Testing on the masses

As has been noted in these pages before, traditional marketing techniques are dead in the water. We can’t hold the hand of potential customers to take them from awareness through preference, purchase and eventually loyalty. They walk to their own tune. Yet, standard web metrics still replicate these old fashioned ideals. We rely too heavily on old school measurements to define online campaign success without really understanding what’s going on. This underlies a basic flaw in traditional online campaign analysis and optimisation unless you talk to your customers you will never know how to best serve them, thereby improving your relationship and hopefully make some money.

One of my favourite ways of talking to the customer is to do this without them even knowing!
Almost ten years ago, an employee at amazon.com named Greg Linden developed a prototype recommendation engine. However, this was blocked by a senior marketing exec who thought it would distract users from the check out process. Linden did manage to setup a controlled test where the new system was tested on the users. It was such a success that the senior exec was overruled and these days the idea has been copied by several websites.
Online testing allows us analysts to put some of our hypothesis to the test. We can test on our users if they prefer a simple clean interface or not, or if that extra page in the check out process is really necessary.

The beauty of this online testing is that users aren’t asked directly for their data or opinions; to them it’s a seamless experience. They probably don’t even know they are part of a test, yet they are voting with their mouse clicks. Its online participation marketing analysis in its purest form!

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