Over the last couple of days, USA today covered the new TV lineups for the major networks. Crime and legal dramas are in, comedy is out, sadly for the art of TV, reality TV is still with us.
But do you know what all of the networks’ fall lineups have in common?
None of them, none, show the same program every hour, every day in every market.
They show different content to daytime viewers, primetime, late night. Different content on each day of the week, based on who is watching and what type of program they seem to like on those days.
And people respond. When a good show is moved to a different day or a different time, its ratings change. Why? because people like variety, and they like to see what they want when they want to see it.
Will this same phenomenon apply to internet “programming?” Imagine a viewer who sees a show on tv that they like, and they randomly skim the channels the next day and see the same program. What do they do? What do they think? Probably they change the channel. Maybe they smile at the memory of the program, maybe they think, “hmm this network is beginning to repeat, they are slipping.”
And this is what we do with landing pages. Most sites don’t change. They are the same day after day. They are the same on Monday through Friday and the same all weekend long. They are the same before work, during work at lunchtime and in the evening. If people’s preferences change for TV programming and people expect freshness, and people expect content that is appropriate to them at that time, doesn’t it seem logical that they would want the same thing online?
They do. We make it very easy to deliver variable content. At the moment, we are delivering around 6 billion content bits per month. And we test that content. Instead of delivering one version of a content bit, we deliver more than one and we see which stimulates the best user behavior.
When we test dynamic content, showing different things to different people based on what we know about them, people respond. Targeted content works better. People want to see different things. They want your site to be more relevant, and more interesting. Not necessarily more Flash, Game, Social media interesting, but less dull, more fresh and more relevant.
A new client were having fun and getting good success with landing page and homepage testing. I told them what I told anyone who would listen then, and what I tell anyone who will listen now (which is more people). Testing is what you do to see if your assumptions are correct. If you put better stuff in, the test will tell you it is better. If you think you are putting better stuff in sometimes the test will tell you that you are wrong, that it is worse stuff.
The much bigger thing is what follows testing. The truth is this: different people like different things. The average best is often not the best for all groups of people. And the same people like different things at different times. Basically, one size doesn’t fit all. The way to use this to your advantage is to quickly figure out how to group people, and what to show them.
The client seemed interested in the conversation, but I didn’t hear from them for a while. Yesterday I saw a map of their homepage (that is their key landing page) that just blew me away. Only about 1/3 of the content on the page is static. The rest changes based on a variety of rules.
First, they determine if the person is close to a retail store. They use this to decide if they should show store event information, and free shipping offers.
Next they see if they know the visitor. If they do, content is targeted based on whether they are a consumer or a business shopper.
Finally they target content based on what they looked at last and if they already signed up for the catalog. And, as if that weren’t enough, they throw in auto optimized vendor sponsored offers where they input multiple offers and let the one that sells more show more often in the best position.
And, of course, they are testing this layout against their current layout and other version of the new page. Typically, marketers, once they get the ability to stretch their legs, do more than we imagined. Marketers, once they no longer have to ask permission of IT to market, are changing marketing.
Website “programming.” Not programming like writing code, but programming like a TV network. It really only requires 3 things. Two of them are easy, one is hard. The easy ones are these: You have to believe that one size doesn’t fit all. At least believe enough to test the concept. You need a tool that allows you to deliver variable content that is controlled by marketers, not by IT.
The last one is harder. You have to be ready to market in a new way. You have to convince the people who are scared of change that this can be done responsibly, with an appropriate eye to the effect on the brand. And you have to change the way you conceive and produce content from a one-size-fits all model to a relevance-based mode.
It won’t all happen at once. Start with small things. Remove irrelevant content. Take away the sign-up promotion after the person signed up. Put your visitors into a small number of buckets based on what they looked at last time they were there and feature similar content on the landing page when they come back. And test it so that you can empirically demonstrate the results.
It’s fun. And it will change the way you market.