How to transform digital experiences through experimentation

Do you remember your first science fair project? We were introduced to the scientific method at a tender age, channeling our inner Einstein by running experiment after experiment. It probably didn’t occur to you that the basic principles of the scientific method would later influence the internet. This blog post explains why brands need to experiment when developing digital experiences.

What is digital experimentation?

Digital experimentation is similar, if not identical, to the scientific method. Businesses attempt to answer a question by establishing a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis through experimentation and analyzing the results. By Optimizely’s definition, experimentation is “the reliable process of delivering winning digital experiences without guesswork or risk” to keep customers from dropping their loyalty.

Improving customer experience with experimentation

Why do you need to update your digital experience continuously? Think about it this way: updates to apps and operating systems aim to provide new features, performance improvements and fix bugs to make users feel happy and secure. These factors are essential to ensure user frequency does not decline and, better yet, users remain loyal. 

It’s the same for digital experiences. Just because websites are an online storefront does not mean you should ignore improving your user’s experience. If anything, that fact alone should encourage you to offer up-to-date website experiences. In 2011, AmericanExpress reported that 78% of customers had abandoned a purchase due to a bad customer experience

We’re now in 2021, people! This stat alone tells us that other brands are ready and able to attract your loyal customers by providing them with relevant, consistent digital experiences.

It’s safe to say that consumers have changed drastically. Consumers expect more. What do you do when your website receives a lot of traffic but fails to convert? You find ways to tailor an experience.

No experimentation means customers slip out of the funnel

It’s true. The cost of customer acquisition is steadily increasing year after year. Customers can slip out of the funnel and you won’t have anything to show for it but a lower conversion rate. 

Returning users are looking for fresh, reliable experiences to keep them from leaving, and new customers are looking for the same fresh experiences to move through the funnel.

Optimize for new and returning customers

Optimizing for new and returning customers with experimentation and optimization will reduce customer acquisition costs. With 86% of people likely to purchase from the same company after a great experience, treating your digital experience like a living, breathing thing could be the key to drive customer growth and efficiency. 

How to transform through experimentation

When you Google “What is website transformation?” you’ll see articles highlighting detailed processes for a website redesign. However, the only similarity between a website redesign and digital experimentation is the desire for an improved state. 

The difference is that a website redesign is a complete overhaul of the entire site, while digital experimentation is carefully changing small parts of the site. There are many aspects of digital experimentation that drive website transformation, such as brand and product updates, meeting accessibility requirements, or simply keeping up with competitors. The idea here is to be as fresh as possible and to remain flexible and agile. Here’s how.

Discovery: An exploratory phase to gather information

The ultimate goal in this phase is to break down silos and uncover friction points along the customer journey. Think about the time you made a dinner reservation for six o’clock. You arrived 5-10 minutes early but ended up being seated thirty minutes after the time of your reservation. This describes customer friction. 

The same friction can be experienced by online visitors and customers, impeding them from moving down the marketing and sales funnels to demo, purchase, or research your product or service. 

Before acting, it’s essential to explore all customer touchpoints. Customer touchpoints in CX are anywhere that visitors and customers are coming into contact with your brand. This phase involves exploring your business context, conducting public research, breaking down your digital analytics and analyzing user behavior.

Validate: The implementation of an experiment

After the discovery phase, you can analyze what you discovered to craft a plan. By definition, the validation phase is an iterative process that proves which of the ideas from the discovery phase are achievable. Every business will encounter different circumstances based on their findings, but the following testing frameworks can help you move closer to transforming digital experiences.

PIE Framework

The PIE Framework is a well-known strategy composed of three criteria to help businesses prioritize which website pages will be tested. The framework follows a chronological order: potential, importance and ease. First, you find the potential improvement of a website page, you determine the value of traffic to the page, and you finally consider the degree of difficulty to test. This framework is commonly used for CRO cases, which is why it is so popular and crucial to businesses. Below is an example of how Widerfunnel uses this testing framework.

Screenshot of Widerfunnel using the testing framework

Hypothesis testing

I don’t want to bore you with my flashbacks from elementary school, but we’re talking about the scientific method again. Aside from making sure you had the coolest project on the gym’s hardwood floor, the goal of your entire science fair project was to test your hypothesis and measure the probability of being correct. Now let’s translate that to our topic of digital experimentation.

CrazyEgg provides us with a great example of conducting a hypothesis test on a company blog. They give a situation where two out of ten blogs are highly successful, yielding an increase in views, lower bounce rates, and more shares than the other eight blogs. The observation made was that the two high-performing blogs had larger images and concise paragraphs. The hypothesis might ask, “Will the underperforming blogs perform better with larger images and shorter paragraphs?” Boom! A/B testing and multivariate testing are forms of hypothesis testing that you can conduct to optimize your digital experiences.

Design of experiments

Our friends from Knowledge Hut provide a great explanation of the design of experiments (DOE). They go on to explain that it is “the systematic procedure carried out under controlled conditions to discover an unknown effect, to test or establish a hypothesis, or to illustrate a known effect.” In other words, it is a set of rules to follow when designing, implementing and analyzing an experiment. UI/UX, development, and A/B testing are involved in this testing process, helping businesses understand the impact of test strategies on factors affecting a process and the output of that process. For UI/UX, the form will follow the function. When it comes to A/B testing, you will need to identify a clear “before” and “after.” Implementing a set of rules will help you optimize now and for the future. Looking for a basic approach to DOE? Check out Knowledge Hut’s sequence for conducting a design of experiments.

Continuity: Setting up for future experimentation

So, you’re no longer new to experimentation. You’ve followed the first two phases (Discovery and Validate) and completed your first tests. Now what? Well, the process should not end there. It’s not a one-and-done situation like many music artists who are labeled one-hit wonders (sorry, not sorry). An optimized website is not the final stage — website Nirvana does not exist — and that shouldn’t scare you. The most advanced organizations view digital experimentation as an ongoing strategy. Qualtrics XM Institute reported that organizations that focus on improving customer experience have an increase of up to 25% in annual revenue. These organizations treat their website as a product, deploying test after test to ensure their customer experience is always improving. If you follow the phases, then you will end up with a testing process that sets you up for future experimentation.

Conclusion

Discovery, validation and continuity: these are the three phases that will help you optimize your digital experiences and treat them as an ongoing process. Customer experience will always be at the top of the list of most critical aspects of any organization. As the saying goes, the customer is always right. And in this case, the customer has the right to replace a brand with another that offers a fresh, modern, unforgettable digital experience.

Webstacks is a Contentful partner. You can learn more about experimentation and what we do at our website.

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