Test being different to make massive gains

4 min. read | Last updated: December 12th, 2017

Or, how to warm your head in winter and lift your conversion rate

Liv Tyler rocks a toque
Liv Tyler wearing a toque

I’m going to tell you two things today:
1. A “toque” is a kind of knitted hat worn in Canada in winter
2. To make big wins, sometimes you need to try something different.

The other day, my daughter decided that her grandma’s tea cozy would make a good toque.

It wasn’t because the other kids were wearing tea cozies on their heads – it wasn’t a new trend and she wasn’t following fashion. She just felt like trying something different. And you know what? It worked for her – she rocked that tea cozy.

The funny thing is: I don’t think it took any courage for her to do it. She’s the kind of person who (so far at least) hasn’t been convinced other people’s opinions should dictate her actions.

I think there are plenty of companies that could benefit from her approach.

You see, when it comes to websites, too many companies get stuck staring at their competitors for guidance – especially looking at the industry leaders – and assuming that if they mimic the competition’s way of doing things, they’ll see the same results. They look at the leader’s website design and strategy, and use it as a template for their own…

It’s hard not to focus on the leaders – I get that. It’s common to think that because they’re leaders, they must be doing everything right. They must be testing everything they do.

Think again.

Don’t assume what you see has been tested

The big name sites you’re looking at may not A/B test as much as you assume. Or they’re not testing all areas. Look at how many still have rotating home page carousels. Smaller companies with high traffic sometimes have an easier job instilling a testing culture than some at the enterprise level. Political resistance and inertia are stronger in bigger companies. And where there is resistance to trying something new, there’s a good chance they’re doing the wrong things. The things that used to work. The things the internal opinion “experts” like.

It could be that the big-company politics have handcuffed them to existing designs and old ways of doing things. It may be that their agency of internal designers hold more sway than their analytics folks. Or their analysts have been relegated to mere report-producers. It may be that they are leaving a lot of money on the table through an under-performing website.

Is that what you want to copy?

Don’t copy the leader

Plus, even if they are testing, their results won’t all apply to you. The merchandising approach that works for Amazon won’t necessarily work for your site. Dell’s product descriptions may not be the best for you.

It’s easy to pick on the big guys, but many of them clearly are doing the right things. And even smaller companies have some politics or, more likely, are dominated by one or two strong personalities.

The good news? Regardless of politics or personalities, being open to a structured approach to testing, and to finding new ways of doing things – will gain you a competitive advantage.

At WiderFunnel, we’ve been doing conversion optimization for seven years, and we are still learning new things from our test results. If there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that there are no website “best practices” that work consistently across all industries and customer bases. There are insights, principles, patterns and frameworks we use to get the best results. But we would never just implement without testing them.

This is why we’ve found our cross-industry exposure gives WiderFunnel a unique perspective and advantage. If the learning from A/B tests on travel tourism sites can lead to conversion optimization testing wins for software companies, then it’s a win, regardless of where the inspiration comes from. (And that happens more often than you may think!)

After all, the innovators and industry changers – the Apples, the Dysons, the Amazon.coms – don’t become leaders from copying what the other guys are doing. They’re the ones who come out of left field with a different business model, a different way of thinking about their business, and a new way of doing things. They are often the most evidence-based, and don’t follow the trends. They do the hard work to find out what works for them today, not what worked for someone yesterday.

That embrace of the new approach can be your secret weapon against the incumbents in your industry.

So, instead of spending energy trying to replicate what the big guys are doing, have the courage to try something new. To make big wins, try something different. The good news is, that kind of courage is practically risk-free if you follow the continuous conversion optimization process. The only risk you’ll take is the risk of standing out, looking different, and NOT following the leaders in your industry.

The risk of wearing a tea cozy as a toque…

Tea cozy toque
She rocks the tea cozy toque

After all, if you look at the innovators who end up building remarkable companies, in the beginning, they all appeared – to the naysayers at least – to be wearing tea cozies as toques.


Chris Goward

Founder & CEO

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