on-site testing tool like Optimizely. This way, you can easily implement on-site tests and monitor their performance to inform your decision making.

Helpful Tip #3: Know the customer’s expectations. For example, most online retailers are going to offer free shipping or combination offers like buy one of these and get one of these other things 50% off! Test free-shipping thresholds so you’re still competing but not killing your average order value. Understand what level of discount is going to convince customers to purchase from you and not the other guy, but not at the expense of your profit margin.


Email Tests

As many marketers know, potential customers coming from email have a higher tendency to convert compared to other acquisition channels. Since email marketing efforts have the capacity to drive a large percentage of e-commerce revenue, then testing in this channel can be a game-changer for the holiday season. Similar to on-site testing, start simple with email tests. Test subject lines – here, you can see how questions or statements, showing or hiding the offer, long or short subject lines all effect open rate. In the body of the email, test different components of the creative (again, color, font, photo content etc.). You can also test the placement and color of your call to action. It’s crucial to optimize the call to action, as it is the deciding point for email subscribers to move along in the conversion funnel.

Helpful Tip #4: Use testing to make your email subscribers feel exclusive. By testing an email-only offer, you can see what kind of impact it can have on site revenue by nurturing your email audience and building their loyalty.

Helpful Tip #5: Keep in mind that testing in email might require more internal resources, as often times you have to build multiple versions of the same campaign if you’re testing different audiences or different creative. Remember to plan accordingly.

Lastly, combine different stages of the conversion process into the testing plan. After you test your email audience, test the on-site experience on visitors who click through from email. You can truly optimize your holiday revenue by considering your marketing plan with a multi-faceted testing approach. By doing this, you can eliminate unknowns and better understand your customers.    


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