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The power of testing

Written by David Hathiramani on Wednesday, 31 July 2013. Posted in Technology

Trying out new ideas to aid your business has been made a lot easier by Google, says David Hathiramani

The power of testing

 

In 2006, I met up with my old school friend, Warren Bennett. Since we had last seen each other, I had been working in the corporate world, and Warren had studied for an MBA and taken a gap year. Warren loved the idea of having a suit tailored wherever he travelled; in fact, he had suits made in China, Africa, and finally in Nepal where he stayed with a family of tailors. The suit he had made in Nepal was in a very distinctive olive green cloth; he chose to have two pairs of trousers made – one pair were flared and the others were straight-legged.

When we met, he was wearing the flares. I loved the look of the suit (even though the flares wouldn’t have been my style of choice) and I asked him where he bought it. When I found out that he’d had it tailored and it looked that good, I wanted one too. We got talking and, immediately, the idea of having a suit tailored at great value really struck a chord for both of us. My background was in IT, so the thought process quickly turned to how we could make this available online – and the idea that soon became A Suit That Fits was born.

However, just because Warren and I thought it was a good idea, we couldn’t be certain that anyone else would.

 

Real world testing

One of the first things we did was to create a very basic website, which described our offering as it stood and enabled customers to just about build up a suit from scratch. We knew that there would be no better way to test real people’s opinions on our offering than to go out and see them. We created a very basic stall at Hampstead market, hung Warren’s original suit on a dummy, and started talking to potential customers. We even managed to sell two bespoke suits within the first 20 minutes of being there and gained some really valuable insight from these original prospects. We used the information that we’d collected both from the market and feedback from friends to round our offering.

 

Google AdWords

Google AdWords is Google’s search advertising platform. You bid for your advert to be displayed on different search terms and, if used well, this can be an incredibly powerful way to test an offering. There are a number of ways you can use Google Adwords for testing, and I won’t go into the detail of all of them, but I’ll give you a simple round-up of the testing we did when we started our offering.

Imagine that we want to display an advert for people who search for “suits” in Google. We could use different tag lines for our business to gauge what people are most interested in. So, if you put three different variations of the advert out, Google Adwords allows you to see the click-through rate (the percentage of people who click on the advert); you can see which one performed best on this metric, and you know what aspect of your offering may be the one to focus your efforts on.

The advantage of Google Adwords is that it allows you to get in front of a much larger targeted audience than in the real world.

 

Analytics

Once you have traffic to your website, then testing is really important. Tracking what people do when they get to your website is a necessity for businesses whose online experience is integral to the buying process.

Google provides another service called Google Analytics which is free and gives you a view of the interactions on your website. The depth of information can be overwhelming, but a good place to start is to see which pages on your website make the users leave. This is called an exit, and looking at pages with the largest exit rate (or volume of exits) is probably the best place to start.

Once you have highlighted the page to work on from Analytics, then you can have fun with testing new designs or tweaks to the page. This is a very simple use of analytics, and the possibilities to work on using the data are almost endless.

 

AB Testing

If you want to tweak and change a page on your website, it is sensible to test if it is working better than the old page. AB testing is essentially testing one version (version A) of a page against another (version B). There is no point putting a new page in unless you are testing it against the old version and you are sure that it performs better.

 

The simple process for AB testing is:

1. Highlight the metric that you are looking to improve (for example, the exit rate)

2. Design a new version of the selected page

3. Serve half of your web traffic to version A, and half the traffic to version B

4. After you have collected the results, assess them

5. If there is an improvement, keep the new page, otherwise try again

 

No matter how old your business is, things are always changing and it is always important to incorporate all of the techniques above (and more) in the refinement of your product, services and website. In fact, sometimes when you are looking for new ideas, there is no better way than testing a broad range of solutions and focusing on the best performers. 

 

About the Author

David Hathiramani

David Hathiramani

He may be co-founder of trendy suit retailer A Suit That Fits, but Hathiramani is also something of a closet geek. And the Imperial College Computing graduate is here to impart some of his wisdom about setting up an internet business.

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