It’s that time of the year again for prediction posts to pop up all around the digital marketing universe. Here is what I think is going to change in 2015.

1. Personalization Will Become More Powerful & Widely Adopted

This is my #1 prediction for 2015. Websites are going to become more dynamic and evolve to fit the individual’s needs. Though I don’t expect any site to get to that perfect 1 – 1 relationship, I do expect to see more personalization campaigns to get the right content in front of the right person at the right time.

This all comes down to the advancement in technology, its accuracy, and the lowered barrier of entry. The prominence of split testing in 2014 is no surprise because it is just so darn easy to test. If personalization can become that easy, don’t expect to get the same user experience as every other person out there.

2. 2015 Is The Year That Kills The Slider (I Hope)

This is more of a wish than a prediction. If personalization becomes mainstream, then the slider will become a thing of the past. I have always held that the use of a slider is a mere merchandising compromise between departments that can’t agree upon a static offer.

If websites are more dynamic and show content based on previous behavior, then the slider loses all of its appeal. C’mon 2015 let’s kill the auto-rotating slider as a marketing device!

3. Testing Will Still Be The Default In An Optimizer’s Tool Belt

Split testing is still the #1 tool in an optimizer’s tool belt 4 years in a row. I don’t expect this to change in 2015. Simply put, the barrier of entry for testing professionals is just so low. There is a low cost, the WYSIWYG editors relieve resources, and once the JavaScript is placed between the <head></head> tags you can test to your heart’s content.

Unfortunately, since testing is so easy to start there are too many undereducated professionals out there. I challenge anyone who has been in the testing world to take education very seriously. Create internal training, explain the areas where people get things wrong, or send your teams to conferences. The legitimacy of testing as a practice will come into question if this education problem isn’t fixed.

As an example, when I was a judge of the annual WhichTestWon testing awards I noticed an interesting trend. In earlier years, we got fewer submissions, but they were darn good submissions. However, as time went by, we did see an amazing growth in submissions – but they were of fairly low quality, e.g., multiple elements changed but not measured, sample sizes too low, etc.

I really don’t mean to sound ‘holier than thou’, but I’ve seen too many bad tests posted on highly popular sites that make some very major mistakes. Not only is this bad from an education stand point, but it also sets the expectation that testing will generally provide triple digit lifts – which is definitely not normal.

4. More Advanced Marketers Will Focus On Funnel Analysis

If you aren’t looking at your funnel from a holistic perspective, you are only getting a mere glimpse of what is happening on your site/campaign. During the optimization process, funnel analysis is paramount. Identify your leaky holes and address whether the problem is due to something structural or is offer related.

More often than not, people leave your site because your offer stinks. Please don’t get defensive here this is important! If you are testing structural components, e.g., button colors, headlines, layouts, etc… and the real problem is your offer, then your test/campaign will not be effective. Structural changes can’t save a bad offer!

Lipstick-On-Pig

Another indication is the time and effort Google has put into their funnel visualization tool. Use this; it will help put traffic behavior into perspective.

5. Use Of Qualitative Data By Marketers Will Increase

I’m confident that 2015 is the year that the majority of marketers will finally consider both quantitative & qualitative data when approaching their optimization and testing campaigns. Focusing on one data set over the other doesn’t give a complete picture.

In WhichTestWon’s State Report they saw an overall lift in qualitative data consideration from 2013 to 2014. Here’s the percentage of marketers who used qualitative data while constructing a test hypothesis:

Qualitative Data Type 2013 2014 % Year Over Year Lift
Usability Studies 45% 47% 4.44%
Visitor Surveys 36% 38% 5.56%
Eytracking Heatmaps 29% 34% 17.24%
Marketing Personas 24% 30% 25%

(Note 491 marketers responded in 2013 & 545 marketers responded in 2014)

The incredible lift in eyetracking studies being used during the hypothesis phase is likely due to the marketing blitz by companies such as CrazyEgg, Attensee, and others.

Despite my personal distaste for marketing personas, they continue to be used, though not nearly as much as the other types of qualitative data.

So those are my top 5 predictions! I’m excited for 2015, and think it will be a great year for digital marketers. Just make sure to optimize for more than your conversion rate, but for the customer experience. A happy customer, is a buying customer.

Happy Testing!

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