How to Develop a Sound Test Concept

By ​Marifran Manzo-Ritchie

May 8, 2012

It’s an all-too-common theme to get things right the first time around. In theory, it makes sense; not too many of us make it a goal to fail. However, when testing, it is failure that can often lead to the most valuable insight.

A challenge most online retailers have is IT resources and prioritization. There’s simply not enough time to allocate for everyone’s needs. So unless your project is forecasted to have a big impact on the business, it’s not going to get done in a “timely” manner. The result is, instead of identifying solid concepts to test, ideas are fully baked and expected to work immediately.

Too frequently, these over-engineered solutions don’t provide much benefit to the business if they are not successful upon the first try. No room for failure was allowed, and the result is confusion and disappointment. Improving the customer experience through disciplined testing took a back seat to getting a new solution live as soon as possible. The time in between developing the solution and watching the test net neutral or negative results is an opportunity cost you will not be able to recuperate.

Consider beginning with the end in mind and create a detailed plan for getting there. That plan is the map for your journey to success. To develop it, you’ll want to:

  • Start simple. You are testing concepts, not reinventing ecommerce (yet).
  • Break down the concept into individual elements. Understand the test variables and how they relate to improving the customer experience.
  • Ensure these elements have sound business reasoning and are not just “nice to haves.”
  • Be flexible. The initial plan you outlined is a guide, but not absolute instruction for how to achieve your goals. Test results will make you think and adjust in ways previously not considered.
  • Trust the data. Don’t get fixated on concepts you believe will work when your customers are telling you otherwise.
  • Be persistent. Most tests fail, but therein lies actionable data. Continuing to iterate is the only way to achieve success.

Your basic goal in website testing is to evaluate individual concepts and identify customer triggers. The ability to mix and match concepts also exists once you understand how each affects your goals. Once testing has run its course, you are left with a beautiful and proven concept that has a positive impact on the business.

As a Client Success Director at Monetate, Brian Branca is responsible for the strategic direction of website optimization campaigns for a variety of ecommerce companies. In the past decade plus, Brian has gained extensive experience within multiple retail categories while running ecommerce campaigns for Dick’s Sporting Goods, Petco, Green Mountain, Brookstone, Radio Shack, Timberland, and Eastern Mountain Sports.

Marifran Manzo-Ritchie is the former Director of Corporate Communications at Monetate. She has over 12 years of experience in helping companies create and share the messages that resonate with their target markets. In a previous life, Marifran worked as a radio news writer, producer and occasional on-air talent. She is always trying to learn the Italian language and the piano.

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