For any marketer who wants to get a better handle on their personas, and optimize their journey, user testing is the way to go.

In this episode of AMP Up Your Digital Marketing, Glenn Gaudet speaks with Michelle Huff, CMO of UserTesting. They sit down to discuss the benefits of user testing and why it’s more important now than ever.

  • Building your buyer persona based on data and intuition is limiting because you’re missing the why behind your customers’ decisions.
  • User testing helps you connect and empathize with your customer base. By getting feedback directly from members of your target audience, you can optimize the customer experience.
  • COVID-19 has drastically changed the way people live, and it’s forcing brands to relearn their customers — their new behaviors, needs, and buying habits.

As a marketer, buyer and customer personas are vital in understanding your audience, but here’s where they often fall short: They’re primarily driven by intuition and data.

“As marketers, we’re trying to make sure the message, the campaign, and the conversations we’re having resonate, but it’s hard if you think about who you’re talking to as just this static persona,” explains Michelle Huff, CMO of UserTesting, a usability and testing platform.

Empathizing with and relating to Suzi, a mother of three with a household income of $120,000, will be easier if you sit down and have a conversation with her.

Besides, COVID-19 has upended the way everyone operates, so chances are, Suzi’s habits, needs, and behaviors have drastically shifted in the past several months.

But instead of relying on that gut feeling or those two-dimensional statistics, user testing can help you better understand your audience. Michelle joined the AMP Up Your Digital Marketing podcast to talk about the benefits of user testing and how companies are using it to pull through COVID-19.

But first: What is user testing?

User testing is an exercise where real humans test various products, websites, apps, and services.

When you think about user testing, you might picture someone behind their computer, clicking around on your site and identifying glitches. But user testing can be way more extensive. Companies can get real third-party feedback on their designs, messaging, and user flow.

“You can find exactly who you’re wanting to target and really send them through an experience,” Michelle says. “You can see what they go through and hear their thoughts out loud and how they react to your products, your app, your website’s prototype, and your content campaigns. You can really start using the voice of the customer and making decisions.

Understanding the why: The benefits of user testing

Don’t be mistaken: Quantitative data is still important, but oftentimes it’s lacking the why, which you can discover through user testing.

Sure, you can test A versus B and find the click-through rate on A is 0.5% higher, for example, but you’re missing context. What if B was downright confusing, so naturally A won — even if it wasn’t that effective?

The feedback you gain from user testing can help you escape this vacuum of data and better understand the why behind your customers’ decisions.

“I just feel like if you can be curious — try to figure out why it’s happening that way, why are there problems, why are there concerns, why are there issues — that leads you to a better path of understanding and empathy, and you just create better results,” Michelle explains.

User testing also helps you bust your own bias. It’s easy to fall into the trap of making assumptions — it allows you to quickly make decisions. But your customer’s point of view and experience likely looks quite different.

“The situation you’re going through sometimes is so different than someone else’s,” Michelle says. “And it’s not until you really hear from them where it opens your eyes to what that could be like.”

Relearning your customer base amid COVID-19

It goes without saying COVID-19 has drastically changed every facet of people’s lives — including your customers’.

“Some of our customers have always behaved a certain way, and suddenly this year they’re not behaving that way anymore,” Michelle says. “So people have to really quickly relearn their customer.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, Michelle saw a number of companies testing their messaging around COVID-19 — how they were referring to it and talking about it.

As life moved online, companies turned to user testing to work out technical difficulties. For instance, when banks were experiencing unmanageable customer call volumes, user testing helped pinpoint the most common hangups customers had on their websites. By fixing these issues and making their messaging more clear, they could drive call volumes down.

Now, as we settle into a new normal or sorts, Michelle has seen companies test new experiences and new products. For instance, UserTesting recently worked with a museum that was creating an entirely digital walk-through experience.

Retailers have also been testing the online experience for their customers. They want to explore ways to decrease the rate of abandoned shopping carts, for instance. UserTesting has also worked with retailers to test the curbside pick-up experience. Testers actually turn on their cameras and record themselves completing the process.

As your customers’ lifestyles continue to shift during COVID-19, user testing can help you keep up with them — instead of relying on outdated data or your gut feeling. Really, it’s all about finding new ways to connect with them.

AMP Up Your Digital Marketing brings together the leading marketing practitioners to share how they are succeeding in today’s digital landscape. Each podcast episode focuses on providing you with the knowledge and strategies you need to be a successful marketer. Subscribe via AppleFIR Podcast Network or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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