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3 Strategic Reasons Why Marketers Should Run User Tests

| September 8, 2015
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As marketers, we rely on data to guide our decisions. We run A/B tests. We use robust analytics tools. We find out where customers are converting, and where they’re not. We know exactly what our customers are doing.

But there’s one major problem: we don’t always understand why.

If you’re like most marketers, you’ve probably seen your campaign performance or site analytics and wondered what’s going on inside your customers’ heads. What were they thinking when they abandoned their order? Or when they bounced from a landing page after just five seconds? Why did they  unsubscribe from your email list? Would they have converted if you had a different design or different copy?

You may suspect you know the answers to these questions, but unless you hear it straight from the source, you’re just guessing. And in the age of data-driven marketing, guesswork is a dangerous way to run a business.

The only way to be sure what customers are thinking and feeling is to ask them. And the way to do that is by user testing.

User testing your marketing initiatives

In a nutshell, user testing is when you observe actual people as they use and interact with your website (or app) while they comment on their experience and speak their thoughts out loud.

It’s like looking over the shoulder of your customer as they use your site.

You’ll see and hear exactly where they get stuck, and you’ll find out how they feel about your brand. For marketers, this type of instant feedback can be the secret weapon you need to find out why your customers do what they do.

Now, are you ready to get the feedback you need to improve your conversion rates—and your customer experience? Great! Let’s get started.

1. Cultivate your brand image

As marketers, it’s our responsibility to establish and protect the company brand. And while we work hard to develop brand guidelines to ensure that our messaging and design are consistent across platforms and collateral, they aren’t always enough.

How do you know if your assumed brand identity is how people actually see you?

Running user tests ensure that your company and customers are on the same page. You’ll find out if you’re top-of-mind, and where you rank in comparison to others in your industry. Plus, it’ll help you gain a competitive edge against your competitors.

If you’re ready to quickly learn how customers perceive your brand, here are some questions and ideas to consider as you plan your user test:

  • What do people think or know about your company (without looking at your website)?
  • Are you clearly communicating your brand through your website?
  • What do test participants like and dislike about the way you present your product or service?

2. Ensure a consistent cross-channel experience

Since users often don’t complete an activity in one sitting (or through one channel), it’s important to evaluate your cross-channel experience. That means any interaction a user has with your company while completing a single activity on multiple channels.

Channels can be websites, apps, email, social media, online chat, phone calls, print media, and even physical locations.

To begin evaluating your cross-channel experience, consider these questions as part of your user test:

  • How do users interact with your company on their phone, desktop, tablet, and in person?
  • Can your users smoothly complete a process that spans multiple devices?
  • How is the experience across all channels?

3. Determine how your company can stand out from competitors

Can we let you in on a secret? You can user test literally any website or app. Okay, so it’s not actually a secret… but it’s pretty darn awesome! It means that you’re not limited to only testing your own site. You can compare your company to your competitors and even track their changes over time. Talk about a competitive edge! If you’re only user testing your own stuff, you’re missing out.

If you’re not testing your competitors, you’re missing out on insights that will give you a competitive edge.

There are two ways to test your site against your competitor’s site. You can either have test participants visit both sites and describe their thoughts on each one, or you can send separate sets of test participants to each site (and then do the comparison yourself).

Run competitor tests to find out:

  • Who does a better job of clearly explaining the product or offering?
  • What do people like and dislike about your top competitor’s newest feature or product?
  • Which website do they prefer, and why?

Start user testing your your marketing initiatives

To understand why your customers do what they do, user testing can be your secret weapon. You’ll uncover insights about how customers perceive your brand, what convinces them to convert, and what you can do to improve your marketing efforts.

If you want to learn more about running effective user tests, check out the Marketers Guide to User Testing. You’ll get exact tasks and questions you can ask your test participants, and a step-by-step process you can use to maximize the effectiveness of your user tests.

It covers some common user testing scenarios that marketers can benefit from, like:

  • Coming up with A/B test ideas that make a real impact
  • Understanding the visitor intent behind your search traffic
  • Finding optimization opportunities from your analytics data
  • Optimizing your landing pages & forms for higher conversions
  • And plenty more!

You’ll learn the nuts and bolts of how to gather qualitative user feedback to supplement your data and build a complete picture of your customer behavior. You’ll also find tips on creating excellent test plans that give you the insights you need (no research background required).

Now, if you ready to get the feedback you need to improve your conversion rates—and your customer experience—click here to download the Marketer’s Guide to User Testing.