This article first appeared on Xconomy.com.
In today’s fast-changing world, new product teams are constantly pushed to do more faster. They need to run fast to keep up with rapidly changing market conditions. Oftentimes it means making decisions about what to invest in with very little information. How can teams validate hypotheses without over-investing on speculative engineering projects, and potentially losing time and money building the wrong thing?
It turns out that there is another way. In both B2B and B2C scenarios, you can often get a very good read on the interest and even purchase intent from potential economic buyers by running a series of landing page tests.
What is a landing page test?
A landing page test is a form of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) test, in which one uses a landing page as a way of gauging some aspect of customer interest and/or purchase intent.
While you can gather a tremendous amount of insight by running detailed, open-ended interviews with potential customers, at the end of the day you are still limited by what the customer thinks they will do, instead of what they will actually do. Purchase intent is frequently inflated when you test your product idea with people face to face, because they are often loath to hurt your feelings by telling you the truth. It’s emotionally much easier to just say “yes, this is very interesting!” or “Sure! I will certainly buy it!” rather than “you are talking to the wrong person – I have no interest whatsoever.”
The landing page test is a way to pose the same questions while getting away from the subjectiveness of the spoken word, and moving to the objectiveness of observable behaviors. In a landing page test, you can present your product concept as if it exists – and then put in a simple call to action: a large button that says nothing but “Learn more,” “Sign me up,” or “Buy now.”
How do I execute a landing page test?
Here is a step-by-step guide to planning and running a landing page test.
1. Define the goals. As with any research project, you would want to start with the goals. What questions are you trying to pose? What are the hypotheses you are trying to test? Generally speaking, it is better to unbundle the hypotheses to be tested to the extent possible, and test them one at a time so you can get a clear read on what your target customer thinks about each of those things.
2. Define the desired subject pool. The next thing you would need to do is to carefully put together the recruitment criteria for the subjects who will receive your landing page link. Make sure you only send the links to people who are in the target segment, and match criteria for your target persona(s).
3. Build the landing page. Knowing the target audience and the research goals, you would now construct the actual landing page to describe the offering in language that makes sense to the recipients. Don’t spend too much time making it beautiful – instead, focus on the key benefits you will bring to the customer, and focus on making the landing page’s call to action very clear.
4. Send out the link and start the test. Once the landing page is done, you can then send it out either in an e-mail campaign (which is more expensive but provides better control to the subject pool), or in a targeted social media campaign and/or ad buy (which is less expensive, has better reach, but affords much less control over who sees the link).
5. Review results. Once the test is live, you can let it run for a few days and literally watch the results roll in in real time. With the right platform you will be able to gauge key metrics such as e-mail open rate, click rate for the landing page, click rate for the call to action, and the number of people who actually complete the sign up / purchase / other action you want them to take.
The beauty of this method is that once you have set up the first test, you have the platform for endless variations. You can run A/B tests: You can send 2 versions of the product description to randomized recipients and see which version resonates better; you can send the same version to different populations and see which one responds with greater interest; you can build on the first test and see if you can execute pre-sales. The possibilities are endless.
A real life example: Jibo – gauging customer interest by collecting e-mail addresses
With the basics in mind, let’s look at a real life example. The most basic landing page test is one in which you gauge customer interest by presenting a future product that is not yet available, then asking the customer to sign up for a mailing list or wait list.
Jibo’s home page is a good example. While the Jibo site is not a classical landing page according to the HubSpot definition, their home page is a textbook example of using a call to action that captures e-mail addresses to validate interest. In today’s world full of spam, phishing attempts, and unwanted solicitations, getting someone to hand over their e-mail address is a significant proof point for traction.
Gauging purchase intent for a future product via a “Buy now” button
Capturing the e-mail address is an important first step, but it does not provide a true indication of purchase intent. The “Buy now” action is the easiest way to test purchase intent.
The interesting thing is that you can get very good data that you can trust without having built any prototypes. You could create a landing page that describes the product or service as if it exists today, and then present a “Buy now” button. If someone comes to the landing page and clicks “Buy now”, it means they resonate with your value proposition and is at least somewhat likely to actually buy the product.
What should the “Buy now” button do for vaporware? You have three options:
- The Wait-List approach. Clicking “Buy now” takes the customer to a “Sign me up for the wait list” page where you collect the email address. If they now provide you with the email, you now have two pieces of information instead of one: They are intrigued and interested, AND they have proved purchase intent to a first order of approximation.
- The “Raincheck” approach. Clicking “Buy now” takes the customer to a “Raincheck” page in which you take their credit card, Paypal or some such, tell them when the product will be available, and clearly message that you will NOT charge their credit card until the product is made available to them. The credit card is a huge jump in the credibility of the purchase intent test. If someone hands over payment information, they really have a problem that they think your solution will solve.
- The “Pay now, collect later” approach. Clicking “Buy now” takes the customer to a “Presale” page, in which you take their credit card and actually charge it on the spot while telling them they will have a long wait before the product ships. If they complete the purchase, you have achieved the holy grail of purchase intent tests. Money changed hands at the price you named. Huzzah! You have a real business!
A landing page test technically is still a qualitative research technique, but it provides quantitative metrics that you can look at relative to e-mail open rate, dwell time on the first landing page, page views, click rate on the call to action, and finally, whether they submit their e-mail and/or credit card.
Having these metrics means you have a platform to experiment and do more tests. Just be careful with generalizing results from a small sample size – even though the qualitative insights alone are worth the effort.