Where do your best ideas come from? Is it a star analyst or a creative director? Or do they come from a VP of marketing or maybe a developer in IT? Any of these people could prove to be a source for great test ideas—indeed, once a culture of testing takes root, winning suggestions can come from almost anyone in an organization.
But even if you include everyone from the mailroom to the executive suite in brainstorming sessions, there will be one important perspective absent from the process: The perspective of your customers.
Fortunately, there are many methods to glean the opinions of users, visitors, and customers—and these methods can be bountiful sources of testing ideas.
The most obvious—and commonly utilized—source for customer information is held within the segments already present in your analytics tool. By breaking out traffic reports by new and unique visitors, location, browser, entrance or exit page, referring links or keywords, or any other variable, you can gain new insights into the behaviors, desires, and needs of your customers. Of course, this can be instructive when making site changes or business decisions, but it is even more valuable as a source of test ideas.
2. Customer Surveys
With segments, it’s possible to estimate visitor needs but there is a more direct way to gain insight into their motivations: Ask them. There are many tools for collecting information via surveys—which can be as simple as a single question and a text entry box or something more complex involving Likert-like or ordinal value scales and built-in question logic. These responses can uncover pain-points, specific language, primary goals and a number of other important things that can help inspire new tests.
If you have a blog, the comments left on each post provide invaluable insight into visitor interests and opinions. By mining these comments, you can find keywords and natural phrases for use in messaging and calls-to-action. Other things to look for are any mentions of favorable features of your product or services, any complaints, or references to competitors. Any one of these can inspire a new testing approach.
Like comments, testimonials provide a source of natural-language ideas that can influence testing. The reason this is important is that often, internal messaging drifts from the language used by customers. Words that are common within an organization may be ambiguous or meaningless to those on the outside—but it is difficult to realize this without that valuable outside perspective. Comments and testimonials can provide this viewpoint—and it’s a perspective that is ripe for testing.
5. Review Sites
Looking off your site can be valuable too. Depending on your product or service, sites like Amazon, Yelp, and Angie’s List can provide a perspective that is different than those on your own. Not only are the reviews here often more detailed, they may also be more candid. Testing site treatments that emphasize elements of positive reviews is one idea. But another approach could use criticism as fodder for strategic tests that address complaints, turning problematic reviews into new opportunities.
6. Content Engagement
A hybrid of segments and comments, actual engagement with site content can provide valuable insight—and this on-site behavior is a goldmine of testing ideas. For example, knowing visitors engage more with content about pricing than features suggests a certain frame of mind. Testing could then explore this mindset.
7. Social Media
If content engagement is a hybrid of segments and comments, social media channels can provide a hybrid of all of the above sources. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, and others allow you to ask questions, track reviews, spark discussions, and measure engagement in a number of ways.
8. Customer Support Calls and Emails
One final place to turn—if you can—is your customer service department. Transcripts from supports calls, chat sessions, and email exchanges can be invaluable for pinpointing problem areas, hidden benefits, and relevant language that can inspire new testing ideas.
Testing is one of the best ways to really get to know your customers—indeed, it should be the ultimate goal of any testing program—and using information from customers to inform testing ideas and decisions only accelerates this process. Leveraging this information will lead you to interesting new optimization ideas and, hopefully, more successful tests.