Marketing & CX Strategy

A Missed Opportunity for A/B Testing: Communities

28 Sep 2016, Kevin Lazorik

A/B testing is fairly common on the majority of consumer and enterprise platforms on the market today. Offering two similar but distinct options to the public in order to test out different language, content, or functionality can help any organization determine which of its campaigns is most impactful, and in which measureable ways.

At Hero, we use A/B testing to figure out whether and how our websites are effective at driving engagement, whether email campaigns are read or result in click-thrus, and how our mobile apps are being used and performing across a wide range of functions. The key with any successful A/B test is to only tweak one key variable. More than that, and you risk misunderstanding the very test you designed—and possibly misunderstanding or entirely failing to connect with your intended audience.

One thing we’ve realized recently is that most organizations are leaving a really great testing resource on the table: their own digital communities. The use case for A/B testing on communities expands beyond the standard use case for measure sales or lead captures. Too few organizations use A/B testing on their community, whether it’s their company intranet, a support community, a network, or a work productivity tool where the majority of non-email correspondence and document sharing happens.

That’s a huge missed opportunity. Communities are overflowing with rich data just waiting to be mined. With anonymous users you can test many of the same things you’d test on a marketing site: how often collateral is downloaded, what UX layouts result in users finding the answer to their question, what kind of traction you’re getting on promotional campaigns, whether your marketing efforts are working to drive event registrations, and so forth. And with authenticated users, you can get a little more specific, promoting onboarding content for newly purchased products, surfacing content that may be relevant to their company or industry, or serving up support information specific to each user and their previous purchases or interactions with the site.

Information from A/B tests performed in your digital communities can then be used to inform what’s happening on your main .com site. You can refine audience definitions based on users’ social activity, and better target content to specific audiences. And now that you know more about these community members, you can learn even more, too, monitoring which pieces of content they interact with, and tagging content to particular groups. You can use community data to adjust everything from broader audience approaches to more granular language tweaks in your messaging across all of your digital properties.

With enough data, we can target content and even refine our audience experience based on implicit social activity—think views, likes, and shares—and reorganize content to reach and actively engage with more specific groups.

Think of your community as your own little focus group — you’ve built and paid for it, now it’s time to tap into it.