Conversion Optimisation – The Value of Multivariate Testing

In the current retail market, it’s essential that businesses not only sell online but encourage customers to shop regularly. Sales via the Internet in 2011 are expected to leap by more than 14% on 2010 figures, despite the difficult economic environment, which shows there are plenty of growth opportunities. However, this is a competitive arena and will only get more so.

While search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques can help boost search rankings and get visitors to the site, they don’t inspire potential customers to actually part with their cash. Multivariate testing is currently an area of high growth in internet marketing, helping website owners to ensure that they are getting the most from their website visitors. While services such as SEO, pay per click and email marketing drive traffic to a site, multivariate testing allows internet marketers to trial variations on items such as offers, content and layout, and see which best converts users to sale, registration or the desired action once they arrive at the website. Ultimately, multivariate testing helps turn more visitors to customers and increases average order values.

A recent test designed to optimize the product detail pages on ShopNBC.com resulted in a 16% increase in the average order value across all departments and product lines. A 32-level multivariate test revealed that the simplest creative presentation increased conversion rates by 2.3%. This improvement translated to an additional 1.7 million Firefox downloads per year. Mozilla’s first two A/B tests resulted in double-digit engagement improvements of 33% on the First Run page and more than 50% increase in engagement on the What’s New page. Further, an A/B test that applied page load time optimizations found that a streamlined version of the site reduced page load time by 2.2 seconds, resulting in an increased conversions rate of 15.4%, ultimately yielding an additional 10 million Firefox downloads per year.

Failing to optimize a retail website can adversely affect profits and do untold damage to the value of the brand. Likewise, retailers are striving to improve online shopping experiences in an uncertain economy, with more and more retailers turning to website optimization technologies such as multivariate testing to improve visitors’ online experience.

Customers are easily put off by bad retail web experiences – such as when they can’t find what they’re looking for – but problems like these often occur when sites haven’t been properly fine-tuned or optimized. The smallest changes can make the biggest difference to a retailer’s bottom line. It could be something as simple as the location and size of the ‘add to basket’ button, headlines identifying promotional offers, styles of tabs or the workflow of the checkout path. Testing allows retailers to present multiple variations of content and discover which content visitors prefer and respond to most positively.

The technology is very sophisticated and allows retailers to test the response of different groups of customers (such as those who shop at weekends, or those who arrive via search engines). This allows retailers to better understand visitors and test a different view of the website to different groups of customers to potentially maximize results.

This all helps to drive online sales, but it’s not only consumers making purchases that are valued. A retailer may set itself other targets such as signing-up new subscribers or having visitor’s access information on the site.

The more traffic a site has, the easier it becomes to spot trends and patterns. However, the technology can make an impact on businesses of all sizes. It allows retailers to focus on their day-to-day business, without wasting time working out what does and doesn’t work on the site.

Removing guesswork from the equation, this approach provides a compelling argument for achieving even better website sales; indeed, many retailers are already using this technology to get closer to their customers. Previously, this type of technology was very expensive, but medium-sized retailers can benefit too.

Retailers introducing this technology into the business can benefit from fast ROI as they will be able to make changes that will improve the operational efficiencies of the site almost immediately.

By using multivariate testing, the retailer no longer makes assumptions as to what customers want from their online shopping experience, but instead has real evidence as to what makes them reach their buying decisions.

Overall, online businesses are keen on keeping consumers engaged and coming back for more. By using real data from real consumers, multivariate testing provides retailers the opportunity to tailor their sites to continually meet the needs of their customers.

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By 2018, 42.4% of world’s population will be plugged into the internet, with around 3.6 bn people able to access it at least once a month.