5 Ways To Get More Valuable Insights From Your Voice of Customer Programme

How can you ensure your VoC  programmes delivers genuine insights and value for your business? 

One way is not to fall into the trap of following the standard, but flawed approach. I covered my concerns about VoC surveys being a poor guide to customer service and motivations in a previous post. Below I outline some strategies to ensure your VoC programme delivers real and valuable insights.

1.    Give stakeholder management the highest priority:

  • The single biggest mistake companies often make when establishing VoC programmes is that senior management assume they can agree the objectives and then leave the research team to go away and deliver insights that will drive improvements in the targeted KPIs. To gain real benefits from VoC programmes requires a shift in the business culture towards a more customer-centric way of running a business. This requires a high level of commitment and involvement from senior managers.
  • Without a change in business culture VoC initiatives risk becoming sterile and primarily a PR tool rather than a force for driving customer centric change. If the customer is not at the heart of all decision making within a business then a VoC programme will always be at the periphery of attention and influence.
  • Actions are more important than words. Management need to get their hands dirty by getting involved in co-creation and collaborative techniques to begin a two-way conversation with customers and influencers. Management can’t expect staff to be passionate about improving the customer experience if they cannot spare the time to have conversations with real people.

2.    Agree a process for action planning and implementation of recommendations.

  • When you first agree your objectives of the VoC programme you also need to outline a process for action planning that is signed off by the senior stakeholders. I summarised in a previous post a process for action planning.  But whatever your approach,if it is not agreed up front with your stakeholders you risk losing commitment and momentum at a crucial stage in the process.
  • Evidence suggests that the process is probably more important than the analysis as data can easily be interpreted in different ways. It is essential that you involve people from a range of different areas in your organisation and have a diverse mix of skills and expertise. This is the best way to avoid the dangers of group think that can lead to small groups being too narrowly focused. It’s a good idea to invite people who have no managerial responsibility or influence over the areas of investigation as they have no axe to grind and can contribute a fresh perspective to the discussion.

3. Engage with front-line customer facing staff.

  • Although people are very poor at recognising their underlying motivations and recalling behaviour at a given moment, we are much better at observing and understanding what drives other people. This is why sales people and customer facing staff are such a good source of insights into what problems customers experience and what they respond well to.
  • Don’t rely on what Customer Services management tell you as all too often organizational culture prevents front-line staff from being totally honest about problem areas. For numerous reasons people don’t want to be perceived as negative about their organisation in front of management, especially if they want to progress in their career.

4.    Analyse real customer interactions with your organization or product.

  • The true VoC is when a customer is interacting with your employees or other customers. This may not be through traditional channels such as face-to-face or telephone, but could be through your website or social media. However, real people are still behind most of these interactions. Even a website robot chat greeter was originally designed by a human.
  • Video mystery shopping is a powerful tool for face-to-face interactions. It is great for showing examples of good practice for training purposes and identifying training needs of poor performing staff.  Many organizations now routinely record customer telephone conversations with staff. Take a random sample of calls and analyse the experience to better understand both the level of service and how well the customer’s task or need was fully satisfied. Develop a framework to ensure consistency of analysis or bring in customer experience consultants to help you evaluate calls.
  • Observational techniques, such as ethnography, also helps bring the real customer experiences to life. Combined with good listening skills, observing how customers interact with your product can provide new insights to assist you in improving customer acquisition and retention. Stop asking too many questions, and instead observe product usage in a natural environment. Don’t assume customers use your product in the same way that you would.
  • Experiment with customer feedback tools for online services to identify the tasks people are trying to complete on your website. Find out what barriers they experience which may hinder task completion. Visual behaviour tools, such as heatmaps and browser recordings (see my Website Optimization Toolbox
    for a list of suppliers), allow you to see how customers interact with your site. By combining the insights with web analytics you can generate ideas to develop hypothesis for improving the customer experience which you can validate through A/B and multivariate testing.

5.    Co-Create.

  • No, social influencers are people that others trust and turn to for advice. They usually have a natural ability to persuade but they are trusted due to their authenticity and independence. The degree to which these people are connected across social and interest groups is crucial and is probably the result of their personality and a source of their influence. These are the type of people you should be listening to as they are often a driver of your customer behaviour.
  • Co-create with key influencers and you stand more of a chance of engaging and motivating the mass of your customer base. Consulting with these people can help you better understand perceptions of your brand and allow you to tap into the real driver of customer behaviour.

Thank you for reading my post and I hope it has generated some ideas that you can use in your VoC programme.

*Recommended reading: 

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, check out the Conversion Uplift  Facebook page or connect on LinkedIn.

Which A/B Testing Tool Should You Choose?

Guide To Selecting Testing Software:

A/B  and multivariate testing tools are essential conversion rate optimisation software. They allow optimisers to deliver and measure the relative performance of different user experiences through robust online controlled experiments. Increasingly they also enable you to personalise your customer experience and discover new customer segments based upon behaviour rather than just demographics.

What is A/B Testing?

 

A/B testing allows you to run online controlled experiments to measure the difference in performance between an existing webpage design (e.g. your home page) and a change to the page or a totally new design or user journey (see split path test).

A/B testing tools randomly select visitors for each design and use robust statistical analysis to measure the performance between the control and the variant.  If there is a statistical difference between the two experiences we can say with a high degree of confidence (normally 99%) that it is down to the design and not other factors (e.g. traffic source) that often influence the success metric.

 

Image showing a multivariate test

Most conversion optimisation software offers both A/B and multivariate testing. Multivariate tests allow you to test changing content in two or more locations within the same experiment. With traditional MVT software this does require more traffic and as a result the test will take longer to conclude. However, AI algorithms can conduct massively complex multivariate tests using evolutionary processes to maximise conversion without needing more traffic than traditional solutions.

Questions to consider:

Selecting the right conversion optimisation software is key to the success of your optimisation strategy. I’ve summarised below over 20 tools that offer at least basic testing capabilities. When deciding on an A/B testing tool it’s worth considering these questions:

  1. What web analytics support do you have to provide insights for test ideas?
  2. Do you have access to usability testing and other user feedback tools to identify problems with your site?
  3. How easy it is to get internal IT development resource to code more complex tests?
  4. Do you have designers who can assist in creating new web pages and user journeys?
  5. What level of technical expertise does your team have to set up tests?
  6. How does your conversion rate compare to some of your competitors and what would be the value to your business of a 1% uplift in conversion?
  7. How much resource can you afford to dedicate to testing?
  8. What level of traffic do have on your site and therefore how long will it take to complete tests? Take an average weekly count of unique visitors over the last 12 months to estimate traffic levels.
  9. Who will manage the implementation of successful A/B tests?

Client-side or server-side?

The vast majority of conversion optimisation software  are either client-side (where JavaScript manipulates the page design in the user’s browser) or server-side (where the test is built and delivered from your own server).

The benefit of client-side software is that you can build simple tests using an easy to use visual editor (What you see is what you get – WYSIWYG). This means you can build and serve test experiences with little, if any, support from IT developers. Even marketers with no technical training can quickly become competent with using most visual editors. However, there may be potential IT Security issues as the new experience is delivered by calls to the software vendor’s server. See my client-side glossary post for more details.

Server-side tools offer you greater control on what is being displayed and for this reason any security concerns from internal stakeholders are much easier to resolve. You will require support from IT developers and can even build your own testing engine if you have the in-house expertise. See my  server-side glossary post for more details.

Managed or Self-Service?

When choosing conversion optimisation software it is necessary to consider whether you will need a managed service, self-service or hybrid solution. A managed service contract is where the software solution’s team provides consultancy, build tests and analyses the results for you. A self-service contract means you build and analyse your own tests.

A managed service tends to be expensive, but because the software provider is building and analysing the tests for you it can give your testing programme a good kick-start. A self-service contract is great if you have the technical know-how and resource or if you have little budget. However, it can be difficult to build momentum when there is no testing culture already established in the organisation. A hybrid contract may be right for those organisations that need some level of consultancy and support to get started, but plan to develop the resource and expertise in-house over time.

 

image of Oracle Maxymiser's methodology

 

Dedicated Resource:

Ideally you should have dedicated resource to get maximum ROI from your conversion optimisation software as it is a time consuming and expensive process. However, even if you can get a full-time testing manager you still need to consider what support they can be given with developing tests and implementing the successful ones. Testing is a collaborative process, one person cannot do it on their own.

 

Getting  An Optimization Process In Place:

You also need to have a clearly defined process for website optimization.  Without this you will struggle to maintain momentum or achieve the kind of consistent and sustainable uplifts that one would expect from a systematic approach to optimization.  How to optimize your website’s performance explains 6 types of tests that you should be using to improve your conversion rate.

User Ratings:

You are now ready to consider testing tool solutions. TrustRadius, an independent site for business software users, recently undertook a review of 9 of the most popular tools in terms of user ratings and functionality. Three suppliers; AB Tasty, Maxymiser (now Oracle Maxymiser) and Monetate came out with the highest overall scores.

Perhaps surprisingly, Google Analytics, which is a free tool, was rated bottom of the pile by users. It does lack real-time reporting, but perhaps more importantly is that it does not offer a visual editor. However, this is likely to change with the recent launch of Google Optimize, the free version of Google 360, its enterprise testing and personalisation product.

What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) visual editors are essential for client-side tools because they allow even the least technical of digital marketers to design and publish A/B tests on existing web pages within a matter of minutes.  Most WYSIWYG editors now allow you to set up page re-directs (split-tests) so that you can test whole new pages rather than simply changing the colour of a button or text. A re-direct enables you to test an experience on a different URL against your existing page design.

The review was segmented by size of business. In the small business sector Unbounce and Visual Website Optimizer are the market leaders and received the highest user ratings. Monetate also achieved a high rating despite not being among the most used suppliers. Among medium sized businesses Optimizely is the market leader, though both Oracle Maxymiser  and Monetate achieved marginally higher user ratings.

 

Image of features of main A/B testing solutions
Source: TrustRadius.com

Mobile App Testing Capability:

For me having the ability to test native apps is one of the most important criteria. Apps are still relatively new and it would be dangerous and fool-hardy to assume that the user journeys they deliver are anywhere near optimal.

If your organisation has an app with a reasonable amount of traffic then you should certainly be considering integrating with a solution that allows you to test and personalise the in-app customer experience. Many providers now offer SDK solutions to test within native apps and so it is worth exploring this as an option when you decide to begin A/B testing.

As you will see from the providers summarised below there are many different kinds of tools on the market, and depending upon your situation and budget, there should be at least one that meets your needs. If you are going through the process of deciding on an A/B testing tool then I would strongly recommend that you download the TrustRadius Buyer’s guide to A/B testing.

My full conversion rate toolbox is available by clicking here.

For – How to prioritise A/B test ideas please click here.

 

29 A/B Testing Solutions:

1.  A/Bingo: Is a Free Ruby on Rails A/B testing framework written as a plugin. It is an extraction from Bingo Card Creator, where it is used in production. It should work for most recent versions of both Rails 2.3 and 3.0.

image of AB Bingo homepage

 

2. AB Tasty: Offers an enterprise web application (SaaS), for A/B testing and personalisation. Build tests using either a simple to use visual editor to make changes to existing pages or an advanced HTML, CSS and JavaScript editor for more complex tests. Now offers an SDK solution for mobile app optimisation.

image of AB Tasty homepage

 

3. A/B Test Master: A personalisation and A/B testing solution that uses machine learning to serve content according to browsing history, their social media channel and past behaviour. This analysis is used to display a customised version of your website that will help maximize the chance of conversion rate.

 

image of AB Test Master homepage

 

4. Adobe Target & Adobe Premium: A comprehensive enterprise A/B, multivariate testing and personalisation platform that works across all devices. Now part of the Adobe Cloud which offers full integration with Adobe Analytics and content management products. Includes visual editor for micro-tests.

Target is popular with e-commerce sites for its real-time automated self-learning personalisation engine. Target lets you automate the targeting process with its machine learning algorithm that continually and automatically makes associations with various events and differences between predicted and observed responses.

It allows you to use pre-set or customised rules, including those defined by visitor location, to target content to a specific audience based on real-time data. Target has an extensive range of out-of-the box targeting rules for you to choose from.

You can also use APIs to integrate Target with data from web analytics, CRM, partner and other off-site sources to enable further customised segmentation and targeting.

 

image of Adobe Target homepage

 

5. Change Again: Visual editor tool for A/B testing changes to existing pages. Allows for full integration with Google Analytics and other popular analytic tools.

Image of Changeagain.com homepage

6. Convert: Uses a visual editor for A/B, multivariate and split URL testing. Includes a WYSIWYG editor, Google Analytics integration, revenue and conversion tracking, behaviour and segmented targeting.

Image of Convert.com homepage

 

7. Gentify: A Free JavaScript library for developers to set up A/B tests on your site.

 

8. Google Optimize.  This is the free version of Optimize 360, Google’s new testing and personalisation tool. This is vastly superior to its old testing tool and includes a visual editor and a reporting dashboard. See my post on how to get started with Google Optimize as this is an excellent tool for organisations with limited budget.

Optimize 360 (currently in beta)  is Google’s paid for enterprise A/B testing solution which  is part of the Google Analytics 360 suite of integrated solutions. Optimize 360 includes the ability to target audiences identified in Google Analytics, testing based on data layer variables and a visual editor (WYSIWG) interface to bring it in line with other similar A/B testing tools. This fully integrated solution now puts Google in direct competition with other major solutions such as Adobe and Oracle Maxymiser.

Image of Google Analytics Solutions homepage

9. Growth Giant: Uses Multi-Armed Bandit theory to run continuous A/B tests. It dynamically directs traffic to the best performing pages.

 

10. HP Optimost (Previously Autonomy): A managed service A/B and multivariate testing platform aimed at medium to large companies. This removes the need for IT support from your internal service providers. However, the interface is not as intuitive as other providers and there is no visual editor as yet.

 

11. KISSmetrics: Known for its highly flexible data reporting options, it excels at funnels with its extremely accurate funnel based-data, and can trace data to real people. Advanced data reporting requires a high level of analytical expertise.

 Image of Kissmetrics.com homepage

12. Leanplum: A mobile personalised messaging, user experience optimization, A/B testing and analytics platform.

Image of Leanplumb.com homepage

13. Omniconvert (Previously Marketizator): A simple, but flexible to use visual editor tool for A/B and multivariate testing. A tool Free for up to 5,000 views per month.

 

Image of homepage of omniconvert.comImage of homepage of omniconvert.com

14. Modesty: A simple A/B testing and event tracking framework for Ruby on Rails.

 

15. Monetate: An enterprise A/B, multivariate and personalisation platform with functionality for delivering totally new experiences to test. Integrates with common analytics packages and offers a visual editor for self-service basic testing implementation.

Image of Monetate.com homepage

16. Oban International: Targeting international websites Oban International have wealth of experience with optimising sites at a cultural level. They focus on cultural A/B and multivariate testing to identify factors that significantly influence conversion rates for cross-cultural sites.

 

image of Oban International homepage

17. Optimizely: A very popular self-service solution that provides the ability to quickly A/B test changes to existing pages or redirect to a new page using their user friendly visual editor interface.  The WYSIWYG editing  tool allows for A/B and multivariate testing and offers real-time reporting. For more complex tests or technical support Optimizely have many authorised partners to provide advice and developer assistance.

They also offer an SDK solution for personalising and optimising mobile apps. Their predictive analytics and machine learning technology helps identify which user experiences are worth personalising by revealing high value audiences and identifying under- and over-performing segments.

 

image of Optimizely homepage

18. Oracle Marketing Cloud (Maxymiser): A comprehensive enterprise A/B, multivariate testing and personalisation platform with the ability to build and test totally new pages without having to involve your developers. Maxymiser can split traffic randomly and display new experiences from its own server. Integrates with most analytics (e.g. Google Analytics & Omniture)  and visual behaviour tools (e.g. Click Tale).

The self-service visual editor tool (Visual Campaign Builder) allows you to test changing elements on existing pages (e.g. headline, image or CTA changes) within a matter of minutes and now offers the ability to set up A/B redirect campaigns and multivariate tests. Also has an SDK solution for mobile app optimisation.

 

 

image of Oracle Maxymiser homepage

 

19. Personyze: A SaaS platform for real-time visitor segmentation and personalisation. Offers a suite of services designed to improve visitor engagement, retention and conversion. Offers audience-orientated A/B and multivariate testing.

 

20. Qubit: An enterprise analytics, segmentation, personalisation, A/B and multivariate testing platform. Includes a visual editor for changing existing page designs. Now has full mobile App testing capability.

Image of Qubit.com homepage

21. Scenario from Convertize: Scenario is a new client-side A/B testing solution with a simple visual editor to quickly create and execute online experiments. To assist users in developing hypothesis to test Scenario have identified and developed over 200 tactics based upon neuroscience and consumer behaviour.

Simply select whether your site is an e-commerce,  Saas or lead generation website and the software generates a menu of tactics to choose from. This means you don’t have to be a psychologist to develop persuasive ideas to test. Multivariate testing is not yet available, but is in the product roadmap for later in 2017.

Image of getscenario.com homepage

Scenario offers new users a 14 day free trial period and a free plan after that expires for up to 5,000 visitors a month. However, a starter plan (for up to 50,000 visitors a month) costs just £29 per month.  The Team plan for committed marketing teams (up to 300,000 visitors per month) costs £179 per month and the Agency plan (from 1,000,000 visitors per month) costs £499 per month.

 

22. Sentient Ascend: Ascend is the first pure artificial intelligence (AI) conversion rate optimisation software on the market to offer complex and fast multivariate testing. Ascend uses evolutionary algorithms to learn, adapt and respond to user interaction to identify the best performing combination of changes for your website. The AI technology needs less time and less traffic than traditional multivariate testing methods and by automating the testing schedule it speeds up the whole process from end-to-end.

Image of Sentient Ascend AI multivariate testing homepage

Ascend is a client-side product which uses a visual editor to allow you to make changes. Ascend allows you to stop or adjust tests mid-way through to add new ideas based upon initial results. However, unlike traditional A/B testing algorithms, Ascend is always testing in the background and so if your traffic mix changes and a different experience would improve conversion, Ascend will automatically respond by serving the best performing design for that audience.

Sentient claims it can increase the speed of testing from around 10 to 100 times that of traditional testing software. Indeed, for underwear brand Cosabella Ascend tested 15 different changes to the homepage header, category page, product page and shopping cart design. Using standard multivariate testing would have required 160 tests, instead of the automated process that Ascend manages for you. This improved conversions by 35% compared to the control experience.

For more details of Ascend go to the post; How is AI disrupting conversion rate optimisation?

23. SiteSpect: An enterprise A/B, multivariate and personalisation platform for medium to large businesses. Includes a visual editor for micro-changes to existing pages.

Image of Sitespect.com homepage

 

24. Splitbutton: Free button text A/B testing using a snipet of JavaScript code that you paste onto the page you wish to test.

25. Splitforce: A mobile A/B testing platform for iOS, Android and Unity Apps using a server-driven method. It randomly selects users on first app launch and saves dynamic objects onto the users’ device memory so that it can be accessed without a connection for every session thereafter.

image of Splitforce homepage

 

26. Taplytics:  This is an enterprise native app A/B testing solution that also offers push notifications with campaign automation to optimise both the timing and content of your communications. A visual editor allows for easy development and implementation of simple A/B  and multivariate tests. More complex tests can be built by developers. Clients such as Tinder demonstrate that this tool has the capacity for scale and they offer a 30 day free trial.

 

Image of Taplytics.com home page

 

27. Unbounce: The A/B testing tool for building, publishing and measuring the performance of landing pages using best practice templates provided by Unbounce. The solution also offers fully mobile responsive pages to A/B test.

Image of Unbounce.com homepage

28. Vanity: This is a Free “experiment driven development framework” for Ruby on Rails. It is an open-source program for A/B testing and is able to integrate with Google Analytics.

29. Visual Website Optimizer: Positions itself as the world’s easiest A/B testing tool. Provides a simple to use visual editor tool that offers A/B and multivariate testing capabilities, together with personalisation, heatmaps and user insights. Now offers an SDK solution for full mobile app optimisation.

VWO now uses  bayesian statistical analysis which allows you to incorporate past experience when developing your tests.

Image of VWO.com homepage

 

Conclusion:

With the advent of artificial intelligence optimisation tools are becoming increasingly powerful and responsive to the needs of digital marketers. However, it is important to take your time and consider the questions I raised above before choosing a solution.

These tools have great potential to improve your conversion rate and allow your optimisation team to become a revenue generator rather than a cost centre. But this will only happen if you follow a structured approach and create a culture of experimentation in your organisation. CRO is a collaborative and creative process that requires patience and resourcing appropriately.

Check out my conversion marketing glossary for the definition of over 270  important terms.

Thank you for your interest in my post and hope you found it of help in your search for an A/B testing tool.

 

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, check out the Conversion Uplift  Facebook page or connect on LinkedIn.

How Should You Prioritise Your A/B Test Ideas?

Getting Maximum Return on Investment:

Before you begin A/B testing it is critical to ensure your time and resources are prioritised to achieve maximum benefit for your organisation. This means you must be careful to prioritise the pages and journeys most likely to have a large impact on your organization’s goals and related key metrics. However, at the same time you also need to  take into account the difficulty  and time taken to develop your test ideas.

Below I’ve outlined a simple process that is designed to help you prioritise your efforts for maximum impact.

1. Use data to identify top entry pages and view data at a template  level

2. Combine all pages that have the same template to identify traffic  levels for testing

Prioritization framework (PIE):

  1. Potential – How much improvement can be made – how poor is the current page?
  2. Importance – How valuable is the traffic to the pages
  3. Ease – How complicated will the test be to implement on the page or template

1.       Potential – Identify really bad pages:

Use your experience and best practice to identify pages that could most benefit from testing. Use the following metrics and tools to help guide you:

  • High bounce rate
  • Top exit pages
  • Funnel drop-off rates
  • Usability testing
  • On-site surveys
  • Customer email surveys
  • Eye tracking tools
  • On-page click tracking heatmaps
  • Use above  as inputs into  heuristic analysis – e.g. LIFT model

2.        Important pages – What makes a page important?

Use your web analytics and your marketing spend to assess:

  • High traffic pages
  • Top entry pages
  • Pages with expensive visits are more important
  • Identify source of traffic  and  cost

3.        Easy test pages – Consider technical implementation:

Tests that include the following are generally more complicated:

·          Site-wide elements like buttons, banners and  navigation bars

·          Alternative site templates

·          Dynamic content

·          Pages controlled by CMS or platform

·          Alternative flows – multiple pages

·          Pages with server-side validation or  interaction

Phone call tracking· Multi-goal tracking

Experiments with multiple languages

Where multiple stakeholder opinions need to be
satisfied

Consider organisational barriers – such as
internal politics

But also remember that challenging tests can be most rewarding – particularly site-wide  templates.

4.  Prioritise pages – Score each page  from 1 (low)  to 5 (high) on each of the 3 criteria and position accordingly in a matrix.

 

Prioritise according to their total ranking for all three criteria in a matrix like this example. This should be circulated around teams involved in proposing test ideas so that they understand how tests are prioritised:

A/B testing priority matrix image

This process is based upon the Widerfunnel approach which you can find in  the excellent book: You should test that by Chris Goward.

 

Thank you reading my post. If you found this useful please share with the social media icons on the page.

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch, check out the Conversion Uplift  Facebook page or connect on LinkedIn.

Are Brand Guidelines Suffocating Your Ability To Innovate?

image of branding guidelines

Your brand is one of the most powerful assets your organisation has. It serves as a short-cut to decision making as it should be instantly recognisable. Rightly or wrongly brands are closely guarded internally within organisations to prevent distortions or miscommunication of positioning and the value proposition. But how do our brains respond to brands and do brand guidelines help this process?

How Does Your Brain See A Brand?

The brain sees a brand as an object. Brands are no more than a mental representation of  a product in our mind. They are a means to an end as we purchase products to achieve explicit goals (e.g. listen to music), whilst the brand meets our psychological goals (e.g. enjoyment & autonomy).

Even if we use the brand as an extension of ourselves it is still desired for a current goal. Marketers talk about how brands connect with people emotionally, and positive emotions are important to encourage purchase, but we mainly respond emotionally to brands because they helps us to meet important psychological goals.

Do Brands Have Personalities?

A neuroscience study by Marketing Professor Carolyn Yoon (2006) cast doubt on the popular view that brands are like people and have personality traits. Further, research suggests that brand loyalty is mainly accounted for by availability and habit, with relatively few brands connecting to consumers at an emotional level. This means that brands need to evolve and respond to consumer needs as otherwise we may move onto a different brand which is perceived to be more strongly associated with achieving a set goal.

Consistency Or Customer Experience?

Brand guardians sometimes appear to be obsessed with maintaining consistency, whether it’s the fonts, messaging, colour, language, or imagery used. This creates a risk though that the brand becomes fossilised and unable to respond to changing customer needs and trends.

Consistency is fine if it is appropriate and it works better than an alternative. But people will  normally respond more positively to a great customer experience, even if there are some differences in how the brand is presented, than a consistently poor experience.

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines”
 Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

What Defines A Brand?

What matters about a  brand is how real people interact with it and what stories they pass onto each other about their experiences. Trust in a brand is not generated by assurances and promises in documents, but instead we learn to trust a brand through actions.

The important relationships are the interactions our customers and employees have with each other, whether face-to-face, over the telephone, via our website or through other means of communication. It is not via the largely illusionary relationship we have with the brand.

Aligning With Business Objectives: 

There is also a risk that focusing on consistency prevents marketing from testing changes to how customers interact and view the brand. In the digital space this can stop the A/B testing of new experiences that may be more effective at engaging visitors and improving conversion.

A/B testing is designed to align each web page with the goals and objectives of the organisation. If we are limiting this process because of brand guidelines then we are essentially acknowledging that brand guidelines take precedent over the businesses goals.

This cannot be healthy for either the organisation or the brand as it prevents the evolution of the brand in response to changing customer preferences. Further, most brand guidelines are developed without any scientific evidence to support them. They are largely based upon subjective opinions and those judgements should be tested to ensure they are optimal for the brand. By trying to use guidelines to prevent change we run the risk of suffocating brand development.

Thanks you for reading my post and hope you have time to view some of my other posts on website optimisation, marketing, market research and psychology. You can access all my posts here from my index page.

Recommended reading:

You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.

To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.

  • About the author:  Neal provides digital optimisation consultancy services and has worked for  brands such as Deezer.comFoxybingo.com, Very.co.uk and partypoker.com.  He identifies areas for improvement using a combination of approaches including web analytics, heuristic analysis, customer journey mapping, usability testing, and Voice of Customer feedback.  By  aligning each stage of the customer journey  with the organisation’s business goals this helps to improve conversion rates and revenues significantly as almost all websites benefit from a review of customer touch points and user journeys.
  • Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on Usabilla.com  and as an ex-research and insight manager on the GreenBook Blog research website.  If you wish to contact Neal please send an email to neal.cole@outlook.com. You can follow Neal on Twitter @northresearch and view his LinkedIn profile.