Throughout my life I could never understand Black Friday shoppers. You take an otherwise normal person and tell them that they can save some money if they change their behavior to be more like a crazy person for a day. Crazy people do crazy things like camp out on the cement outside a store. Crazy people wake up in the middle of the night to go stand outside in sub-zero temperatures to wait in a monstrous crowd or never-ending line until a store opens its doors.
Last year I decided to change my lifetime behavior and see what the crazy people were up to. I woke up so early it seemed like I didn’t even go to sleep, I drove to a store, and waited in the freezing temperatures until my nose was about to fall off. You can’t help but think you are crazy standing in the cold counting down the hours until you will get the best deal of your life on an item you are only buying because the Black Friday deals were too compelling. Money can be a powerful motivator, but when there is money at stake it can also influence us to do crazy things.
When it comes to website optimization the story is no different. Every company sees this time as crucial because there is so much money riding on the line. Unfortunately the holiday craziness sets in on companies and increases their tendency to think and act different than they otherwise normally would. Normal behavior would tell us to use data to make informed decisions and test everything. When a company gets the holiday crazies though, they lose sight of normal behavior and rather than continuing an optimization strategy, they make excuses, stop testing, and instead focus on changing out content on their site.
So how do you know if your company has this holiday craziness? Here are the top four things I hear from companies that have the crazies and are making excuses to not test on their site.
- “It is too risky to test; this is our most important season.” The key here is to understand that risk is both positive and negative. If you don’t test you risk not making as much money as you could have otherwise. If you decide to run a test you run the risk of learning something really impactful about your site. Anything you add to or change on your website increases risk, but you will never know if that risk translates into positive or negative impact unless you run a controlled test.
- “We are too busy to run tests.” I agree, most people and the companies they work for are much better at running a good ‘busy-ness’ rather than a good business. Being busy with the less important things and spending time on those things could be considered failure. From what I have seen, ‘the busy’ for online marketers is due to all the content changes companies are trying to make on their site so that their customers are sure to get the right messages at the right time. If I were to translate that it would go something like this, “We are too busy because we are taking all of our time guessing which content to put up and then putting that up.” How do you know that updating your content even matters? Unfortunately people end up doing stuff just because that is what they have done. During this time of year there are probably better ways to use your resources.
- “We are in a code lock down.” The freeze or lockdown is IT lingo for “we don’t have buy-in to test on the site and this is an easy excuse not to try to get it.” It is easy for companies to blame their business problems on IT or other factors. It is one thing if you haven’t implemented a testing tool, but in most cases companies have the ability to test, they simply choose not to. Again, this is an executive buy-in problem. When the company as a whole realizes the value of testing this is almost never an issue.
- “Our testing window is so short, it isn’t worth the effort.” Of all the excuses, this is probably the most reasonable—though it is still very weak. True, you may only have 3 weeks to run a single test. True, it has to be a good test to get good results in that time period. That being said, it is totally worth it. This three week window is an opportunity to continue learning about your site through testing.
What do you do when your company has the holiday crazies? The answer is simple—you buckle down and keep optimizing the same way you would any other time of year. You make sure you are learning from tests that have strategic inputs and that answer clear questions. You iterate on what you learned and above all, you continue testing.
So with Black Friday coming up, shoppers are gearing up for the holiday craziness. After my experience last year and depending on the deals, there is still a chance you will see me out among the crazy people. Hopefully we leave the craziness to the shoppers and avoid it all together in our online businesses by continuing to test.
Good luck and Happy Holidays.