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How To Build a Sustainable Testing Culture (And Why)

Testing is a long-term, bite-size strategy. Don't go rolling up your sleeves and testing a complete redesign of your homepage on day one.

Bonus material: <cc-checklist>50 Questions to Ask in Customer Surveys<cc-checklist>

Which is more dangerous to your e-commerce store: your data or your intuition?

If you’re using one without the other, they could both be horrible.

Without data, intuition could lead you anywhere. 

You might blow up a highly successful onboarding process on a hunch. 

You might change your checkout flow to solve a cart abandonment issue when all you needed to do was add a few confidence factors.

‍The case for over-reliance on data being more dangerous: You can become over-reliant on data. Having massive data streams as a base for every single decision isn't productive.

Without a proper testing structure, iterating based on every blip or bump in your data can be just as dangerous as flying blind with only your intuition to guide you.

More e-commerce companies should make a commitment to creating a culture of testing. 

We’re talking about a comprehensive, end-to-end approach to qualitative and quantitative information, functional design and effective split testing, a commitment that stretches from your C-suite to your interns. 

When everyone in your company approaches problems with a testing mindset, you’ll have a solid foundation for growth.

Isn't that what every shop owner wants?

Why (a) Testing (Culture) Matters

What if you have answers you can't be sure of?

Test! It reduces risks when it comes to change.

And you're going to make changes to your business whether you're testing or not. 

You’ll change your web properties, your app, your messaging, your checkout process – you’ll change all of that at some point because you understand that businesses can’t stagnate. 

But what are you changing? And why? 

Are you relying on intuition without data? Or data without context?

Creating a testing culture that prioritizes optimization should be a natural stage for serious companies.

How To Figure Out What to Test

Testing is a long-term, bite-size strategy. Don't go rolling up your sleeves and testing a complete redesign of your homepage on day one.

Start small.

You’ll want to be able to work quickly through the process of setting up, monitoring and analyzing the test results with your team and testing agency.

Getting through some tests early on also shows you right away any flaws you might have in your testing approach. It'll also tell you and how to fix them before you start testing something huge.

Organizations need a testing culture and a testing mindset because a testing culture:

  • Removes the risk of changing the wrong things and moving your business in the wrong direction.
  • Ensures you always know what your customer wants through qualitative testing.
  • Gives you a way to contextualize your quantitative data to make real analysis.

Helps you become so practiced at the cycle of hypothesizing, testing, adjusting, analyzing and iterating that when you need to make major changes and conduct major tests, you can trust your process and your results.

Encourage a “challenge everything” mindset in your team, which means no lazy conclusions or wild guesses make it into your business decisions.

Before you start emphasizing optimization and creating your testing culture, make sure you fully understand these guiding principles:

1. Testing isn’t about proving yourself right! 

Intuition has its place, but you shouldn’t go into your tests with the intention of confirming or disproving your hunches. 

Keep your agenda clear. 

2. Start at the beginning! 

You’ll want to build testing into everything you do that could involve making a lot of assumptions, especially early on. 

For instance, a test run by the marketing automation team might show results that your customer success team would find extremely valuable., 

Or your sales team might have valuable input for a copywriting split test based on what they know about sales-qualified lead behavior. 

If your team tests in silos, none of that information would be shared.

Part of collaboration is keeping everyone informed. Transparency about who’s doing what can help avoid duplicate work or incomplete analysis. 

You can use something like this testing roadmap, similar to a product roadmap, to keep everyone updated on what experiments are going on.

3. Some tests should be about short-term wins

Part of a testing culture is infusing the testing ideology into everything you do, so that means sometimes you’ll be testing something small. 

But “smaller” tests don’t need to result in small results. 

If an experiment over call to action (button vs text) gains you one percent more conversions, then you’ve gained a lot for little effort.

Balancing quick wins with longer-term “major” tests (like full homepage tests) also means your team gets more testing experience. This way, they can easily respond to unanticipated changes in your customer base.

4. Embrace functional design

Functional design involves finding the balance between optimized design and aesthetics.

All elements should have a function and exist for a reason, and testing helps you find that reason. Combined with beautiful design, you can create e-commerce experiences that are both enjoyable and optimized.

5. Nothing is “done”

Testing should generate more tests.

The more good questions we can pose around the “why” and “how” of our business decisions, the better our answers will become.

Maintain an attitude of cycles. 

When nothing is “done” and everything needs to be tested on a schedule, you’ll avoid becoming outdated or drifting away from what your customers want.

Finally: Focusing on the Long Run

Testing takes time, but the results are worth it. 

Applying testing to business decisions results in incremental but sustainable gains (Forbes found as much as 241 percent ROI). 

“Move fast and break things” results in a string of fast moves and broken things, but not necessarily a clearer picture of where you should go and what you should be focused on.

(It also upsets your grandma.)

A testing culture breeds the sort of sustainable momentum that builds lasting companies. 

Employees who ask “why” before “how.”

A company focused on long-term goals rather than short-term puffs of smoke.

Companies built on testing culture will build what their customers want, and their customers will respond accordingly.‍

The best way to make decisions for your e-commerce company is through combining data and intuition. This way, you can create a sustainable testing culture to help grow your revenue.

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