Digital Experience

Putting Innovation to Work: How Experimentation Can Test Your Design Performance

How Experimentation Test Design Innovation

Like homes and offices, websites and mobile apps need a fresh coat of paint to keep up with industry trends. Full website and mobile app redesigns are risky. Optimization is always a better approach than a complete rip and replace. That is why experimentation is so important. It allows you to try and learn what will perform better before deploying it to all of your customers.

Design in general is a form of experimentation because it takes trial and error to get the best layout and overall outcome. When too much across a digital experience changes at once, it becomes impossible to determine what helped or hurt your KPI performance. Also, when many design and technical changes are done at once, it is unlikely you will be able to easily roll back to the previous version if it underperforms.

For example, it’s common for a website’s KPI performance to drop as much as 20-30% after completing a full redesign. This is usually because the digital transformation process did not involve iterative experimentation and optimization.

When approaching a complete redesign or upgrade to your customer experience, it’s imperative that you build a system that solves worthwhile problems for your real customers. To do that, we start by understanding the current baseline metrics. We set targets for improvement and develop a rollout system that includes conversion rate optimization, ongoing conversion research, and measured progressive development. This way, your existing customers don’t become frustrated with all the new changes. In the end, you’ll learn more about your users’ behaviors so you can make their experience even better.

Even the most intuitive web or app design will need ongoing optimization to improve the results of your team’s efforts. Today, businesses cannot settle for just making it look better or applying the latest innovative design techniques. Product organizations and design teams need to measure and track the outcomes of the changes they make to a website or mobile app. To do this, adopt a growth mindset that includes a rapid, iterative approach to experimentation and growth marketing. The days of “set it and forget it” are long over.

Experimentation Framework

Let’s dive a bit deeper into Step 3 – Experiment, then Personalize

You’ve examined metrics and outlined hypotheses, but how will you know if your new design works for your users?

Businesses that want to grow quickly need to adopt a rapid iterative design and improvement process that’s fueled by experimentation and testing. This involves a prescriptive approach for moving quickly through ideation, planning, and strategy to start experimenting with new designs and gathering feedback quickly.

This system uses trustworthy data to supply insights on what’s working and discover how not to waste your UX efforts. The outcomes can be tracked from both a quantitative and a qualitative perspective. Using digital analytics like Adobe Analytics or Google Analytics for quantitative analysis, combined with qualitative behavioral analysis tools like Hotjar and Mouseflow, you can launch experiences that drive new innovations in design and overall improvement to the customer experience.

Focus your efforts on activities that are tied to KPI improvements, understanding user motivation, and improving the overall customer experience or happiness score.

KPI Improvements
To measure the outcomes and impact of digital enhancements, you first need to establish a baseline for each of your primary and secondary goals. An easy example is ecommerce. If you are improving the user experience on the Product Display Page, you may consider your primary KPI to be online sales. However, you also need to consider secondary KPIs like add-to-carts, visits to cart/checkout pages, and the overall ecommerce abandonment rate.

The overall criteria for your success should be based on CLTV (Customer Lifetime Value). Customer lifetime value is the total worth to a business of a customer over the whole period of their relationship. It helps you understand which customers are most valuable. Most sites follow the 80/20 rule. You make 80% of your revenue off 20% of your total customer base. If you don’t already know your average CLTV and the profile of your ideal customers, dig into your customer data platform to find out and get a benchmark to compare your future success against.

Then, focus on honing your design, copywriting, and marketing tactics to create an experience that makes it easier for users to complete purchases, increases average order value, and maximizes how frequently they return to your website from an email, or advertisement, or social media post. This process will help you increase your average CLTV.

Understanding User Motivation
It’s important to ensure that you use this feedback mechanism to understand your users better. Here we are talking about real visitors to your website, not only insights from user testing or focus groups. You really need to get to know your businesses’ real ideal customers based on how they navigate your website and learn about the psychological triggers that drive your customers to your website or app. For example, if you sell women’s dresses, and a customer has an upcoming wedding, that user may be shopping to fill their need for a new dress. How can you tailor their experience to show empathy and present the right product and supporting content?

By developing a system of consistent user feedback, analytics, and customer observation, you can begin to unravel how your ideal customers will typically act across the entire omnichannel experience. This system will also help you define segments to target with personalized messaging and user experiences.

We can organize each of your audiences into different buyer modalities defined by the stages of their journey. There are four types of buyer-buying modalities (ways that buyers interact with and think about your site). The four modalities are:

  • Competitive
  • Spontaneous
  • Methodical
  • Humanistic

Competitive and spontaneous buyers are fast and have quick reactions, while methodical and humanistic buyers are slow and somewhat unstructured.

Elevate The CX
To increase your design experience’s overall performance and ensure you are establishing an uplift in conversion trends, you need to build upon each of the wins and losses from your experiments. Develop system thinking that focuses on increasing the velocity of your feedback loop. The quicker you can deploy new designs as experiments, learn from the results, and apply the insights back into your digital experience, the faster you will be able to improve KPI results and ensure CX efforts are beneficial.

As you begin to understand your customers better and learn why they buy from you, you can identify ways to enhance and improve the customer experience. The idea is to build experiences that encourage users to refer your company to their friends. This happens when you provide an intuitive, personalized online experience that helps them solve their problems.

It can be difficult to measure Net Promoter Score (NPS), but you can obtain related data points through surveys/polls in the user experience or on an ongoing basis via email after a user makes a purchase or signs up for a newsletter. Wikipedia describes NPS as a widely used market research metric that typically takes the form of a single survey question asking respondents to rate the likelihood that they would recommend a company, product, or service to a friend or colleague.

One of the biggest benefits of this analysis, testing, and refinement process is that you will learn what you don’t know. For example, you may reveal cohorts of users that you never knew existed. Plus, by leveraging scrollmaps and heatmaps, we can see exactly how most users browse your site and determine which specific content they seek. This helps you make better, more informed decisions and improve faster by validating your design decisions using A/B and Multivariate Testing with real-world data, not just theories.

Experimentation Guarantees Results from Innovation and Design

You need to measure and optimize to produce positive results. Unless you have the right systems in place to track, analyze and experiment, at best, you will be making an informed guess whether your new beautifully designed interface will be accepted and loved by customers.

Once you have built and implemented a data-driven system that consistently improves site performance, you can guarantee your executives that the direction of your new designs and innovative ideas will drive current and future continuous improvement. Once you start testing everything in a live environment, when a design variation does lose or you happen to find a trend in poor KPI performance, you can quickly pivot and roll back to a previous design or redirect traffic to a proven profitable user journey.

Your largest gains will come from the most significant changes to the visitor experience. Using A/B testing, you can experiment with the changes that have the most potential for conversion rate improvement while incurring minimal risk. Measuring your work and experimenting also helps improve buy-in from stakeholders for successfully proven feature enhancements and may lead to a bigger budget for your next website redesign.


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About the Author

2022 Optimizely MVP for Strategic Experimentation. Alex Harris, Conversion Optimization Director, Perficient.

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