Marketing Testing Methods for Business
This article is the eighth part of our marketing research stages review series. To check all the previous stages, click here to find a list of our articles. Today, after all the steps of marketing research and formulating the marketing strategy, it seems that our imaginary example startup is ready for launch. But, as we mentioned in our previous articles, all the research findings can look great on paper, but in reality, the result may differ drastically. So, the reasonable step, before the full-scale launch, is to test your accurately made plans. And that’s what we are going to talk about today – testing.
What is testing in marketing?
Each scheme or plan needs to be checked before real-life implementation. Testing in marketing is a technique implied to evaluate the viability of a new product or marketing campaign before releasing it on a full-scale market. It’s so common practice for modern businesses, that including the test stage in the budget is typically unquestionable. It can be minor testing of some elements from the advertising tools, or it can be a full-power launch of sales and marketing campaigns but in some limited conditions. For example a little area (district, city, region), not the whole line of products, or only part of the targeted advertisement.
Types of marketing testing
First, needed to say, testing can be notionally divided into research, preparatory and confirmatory.
- Research tests are those you conduct when you don’t have any data. For example, user and usability testing are the kind of tests you conduct way before the first sale to find out the proper data. Such data will become the base of your marketing strategy.
- Preparatory tests are intended for checking the effectiveness of some elements of your marketing campaign – slogans, banners, settings of targeted advertisements, types of content, etc. You already have essential information, and you need to decide, how to use it more effectively.
- A confirmatory test is such a test, where everything is already set and checked, and then you conduct an overall trial launch in limited conditions. Ideally, with properly conducted preparatory tests, the confirmatory test will, indeed, confirm the correctness of your strategy.
The final test can be conducted in a form of a full-fledged launch with all the mechanisms, marketing campaigns, outdoor ads, sale discounts, bonuses, etc., but on a 10-20% of your power capacity. For example, placing outdoor ads not in the whole city, but only in one district.
Research for a new business often starts with a prototype, whether you are dealing with a physical or digital product or a service. This prototype should be accurately tested. The usability test answers the question “How easily customers can use my product?”. This test, as we mentioned above, is a part of the research process. During the usability testing, you inspect, how customers will interact with your product. The easiest way to do that is to gather the focus group, give people your product (or prototype), and observe. Thus, you will see, what characteristics your potential customers will like the most and which one the least.
User testing is also a part of the research process, target audience research to be exact. The main question, that this test answer, is “Will this particular customer buy my product?”. The answer always depends on the customer’s pains, needs, and preferences. So, while determining your perfect customer with focus groups, surveys, and interviews, technically, you are conducting user testing.
Of course, after the full-scale launch, you also can conduct user testing to identify real-life issues, which you couldn’t predict in test launches. Perhaps, some answers from your customers will prompt you with new ideas or changes.
One of the most popular methods for testing marketing activities. It is a user experience testing type methodology, used to find out the effectiveness of the advertisement, by comparison of two slightly different sets of marketing campaigns. Basically, you create two options of the same advertisement campaign, ad tactics, or ad content, with one difference. And then you launch it for two non-overlapping, but similar audiences and check the outcome.
It is an easy-to-implement and relatively cheap way to test different variables in marketing campaigns. For example, you’re creating a conspicuous banner for your ad on social media. Your brand design includes several colors, but none of them are eye-catching enough for Facebook. Maybe one of the main colors in your gamma is blue, and it will blend in the news feed. Hence, you have to change the background color of your banner to something more noticeable. Or maybe not? Perhaps the content and text on your banner are attractive enough and will do. To find out exactly and not spend resources twice, you create two short-term campaigns with similar banners, but different background colors. Use similar target audience characteristics, but in different big cities. And by the time campaigns will end, you will know, which color people react more.
There are several simple rules to remember about A/B tests. A/B test is always a test with 2 equal options with 1 small, but a significant variation. Not more. To know the exact reaction of the customer, the difference should be obvious to you and those who conduct the test.
Also, it is crucial to have a sufficient test sample size. Simply put, if you have a potential market of 100 people, surveying 10 of them can be enough, but with a bigger population number, you will need to question more people. To know exactly how many participants, you need to take part in your test, use sample size calculators. There are plenty of them online.
And one more important aspect of quality testing is time. Statistically, the minimum time for an excellent A/B test is 7 days. Depending on the size of an issue you are testing, it can be extended, but not too much. Because, while testing, technically, your business isn’t working properly. While typically business creates monthly plans, it can be unaffordable for your business to work in vain.
This type of test can be called a variation of A/B. But, if A/B is used for testing creative aspects of content, website techniques, and product traits, incrementality testing is more about strictly increasing positive response, hence, sales. A simple example – is a farewell pop-up, which appears, when a customer leaves your website. Yes, these overlays are irritating, but, if the customer is at least interested, the sudden pop-up with an enticing discount could convince a customer to purchase. Perhaps, not immediately, but at least the person will remember, that “now I have a good discount on the product, which I planned to buy”. You can compare two customer journeys – one without any encounters and the other with surprises, and find out how you can increase your sales.
The more complex type of testing – is multivariate testing (MVT). With this test, you can compare multiple variations of several characteristics. For our example startup, it can be a round pillow with a matte pillowcase or a square pillow with a satined cover. The function of the pillow doesn’t change, but the color and form change, based on, e.g., the two most popular preferences. MV test allows for determining which combination can produce better results. This test gives more creative freedom, but at the same time, it requires more analysis. Because you need to identify, which trait of the combination attracts customers the most. In simple terms, you need to know whether customers like a round pillow because it’s round or because it has a matte pillowcase. Also, unlike the A/B test, MVT allows using more than 2 options.
Content testing evaluates the effectiveness of text and audiovisual content, which includes website pages, text blocks, galleries, info pages, blog posts, social media posts, or marketing emails. This type of test can be used in the research stage for experimenting and finding the right words to reach your client, along with formulating your sale proposition. Or content testing can be used after setting up your marketing strategy with all the advertising content, to check how well the job of your marketing team was done. For conducting such a test you need to hire a specialist, who can check all your texts, or you can use special services for checking the metrics, reactions, and outcomes of your content. Also, content testing can be conducted with focus groups of customers, during which you can ask direct questions, about how your clients feel about certain texts, slogans, and headlines from your ads.
We listed way not every possible marketing test, that you can use for your business. Obviously, because every business is unique, and we can’t state, that “this test is certainly for you!”. But, we listed the most popular methods of testing for the e-commerce type of business and digital marketing campaign. The main thing is for you to understand, that the testing stage is necessary and there are plenty of proven methods. Methods and tools to check the performance of your developments before you will make a big bet with your money and launch your business on 100% power.
“Marketing research” series:
- Exploratory research
- Study your market
- Competitive analysis
- Define your customer – Create a buyer persona
- Formulate the unique value proposition
- Define communication channels with a potential client
- Define your marketing strategy
- Test your product and strategy (you are here now)
- Implement PDCA methodology