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Tim Peter Thinks

Tim Peter

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November 22, 2011

Can You Market Test Your Time and Money?

November 22, 2011 | By | No Comments

Test what worksI’m no fan of linking to the New York Times (damn you, paywall), but this interview with Sasha Issenberg is well worth the read. Issenberg, who is writing a book about “the new science of [political] campaigns,” covers ground most Big Thinkers know well: measurement and testing. I’ve talked often about why testing is always the right answer. It’s interesting to see how political campaigns put these same tactics to use in measuring the effectiveness of their campaigns. The interview focuses on Rick Perry’s reelection campaign (the book looks at several campaigns), but I loved this quote:

The findings from those 2006 tests dramatically changed how Carney prioritized the candidate’s time and the campaign’s money when Perry sought re-election again in 2010 and will inform the way he runs for president now.” [Emphasis mine]

Political campaigns, just like any marketing, can’t afford to waste money or resources (especially the candidate’s limited time). So testing where those resources and funds work best matters. The question is, are you testing how effectively you’re spending your money and your time? Don’t you think you should?


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Tim Peter

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February 22, 2011

Do A/B Tests Worry You?

February 22, 2011 | By | 2 Comments

Anyone who’s spent much time around thinks Central knows how passionately I believe A/B testing is always the right answer. Seriously. And while A/B testing might seem scary if you’ve never done it before, it’s not as hard as you might think.

What’s that, you say? You’re not to sure what to test and how to do it? Well, never fear, Big Thinker. The following ideas will help you along the way.

For example, Linda Bustos and Anne Holland’s great 6 tips for e-commerce testing offers amazing lessons on how to test effectively and efficiently on your site.

And while A/B testing has its pitfalls when not done right, you can easily learn from others’ real-world experience. For instance, ProFlowers is one of the best converting sites on the Internet and conducts A/B tests all the time. Just take a look at what a well-executed A/B test looks like to help you along the way.

What if you’re just getting started with A/B testing and don’t know where to begin? In addition to Linda and Anne’s tips, take a look at the thinks method for what to test first.

And, finally, for more ideas, check out our Ultimate A/B Testing Case Study Roundup.

I suppose testing isn’t the right answer if you don’t know how to do it or don’t test the right things. But, thanks to Anne and Linda and ProFlowers, you don’t have to go it alone.



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Tim Peter

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June 25, 2010

Ultimate A/B testing case study roundup (Small Business E-commerce Link Digest – June 25, 2010)

June 25, 2010 | By | No Comments

It’s no secret here that I believe A/B testing is one of the the best ways to help your customer and quiet Avinash Kaushik’s HIPPOs (see Rule #10) (Full Disclosure: As the head of e-commerce, I can be something of a HIPPO myself in my day job. So, in some ways, I know the dangers even more. It’s easy to think you’re really smart when you’ve been doing something for a while – and really cool when a test a.) proves you wrong and b.) makes you a lot of money).

In fact, I’ve talked before about reasons why A/B testing is always the right answer and examples of what an A/B test looks like. But, I’ve also been collecting a number of other posts that make the case for A/B testing. Check ’em out:

Whew! That’s a ton of resources for you to use as you plan your own A/B tests. And you should.

Did I leave something out? I’d love to continue to collect these case studies here. If you find a good one, do me a favor and post it in the comments.



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Tim Peter

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June 19, 2009

Keep it simple… 5 tips for better sales online (Small Business E-commerce Link Digest – June 19, 2009)

June 19, 2009 | By | No Comments

How savvy are your customers? Are they sophisticated in using the Internet? While I always want to give people the benefit of the doubt, it’s important to remember that most people – no matter how much they use the Internet – don’t spend much time thinking about the Internet.

For a perfect example, take a look at this Google video asking people in Times Square what a browser is:

(Hat tip: The Next Web & Customer Experience Labs)

So, if your customers aren’t that savvy on the web, should you avoid awesome Flash widget-ry and new, improved Web 2.0 crunchy goodness on your site? Well, it depends. You see, that’s not the right question. The right question is: what do your customers need? And if you don’t know, how can you find out? Here’s how:

  1. You can observe a lot just by watching. Yogi Berra said it best. When you watch your customers use your product, service or website, you’ll see things you’d never imagined. Some may shock you. Some may seem silly. But your customer isn’t wrong when they can’t figure out what to do next on your site. Your site is. I once watched a customer use a site repeatedly click on an image that wasn’t clickable. It didn’t show up in analytics, because no tool I know of will track actions that don’t do something. But in just 10 minutes of observing the customer, we were able to improve usability – and the conversion rate we were looking for – dramatically. Tools like UserTesting.com can show you exactly what your customers are doing to help you make things right. (And, yes, I know I talked about them last week, too. It’s that cool a tool).
  2. Keep it simple. Customers come to your site with a problem to solve. Anything that doesn’t help them solve the problem – any distraction, pop-up, extra step, upsell, what-have-you – can stop your customer cold. They don’t need anything that doesn’t contribute to solving their problem. So don’t do that. Earlier this week, B.L. Ochman offered a great example of “keep it simple…” tactics in practice that ought to be required reading. So go read it.
  3. Don’t reinvent the wheel. As Steve Krug writes in “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability”
    – his legendary book – “Innovate when you know you have a better idea… but take advantage of conventions when you don’t.” I’d add, “and then test to be sure.” There’s a reason the gas pedal is on the right and the brake on the left in every car: because if you switched them, people would die. Look at how others have solved the problem and work from there.
  4. Apply these tips everywhere. You can apply these same lessons to tools like Facebook and Twitter, too. For instance, RADSMARTS looks at the habits of highly effective Tweeters, finding they, too, focus on low friction, high value communication. And, really, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
  5. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. If improving your customers’ experience is a one-time event, don’t be surprised if your business only has a one-time gain. You’ve got to embed continuous improvement into your company’s DNA. As Bryan Eisenberg recently noted, “Good online marketers come in many sizes and shapes, but all have at least one trait in common: They are never satisfied with their results.” I think you could remove the word “online” – and for that matter, “marketer” – and describe every successful business person I’ve ever known.


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Tim Peter

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June 17, 2009

What does an A/B test look like, anyway?

June 17, 2009 | By | No Comments

You know A/B testing is the right thing to do, right? Do you know what a good A/B test looks like? No? Well, thinks is here to help.

GrokDotCom shares Nielsen data every month, showing the top converting websites. Amazingly, online flower and gift retailer ProFlowers converts a whopping 43% of its visitors to sales. While the nature of its customers – such as husbands who need a last-minute gift when they forgot their anniversary – certainly influences that number, 43% is huge by any standard. Not surprisingly, ProFlowers uses A/B testing regularly. For instance, during the recent Mother’s Day holiday, ProFlowers ran these four separate landing pages against one another:

ab-test-proflowers-thumb.png
(click for a much larger version: 1607 x 457 pixels; about 1MB)

If you look closely, you can see they only changed the middle section – below the header and above the product listings – trying different versions to drive improved conversion. This image calls out what changed:

ab-test-proflowers-marked-up-thumb.png
(click for a much larger version: 1607 x 457 pixels; about 1MB)

So, what did they test?

  • Messages – Two of the four pages (the champion and the first challenger) focus more on savings. Note how prominent the “Free Glass Vase” and “Featured Offer” are in the first two. By contrast, the second pair focus more on ProFlowers’ quality, making the Guarantee message more prominent in each.
  • Layout – Take note of where the “Free Glass Vase” and Guarantee messages appear on the landing pages.

This is very consistent with our list of what to test first and the 6 simple rules of online/offline merchandising, but shows it in a real world context.

Since ProFlowers ran this as a limited-time test, it’s likely you’ll see the winning design more prominent in their future landing pages. At the same time, don’t be surprised if you don’t. ProFlowers didn’t get to a 43% conversion rate by resting on their… laurels. Their most recent promotion is also a test, showing that ProFlowers using a continuous improvement process to further increase conversion. So, here’s the real question: why aren’t you?



Are you getting enough value out of your small business website? Want to make sure your business makes the most of the local, mobile, social web? thinks helps you understand how to grow your business via the web, every day. Get more than just news. Get understanding. Add thinks to your feed reader today.

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