Through­out my life I could never under­stand Black Fri­day shop­pers.  You take an oth­er­wise nor­mal per­son and tell them that they can save some money if they change their behav­ior to be more like a crazy per­son for a day.  Crazy peo­ple do crazy things like camp out on the cement out­side a store.  Crazy peo­ple wake up in the mid­dle of the night to go stand out­side in sub-zero tem­per­a­tures to wait in a mon­strous crowd or never-ending line until a store opens its doors.

Last year I decided to change my life­time behav­ior and see what the crazy peo­ple were up to.  I woke up so early it seemed like I didn’t even go to sleep, I drove to a store, and waited in the freez­ing tem­per­a­tures until my nose was about to fall off.  You can’t help but think you are crazy stand­ing in the cold count­ing down the hours until you will get the best deal of your life on an item you are only buy­ing because the Black Fri­day deals were too com­pelling.  Money can be a pow­er­ful moti­va­tor, but when there is money at stake it can also influ­ence us to do crazy things.

When it comes to web­site opti­miza­tion the story is no dif­fer­ent.  Every com­pany sees this time as cru­cial because there is so much money rid­ing on the line.  Unfor­tu­nately the hol­i­day crazi­ness sets in on com­pa­nies and increases their ten­dency to think and act dif­fer­ent than they oth­er­wise nor­mally would.  Nor­mal behav­ior would tell us to use data to make informed deci­sions and test every­thing.  When a com­pany gets the hol­i­day cra­zies though, they lose sight of nor­mal behav­ior and rather than con­tin­u­ing an opti­miza­tion strat­egy, they make excuses, stop test­ing, and instead focus on chang­ing out con­tent on their site.

So how do you know if your com­pany has this hol­i­day crazi­ness?  Here are the top four things I hear from com­pa­nies that have the cra­zies and are mak­ing excuses to not test on their site.

  1. It is too risky to test; this is our most impor­tant sea­son.”  The key here is to under­stand that risk is both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive.  If you don’t test you risk not mak­ing as much money as you could have oth­er­wise.   If you decide to run a test you run the risk of learn­ing some­thing really impact­ful about your site.  Any­thing you add to or change on your web­site increases risk, but you will never know if that risk trans­lates into pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive impact unless you run a con­trolled test.
  2. We are too busy to run tests.”  I agree, most peo­ple and the com­pa­nies they work for are much bet­ter at run­ning a good ‘busy-ness’ rather than a good busi­ness.   Being busy with the less impor­tant things and spend­ing time on those things could be con­sid­ered fail­ure.  From what I have seen, ‘the busy’ for online mar­keters is due to all the con­tent changes com­pa­nies are try­ing to make on their site so that their cus­tomers are sure to get the right mes­sages at the right time.  If I were to trans­late that it would go some­thing like this, “We are too busy because we are tak­ing all of our time guess­ing which con­tent to put up and then putting that up.”  How do you know that updat­ing your con­tent even mat­ters?  Unfor­tu­nately peo­ple end up doing stuff just because that is what they have done.  Dur­ing this time of year there are prob­a­bly bet­ter ways to use your resources.
  3. We are in a code lock down.”  The freeze or lock­down is IT lingo for “we don’t have buy-in to test on the site and this is an easy excuse not to try to get it.”  It is easy for com­pa­nies to blame their busi­ness prob­lems on IT or other fac­tors.  It is one thing if you haven’t imple­mented a test­ing tool, but in most cases com­pa­nies have the abil­ity to test, they sim­ply choose not to.  Again, this is an exec­u­tive buy-in prob­lem.  When the com­pany as a whole real­izes the value of test­ing this is almost never an issue.
  4. Our test­ing win­dow is so short, it isn’t worth the effort.”  Of all the excuses, this is prob­a­bly the most reasonable—though it is still very weak.  True, you may only have 3 weeks to run a sin­gle test.  True, it has to be a good test to get good results in that time period.  That being said, it is totally worth it.  This three week win­dow is an oppor­tu­nity to con­tinue learn­ing about your site through testing.

What do you do when your com­pany has the hol­i­day cra­zies?  The answer is simple—you buckle down and keep opti­miz­ing the same way you would any other time of year.  You make sure you are learn­ing from tests that have strate­gic inputs and that answer clear ques­tions.  You iter­ate on what you learned and above all, you con­tinue testing.

So with Black Fri­day only a cou­ple of days away, shop­pers are gear­ing up for the hol­i­day crazi­ness.  After my expe­ri­ence last year and depend­ing on the deals, there is still a chance you will see me out among the crazy peo­ple.  Hope­fully we leave the crazi­ness to the shop­pers and avoid it all together in our online busi­nesses by con­tin­u­ing to test.

Good luck and Happy Holidays.

Rhett