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Using online testing to validate your advertising campaign

Online advertising testing enables businesses, organisations of all sizes to quickly identify and correct potential advertising issues before the final ‘sign-off’ / decision is made!

Online advertising testing, with a sample of your target audience, improves the accuracy, effectiveness and ROI of your campaign.

It does not have to be costly or time consuming and can helps answer some of these common and reoccurring questions:

  • Is the right message getting across to the right audience?
  • Do they understand what we are communicating?
  • Will it create ongoing recall?
  • Does it push consumers’ purchase buttons?
Advertising Market Research

Your questions may centre around a particular advertising campaign, and require you to demonstrate a clear understanding of what the creative will achieve. If it doesn’t work, then it is simply a waste of money and you need to kill it before it drains the budget. If you could narrow down the margin of error through simple and fast online ad testing you can be confident that your (or your client’s) investment is being well spent.

The decision to pre-test your advertising needs to be weighed up against the opportunities lost by not investing in online consumer co-creation and copy validation and the size of the proposed campaign budget.

For example, if you are a small local trading business there’s a pretty good chance you’ll already be well-informed about local consumer sentiment, and you’d be able to readily make use of close customer contact to understand how your audience wants to be informed, educated and kept up to date. But as soon as you step into a larger online marketplace its just not humanly possible to accurately predict the response of a large target audience by just using your ‘gut feeling’ alone – if it was, every campaign would be a success, and this is certainly not the case. If you are committing to a large advertising investment the advantages of online pre-testing far outweigh the small investment in time and money to take out the unpredictability and guesswork.

Online advertising testing and refinement may be exactly what you need to drastically improve the outcome of your advertising campaign. Online advertising research makes use of qualitative and quantitative data obtained from responses to the advertising message. The types of methods which are available include:

  • online instant communities – Great for co-creation and ideation!
  • consumer experience diaries – understand how often consumer are exposed to your brand.
  • live online focus groups & interviews – immediate feedback on ads and copy content.
  • short period discussion boards – testing of early stage advertising and concepts.
  • online surveys – good old reliable but should be used after you have verified using some of the above!

You can utilise these new sophisticated tools specifically designed to capture actionable insights from a target audience in response to your proposed message or creative.

People who participate in online advertising research and testing are asked to review commercials, imagery, ideas, messages, with their immediate reactions captured. This occurs in either video or text based groups, text discussions, journals and surveys. This data is then immediately available and used to determine if the campaign messages need to be altered, thrown out or kept as they are. It is not uncommon that very early on in the testing process new information comes to light, which is then used to evolve the key messages into something which delivers an effective and targeted piece of communication.

Online Advertising Research

The practical reason behind pretesting finished and unfinished ad creative is to ensure that it is more effectual in helping an advertiser get it right before the investment gets to a point where making a correction causes an unexpected budget blowout!

The key message here is: …don’t get caught in the excitement of the creative cycle without considering how the message will be received by the audience and how it will be verified before pushing it out on the market.

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By: Steven Mallows
Co-Founder and CEO

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Why real-time online website usability testing improves ROI

Using the Internet as a channel to reach consumers means that your primary measure for a online success should be your ability to convert those visitors into customers.

There is no doubt that converting website visitors into customers plays a major role in the success or failure of any online business. If you invest money in a new online channel you want to know its money well spent. One of the first lessens learned by new start-ups is how important it is to build the frequency of engaged website visitors. To acquire customers you must build a website which not only attracts visitors, but also places their user experience at the top of the list. Unfortunately, more often than not, online websites are created without full consideration of the people who will be using them. In particular, how consumers want to engage with your brand online.

Online website usability testing

Lets recap before taking a looking at online usability testing. Website usability, sometime mixed with online user experience, refers to how website users interact with a site. Do they find the layout intuitive? Complicated? Well-organized? Hard to read? Everything, from how pages are organized to what kind of font is used, can influence how well an audience is engaged and how effective you are in converting visitors to customers. Website that are difficult to read, with online forms or shopping carts that are too complicated to use, and are surrounded by pages that are not intuitively organized, all will influence a visitors online behavior and ultimately your websites conversion rate. Once they click away, and go somewhere else where there is a better user experience, it is very hard to get them to come back!

In a perfect world, all web pages would be clearly and intuitively designed before they are ever seen. In reality, this doesn’t happen as often as it should. In a lot of cases, the only person paying any attention to a site’s usability is the person coding the site itself. Considering these professionals are very experienced with web pages in general, it stands to reason that they’d have a different idea of what constitutes “easy to use” than a person from your target audience would – unless you target audience is website programmers!

This is where online website usability testing comes in. With regular online website usability testing with a group of your target audience, it’s possible to iron out (most of) the kinks and understand how and why an audience would engage with you online. Is the navigational system too complicated? Is there enough contrast between the text and the background? Is the online form easy to follow? Online website usability testing can answer all of these questions, and more. It can help site owners see how their audience interacts with their site, how long it takes them to complete a task, and how the website overall performance can be improved to realize the end goal.

The first part of online usability testing should be conducted before a single line of code is ever written. Wire-frames which are basically drawings of your propose website can be quickly thrown into a online website usability session, with a few people from your target audience. A simple online chat or webcam based usability group could be used to talk about the layout and how the navigation should work. You receive the immediate real-time feedback you need to make new iterations of the proposed layout and website behavior.

Contrary to popular belief, you can not determine the experience a user is having with your website by click analytics alone! You need to talk to your audience and listen to both the good and the bad online user experience stories. The ability for a visitor to have a positive experience with your website, and conversely convert (in whatever form), is directly determined by the effort you placed on website usability when designing and building the website in the first place.

Example of a simple online website usability chat groups.

Image of a GroupQuality chat based online website usability wire-frame test.

At this stage you should also consider discussing with the sample of your target audience the type of information the website should include and how that information should be displayed. You can use online discussion boards to invite a larger group of your target audience to discuss how items in the website should be organized. By taking note of how each member of the group groups bits of information, it’s possible to see what the best way to organize the site’s component pages. For example, listing all of the categories of items being sold on an e-commerce site.

After the site is coded, it can be tested out by members of its intended audience in either a chat or webcam style online usability testing group or one-on-one usability interview. This testing can be as simple as tracking how people click through the website, and having them take a short survey afterward to identify trouble spots. This is particularly useful for things like online forms and shopping carts.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars every year are lost to online retailers whose site visitors lose patients with their shopping cart system, and end up abandoning it mid-purchase! It’s vitally important for problems like that to be ironed out before a site goes live- without having a way to detect those kinds of trouble spots, a site owner will have no way of knowing how much money he or she could be missing out on.

Once the site goes live, testing should be a regular occurrence. Getting a good ROI on a website requires visitors that show up and stick around for a while. Having a thoroughly-tested website that’s streamlined and designed with usability in mind is the key to delivering a superior online user experience, which inevitably provides repeat traffic, website conversions, and all of the things needed to realize the maximum return on your online investment.

To find out how you can conduct online website usability testing, contact us for a chat


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Problems with online customer feedback or online market research design

Do you collect online feedback or gather customer insights?

Do you pilot test the online insight experience with customers, stakeholders and partners?.

Failing to test the way your online insight setup with your target audience, before letting it loose, is likely to result in poor data collection and participant frustration. For those brands conducting their own online customer feedback and insight projects, you may find a bad user experience deflates brand opinion and artificially skews the results.

Take a look at some of the – not so rosy – comments received from participants completing online customer feedback and online research projects:

Usability of online market research
  • “Why are you asking me to complete this question, it’s not relevant to me?”
  • “I can’t open this file, how am I supposed to comment on it?”
  • “You haven’t told me how to share my video?”
  • “Why am I getting this email and where did you get my name from?”
  • “Oh, you didn’t tell me I needed a webcam!”
  • “I can’t upload my file its in the wrong format, how do I convert it?”

You may not even know you have created a feedback experience problem, or know what you are asking people to do is being frustrated by missing instructions. Most of the time participants just give up and drop out. These kind of issues mean you spend most of your time troubleshooting and redesigning the project while its running. This doesn’t end well for the participant / customer and certainly doesn’t pan out well for reporting.

How to minimise the technology impact on your online customer feedback or market research design.

Your goal when setting up an online enabled insights gathering project, is to remove potential bias, issues or problems caused by the interaction between the participants and the technology. To achieve this goal you will need to anticipate the effect instructions, tasks and questions will have on the participant’s technology interactions. Your objective is to make sure participants aren’t engrossed in learning the technology while they are supposed to be providing feedback / insight. When designing your insights program you need to think about what dependencies (tools, knowledge, experience) the participants will need to effectively complete an assigned set of instructions.

The new generation of online customer feedback and market research platforms are getting better at guiding people through the online process and reducing the required learning-curve. Platforms like GroupQuality even share and build the knowledge into the processes to help avoid unforeseen user experience problems.

As we watch the data from our online insight projects, it is often easy to forget the numbers, measurements and comments are being generated from the opinions of real people. These people come to an online discussion, live group, online interview or online survey with different levels of knowledge and online experiences. In today’s world of “big data” and instant results it’s easy to forget about the importance of planning the interaction between the people and the feedback technology.

For over a decade we have observed how people interact and engage with online market research and feedback systems – after all, this is the business we are in – in particularly how people behave when being asked to perform a specified set of instructions in an online survey, an online focus group or completing a task in an online community discussion. How easy the interaction is between the participant and your online insights project can mean the difference between actionable insights and just gathering data for data’s sake.

Don’t make this simple mistake!

When asking for feedback, one of the most common problems occurs when consumers or participants are emailed tasks, questions or exercises in a file format they can’t open. Its a major problem, and occurs because they simply don’t own a copy of the software that was used to create the file.

One of the first things you can do to avoid any issues is to include a question to screen participants based on their access to specific tools. This could be a simple statement and yes or no option in an online survey. Participants can choose to participate with the full knowledge of what they will be asked to do and how they will be asked to do it.

Providing practical instructions

Some online customer feedback and insight projects require participants to complete an exercise. For example, asking participants to keep a digital image diary of their experiences with a brand, product or service, or completing feedback questions in a word document, and then uploading it to an online discussion board for comment. Before assigning a task like this you need to take a step back and ask yourself one question: “can I get participants to complete my exercise without having a license to a specific software tool – can they complete this task only using the insights platform”

7 ways to improve the instruction experience

  1. It makes a lot of sense to minimise the technology options for you and your participants. You want participants to primarily focus on answering your questions, and it is also far less work for you when analysing, filtering and reporting on the insights if the data is added directly into the online insight platform.
  2. If you need to provide a document template for individuals to complete, use a simple file format which can be opened with different applications and on different kinds of devices — including PCs, Macs and mobiles and tablets.
  3. Most computing devices have the ability to open and edit RTF (rich text format documents) and this would eliminate issues participants have with not being able to open proprietary file types. You will still have to invest time pulling the data together from each file, but it avoids licensing problems.
  4. PDF documents are another popular document format which can be used to deliver detailed homework instructions. These documents will maintain the look and feel of your original document, and most computers and portable devices are able to open and read PDF documents. This is a perfect format if you want participants to read the instructions and view any imagery in its original form.
  5. Another simple alternative, and one which is often overlooked, is saving your documents as images. The advantage is that the participants will be able to view the content in the format it was intended.
  6. There is also nothing wrong with supplying more than one format of the same document. As long as you let participants know you are supplying the same document in several different formats.
  7. The preferred option is to simply add the instructions for the task within the online environment. Everyone who is participating can quickly access the instructions. If you need to send a document we would recommend you include instructions about how to access and use the supplied documents.

Instructions might look something like this:

“Download this document from today’s discussion and open it on your computer. The document is approximately 4Mb in size, which means that it will take a little while to download on a mobile device, so we recommend you download the document when connected to a wireless Internet connection. If you do not have a PDF reader it is a very simple to access a free copy by going to http://get.adobe.com/reader/ and downloading the PDF reader from there.“

Be helpful and keep it simple

When assigning tasks and questions for participants to complete make it clear when you want it completed. Provide instructions about how comments and files are to be uploaded to the online environment and even consider sharing completed examples to help get your message across. Participants will also need to know someone will be available to answer questions – this can be easily facilitated within online discussions by utilising private messaging options.

Don’t make assumptions about technology competence!

All participant computer skills will vary, but don’t assume later generations are more technology savvy than the ageing population. Over the last decade we have observed how Baby Boomers patiently and willingly go that extra mile to ensure they follow instructions. We have also found some participants born to generation Y or Z are not as technology nimble as their generation X cousins. The key message here is don’t discriminate when it comes to technology use, but assume the lowest common denominator. What you think might not happen, probably will, and will need to be planned for in your research or feedback project design.


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Webinar: start an online consumer discussion in minutes!

Smash the time it takes to organise a group of consumers into a short term online discussion.

  1. With the new “Intercept” discussion, your audience can start validating and testing your ideas within minutes.
  2. Deploy a discussion anywhere your audience hangs out.
  3. Use the new and improved survey tool to screen in people before sending them the login details.
  4. Tag important comments and discussions.
  5. Add a survey to your discussion and keep track of individual participant responses.
  6. New filtering and searching based on tags, categories and keywords.

Want to know more?

View this 9 minute online webinar to learn more about:

  • Intercept discussions
  • Show and reveal topics
  • Participant variables
  • Comment tagging
  • Enhanced reporting options
  • Academy updates



Enjoy the new features! If you have not had a chance to experience GroupQuality recently, then I invite you to register for a free trial, login and let us show you how.

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Live groups

Live chat or webcam online focus groups, in-depth interviews, website usability testing.

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Discussion boards

Quickly deploy online community discussion board projects for the web & mobile devices.

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Online surveys

Screen participants for online focus groups, interviews or online community projects.

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GQtool Ltd is an Australian company delivering innovative online market research tools.

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