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Optimization and Growth Part 4: Customer Research

Published: May 17, 2017

Author: Jeremy Epperson

This blog is Part 4 of a six-part series where we will walk through our Foundational Principles of Optimization and Growth, aimed at giving you the confidence you need to implement an optimization program across your organization. Each blog summarizes one of the principles; for a much more in-depth look at each, you can download our white paper where we provide additional examples, stories and, detail to help get you started.
Our previous blogs in this series explored: 1. Achieving strategic business alignment; 2. Building a culture of optimization; and 3. Creating a customer-focused strategy. Next we’ll dig into how gather the feedback you need to develop your test hypotheses.

Part 4: Data-Driven Research Methodology

It’s not possible to be customer-focused in a vacuum; you need to gather data and get feedback from real users. In this section, we’ll cover some of the types of research you can conduct to find out how your customers react to your site experience and why they behave specific ways.

Quantitative Research (the “What”)

A quantitative analysis will help you figure out what your users are doing. Here, you utilize analytics, data warehouses, and DMPs to pinpoint specific information about user segments. You isolate behavioral trends and find the highest-value pages and funnels for focused optimization.

        • Funnel abandonment: Isolate the pages and events that cause users to abandon before converting.
        • User pathing data: Discover onsite behavioral trends. Find out how users move through your site and what they engage with.
        • 1st- and 3rd-party data: Gather information to understand the segments that are actually buying based on demographic and psychographic characteristics.
        • Attribution: Trace the various channels, devices, and overall latency on the path to purchasing.

Heat mapping:
A heat map allows you to visualize key behaviors based on aggregated user data. Depending on the tool you use, you will be able to see where users are clicking, moving their mouse, or scrolling.
Form analysis:
Analyzing form behavior is useful to determine whether specific fields are unnecessary, friction exists in the experience, or layout is causing users to abandon.
The methods you’ll use are highly dependent on what you are trying to optimize, but combining several methods will usually give a good idea of what actions users are taking and where users are abandoning. The next step is to use qualitative research methods to determine why users are behaving in certain ways.

Qualitative Research (the “Why”)

With qualitative research, you’ll begin to understand the “why” behind user actions. You’ll want to utilize a variety of methods to get inside the users’ mindset and understand how to better serve them:

      • Exit intent polling: Gather voice-of-customer samples to understand what is causing users to abandon without converting;
      • Customer Journey Mapping and Surveys: Gain a comprehensive picture of motivations, outcomes, preferences, and other information that helps to understand users at every step of their journey;
      • Customer Interviews: Get direct and real-time feedback by personally interacting with your users;
      • Usability testing: Pinpoint the specific user experience issues that are frustrating and confusing your users;
      • Session Recordings: Analyze actual user activity on high-value pages and funnels to reveal trends in behavior and recurring user experience issues


The research process will give you interesting insights into your marketing, onsite experience, and customers. However, this is just the first step. It is necessary to validate these insights through A/B testing with users of your site. We will lay out the important details on the scientific testing process in the next blog.
To view all of the principles, check out our “6 Foundational Principles of Optimization and Growth” white paper where we provide a more in-depth look proper research methodology, testing and more.
Even after learning the key principles, the path to optimization will still require trial and error. Want to get moving more quickly? We’d love to help! You can also contact the 3Q CRO team to learn how you can start seeing gains right away.

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