by David Kirkpatrick
Testing and optimization can take on many forms. Sometimes it’s incremental, such as first testing the call-to-action button color on a landing page or in an email, followed with a tweak on the placement of an image and maybe a series of tests on the copy.
And sometimes a radical, total rethinking is in order.
This case study covers a bit of both, but the heart of the campaign was a radical redesign of the landing page for a new product release.
Steve Parker, Vice President, Direct Marketing Division, firstSTREET, said the company used its standard microsite template on the landing page and conducted a few A/B tests on that page.
"We realized we were rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic and did a radical redesign. Success."
The company markets to Baby Boomers and beyond. Most of its customers are over 70, and its products are geared toward a target audience with the physical and mental challenges that come with age. The audience isn’t sophisticated when it comes to technology, so firstSTREET designed a computer specifically for seniors, the WOW! Computer.
The product features a touch screen, with the motherboard, memory, etc. built into the monitor. The operating system runs on Linux with no user requirements to keep the computer up to date. It’s for a novice computer user who wants access to email, video chat, games, a basic word processer and a browser to get online for news, weather, etc.
The idea is that this product is likely the first computer the end user has ever owned. Part of the marketing challenge was the offer had to appeal both to the end user and to a most likely more tech-savvy adult child or grandchild who might be aiding in the purchase.
FirstSTREET has three basic divisions: direct marketing (catalog, direct mail and Internet), print (direct response advertising in magazines and newspapers), and "aging in home," which offers walk-in tubs through a dealer network, although it uses direct marketing techniques in terms of finding customers.
This article looks at how firstSTREET markets its products through different channels, and how the direct marketing division is heavily involved in A/B split testing and optimization to continually improve its efforts.
Step #1. Begin promotions through offline channels
The main marketing priority at firstSTREET, and the main driver of revenue, is marketing through traditional offline channels.
Parker said, "The primary way we drive awareness and traffic -- make the phones ring, so to speak -- is through print ads.
He added these ads are placed in around 300 magazines and newspapers, including AARP, Parade, Spry, Reader’s Digest, The Wall Street Journal and Parade.
The goal of these ads is to drive a call to the phone center.
Parker also said that the company utilizes smaller -- 10,000 to 20,000 circulation -- publications to test its print ads.
Another offline area for promotion is the firstSTREET catalog. It has a monthly circulation that doubles in November and December for the holiday season. The WOW! Computer was given the premium front and back cover position more than once last year.
"The offline channels often are more profitable per sale than the online channels because their conversion rates are so much higher even given the high cost of getting those people into our call center," Parker explained.
Step #2. Use the print ads to create online landing pages
Most of the time, but not always, the print ads also include URLs to the firstSTREET website, or to product microsites. Parker said his direct marketing division, overseeing the catalog and Internet, benefited from the print division’s advertising through traffic being driven to the Web by the offline ads.
To maintain a consistent brand, the online team used a template that essentially took the print ad and created an online version. There were differences, of course, but the look, feel and the overall content would be consistent from the offline ad to the online webpage.
Once the WOW! Computer’s landing page
was created, the team began testing various elements, such as:
- Different headlines
- The prominence of the "guarantee"
- Placement of the "add-to cart" button
- Placement of security badges
The problem was the page itself was converting at a dismally low rate. So low that some of the optimization from the team’s testing created improvements better than 40%, but as Parker put it, "Forty percent on next to nothing is still next to nothing."
He continued, "The bottom line is we were rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic."
Step #3. Conduct a radical redesign of the landing page to boost conversion
The team decided to take the entire landing page for the computer and rethink the entire design. Parker described the new look as "Apple meets firstSTREET."
Instead of just testing elements on a page, this test pitted two completely different versions
of the site.
The control looked like the print ad from which it was built. Everything from the copy to the overall layout had a look and feel of a print ad. Copy was dense and had the look of newspaper layout, and even elements such as an area at the bottom right corner of the page with an 800 number and company logo looked like a print ad from a design standpoint.
The treatment is truly a radical redesign. The layout became much simpler. There were small blocks of text separated by a number of images, and instead of cramming everything in a small area, the page itself was much longer scrolling than the control.
Another difference was both the images and text were larger to account for age of the target audience. The longer page format also allowed for a more controlled thought sequence. Visitors to the page were drawn down through the sequence instead of looking at the densely packed columns of the control.
Parker said part of the design challenge for the treatment was appealing to two audiences: the senior looking to purchase an easy-to-use computer, and the adult child or grandchild who might be helping with the purchase decision.
The result was a design easy on old eyes but also a bit "techy" to appeal to the younger family member who might be involved in the purchase process.
The main result of this test was a very dramatic 3,566% lift in conversion, but that number is so high because the control was incredibly weak. That large of a boost proved to the team that the radical redesign was the correct move to make.
To put the test result in context, the treatment converted at 6%.
Step #4. Continue testing
Optimization is the goal of testing, so the process never really ends. FirstSTREET conducted testing on the control before the redesign, and although the treatment radically outperformed the control, the team continued to test and optimize the new landing page.
An example of a later test on the newly redesigned site covered price and thought sequence.
This was an A/B/C test with a control and two treatments
The layout of each page was the same aside from the cart button and price treatment at the top of the page.
- The control offered a button leading to a shopping cart with the price only at the bottom of the page
- Treatment 1 placed the price on top of the shopping cart button
- Treatment 2 did away with both the price and shopping cart button
of this test found the control performed best.
The control converted at 7.47%
Treatment 1 converted at 1.83%, 75.47% below the control
Treatment 2 was dropped from the test before completion, but it was converting at 1.45%, a full 80.55% below the control.
One thing Parker learned during this extensive testing and optimization sequence was that some tests would reach statistical significance, but if left to run a bit longer, then they would actually drop back down and not get back to a satisfactory confidence level. He believes this issue was related to sample size.
The overall result of this effort is a 400% increase in sales over one year, and a 90% increase in cart conversion.
Parker said, "Don’t be shy about trying to play a bigger game. Try something that’s radically different. Take a risk, and do it in a controlled manner. Leap from the classic direct marketing of just ‘grind it out, grind it out’ and try a radical redesign."
He continued, "You don’t have to run half your traffic at the redesign. You can run 10% and see what happens. But try for the breakthrough. You are not going to add home runs every time, but one home run is worth more than a bunch of little singles and walks."Parker will present the case study, "The WOW! Computer: How firstSTREET applied radical redesign to deliver a 400% sales increase," at the upcoming MarketingSherpa MarketingExperiments Optimization Summit 2012 in Denver, June 11-14.
- Original landing page
- Landing page test versions
- Landing page test results
- Price and thought sequence test
- Price and thought sequence test results
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