Looking to take your e-commerce marketing efforts to the next level? Do you have a marketing budget but are unsure how to allocate the dollars? Maybe a “Test & Learn” strategy is for you.

Test & Learn is ideal for new e-commerce sites where you have no historic data, but also great for established e-commerce sites with lots of historical information.

Setting up a Test & Learn strategy is the most cost-effective way to ramp up your marketing. This is especially true with uncertainties and risks associated with putting all your dollars on just one or two media properties (or one media buyer) or online marketing techniques. The general approach also includes working against a marketing hypothesis you believe is going to work. By testing that hypothesis as a part of a multichannel test, you can adjust it to reduce the risk of longer term marketing investment, and see if your biases and hunches will actually pan out.

Old Marketing Paradigm: “I have a set marketing budget for the year, and I’m going to buy X in media:  here, here and here.”

Test & Learn Marketing Paradigm: “I have a marketing budget for the year, and I’m going to spend 10% across a number of “trial” channels over 6 weeks and learn as much as I can before I allocate the remaining 90% for the rest of the year. I will work in a more agile manner responding to performance instead of spraying and praying that media dollars work”

Step 1: Formulate a marketing hypothesis.

Start by analyzing performance of marketing to date. Review Google Analytics to understand any current conversion funnels and user flows. Also review any pre-existing media performance reports from email campaigns, paid search, display, and advertising efforts.

Your marketing hypothesis should include a quantitative aspect against which you can test.

For example: “A combination of paid search and e-mail marketing using volume-based incentives will drive the most signups and conversions at a cost that works for me: $5 cost to acquire a visitor and $30 to acquire a new customer conversion.”

Of course, you can check with your CFO or finance department to vet this hypothesis before you begin.

Step 2: Identify your test channels.

Your test channels will be the most measurable, fastest-to-market, easiest-to-setup, with a minimally-viable amount of quality creative and copy that can be produced. For example, you might identify:

  • Paid Search: Google, Bing
  • Email
  • Website Offer / Landing Page A – Offer no deep discount
  • Website Offer / Landing Page B – Offer deepest viable discount
  • Retargeting ads – coupled with  A
  • Retargeting ads – coupled with B
  • Abandoned Cart – coupled with A
  • Abandoned Cart – coupled with B
  • Google Display advertising
  • Targeted, specific media outlet display advertising (i.e. trade journal, niche website)
  • Marketplace A (Amazon)

Step 3: Set Up The Campaign.

The idea in Test & Learn mentality is to use best quality creative and assets at a minimally viable effort to put forth a good test. It’s best to create a checklist with specific deliverables you and your creative team, or your agency, can produce quickly and efficiently. A sample checklist of what to produce for the test channels mentioned above includes:

  1. Establish a campaign calendar including timing of releasing the media you create for each channel.
  2. Brainstorm and approve the offers and call-to-actions based on what you can support.
  3. Create an array (up to 10) of simple, short copy concepts with CTAs and offers for paid search and landing pages.
  4. Create 4 display ad / creative concepts (for 3 common IAB banner sizes) using the copy concepts.
  5. Translate the copy and creative concepts from above into landing pages – using simple templates and tools like Unbounce or your current e-commerce platform.
  6. Setup the paid search, retargeting, and display campaigns in Google.
  7. Set up proper measurement infrastructure in your Google Analytics.
  8. Test campaign launch.

Step 4: Monitor, Tweak, and Measure

It’s important to be monitoring continuously through the test campaign so you can take notes, tweak ad buys, and make some adjustments to creative and copy. It’s a lot of work for a 6 week test but the heavier the effort in trial and testing, the more you will learn and the more data you will have to ultimately compile the “formula” that will work best.

Step 5: Create a Scorecard

When the test period is over, measure the performance of each channel using specific metrics that are important to your business. Apply the metrics to larger budget considerations to see how your investments would have worked out if you had applied them to a larger budget. You will have “winners” and “losers”, but that’s the point. Test & Learn!

Step 6: Reformulate and Prepare for a True Launch Campaign

The Bottom Line

However your e-commerce marketing approach evolves, use a “test & learn” approach that includes specific performance metrics and you will be on your way to more successful campaigns. Let us help you formulate an approach that’s right for your business. We’re here to help.