The Future of Experimentation
In my career as a marketer, testing and optimization are nearly always top of mind. Whether it’s designing a new messaging experiment or wrangling the results into meaningful reports and actionable next steps, I’m constantly looking for ways to get better results with more speed and less effort.
Experimentation in marketing is not a new phenomenon—but today it’s become an expected part of the job. That doesn’t mean it will continue to exist in its same form forever, though. Here are three key trends marketers should be aware of when planning their next marketing experiments:
1. Focus on the Future, Not the Past
A/B testing as we know it really gained ground in the 1990s. Marketers have been using this tried-and-true technique ever since, even expanding it to multivariate testing to test more elements of their marketing messages.
After 30+ years of A/B testing, most marketing teams are pretty well-versed in creating simple experiments and optimizing the message or campaign with the winning variant. But since everyone is doing it, marketers who want to gain a competitive edge need to step up their experimentation game.
Instead of running experiments solely on how customers respond to a message that’s already been sent, marketers will need to level up by looking for ways to track and test how users will respond to future touchpoints, using tools like predictive modeling. Predictive models help reveal the users who are likely to take a future action (e.g. making a purchase). With the audience already determined by the model, marketers are free to experiment with new ways to drive quicker action or get better results at a lower cost. Marketing teams that proactively allocate resources to variants that will win in the future, rather than those variants that won in the past, will be well-prepared for the next big marketing challenges.
2. Get Agile With Experimentation
When I first started running A/B tests in a previous job, I was always looking for quick wins. It was easy enough to test something like an email subject line and then put together a neat report of the results, since these tests were simple and timebound.
That kind of one-off testing is no longer sufficient. Now marketers need to incorporate agile methods into their strategies for always-on experimentation. If marketers can’t react quickly to customer needs, they risk losing users who have become accustomed to hyper-relevant, personalized communications.
To add agility, marketers should seek to test and optimize every step of a customer journey. Teams shouldn’t waste time building out two entire paths to test against each other; instead, they should test every step along the way and be prepared to make quick iterations. These small but frequent tests and adaptations will be far more effective at driving conversions than the old one-and-done method of testing.
3. Test Your First-Party Data Strategy
When social media and mobile apps first entered the scene, data privacy wasn’t a huge concern. People were happy to share their data to make it easier to find friends, tag photos, and discover content. That landscape looks a bit different now in 2021. Online privacy and security are a much more pressing concern for many consumers, and major stakeholders like Apple and Google are stepping in to crack down on third-party data sharing.
For marketers, that means that it’s more important than ever to have robust systems in place for collecting, understanding, and acting on first-party customer data. Setting up these systems will require its own form of testing as marketing teams look for innovative ways to shift from third-party strategies to first-party. It will also require finding a new balance between frictionless user experiences and more data-rich profiles. Whereas teams once focused on making registration as easy as possible by asking for only one or two details, they may now want to experiment with sign-up processes that collect more information upfront.
Some marketers might experiment with customer surveys to get information straight from the source. Others might test the way they prime for permissions to ensure they’re able to reach users directly. Regardless of the chosen approach, the key is to start testing first-party engagement strategies ASAP to ensure an effective one is in place before the next big privacy crackdown.
Testing and experimentation are a crucial part of every marketer’s job. Not sure where to start with your testing strategy? See how your customer engagement metrics stack up against industry-specific benchmark data with the Braze Benchmarks tool, and use that to guide your next marketing test.