Digital Market Research in times of crisis like COVID 19

Ludovic SALENNE, Digital Marketer, Blogger and Sébastien VITU, Salesman, Consultant Inbound marketer offer you this aperitif webinar, in which they are answering participants‘ questions about digital market research.

Ludovic SALENNE Sébastien VITU

 

 

 

 

 

The original digital market research (prospection digitale) webinar is in the French language only and can be viewed as a replay at this link.

Please note I have not dissociated the answers from Ludovic or from Sébastien in the replies. You will simply get both of their answers to each question.

So, now let’s get started with the Digital Market Research Q & A.

  • How to do digital market research without being too intrusive during the coronavirus crisis?

I hope as a salesperson, you haven’t stopped doing your offline and digital market research, because two months without turnover starts to be too long. Besides, if you still hesitated to do it after the deconfinement, you would have put your company financial health at risk. So, yes, you do need to carry on doing your market research.

The challenge is to stop talking about ‘You and your product(s)/service(s)’ and this is the real topic. This is the central theme we will be talking about tonight. Do not get into your sales pitch! These messages are currently inaudible to your potential customers because the situation is different. They have other things to think about than pouring money down the drain. Your potential customers think first about saving money rather than spending it.

Remember that regardless of the situation, the prospective customers base their decision in the grip of emotion. They then try to rationalise it, validate it to be sure they make the right choice.

Consequently, you must bring up with your prospective customer their context, their problems, their daily issues related to the economic recession. In other terms, you need to get them to admit to their negative emotions they feel in this situation. The goal for you is to have enough elements to bring value to them and incite them to visualise their positive emotions they could sense, instead of the negative ones, if they were working with you. Understand their objectives and position yourself with unbiased and benevolent solutions (Quite obviously, too much benevolence isn’t helpful to your business)…. This allows them to think and bring them progressively towards the positive emotions they would have if they trusted you.

It is necessary to adapt the message. We surely represent companies but we are also human beings talking to other human beings. We need to be present in both good and bad times for them. Remember, people buy things because they are afraid to lose money or afraid of not making enough money. If they buy things from you, it’s because it’s to do things that will interest them in.

Digital Market Research

For the older crowd out there, let me give you an example. When you talk to potential customers, you present them the flower from the Mario Bros (Nintendo Ness video game), it’s great. But if you talk to them about Maria throwing fireballs, you will interest them in. Let me explain what I mean. Mario, when he is very small and vulnerable, he feels anxious, which is a negative emotion. At that point, you could help him visualise the self-esteem boost he would get by eating this flower and throwing fireballs to get him to grow up, double his size.

  • Would communicating in one’s own name instead of the company’s name be more relevant and human in these circumstances?

This is what we call ‘Personal Branding‘ or ‘Employee Advocacy’ is the real solution but not only in the case of COVID 19.

In fact, if you are into B to B (Business to Business), your potential customers don’t look for a brand or a solution, they look for a person they can trust, who demonstrates he/she is the right person to help them reach their goals. In both B to B and B to C (Business to Customers), the relationship is very much human beings to human beings.

To come back to the Coronavirus, Harvard Business Review analysed the 3 last recession periods, in order to highlight companies‘ financial health trends and to detail companies‘ behaviours in recession times.  Their post helps you understand what is the position with your clients and the different company profiles there are going to be.

They will be defensive companies like the likes of Airbnb, which will reduce costs and budgets by laying off a quarter of its staff. In recession cases, other companies will, contrarily, invest a lot more into finding new opportunities and generating turnover and covering their sales team.

The challenge for your company is to mix defense and attack and find the right balance to adapt to the different events you will encounter during this COVID 19 crisis.

  • This question is a little ironic but does make sense too. Is beer a good vehicle to sell?

We are offering this aperitif webinar format based on the aperitif online meetups you may find in your cities. The aim is to forget a bit of our context and offer more closeness, to show authenticity like in real life. This moment will be used to create affinities with you and potentially initiate deeper relationships with you. Obviously, there will be an impact, maybe you will continue to come to us to meet up more often on the web, maybe you will share more our articles or contact us to work with us.  So, to conclude, does authenticity sell? The answer is, yes it does.

  • How to be visible and striking on Linkedin? How to grab the attention of potential customers and get them to contact us?

Connecting with people on Linkedin is very easy. But after the first connection, ie getting in touch with, creating links, and convincing them to go further than a Linkedin connection, it’s much more difficult.

To chase contacts on Linkedin to widen one’s own network, sure it’s good, but it’s a vanity metric to boost ones’ own ego. Concretely, if you stop there, there will be no impact on your turnover. To resolve this, the challenge is to avoid copying and pasting standard messages on social media networks. Beyond this, the vast majority of people you contacted on the spot (75%) in your market research, are not ready to buy. They are not ready to listen to you talking about your products, yourself, and even less so in the current situation.

To go back to previous examples, market research off and online are the same. If you send a sales message straight off connecting with someone, you are sending a ‘purchase decision’ message to a person that is already very mature/advanced in the buying process. But to be fair, it’s probably only the quarter of your target market, which is at this purchasing stage. In 75% of cases, you will either get no answer or negative answers. You will generate frustration on the part of your new contact.

Instead, bring value by sharing content bringing up solutions, or answers to questions potential customers are asking themselves. Do not forget that Linkedin is a social network and is not your  CRM. You can connect with people in your second and third-degree contacts to go further than your first contacts’ network.

If you go in the real-life and shake your potential customers’ hand and say ‘Hi, my name is XYZ, I sell you digital marketing solutions’. This is very likely going to fail. Similarly, even if your product has 10 amazing characteristics, if you don’t listen to the person in front of you to figure out what is interesting them in what you do, it will be useless. Listening will make a difference.

So, personally, before contacting potential customers on Linkedin, I’m used to checking what they are doing, what kind of content they share, the questions they ask in discussion forums. Generally, once I have done that, I have content that responds to their questions in the discussion forum. Then, I contact them through private messages by saying ‘Hi XYZ, I have seen that you asked a question related to my issue, which I understand very well because it’s also the same one as my clients. So, it gave me the idea to write a post and offer you to read it. In this post, I offer you solutions that are unbiased and allow you to resolve your problem’.

When you do that, you do not push unwanted information in front of them, you bring a solution to their problem. And here, you activate a very powerful psychological, which is the ‘reciprocity principle’. Let me further explain. If you invite me for dinner, afterward I will feel obliged to return you the favour. You will then have a response and a relationship will be created. You need to give before receiving/requesting something. Besides, you show interest in your contacts and in what they do.

On social media, you can like their posts, respond to things they have written, or find information with social listening and monitoring tools, it’s very important because it proves you are showing interest in what they do and who they are. On this point, I recommend you to read the book ‘Jab jab jab hook’ from Gary Vaynerchuck.

  • How to qualify a database file on the internet ?

When you take a contact database for sales pitches, there are about 75% of them which aren’t interested in it. In the 100 emails you sent, you may get 4-5 people opening it and zero return. So, when you buy a contact database, you will need to send the right message, at the right person and at the right time. For this, you will need to know, in which context and stage in the buying funnel is the person you are contacting.

Digital Market Research

When you buy a database on Kompass, you do not have such information. In order to gain this knowledge, the best way to go about it is to set up a series of emails, which will allow you to determine if the potential customers are at the beginning, middle or end of their purchasing cycle. That way, you can send them the right messages with answers to their questions and the right content suited to their purchasing stage. According to the information you will track (clicks on links), you will know which type of content they have interest in and at which stage. If the potential customers clicked on content related to a purchasing decision, you can call them.

The challenge is to send emails with different options of content to determine according to their behaviours, at which stage they are. Do not keep unnecessary contacts, or you risk being blacklisted by the servers when contacting them. A target is a person, not a company. You must do your homework by establishing your persona. You need to understand precisely who are your ideal clients and clients’ issues…These are questions you must answer creating your persona.

  • How many reminders should we send to a potential customer?

There is no definite answer to this, but I would say around 10, depending on the customer purchasing stage and their contact preferences (social media, emails, phone). It is worth choosing and testing different tools and vary channels. Remember to bring value during the whole sales cycle. The sales cycle is the average time for a client to sign a contract.

  • Should I create a blog or a website ? Should I integrate the blog in the site or should I keep it detached?

You need both:

– A website to showcase your solutions, your company, ie a ‘showcase website’.

– A blog to publish regular content bringing value and answering to problems your potential clients are facing during their purchasing cycle.

The challenge is to be well ranked on Google to attract more visitors and ensure your visitors have to do the least clicks as possible to do, in order to be converted into a potential customer. Consequently, I highly recommend you to integrate your blog(s) into your website, keeping the same domain name. This will allow you to attract more visitors and bring them into the conversion funnel. In turns, you will be able to convert them into potential customers or LinkedIn contacts.

  • For the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), I thought it was necessary to have different domain names to optimise BACKLINKS?

If your domain name is ranked lower than 40, the link bringing you to your website will have very low value. Having a good domain authority is complicated. It depends heavily on how many pages you have on your website. To have high ranked domains is good, however, having several low ranked domains isn’t.

  • Google is no longer a search engine but a response engine.

80% of our traffic comes from search engines. The issue is, soon Google won’t suffice. Especially since Google’s main objective is to bring users’ answers directly into the search results without needing them to click on any links. Furthermore, questions asked to vocal assistants are replied to directly without generating internet traffic. We will have to give another battle than the search engine optimisation one.

We need to think about grasping people’s attention and creating a community to gain regular, engaged, trusted traffic. The targets are to generate authenticity, bring closeness and build relationships. You can get their attention through videos, video-conferences, podcasts, webinars. Social media can be used to bring the right person in front of the salesperson. In B to B, other channels to consider are trade fairs, emails, and phone calls.

  • Which tool to use, in order to centralise our actions ? Hubspot or Sendinblue for beginners?

Digital Market Research

I do not recommend Excel, as it’s too complicated to update. The simple answer is Customer Relationship Management (CRM). If you are short with money, you can get free CRM solutions like Hubspot. Hubspot is well done with:  complete contact forms, behaviour patterns’ tracking, to follow the evolution of your contacts after marketing or sales actions you completed. Hubspot will also send you notifications when emails are opened.

Sendinblue is also fine. Either or CRM solution is fine, it very much depends on your goals.

You may as well invest in low priced CRM solution around 15-20 Euros a month.

  • Is it necessary to have a Premium Linkedin account?

No, it’s not necessary. To make good use of Linkedin, you need to have a sufficiently large network of around +500 contacts, with a maximum of people in the second-degree contacts. Over the +500 contacts, you can reach more people. Under that, Linkedin will limit the access to functionalities for everyone who isn’t in your network from the 3rd degree. But, if you have second-degree contacts, they can put in contact with someone from the 3rd degree. That way, you can send private messages, connection invitations…

The second solution is to share qualified/relevant content which will increase your number of contacts. This said, investing into a tool can be worth it.

  • What are the techniques to make an attractive and efficient Email LIST BUILDING campaign ?

The point is to pretend it’s a one-to-one conversation, the same way you would do with friends, colleagues, or relatives. We have personally stopped adding images in emails because this is not the way people send personal emails. Tip to increase your opening rate very quickly: fill in what we call the ‘pre-header’, ie the email preview. I also encourage you to use the ACCR method for your email list building campaign.

The second technique is to use the ‘last attempt’ trick. For example, you send them the questions ‘Are you still interested in…? This is the last chance to avail of this offer…’. We then grant the ‘rarity/loss principle’. In other terms, customers may feel they will miss out on something if they don’t take action. This is based on psychological biases.

  • I use a lot of long-tail keywords for my site but I don’t get traffic. Why?

It is very likely that the keywords which you are ranked for aren’t the ones talking about you. Remember to think about problems and answers, rather than about your business and products. Keywords must be relevant to the problems your target market is facing, and what they are searching for on Google.

Harness the Power of Marketing Campaign Orchestration

This presentation is from Timo Kohlberg and Doan Than. You will learn here how to harness the power of marketing campaign orchestration by:

  • creating orchestrated experiences with great content
  • driving hyper-personalisation across touchpoints
  • leveraging real-time insights along the entire customer journey.

Harness the Power of Marketing Campaign Orchestration

Hi, my name is Timo Kohlberg. I would like to get you thinking about your favourite coffee shop brand. Why do you go there? Is it about the product itself?

Well, of course, the product needs to be good. But it’s really more about other factors like the atmosphere in the coffee shop. How do I pay? How to order? For example, here in the USA at Starbucks, you can order your coffee and pay right away with an app. Then you can pick it up without waiting in line. Today, it’s more about the experience than the product.

Harness the Power of Marketing Campaign Orchestration

We, at Adobe, identified 5 key pillars for customer experiences.

5 pillars of customer experience management

Content Velocity: Content creation is crucial in a world of so many devices and channels.

There is actually the role of Adobe campaign within Adobe Experience Cloud, being the orchestration engine sitting right in the middle.

Adobe Experience Platform

Adobe Experience Platform lets you handle about everything from:

  • advertising
  • customer acquisition
  • converting customers into turning them into context on your website with analytics cloud
  • to personalising each and every experience you have with them within the magento commerce cloud.

Again, Adobe sits right in the middle as orchestration and personalisation engine.

3 key pillars to achieve cross-channel orchestration success

3 key pillars to achieve cross-channel orchestration success

1. Orchestrated Experiences

First of all, experiences need to be consistent and optimised for each device and each channel. It’s not enough to deliver stand-out email or mobile experiences, while have other experiences falling short on other touchpoints and channels.

2. Hyper-Personalisation

Think about customer data on the steroids. Obviously, brands and accounts need to add transactional data to that. Think about the buyer behaviour on your website and then integrate other data sources like a propensity score for example.

3. Real-Time Insights and Journeys

More and more real-time insights, journeys and information identify where customers are in their journeys, powered by the context you can deliver.

 

1. Orchestrated experiences start with great content

Marketers should not only think in the context of beautiful images, channel optimisation, but also about the content process.

I like to call it the content supply chain. From creating beautiful content to managing that content, optimising and delivering that content.

a) Content is fuel of orchestrated experiences

Content is fuel of orchestrated experiences

  • Take a look at sourcing and creating the best possible content. You should obviously have beautiful brand content from your agencies or internal designers. However, think also about integrating music generated content into your communications.
  • Streamlining the content management process with digital assets management. Use a content creation platform, where you can manage, optimise and deliver that content through solutions like Adobe Target and Adobe Campaign.
  • Optimisation here is crucial. So, optimise delivery for all the important channels for you and your customers. Everything that relates to digital like website, mobile apps and any other interactions you have with your customers. If you are a retailer, you have a point-of-sale or a commerce/web shop you want to integrate. Basically, everything really should go towards one-to-one interactions through personalisation of content across channels like email, mobile, offline and even the Internet of Things.

I’m going to show you a quick example on how our customers transformed the way they deliver their content.

b) A Content Transformation from single interactions

So, here is an example of Virgin Holidays, a well-known UK travel company.

A Content Transformation from single interactions

So, above you see how they communicated with customers before choosing Adobe and Adobe Campaign.

This is a representation of journey from someone booking a travel. You can see how the situation was before (from a booking, a payment reminder to an online checking). All those information from a data perspective were stored in different solutions, siloed and not really available to all of the marketers.

From a visual perspective, there were also different systems delivering those messages and emails.

So, what I want to show you now, is the situation of the first campaign they ran.

C) To beautiful and consistent conversations

To beautiful and consistent conversations

So, they had a content transformation to beautiful and consistent conversations with their customers by personalising content. Sometimes it’s as easy as including a booking code in all these information to reduce calls into the call centre, for example. Besides, it is something that affects the bottom line.

2. Hyper-Personalisation is powered by data

Hyper-Personalisation is powered by data

Now, it’s time to talk about the usage of that data, its relevancy through hyper-personalisation, together with the content we just talked about.

a) Hyper-personalisation with the integrated customer profile

Hyper-personalisation with the integrated customer profile

Obviously, think about the data you have in-house over the course of an individual customer journey.

You can actually build that single accessible view by combining information from channel preferences with online and offline channels. Then, bring that into a consistent campaign history. We will actually see that in the live demo, how it looks.

Here is an example from one of our retail customers.

b) Integrated Customer Profile – DNA for Campaign Management

Integrated Customer Profile – DNA for Campaign Management

We have two main data dimensions:

  • Enterprise data: it is still the predominant data source from most of our customers (80 %).
  • Digital Interactions which encounter for 20 % of data coming from those digital interactions and campaign data.

Above, you see different metrics you can track and combine in the integrated customer profile.

It’s really much more than just standard demographic data. Try to use all the customer data in-house as well as captured data based on what you actually do and what they prefer.

c) When Data meets Content

Again, in this section, I want to show you two examples of our customers.

  • Travelocity, US travel brand, part of Expedia – Hyper-personalisation at scale.

When Data meets Content

In this case, it means they use all the information they have to create and send their newsletter.

For example, at the top, you see the mobile information they have on someone. If they know that a segment or a specific contact in their database hasn’t yet downloaded the app, they would push automatically that as the first content in the email.

Travelocity sends billions of emails to their customers. So, it’s very clear they couldn’t handle that manually anymore. They need a solution like Adobe Campaign, which can automate that personalisation process.

d) User Preferences and Customer Feedback

Secondly, in terms of data acquisition, the third dimension underestimated by many brands, is ‘preferences’ from your customers.

User Preferences and Customer Feedback

So, in this instance, Travelocity has what they call a ‘travel profile’. In the preferences’ section, customers can choose what kind of deals they want to receive.

Based on this information, all the personalisation done through email and website is tailored to the needs and preferences of their customers.

3. Real-Time Insights and Journeys are driven by Content and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Real-Time Insights and Journeys are driven by Content and Artificial Intelligence

For the last section, it’s crucial to integrate real-time information (behaviour). Marketers must know as well the context where the customers actually are in terms of their buying journey phase. More and more of that is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI).

So, again, 3 other examples to provide you with.

a) Connecting email to web

Connecting email to web

What you see above is a contextualised content and offer based on the search history of someone on the website.

So, someone just searched for holidays in the Bahamas. On the next day, they would receive a tailored deal based on their search history and how they interacted on the website. If they don’t want to book right away, they had the option to save it to their deal allots to get more information about the destination and offers in the future.

On average, they have a much higher open rate and click-through rate.

b) Content needs to BE contextual and orchestrated

Second example from one of our travel brands in Europe in Heathrow airport.

Content needs to contextual and orchestrated

On the left-hand site, you see how they use and contextualise all the information from the integrated profile.

I am just highlighting 3 things here:

  • Product based on previous transactions:

You see at the top, it’s actually offers pushed based on previous transactions. In this case, someone has already parked at Heathrow airport; Consequently, they can actually push an offer for parking for the next flight.

  • Exclude known users:

It’s important to incorporate mobile information not just in a mobile message, but also in other channels like email. So, exclude known users from offers, like downloading the app.

  • Tailored brands/offers to segment:

If you are at the airport, they want to drive you to specific shops and brands. They are the right ones for the specific segment.

Think about going into the terminal area for the security check at the airport. If you have downloaded the app ‘Heathrow airport’, you may receive personalised push notifications for discounts or loyalty points in restaurants.

It’s working really well and they can tailor those messages and offers based on where you are in a specific terminal. But they also use more and more beacon technology to send you messages when you walk by a restaurant. This is a great example of orchestrated experiences with digital as well as also at the physical location (airport).

c) Email experiences powered by AI/ML

As a last example for this section, I want to show you an example of Adobe Sensei, our AI machine learning framework.

Email experiences powered by AI/ML

We have a feature here called ‘predictive subject line optimisation’, where you can test your subject line before you send out your newsletter.

So, think about the case you have to send out a newsletter on Thursday and do not have time to do an A/B test for your subject line. With this feature, you will be able to test your subject line based on previous sent-out. It will actually predict open rates for that subject line. It will give you the feeling of whether it’s too long or too short and also find some optimisation with different categories.

d) An orchestrated Omni-Channel Experience

An orchestrated Omni-Channel Experience

To sum up, the integrated customer profile consists of enterprise data, but also more and more digital interactions.

Then, bring that together with Content through the Content Supply Chain, to manage and deliver across different optimised channels.

Through this representation of a customer journey across many channels, we can learn more about the customer based on the data. So, you might start with the channel that activates customers to download the app, by sending a push notification.

In some instances, you might want to:

  • send a direct mail or a catalogue
  • integrate the call centre into the website
  • send a re-marketing email like we’ve seen with Velocity.

This strategy is focused on all relevant and meaningful experiences.

Perfect, so, I want to hand over to Doan to take a live look at a demo of Adobe Campaign.

4. Adobe Campaign Live

Adobe Campaign Live

Let’s start the demonstration by having a look at the data powering the Adobe Campaign Platform that is giving you an internal 360° view of the customer.

Adobe Campaign Platform

Here, we can view a profile as I kept within the Adobe Campaign.

Adobe Campaign Profile View

Adobe Campaign has an internally customisable relational database, which can be extended and modified for your specific business needs. We’ll have a look at what a profile looks like in Adobe Campaign.

Adobe Campaign relational database

Above it is Kevin Blake and we can store all marketing data related to Kevin such as:

  • name
  • location
  • aggregate scoring inside the platform, which can be used to trigger and power message sets from Adobe Campaign.

Please note that no two databases inside Adobe Campaign are the same. They are tailored and customised towards your business requirements.

Adobe Campaign business tabs

On the top, we have all relevant business tabs related to Kevin as well as tracking logs.

Adobe Campaign tracking logs

These tracking logs:

  • keep track of all messages you send out
  • show you how customers interact with them.

On orders’ tab, you can keep track of orders that came in:

Adobe Campaign orders' tab

Data can be used to trigger personal communications as required by your business.

This is not only linked to orders, this could be mortgages. Just depends on what your business needs are in terms of campaign management.

Adobe Campaign Orders' Tab

If we move to the workflow end, we’ll have a look at Adobe Campaign powerful and customisable workflow engine.

Adobe Campaign Workflow Engine

So, here on your right (see below screenshot), we have a canvas, where you can drag and drop different parts of your customer journey.

This customer journey can be digitalised on this canvas. You can see where your customers are in each step of the customer journey that they are on with your brand.

On the left (see below screenshot), we have ‘Union’, which we can drag and drop on the canvas to query for and deliver many channel’s messages to your contacts.

One particular note, we have many channels, which you can set up with Adobe Campaign, it’s not just email.

Adobe Campaign Cross-Channels

You can set up (as shown below):

  • push notifications
  • direct mail
  • in-app messages
  • SMS.

Adobe Campaign Cross-Channels

This will allow your users to create a schedule in multiple different ways. You can send it through these multiple mediums. It will be based on your customer journey phase, their experiences and preferences.

You can also do some basic data management notes (see below), where you can:

  • enrich customer journey
  • update data or save data into different tables or platforms.

Adobe Campaign Data Management

All these below notes combined to create rich contextual customer experience for your contacts, as they go on your brand journey.

Adobe Campaign Notes

Let’s have a look how we can create a relevant and personalised email within Adobe Campaign.

So, inside the Adobe Campaign, there is an in-built drag and drop HTML render. This allows you to easily and seamlessly create professional and customisable emails, that can be delivered under the built I showed you earlier.

Adobe Campaign In-Built HTML Render

The fragments can be dragged on the email canvas, adaptable without a single amount of code.

Adobe Campaign comes from Adobe Sensei, which is an AI machine learning engine. It enables to use Adobe Sensei to make better sense of the data and create predictive sales analytics.

So, here we have a subject line optimisation:

Abode Campain Subject Line Optimisation

We can see below how customers in the past have interacted with email. We also receive different suggestions on how to make this subject line better. Adobe Campaign Sensei will give you a better view of how these emails might perform in terms of ‘opened’.

So, Adobe Campaign is not just about creating a workflow and laying a run-out. It runs a report and continues to be innovative on these features.

Adobe Campaign Report

With Adobe Campaign, it’s easy, flexible and customisable with data points collected in real-time. Preview report will show you the value to quickly get a sense of different views. This allows you to get a better understanding of your marketing performance. Furthermore, it gives you a better idea on how attractive you are as a business.

Metrics such as ‘dimensions’ can be dragged and drop to points. Points are accessible, interactive and all interconnected to devices.

Adobe Campaign Dimensions

Adobe Campaign Dimensions Table

Visualisation is simple, responsive and re-sizeable.

Adobe Campaign Data Visualisation Adobe Campaign Data Visualisation Adobe Campaign Data Visualisation

With Adobe Campaign, you can set dates and apply different metrics depending on these dates.

Adobe Campaign Calendar

These reports will automatically update to see what you are doing and tracking the past 6 days. On the left (below screenshot), you can drag different devices and see how your email campaign is doing in this regard.

Adobe Campaign Data Tracking

Finally, we want to make sure that our customers actually make the most of their investments with the Adobe Experience Cloud, called ‘Experience League’.

Adobe Experience League

At last, we also recommend you these two free whitepapers downloadable from our site:

  • Mobile for the win
  • Get out of your email marketing rut.

Adobe Downloadable Whitepapers

 

 

 

 

How to optimise your website performance for marketers and developers

WEBSITE PERFORMANCE

I signed up for a Learn Inbound Marketing event a few months ago and I must say the content of the Website Performance – A marketing priority presentation was outstanding! It also complements very well my previous blog post on how to understand your website traffic data with Google Tag Manager.

Website performance

This presentation delivered by Emily Grossman is divided into 6 topics:

  1. Definition and importance of web performance to marketers

2. Why might it be valuable for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)?

3. Why do we suck at this?

4. Measuring performance

5. Auditing performance through Lab tests and Real User Metrics tests (RUM)

6. Optimising your site, your UX (user experience) and your Business.

If you prefer listening to a podcast than reading, please find the presentation recording below.

If you have a more visual memory, you will find the podcast transcript and PDF presentation further in this article.

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

1.Definition and importance of web performance to marketers

  • Definition

What is web performance? Performance is the speed in which web pages are downloaded and displayed on the user’s web browser. Web Performance Optimisation (WPO) or website optimisation is the field of knowledge about increasing web performance.

  • Why is that important to marketers?

Let’s go back to Maslow’s modernised hierarchy of needs with Wifi access added to the pyramid. People feel that slow wifi is worse than no wifi at all. Waiting for something to load is stressful and annoying. And as marketers in general, we try not to piss off the people, who make us money. So you can see why this might be a problem.

But even if we look at it quantitatively, this could be a really big problem, like 10% of your audience lost. Luckily, the flipside of this is that when we do well with delivering great experiences to our customers at a fast pace, they also reward us. We get:

  • an increase in our conversion rate and engagement
  • a decrease in bounce rates in orders on the e-commerce site
  • an increase in conversions amongst new customers.

This can translate to real money. It can an increase in revenue and in customer spending.  So performance can really be valuable for marketers.

2. Why might it be valuable for SEO?

In terms of SEO, earlier this year, people announced something called the ‘speed update‘. Basically, it is a new update to the algorithm that adds a ranking impact to sites based on the site’s speed in mobile search results for the first time.

However, this update only impacted slow sites. The idea was that if you were really slow, you might get demoted. If you were super fast, it wouldn’t impact you. Actually, I would say, the speed of your site performance is critical for searches because it impacts their experience in an interesting way when viewing a search contact.

If you imagine that all the sites in Google are like products in a grocery shop, you’ll know that your competitors are right next to you in breathing. If your product is broken and busted, leaking all over the place, nobody wants to deal with it. Not only will you lose that customer but they will probably put money right into the pocket of your competitors who are lurking there.

So, there are tons of reasons to care about performance. As marketers, you would think that the web would be blazingly fast but that’s not true. In fact, Nicola did this incredibly intensive study in the UK. She looked at 1000 of the top UK domains and found that a lot of them were really struggling.

They were struggling to provide an interactive experience to the users in less than 10 seconds. Irish websites can be on this struggle bus, too, at getting a navigation up to users in a reasonable amount of time on different networks.

3. Why do we suck at this?

It’s hard. A developer evangelist posted a blog post detailing all the challenges that the developers are going through right now in 2018. A huge section is about optimising a website for performance.

I’d like to focus on 2 main issues:

  • Developers don’t know what the goals they need to aim for are.

Indeed, developers do not have all the information about their user base and the impact their decisions have on them. But marketers love user base data collection and impacts.

  • How do we fix slow web performance?

Today, I would like to talk about involving marketing in this conversation around measuring performance, auditing performance and optimising performance.

4. Measuring WEBSITE performance

Measurements are just actually a proxy for feelings. But how do we know what a fast experience feels like? Can we associate that with something else?

Google has done a good job at labelling what kinds of things users might be looking for, indicators that things are moving along quickly and fastly from experience.

They want to know: ‘Is it happening? Is it useful? Is it usable?’ If we understand that these are our users’ expectations, we can start to associate various measurements with those feelings. Those measurements might have interesting different names, things like ‘First Contentful Paint’, ‘First Meaningful Paint’, ‘Time to Interactive’.

But what we are really trying to figure out for these users is: ‘Do they know that it is happening? Do they know that it is useful? Do they know that it’s usable?’

As marketers, getting involved in these conversations allows us to make our measurements truly meaningful to us when we get them back to our engineers. It also helps engineers to know:

‘What matters at the marketing level? Does this content need a picture loaded for it to feel meaningful or is that image irrelevant?’ These are the kinds of decisions we have to make hand-in-hand with our developers.

5. AUDITING WEBSITE PERFORMANCE

We know what we want to measure but how do we do that? This is very tricky and in general in-performance optimisation tasks. For this, we are looking at and going to do two different kinds of measurements:

  • Lab tests or simulated tests
  • Real User Metrics tests (RUM).
  • Lab tests sometimes referred to as ‘simulated tests’.

There are lots of different tools that will allow you to do these lab tests. Basically, what you are doing is inputting a URL. Then, you are getting out some information from a simulated test environment. There’s a machine somewhere that says:

‘We are going to try and simulate what a user might experience over various different connections or the connection that you set yourself. We will give you back some results.’

You might get back something like this from a Lab test. It’s a set of ‘timings’ that are going to indicate some of the measurement that we talked about before. You can certainly set those up yourself as well.

You might also get what looks like a film strip. The ‘film strip’ shows you what is visually happening while those calculations are made. In the case of webpage test, which is the tool I’m using to show you information.

Another alternative is to get ‘waterfall‘. It allows you to view large sites/pages. Those little bars show you the requests you made. You can see that in a lot of cases, there’s a lot of Javascript, some CSS and some images. These are the building blocks that make up your site. These tools can help you segment each individual request so that you know how long each request is taking.

So, there is a benefit in running lab test. There’s almost no set up required. You can input a URL and go, which means it’s also very easy to track your competitors.

Because you can test pages before they launch, you can see how certain pages are going to run ahead of time. You can also do interesting tasks with the controlled ‘variables‘.  So, if you want to test something before it goes live like adding or removing something, you can see what happens.

You don’t have to deal with other variables in the real world. You can also test for things on multiple networks and compare how things changed when you moved to, say, a 4G network connection to a 3G network connection.

However, the problem with these lab tests is that they can be hard to scale and keep current. We are doing everything at the URL level. They can be automated but it takes some manual labour. You often have to run multiple tests to get some real results.

So, in webpage test, for eg, we’ll run 3 tests and take the median results, to get rid of our data layers. Because there are no variables, we have issues understanding the real impact on our users. If we are testing on 4G but 75% of our users access the internet through a 3G connection, how much is that telling us?

It can also be really difficult to measure these pages when they are dynamic. When they are having ads changing sizes, we are also not getting an understanding of how things look like for users. What we are testing with our users is their experience. It’s actually what we were talking about with Google Tag Manager (GTM) before. We want to track how far our user gets down our page with GTM.

  • Real User Metrics tests (RUM)

With Real-User Performance Monitoring, we want to check how far along the loading process our users are getting. So, the deal you get back gets a little bit different.

Suddenly, your performance metrics are not a single number but a widespread of numbers. You can break these down by dividers but there’s no real way around it. You are going to get a lot bigger spread of numbers when you look at real users.

Sometimes it’s easier to break down this data into a table. For eg, in this table, we can see that 10% of our users are struggling to get time to interact in less than 12.6 seconds. This is the kind of information we can use to truly understand what is going on with our user base in a real-world context.

There are pros and cons to this table.

  • Pros:

The pros are the inverse of the lab tests. It’s very scalable. It’s great for seeing the customer pains in real-time. We don’t have to run the test every so often, it just comes in as our users do.

  • Cons:

This is going to require a lot more engineering support to set up. You have to load some software, put some ‘event tracking‘ to understand what’s happening. You also have to deal with the ‘survivorship bias‘. This is an issue, where for us to understand how long it took somebody to get time to interact, you actually have to get to ‘time to interactive’.

If your webpage is so slow that people are willing to weed it out, you are not going to get these data points as they are waiting for the page to load. This is important to understand and measure against your lab tests as well. There are also some issues with variables. There are a lot more processes involved with this data in your marketing procedure.

But if you are thinking it may be nice to look at this RUM data and the lab testing together, then you would be right. In fact, most organisations that do some sort of ongoing performance optimisation will involve a cycle like this. Where they will write code, test it in the lab to make sure that it meets their standards. Then they’ll deliver it to their users, validate that data with RUM to make sure that users are experiencing the lift they predicted in the lab.

I also think it’s important to combine your lab and RUM test when it comes to auditing. And here is why.

When you think about what your developers can do right now, they can add it to a lab test data. They can understand what are the real users’ pains but also what we do think this website could be. Where are the potential issues that we are seeing in our lab tests? Remember that the developers could potentially do that and what they really need is information from ourselves about who our users are, what our user base looks like and the impact of their potential changes.

So, if you can, later on, look for the analytics information about:

  • the traffic to your site or maybe more specifically
  • the search traffic to your site
  • your conversion rates and maybe even your click-through-rate (CTR) from your search console.

You would then start understanding what’s important and start helping developers to prioritise. You could also develop with them an ‘efforts’ squad. This made-up squad will help you understand how much work it will take to improve your performance on those various pages.

Then, at the end of your audit, you have an understanding of how bad shit sucks, but also what are the most important pieces of content/page templates/URLs for you to try and fix first.

Today, I hope that you are able to understand that performance isn’t just about improving your site speed. This is only part of the performance optimisation process.

6. Optimising your  website – actual speed

I also want to open your mind to the idea that site optimisation can be about optimising your business and its processes. this will ensure that over time you develop a culture that is going to prioritise improving your performance metrics.

Now, when you are working on optimising your performance in your organisation, most of you are not going to be coding these improvements yourself. You are going to be working with a development team.

How to not motivate your developers:

The number one thing not to do with developers is just giving them tasks, assignments and they’ll resent you forever.

How to motivate your developers:

Remember that developers are problem-solvers. So, if you frame your request as a problem statement instead of a command, you have much more success with your development team. Let them in on your goals, give them access to your users’ information. That’s what they want and need to be empowered and successful.

But if you are worried about what they are going to do when they get their hands on the site and start working on this goal of improved performance:

‘it mostly boils down to ship less stuff to your customers and what you do ship, try and deliver it in an optimal order.’

I love this quote by Patrick Meenan, creator of webpagetest.org because you go and read decades-old books on performance optimisation, so much of them still hold true.

I also want to spend some time talking about some of the noddy requests that, we, as marketers, will make to our development teams. Because I want to make sure we are aware of the performance impact of those requests so that when we are making those requests, we understand what we are asking them to do.

Images are still the number one cause of bloat on the web because we love images. If you would like to know what it is like to optimise images on your site, please read this extensive guide. We read it all through and find all the different ways the developers have had to clean up after us in our giant image requests. It’s really interesting.

But let’s move to something called ‘Third-Party Scripts‘. They are translated as things like ads, analytics, widgets, things that can be embedded into any sites that come from a 3rd party source. We, marketers, love to pop things into a website.

But remember that asking developers to do this is like asking them to put a loudspeaker on a finely tuned car. You can optimise the car as much as you like. It’s not going to fix the fact that there’s a loudspeaker on top. So, the real question we need to ask ourselves as marketers is: ‘Do we really need the loudspeaker?’ Before we go and make supplementary requests, we need to be aware that developers can’t always control what it will do on the other end.

Now, a few days ago, someone in the SEO space made a great post about how we can go into the development tour’s part of Chrome and check how many requests from our site are actually coming from third-party scripts.  Through Chrome Dev, you can also run a site speed. You can see on a simulated test how much site speed improvement do we get from turning those off. When you do this, you’ll probably figure out just how much pain your users are feeling, not because of these extra scripts you keep adding to your site.

This is something you can also do on webpage test. You can see in side-by-side ‘film strip views’ how fast your site might get without your scripts. You can then go back and look out all the things you’ve requested on your site and clean them up.

The other thing that can be sometimes an issue with third-party scripts is when they are rendered blocking. ‘Render Blocking Scripts‘ are special. They prevent the webpage from being displayed until they are downloaded and processed themselves. They are like roadblocks that come in and say ‘Wait for me, I’m important’.  You might actually want your CSS to be rendered blocking because you don’t want your users to see a flash of unstyled text. You want them to see it the way it’s supposed to look.

But there are some other scripts we sometimes add to our sites that shouldn’t be render blocking, as they cause huge delays. Some of those are ‘A/B Testing Scripts‘.  Most A/B Testing tools will default to being rendered on the client’s side. What this means is your website says’ Hey, there’s a user here we want us to send the website test’. And then they go and get the website from the server. Then, the server comes into the browser and says ‘Hey, I’ve got the website’. The browser then edits the site. It inserts the Javascript it’s using to make changes to the site and then renders it for the user. This part can take some time to be executed.

The other option that you might have is something called ‘Server-Side Experimentation’. If you are doing A/B Testing, you want to see if this is an option for you because it can cut down substantially on load times. In this case, the experiment decisions are made. Then, when it gets sent back to the browser, the browser doesn’t have to submit extra processing time making that decision.

Another thing I want to briefly mention is that Google Tag Manager can also sometimes be rendered blocking. If you want to make sure that the decisions you are making in your GTM aren’t going to cause delays to your site, you need to make sure that not only is the Tag Manager loaded asynchronously (not render blocking) but also that all the things it’s doing aren’t  going to block render as well.

The other thing that you might come across as a marketer are these very interesting new websites entirely built with Javascript frameworks. They have fun names such as React, Angular, Amber, Preact… You might consider working with your developing team to figure out whether they should do something called ‘Client-Side Rendering‘ (CSR) or ‘Server-Side Rendering‘ (SSR).

  • Client-Side Rendering

I’d like to talk about the impact this has on loading. In a CRS situation, the servers are responsible for the browser. The browser downloads the Javascript and executes it. The whole page is now viewable and interactive.

  • Server-Side Rendering

SSR can be a little bit different.in this instance, the server is already sending some rendered HTML to the browser. The browser can then render. The browser downloads the Javascript executes it and now the page in interactive. It’s important to think about how you might perceive the SSR approach to be faster (image shows up sooner). But we have to remember that there is a potentially a delay between when the content is viewable and when the page is interactive. This means that you can get something that looks like a visually ready page but when you tap on a button, it’s actually not responding to you.

This is the problem we sometimes run into with SSR content. To solve this, we need to do something called ‘Code splitting‘, which essentially breaks out that Javascript into small pieces. This will focus on executing one piece of inactivity at a time so that we can load something much faster than that whole Javascript file.

The other things you can do are optimising for that ‘Repeat Views‘. So, if someone hits your website for the first time, there’s not a lot of things you can do to serve them. But what if they are coming back for the second time? It is possible for us to change things so that we don’t actually have to go back to the Internet every single time we want to get ‘assets‘? can we actually save that information on their device?

There’s a new technology called ‘Service Worker‘ API.  It is about to be supported in Safari and allows us to do just that. With the ‘Service Worker’, you can actually intercept those requests and store some items in your Service Worker cache. Then, if the user needs them again, we can just go to the cache. This can save a lot of repeated load time.

The last thing I want to leave with you in this section is a process called ‘Resource Hinting‘. It is using our users’ downtime to start downloading assets we know they are going to need for the next page.

So, imagine you own a business that sells cat toys and you have a giant page of cat toys. You know that at the end of that page, the user is probably going to click on your check-out page that contains a giff image. You like that image and don’t want to sacrifice it. But you think nobody is getting to my check-out page from anywhere else. They have to be on the resale cat toys page first. So, while the user is spending time browsing back, can I start to download that cat giff for the next page and just save it until they click that button? Yes, you can and that’s through something called ‘Resource Hint‘. If you can predict where the user is going to go next, you can actually start downloading assets for that next page ahead of time and save them.

7. Optimising UX – user perception

I talked about how measurements are proxy for feelings and in some cases, we may have difficulty influencing those metrics. But if we can impact the user’s feelings, that’s still ok. We may bypass the proxy but we can still read the end results., the improved conversions and engagement…

So, I want you to think about two different kinds of queues you have been in your life. There’s a queue that moves really slow and another one that moves really fast. I think about two processes.  I think about when I am at Dublin airport and have to wait for an hour and a half. There’s a painfully long process versus when I go to a restaurant in London. In fact, the quoted waiting time is the exact same in the airport and in the restaurant.

The difference is that at the restaurant they shuffle you in different places: outside, sitting down in a place inside, then going to the bar to have a drink. Then they send you to a different bar before sitting you at a table. By the time you are done, you think ‘Hey, that is really fast’. but isn’t. It’s just that you are constantly in an active state. Things are still happening. If you are still walking and moving into that queue, you feel like it gets fast, even if you are waiting just as long. You can use this same tactic when it comes to your users.

So, the next time you log into Slack, think about what Slacks does when they shuffle you through different states. When they put you in an active state, they are making you forget how long it’s actually taking for their product to load.

This is also the same principle behind skeleton screen, you get this kind of flash of something that looks like content and it changes our mind. You start thinking ‘Hey, maybe I’m ready for content now’. It gives you just that extra to time to get users into a state to make them feel they are not waiting that long. But on an even more practical level, your standard progress bars can feel slower or faster depending on how they are designed. There’s a great study with stylised different progress bars. They track users ‘ perception based on those progress bars. They found out when they animated backwards bars on the progress bars, they felt faster to users than the standard progress bars.

8. Optimising your business – priorities and process

The last thing I want to touch on is how to optimise your business for future success. It’s really important for your business that you rally everyone behind this effort.

So, that means you have to simplify your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). You must understand everything you want to measure. But what are the two KPIs that really affect your bottom line? When you associate them with money, to make sure that everybody in your organisation understands how important 200 milliseconds really means. Once you have this culture of everybody in the organisation knowing how important these 200 milliseconds are, you will find that people will start asking questions like ‘Can we afford it?

When the marketing team wants a script implemented, everybody wants to know ‘What does that do to our load time? How much is that going to cost us in users?’

When you have those situations where you can’t compromise, you have to compromise on something that isn’t performance. That can be really challenging. But ultimately when you are able to tie your performance decisions back to your bottom line, that’s something you can do. Even the BBC says that in peak use times when their servers are overloaded and things are getting incredibly slow, they are willing to sacrifice a lot of marketing features on their site for the sake of performance. Tha’s because they know that one second added is 10% of their audience.

So, I hope you can start thinking about what time can mean to you. Does it mean 300 000 $ in revenue? Does it mean 800 million £ every year in increased customer spending? How much are you leaving on the table by not investing in performance?

Finally, for those who would like to download the PDF document containing more visuals and her contact details, click on the link below:

Web performance PDF presentation