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Split testing is necessary online and off

By By Nicholas Upton

The recent news of “human experiments” lately from Facebook and the dating website OKCupid has a lot of people upset.

Maybe it’s because I’m a millennial or my background in online ads, but I was not surprised in the least. Sure Facebook’s brand of experimenting has some unsettling connections with the NSA and could be used for some nefarious purposes, but the fact that users were guinea pigs was pretty obvious to me.

OKCupid founder Christian Rudder put it best:

Guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work.

That is how websites work, and advertising and a whole slew of other necessary business functions. If you’re not split testing, you’re just hoping your way is the best way. That might work in a vacuum, but no business is without some sort of competition. Everyone in the boating industry is up against other boat manufacturers, dealers or other sort of recreation.

So what should you test? In short, everything! Here are a few examples:

In the shop, try moving your product around. Retail research shows that customers often glance to the left then turn right -- as if they are skimming a book. So moving your attention-grabbing items to the left and your standard best sellers to the right could shift sales to some lagging items.

If you’re running an AdWords or similar online ad campaign, you need to have a few different ads going to see what grabs people’s attention. Also test for location – different ads will resonate in different areas. Slight changes here can dramatically change your ROI. If you’re doing a media buy, create a few ads to run then ask for the numbers as the flight goes on to see what’s working. Then tweak, tweak, tweak!

On the boat show floor, putting your flagship boat out front might sound logical. But have you thought about elevating it in the back, forcing prospective buyers to navigate your other options just to take a look at the hot new offering? There’s also a better chance of sparking conversation with one of your sales folks on the way though.

Heck, just asking your fans on Facebook what color palette they like the best can give you some valuable insight before you order 5,000 beige PFDs.

Subtle changes can make all the difference; so don’t ever get comfortable with your plan. Even successful ideas can be better!

So what are you currently testing? Let us know in the comment area below!

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