by: Thomas Young
The Internet has changed marketing. Business leaders should be aware of two of the most profound changes. The first is the ability of marketing staff to collect highly accurate data from your target markets and the second is the ability to accurately measure the impact and return of various web marketing strategies. This was never possible in sales and marketing to this extent prior to the web. Online marketers know more than ever before about their online consumer, thanks to Google Analytics and other web marketing stats. They can also track conversion sources more accurately, along with what is needed to drive sales.
This has led to a tremendous boost in the accuracy of market research. The Internet and your company website now provide unique opportunities to further get inside the head of your targeted markets and understand how they use your website and why they behave the way they do online. Business leaders should have a basic understanding of how to use the Internet and their websites to collect valuable market research data. Here are a few online market research techniques you can use to improve your web marketing results.
User testing is a very powerful form of marketing research. It is the process of observing your website visitors perform basic tasks on your website and monitoring their actions and feedback. User testing can vary widely in its scope and depth. It can go from a formal study in a user testing lab with eye tracking and more sophisticated observation methods, to a very simple over-the-shoulder review of a user as they navigate around your website.
There are several steps that must be followed in order to run a successful user testing session and they include the following:
- Task Selection – This is the process of determining the actual tasks users will perform in each session. This can include researching services and products or actually completing an online transaction or conversion.
- User Recruitment – Here the targeted users are recruited and scheduled.
- Technology Selection – The technology used to record the sessions is included in this step. There are many options available to record desktop computer screens.
- Session Facilitation – This is the process used to facilitate the actual testing session.
- Review and Analysis – This final part of the process is used to determine the changes needed to improve the site’s usability and better meet the user’s needs. These are the final recommendations that come from observing the user testing sessions.
There are several principles to follow when conducting user testing. Here are a few to keep in mind:
- Recruit a minimum of five to seven users and group them by market segment and other similar attributes. Combining market segments will lead to mixed results. Only five to seven users can provide significant feedback in effective user testing.
- Make sure the facilitator does not help the users complete tasks, even if a user asks for help. Facilitators should listen and only ask questions. Users should be asked to answer their own questions and show the facilitator what they would do on the website to get an answer or solve a problem.
- Ask the users to think out loud as they navigate around the website. Otherwise, most users don’t talk and it is hard to know their intentions.
- Always record your sessions so you can watch the user a second time and see what you missed.
- Watch out for user testing subjects that are looking to please you or be nice. It is common for users to blame themselves when they can’t complete a task online.
- Encourage the users to be honest, speak their minds and do what they would do in real life situations.
- Don’t ask for users to provide their opinion. People will tend to give positive or neutral feedback when asked for their opinion. It is much better to have them attempt a task on the website.
- User testing can be repeated multiple times to test assumptions and to make sure your improvements are getting the results you expected.
- The best user testing results come when the researcher removes possible bias and remains neutral.
- Find information on a service or product you might buy from this company.
- Look for location information and how to contact the company.
- Review a few competitor websites and research their offerings.
- Search for the website in Google.
- Make a purchase on the site directly.
- Complete a form on the website.
- Research the website’s content and blog and provide feedback.
- Sign up for an e-mail newsletter.
- How would you describe the site to others?
Review your statistics in Google Analytics and talk with your marketing team to come up with a complete set of tasks that your website users are most likely to complete online.
This is a must-visit website for the serious web marketer. This site allows you to recruit users for brief fifteen to twenty minute user testing sessions of your website. The users find your site and follow your instructions to complete assigned tasks. The sessions are recorded so you can see their mouse movements and hear their reactions to your tasks. All this is done at a very affordable price and is a quick and inexpensive method for getting user feedback.
User Surveys and Focus Groups
Surveys and focus groups are two additional market research formats that you might consider. These research methods take more expertise and skill to conduct, and it is recommended that you find a market research company to conduct these types of studies. A strong bias often exists when these types of research methods are conducted internally, which may not produce the most relevant feedback on your online marketing efforts.
Online market research goes much deeper than simple feedback on your website. It is excellent marketing information about your company’s brand, services, products and more. It is also very accurate information because the website becomes a point of interaction that is now universal to your target market. There is less bias involved in how people use websites because the data is real and feedback is immediate. The data and results that come from user testing will help you significantly improve conversion rates from your website and other online marketing channels.
- Include market research in your web marketing plan to verify and support your strategic approaches online.
- Conduct market research with your target market in the form of website user testing.
- Make user testing and feedback from your target market an ongoing part of your web marketing work.
- Read the book Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. This is a leading book and a very easy read in the area of website usability and user testing.
Thomas Young is the CEO and founder of Intuitive Websites. He is an author, speaker and digital marketing consultant. Order Tom’s book “Winning the Website War” to get more digital marketing insights.