This review originally appeared in the December 12, 2019 issue with the subject line "The #1 content innovation of the 2010s is on fleek" and an essay about the most innovative content types of the 2010s.

Visual review of VWO features: provides in-depth analytics; strategic (puts ducks in a row); enables creativity; uses machine learning; offers a partner program; at the monthly price of a new low-end computer. This tool has broad capabilities, is team oriented, and has a significant learning curve.

How do you solve creative arguments in digital content? How do you tell whether you should take the cheekier option or just tell it like it is for a subject line? Well, you can refer to infinite past studies of digital content behavior that may have direct relation to your industry and time and place. Or you can A/B test your own content to see what works. I recommend testing as a sound way to settle content arguments. This process, known in marketing as Conversion Rate Optimization or CRO, is scientific-ish.

Nifty JavaScript A/B testing tools like Optimizely and Google Optimize have been on the market for about five years, allowing savvy brands with in-house coders to run extensive design tests, with their audience never noticing that they were part of a test group.*

VWO — which stands for Visual Website Optimizer — makes the process of A/B testing website and app content fairly simple, providing easy WYSIWYG solutions for many visual website changes.

VWO’s interface is one of the simplest I’ve worked with for A/B testing, which is actually not a simple process. The cloud-based software makes it easy to make on-page changes for desktop and mobile settings, set up goals and user funnels, and view session recordings to see how users interact with your website. Defining audience segments for your test is required to set up a test— you can specify organic or paid, mobile or desktop, or just gather information for all website traffic. Some other features offers VWO:

  • Heatmaps, clickmaps and session recordings, so you don’t need a supplementary UX tool like Hotjar or Crazy Egg
  • Tracking for different types of forms on your website
  • Multivariate testing
  • Personalization for specific audiences**
  • Testing of push notifications, if that’s your jam
  • Surveys!
  • Managed services, in case you don’t really want to do the testing yourself

With clearly labeled on-page sections like “hypothesis” and “observations” alongside testing, VWO generally encourages best practices in content testing. Which is great, because with CRO, many marketing folks forget what they learned in social science classes: you should create a hypothesis and goal for all tests.

For the unfamiliar, conversion rate optimization should be a gradual process of testing big design changes (like whole templates that are drastically different) first. Only then should you narrowing down messaging, tiny color changes, etc.. However, if you just want to test the text on a CTA button, you can do that too, if you’re willing to wait for statistically significant results.

*Let’s talk ethics! If you are running any kind of A/B testing or personalization on your website — or your clients’ website — please ensure that it clearly stated in your privacy policy, TOS and those popups asking for consent that are actually supposed to serve a purpose. As with all scientific ethics in the twentieth century: you need to tell people when they’re being tested. You need to be responsible and tell your clients that they are testing their customers!

**That said: All javascript-based CRO tools only capture a fraction of your users’ data, and as cookie-based marketing becomes increasingly gauche, CRO testers may fall out of popularity. Do you need CRO to have good marketing results? No. But it can be helpful at seeing which specific actions drive conversions.

Also once more: please make your users aware that you are adding personalization or UX testing, including how you use their data. Tools like VWO collect a large amount of personal behavioral data!

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