6 ways marketers can get an edge with usability testing

Posted on March 7, 2013
4 min read


In order to market a product or service, you have to understand what people want.

    • What is their research process?
    • Why do they choose one product over another?
    • Where do they get confused?
    • What do they know that you don't?

It's not easy to answer these questions, so we often rely on a mixture of assumptions, guesswork, and personal experience. But, there's a better way: usability testing can be your secret weapon.

Here are 6 ways usability testing can help you understand your users and gain an edge as a marketer.

1. Start further up the funnel


Traditional website analytics only tell you about a visitor’s behavior once they are on your site. But what about all the stuff that happens before they get there? Use usability tests to find out!

For example, if you are working on a website for a hotel in Hawaii, run a test and ask a user to go to Google and find a warm place to vacation. Let them go through the process of researching and deciding where they might want to go. While they're doing this, take note of what appeals to them, obstacles they face, what type of information they trust, and how they come to their final conclusion.

Testing the process like this can provide insights you'd never get otherwise.

2. Go beyond analytics


As a marketer, you most likely spend hours poring over analytics data. Having this data is invaluable, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. Analytics can show you what users do on your site, but it cannot tell you why they do what they do. User testing allows you to get the answers you need to tackle the "why" questions.

For instance, say your design team creates a new hero graphic that causes a significant drop in your click-through rate. Analytics revealed the problem to you, but doesn't give you any insight about how to fix it. What often happens in these types of situations is that we frantically tweak the hero graphic, change colors, resize fonts, and watch analytics to see if anything we did worked.

What if instead, you had real users test your page? It's quite possible that there is a very simple reason that users are not converting. You can know the answer to the "why" question in less than an hour, make the necessary changes, and you're back in business!

3. Test your shopping cart


Abandoned shopping carts are the bane of our existence. You worked so hard to get a customer to choose your product and then for some reason they leave without buying. Running a user test of your cart every month will get you the most bang for your buck every time.  Everyone that wants to buy from you, has to go through the cart, so if you have a mistake there you are losing a lot of money.

Shopping cart tests are also a great place to test ways to increase the average order size through related products, add-ons, and upsell opportunities.

4. Learn from your competitors' failures/successes


Think of the advantage you would have if you could learn from the mistakes of your competitors and never have to make them yourself. Write a custom test for your competitor's site and let testers tell you what your competitors are doing right and what they're doing wrong.

Did your competitor just run a promotion that you think was a really good idea? Find out what your audience thinks about the promotion and whether it's relevant to them. It's quite possible you could improve on it, or maybe you'll realize you shouldn't use it at all.

5. Test with different personas


As marketers we know our target market isn’t monolithic. So don’t test with just random people, run each of your marketing personas through your tests.

For example, if you are testing a bank site, you'll want to consider how people in different income brackets perceive the bank and what features each group looks for. You'll also want to test different age brackets. A young person may be most interested in being able to cash checks from their smartphone, and an older person may be more interested in receiving good customer support over the phone.

Testing each relevant demographic will help you recognize the unique needs of each group and make sure your site is well balanced to handle ALL your customer’s needs.

6. Start testing early

Please, don’t start your testing after you launch. The time to test is shortly after you draw up a sketch on the whiteboard. Getting the voice of the customer early in the prototyping stage can help you avoid costly mistakes and nail your message. User feedback in the ideation phase can help keep your concepts tied to what your customers are actually looking for and can help you build the right thing the first time.

Learn more about prototype testing 

Hopefully these ideas provide a great way for you to boost your conversion rates and earn more money. What are some other ways you use user testing to improve your marketing?

Want to learn more?

If you’d like to learn more about how UserTesting can help you understand your customers—and avoid using dark patterns—through on-demand human insights, contact us here.

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