Don't be afraid to fail

  • Posted on November 23, 2017
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

Research and planning go a long way. But things change. Technology changes. Visitors and their behaviors change. Disruptors enter the marketplace. And frankly, sometimes the research and planning are just wrong. A digital marketing platform is an investment. The design work for a new site is an investment. Making that investment and just walking away from it doesn't make sense.

Sitecore can help. But only if you're not afraid to fail by putting in ways to measure, listen to the indicators, and optimize accordingly and continually.

Educated optimization

The importance of analytics and the way Sitecore enables digital marketers to quickly and powerfully understand their results make it easy to know when things aren't working well, and when certain things are working better than others. It therefore allows marketers to try different things to determine what works best. This is empowered by Sitecore Goals and tools like A/B testing and the Path Analyzer.

The first and most powerful metric that Sitecore brings to the table is Goals, or Engagement Value Scores (EVS). The idea is that activities that have value to the business and marketing are designated as Goals with arbitrary but relative value. For example, registration might be a goal with a value of 25. A product inquiry might have a value of 50. But a product purchase might have the ultimate value of 100. Using Goals and their values prioritizes the achievement of Goals over page views. If visitors generally get to a purchase page in two clicks but don't buy, visitors who get to the purchase page in eight clicks but do buy have higher value to the organization. An implementation partner such as Avanade, combined with the digital marketing experience and technical experience of Sitecore, can help an organization identify Goals and assign the proper values to them.

Goals power A/B testing in Sitecore. It doesn't matter which choice, A or B, gets selected more: it only matters which path results in a higher Engagement Value Score. Testing content via A/B testing is one of the powerful and easy ways that Sitecore enables business and marketing to manage and optimize their own content without IT intervention. Sitecore lets you test a new version of a page vs. the previous version of the page when you add a new version. This way you can quickly know if your new version is helping or hurting the site. In fact, you can test the page against a different page if desired. This can be done through the Experience Optimization application in Sitecore.

How is your content really performing?

Testing components within a page is another testing strategy in Sitecore. You can set various parameters for the test such as the number of visitors tested (as a percentage), the statistical confidence level to declare a winner (default is 95%), the objective of the test, whether to automatically select a winner, and the duration of the test. Using component tests is an easy and great way to see which content, calls to action, and designs perform better in terms of achieving marketing and business goals.

Sitecore provides a powerful tool called Path Analyzer to assess site performance. This tool allows a quick visual and quantitative analysis of pages and paths that are performing well and pages that are performing poorly. Path Analyzer enables digital marketers to examine and modify content and calls to action to improve conversion.

Uncovering unexpected user behavior

The importance of testing and analysis cannot be overstated. Even the most presumptuous of assumptions can be proven wrong, if not today maybe in the future, as visitor behaviors and expectations change. I once had a client who told us about a persona they wanted to target on the site. However, after a lot of component testing, we couldn’t identify the persona. In the end, testing showed us different personas to target that delivered more ROI to the client. This really drove home for us the importance of testing and the need to stay flexible and open to change. As easy as Sitecore makes it to perform testing and Engagement Value analysis, it's important for the digital marketing and analytics roles to do so on a regular basis and optimize the site accordingly.

What surprising discoveries have you made through A/B testing?

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