Strong U.S. growth, weak inflation leave Fed stuck happily on hold

Strong U.S. growth, weak inflation leave Fed stuck happily on hold

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve is expected to hold interest rates steady at its policy meeting this week as policymakers balance recent stronger-than-expected U.S. economic growth against sluggish inflation.

Officials have given no signal in recent weeks of any change to the U.S. central bank’s benchmark overnight lending rate, currently set in a range of 2.25 percent to 2.50 percent. Markets have bet heavily the Fed’s “patient” approach means just that – with rates on hold until a run of good or bad news about the economy provides a compelling reason to move.

Data compiled by CME Group put the odds the Fed leaves rates unchanged this week at 97 percent.

“We do not expect a big change in tone,” compared to the Fed’s mid-March policy statement, with policymakers likely to be “more upbeat on growth, though with a more cautious reading of recent inflation developments,” JP Morgan economist Michael Feroli wrote in a preview of this week’s meeting.

The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee is due to release its latest statement at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) on Wednesday after the end of a two-day meeting. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will hold a press conference shortly after.

In the weeks since the Fed’s March meeting, most of the incoming U.S. data has surprised in a positive way, diminishing the likelihood officials might be compelled to cut rates as President Donald Trump has demanded.

(Graphic: The Fed’s split decision link: tmsnrt.rs/2GQbzq1).

The gap in interest rates between different types of bonds, which narrowed in late March in what could be construed as a growing concern about recession, has since become larger as recession concerns eased.

Gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of 3.2 percent for the first three months of the year, comparable to last year’s pace. The 3 percent growth achieved in 2018 surprised many at the central bank, and in their March statement officials said they thought the economy had slowed in the first weeks of this year.

After adding a meager 33,000 jobs in February, U.S. employers added nearly 200,000 in March. The S&P 500 index also hit a new record high and U.S. retail sales rebounded in March after a lull.

“The GDP figures – along with the strong rebound in retail sales and durable goods orders in March – are a testament to the economy’s resilience,” analysts at Oxford Economics wrote last week.

It is the type of data, in fact, that until a few weeks ago might have set the stage for an interest rate increase.

But a round of volatility in stock and bond markets late last year, coupled with weak inflation and signs of a global economic slowdown, prompted the Fed to change its plans for further hikes and shift to a strategy of staying on hold until something changes. The Fed raised rates four times last year, and as late as December envisioned more increases this year.

INFLATION CONCERNS

Inflation in particular continues to fall short of the Fed’s 2 percent goal, and was just 1.5 percent on an annualized basis in the most recent report. Some officials, most notably Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida, have said they also feel inflation expectations are nearing uncomfortably low levels.

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, D.C., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Fed officials watch different measures of inflation expectations almost as closely as the actual inflation numbers, and view them as central to the future rate of price increases.

That’s a strong reason, analysts say, for the Fed to hold off on rate hikes until it’s clear inflation is moving higher.

Faced with the “dichotomy” of continuing economic growth and below-target inflation, “the Fed should keep policy on hold at its May FOMC meeting as it navigates the tug-of-war,” between the two, analysts at Deutsche Bank wrote.

Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Paul Simao

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Amazon advertising growth slowed again in Q1: Does it matter?

Amazon advertising growth slowed again in Q1: Does it matter?

Data source: Amazon

For a few quarters there, Amazon was posting triple digit growth rates. Then growth slowed to 97% in the fourth quarter of 2018 and Thursday, the company reported just 36% growth in its advertising business line for the first quarter of 2019.

Amazon reports advertising business under an “Other” category. And while advertising accounts for the majority of that category,  Amazon said that the advertising business actually grew “a bit more” than 36% in the first quarter. Another thing to note is an accounting change puts previous quarters in a more favorable light, so the actual separation isn’t as big as it looks. All that said, Amazon is clearly invested in growing its advertising and it still very early days for that piece of the business. Here is what Amazon had to say about it on Thursday’s earning call.

Focus on ad relevancy. “I would say really what we’re focused on right now is driving relevancy, ensuring that we service the most useful ad as possible. I think that’s going to be the best experience for customers and also for advertisers.” Brian Olsavsky, Amazon’s CFO, said on the earnings call when asked about the deceleration over the past two quarters.

Building tools to make buying easier. “So most of our focus has been on again adding more functionality, adding more products and adding — reporting for businesses and advertisers — so they can understand the incremental customers they’re seeing on Amazon through advertising with Amazon,” said Olsavsky. “So it’s more right now about tools and making better recommendations, making it easier to use our Amazon demand-side platform, things like that, operational improvements.”

Support for brands. “And then, I guess, we’re very focused on serving brands as well. That’s another theme that we have,” Olsavsky said. “These brand stores that we have are easy to create, customize, and we’ve had great pickup on that from brands, but they can show shoppers who they are and tell their story. So it builds a better engagement for the brand and the customer. It builds better customer loyalty both to that brand and also to Amazon.”

Still a nascent business. “I would just say, we’re early on in this venture. There’s a lot of — it’s having a lot of pickup by both vendors, sellers and also authors. So again, we feel like if we work on the inputs on this business and continue to grow traffic to the site, we will have a good outcome in the advertising space.”

Why we should care. So is this deceleration just reflection of growing pains? It’s likely we’ll continue to see growth ebb and flow as Amazon continues to invest in the platform and products. Amazon has made several changes that reflect the goal of  improving “efficiency and also performance of the advertisement themselves” that Olsavsky noted. In September, it streamlined its ad products in an effort to simplify ad buying in the vein of Google and Facebook’s ad platforms New display and video formats, more inventory for Sponsored Products and Sponsored Brands ads.

Among its clients, Merkle reported that Amazon advertisers saw sales attributed to both Sponsored Brands more than double year over year, as spend grew 19% and 77% for those formats respectively. More than half of spend on the Sponsored Products came from placements other than the top-of-search results, said Merkle.

Speaking of investments, Amazon also dropped the news that it is investing $800 million to default to one-day shipping for Prime members, instead of the current two-day shipping offer.


About The Author

Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all of our publications. Ginny writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, she has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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How Envoy, a Silicon-Valley start-up, is testing its way to continuous growth

How Envoy, a Silicon-Valley start-up, is testing its way to continuous growth

Case Study Executive Summary

Company: Envoy
Industry: Software; Technology
Business Model: Lead generation
Experimentation Champion: Michele Pendergast, Head of Demand Generation

Business Need:

  • Short-term: Increase lead generation from newly redesigned website
  • Short-term: Increase overall conversion rate among visitors from paid campaigns
  • Long-term: Drive iterative, sustainable growth for the company
  • Long-term: Build a culture of experimentation at Envoy

Solution:

  • Source WiderFunnel as an experimentation partner to provide strategic support and staff augmentation
  • Quick launch of evidence-backed A/B tests to generate lift and company-wide buy-in
  • Continued internal education around conversion optimization and experimentation

Results:

  • Back-to-back winning experiments, resulting in double digit conversion rate lift
  • Increased buy-in for conversion optimization at the Executive level
  • Opportunities for experimentation program expansion deeper into the sign-up funnel and product

I knew that I could count on [WiderFunnel] to not only deliver on experiments, but to also help us build out the overarching program the right way from the beginning.

Michele Pendergast

Head of Demand Generation at Envoy

The full story

Envoy was born in Silicon Valley. The brainchild of Larry Gadea, a former Twitter and Google engineer, the Envoy app offers an alternative to the analog systems companies use every time they welcome visitors.

In his career, Gadea had seen the custom-built sign-in systems used by larger tech companies and wanted to build a solution for all companies. A solution that would enable a smooth, professional experience when welcoming guests.

Lead Generation Case Study - Envoy

Over the past 6 years, Envoy has seen major growth. In 2015, the company received $15M from Andreessen Horowitz in Series A funding. By 2017, over 5,000 companies were using Envoy’s services and the company had developed a new product to manage office deliveries.

In 2018, five years after its launch, Envoy was being used in over 10,000 workplaces, with four of five users outside of the Bay Area. Last Fall, the company raised another $43M in Series B funding to pursue the vision of “the smart office”.

While Envoy continues to enjoy rapid success, leaders are focused on laying the foundation for long-term sustainable growth. Part of this foundation is an experimentation machine that generates continuous growth and insights.

Enter the Experimentation Champion

When Michele Pendergast joined Envoy as Head of Demand Generation, she came in with a plan. Formerly a Marketing Manager at Intercom, Michele had learned first-hand the importance of applying rigor to conversion rate experiments on a marketing website.

Envoy had reached a growth plateau. To this point, Gadea had been working to generate buzz in the media, but things were slowing. The company hadn’t had anyone in a Marketing role for over a year, and was struggling to drive traffic to their website and organize data to understand visitor behavior.

Michele’s priorities were clear:

  1. Manage the money that was already in flight. Envoy had ads in play already and Michele wanted to ensure these ads were being managed with skill—so she hired a paid media agency.
  2. Improve organic traffic to Envoy’s marketing website. Michele brought in a SEO agency to improve website infrastructure.

Given that both of these activities are meant to drive traffic to the Envoy marketing website, Michele’s third priority was clear: To ensure that the site was actually converting people.

If I’m spending money to drive more people to the site, I want to make sure when they land on the site, that the site is set up to convert, to capitalize on that increased traffic. It was a very obvious domino effect.

— Michele Pendergast

Michele knew that the most effective way to convert users at a higher rate was to implement a rigorous optimization program based on experimentation. And as with her other priorities, Michele knew she wanted to bring in an agency partner to help.

Since we were such a small team, I knew that we needed an agency partner that felt like a true extension of our team. We weren’t just looking for consultants that would provide a plethora of options; we needed a team of experts that were as invested in our success as we were. Having worked with WiderFunnel before, I knew that I could count on them to not only deliver on experiments, but to also help us build out the overarching program the right way from the beginning,” explains Michele.

Introducing “conversion rate optimization” at Envoy

But before she could move forward, Michele needed to get her boss, Russ Thau, the company’s VP of Revenue and Success, on board with her plan. While Russ has an allstar sales background, he wasn’t super familiar with the concept of “conversion rate optimization”. This is where Michele began her efforts around education.

What is conversion rate optimization?

At WiderFunnel, we define Conversion Optimization (or Conversion Rate Optimization) as the science and art of getting a higher percentage of your digital visitors to take action and become a lead or customer.

Science: you cannot simply “guess and hope” which changes to your digital experiences will achieve a higher conversion rate. Instead, you need to develop valid hypotheses, run controlled experiments, and evaluate results to lock in the improvement.

Art: a statistician or engineer alone cannot create the visuals and messaging that engage your digital visitors. You should leverage a structured process that empowers your team to creatively apply learning from thousands of test results, to test only the best variations on your website.

Low literacy around CRO was one factor, but Michele needed to handle the optimization conversation with care for another reason. Envoy had just finished a website redesign and the team was fully and heavily invested in the success of the new site. She anticipated pushback if she couldn’t properly articulate her intentions with experimentation.

Michele worked carefully to explain that, while the redesign had certainly succeeded from a brand and aesthetic angle, there were still points of friction in the user experience. She emphasized the missed opportunity of not addressing these potential barriers to conversion.

She also made it clear to Russ that experimentation would be a cross-functional effort. This wasn’t about performance marketing making a play on its own. Rather, it would be a collaborative effort to iterate on the overall customer experience.

Getting the rest of the Envoy team on board

After getting the green light from her Executive sponsor, Michele wanted to address potential concerns on Envoy’s Design and Engineering teams. Design wanted to ensure that they were still heavily involved in any visual design decisions and changes made to the site. And the Engineering team was concerned about the impact running tests would have on website performance.

Michele knew that the best way to get Design and Engineering on board was to include them early in the process and be as transparent as possible about what experimentation would mean for them. First, she connected Envoy’s Senior Software Engineer, Alex Hollenbeck, with WiderFunnel’s Lead Engineer, Tony Ta.

I told him to ask any questions. They spoke for a while about WiderFunnel’s processes and how their technical team would acclimate to our dev environment. And afterward, Alex turned to me and shared his enthusiasm for the program. He was excited to get started,” recounts Michele.

Since Envoy kicked off their experimentation program, the experimentation team has worked to include Envoy’s Designers wherever possible, and as early in the experiment development process as possible.

I try to set expectations that we’re all going to have different opinions. That we’re all coming at this from our different areas of expertise—which is great. That said, we should be able to have open and honest conversations about our ideas and determine, as a team, which ideas are best for the company and the goals we’re trying to achieve.

— Michele Pendergast

The first experiment

Because experimentation education was needed, Michele and her counterparts at Widerfunnel decided to push for “simpler” tests at the outset. This thought process reflects WiderFunnel’s prioritization framework: PIE.

PIE is a framework that enables organizations to prioritize where (and what) to test first based on three factors: Potential, Importance, and Ease. Potential is how much improvement can actually be made in a given area. Importance is how valuable a page or funnel is (e.g. how much paid traffic does it receive; how visible is it, etc.). And finally, ease is how easy it is to test in a certain area, both technically and politically.

Given the level of understanding around “CRO” at Envoy, political Ease played a role when Michele and her WiderFunnel team were determining where to run Envoy’s first experiment. The team identified the site-wide navigation as an important, high-impact area for testing, where we could run a simple experiment that required minimal engineering work and easily fit within Design standards.

We came in knowing that the site had just undergone a full redesign so we knew that certain areas would be politically sensitive. From a data perspective, the site-wide navigation made perfect sense to kick things off. It receives the highest amount of traffic on the site and has high potential for driving results.

We wanted to start with the nav in order to prove the worth of experimentation, while encountering the least amount of pushback from the different teams involved.

Neil Lim

Experimentation Strategist at WiderFunnel

The experiment details—site-wide navigation

As soon as Envoy signed on with WiderFunnel, the team began the Explore phase. Explore is the first phase in our Infinity Optimization Process, wherein we gather as much information as possible about an organization and its customers. Explore insights come from customer research, analytics, stakeholder interviews, persuasion principles, business objectives, the experiment archive, and more.

Explore is a continuous process. The insights gathered inform every experiment we run, and insights that are uncovered when an experiment concludes are fed back into the Explore phase—hence the infinity loop.

WiderFunnel Infinity Optimization Process - Conversion Optimization
WiderFunnel’s Infinity Optimization Process.

During Explore with Envoy, Strategist Neil Lim collected user research data and digital analytics data. The team also conducted several LIFT analyses, all of which revealed several potential friction points in the site-wide navigation.

Lead gen case study lift analysis

  • CLARITY: There is no easy way to see the features for both Envoy’s Visitor and Delivery products or what distinguishes them from each other.
  • CLARITY: It isn’t clear that Envoy Visitors and Envoy Deliveries are two exclusive products.
  • CLARITY: Do the value proposition points in the “Why Envoy” dropdown apply to both products or only one?
  • ANXIETY/DISTRACTION: The value proposition points in the dropdown are easily missed if no one hovers over the “Why Envoy” menu.

After much discussion around these points, the team proposed several hypotheses. Ultimately, we decided to focus on a small change in the first variation: Renaming the “Why Envoy” dropdown to “Solutions”. According to Envoy’s user research, the term “solutions”—specifically “visitor management solutions”—was important to Envoy’s visitors. It was a term they were using.

With this variation, we wanted to make it clear that the value proposition points hidden in the “Why Envoy” drop down were actually solutions to visitors’ queries.

Hypothesis: Changing the “Why Envoy” label to “Solutions” will communicate that the key value proposition points found within this dropdown are the benefits users can derive from using Envoy’s products, increasing their motivation to sign up for a trial, resulting in more sign ups.

Lead gen case study example, var a
Variation A.

With variation B, we wanted to explore a slightly different angle. Signing up for an Envoy account is free and easy, a potential value proposition point that was only mentioned towards the bottom of the page—we wanted to see if emphasizing this value point in the navigation would increase sign ups.

This experiment idea was also bolstered by a past experiment we’d run with a SaaS client, which resulted in an almost 9% uplift in signups:

SaaS nav test example
We had previously tested this idea with another SaaS client, and had seen a strong positive result.

As a clarity point, we also wanted to test spacing out the links in the navigation. The overall hypothesis for variation B was:

Leveraging key value proposition points around the call-to-action and reducing the number of actions users need to take to complete signing up for an account will reinforce the fact that Envoy is risk-free, resulting in more visitors signing up.

Lead gen case study example, var b
Variation B.

In this variation, we shifted the primary navigation links to the left and added an email capture field into the nav.

Ultimately, variation A resulted in +16.53% increase in signups at 99% statistical confidence—a huge first win for Envoy. Variation B had a flat result, which goes to show that best practices mean nothing if they aren’t validated within your specific context.

Interesting insights:

In variation A, the team observed greater engagement with all key navigation links and reduced engagement with the “Sign Up” call-to-action. Visitors were exploring other pages on the site to a much higher degree, particularly the Visitor Management product page—which is Envoy’s most valuable product. While fewer visitors clicked on the CTA within the nav, sign ups increased drastically.

This indicates that Envoy visitors may need more education around the platform itself before they are willing to sign up for an account. Based on these results, future experiments should focus on either educating visitors about the benefits of the platform or making it easier for visitors to access this type of content.

Socializing the first experiment win

When WiderFunnel Strategist, Neil Lim, presented this result to the Envoy team, they were pumped. So pumped, in fact, that Alex hardcoded the winning nav experience right there on the call.

Then Michele ran (literally) to tell Russ. She explained the experiment and the result verbally—16.5% uplift!—and promised to follow-up with a more comprehensive results analysis, provided by her counterparts at WiderFunnel.

As promised, Michele packaged the results analysis to share in writing with Russ. Russ then took those results and socialized them to Envoy’s CEO as well as the rest of the Executive team. It was important to Michele that Russ socialize this first experiment to really highlight the team’s success, reinforcing the excitement and enthusiasm around the experimentation program in general.

This was the perfect first win. We were able to show how even small optimizations could lead to significant returns. It set us up to start feeling more confident and excited about the bigger opportunities ahead of us.

— Michele Pendergast

The next experiment

Off the heels of this first win, Michele could feel the momentum. She was starting to get that much sought after organizational buy-in. For the next experiment, the team decided to tackle the homepage proper. But given the visibility and importance of this page, Michele wanted to make sure to do things the right way—the collaborative way.

So, she brought Envoy’s Lead Designer, Amy Devereux, into the conversation early to ensure that the experiment variations would 1) make sense visually, and 2) align with her vision for the website.

The experiment details—the homepage

In conversations with the Envoy team about the homepage, one question that surfaced was around credibility: Namely, would highlighting Envoy’s customer logos impact sign-ups? These logos were potentially a major value proposition point—Envoy’s customers include large credible companies. However, they weren’t getting a lot of exposure in their original position on the homepage.

WiderFunnel strategists also considered evidence from psychological principles that would support moving the logos higher on the page. Namely the Bandwagon Effect, which states that we tend to put our trust in something because we believe many other people have put their trust in it first. There is safety in numbers.

So, the following hypothesis was put forward: Increasing the prominence of brands that use Envoy will alleviate any anxiety associated with signing up for an account, while also enhancing the credibility of Envoy which will ultimately result in increasing trial sign-ups.

Lead generation case study bandwagon effect
Control vs. Variation A

Alternatively, with variation B, the team wanted to test emphasizing Envoy use cases. This idea came out of the initial LIFT analysis. From a value proposition perspective, the information contained in the use cases section is useful and beneficial, but may have been missed because it is in between two large content blocks.

There was also click data from FullStory which indicated the use cases section was not receiving any clicks, re-validating the lack of exposure of this section. The WiderFunnel team also wanted to use this variation to funnel Envoy’s visitors to a single product: Visitor Management. This reflected an overall business objective.

For variation B, the hypothesis was:

Communicating the benefits of using Envoy and directing visitors to a single primary product will encourage visitors to learn more about the platform, ultimately resulting in increasing sign ups.

Lead gen test example, Widerfunnel
Control vs. Variation B

Both variations were winners, with variation A resulting in a 12% lift in sign ups and variation B resulting in an 8% lift in sign ups.

Interesting insight:

Given that most visitors may be unfamiliar with modern workplace technologies like Envoy, exposing them to prominent customers may have resulted in:

  • Spurring their curiosity about the products and driving them learn more on key Envoy pages
  • Helping to alleviate anxiety involved in signing up for a trial after seeing prominent companies using the platform (Bandwagon Effect)

The future of experimentation at Envoy

With two strong experiment results under her belt, Michele sees blue skies ahead for experimentation at Envoy. From her point of view, there are two main priorities to keep momentum going:

  1. Continue to socialize experimentation at the Executive level, and
  2. Level-up Envoy’s approach to rigorous experimentation

Sharing these initial experiment results has already led to increased organizational buy-in, and opened new doors for the experimentation program. The team is hoping to expand to program to test on the sign up funnel as well as other areas and products for Envoy.

“I’ll probably continue to share every experiment result with my VP as soon as I get it—I get really excited and want him to be excited, too,” laughs Michele. “But moving forward, I will want to be more strategic about how I bundle and share results within the organization at-large.”

Michele is building a communications plan that will allow her to spread the word as effectively as possible. She has started providing in-depth updates (hypotheses, experiment designs + rationale, results) in weekly Marketing Team meetings and rolling up high-level updates (experiment hypotheses + results) post-experiment into Envoy’s weekly leadership meetings.

As for the overall experimentation strategy, the team wants to focus on getting into more strategic and higher impact experiments. Where the first few experiments were focused at addressing high-impact, low-hanging fruit, subsequent experiments will focus on improving customer lifetime value and trial conversion rates for Envoy.

These are the metrics that will really drive sustainable growth and revenue for the company.

Everyone at Envoy is here to help elevate the workplace experience. We have a shared vision for the future. No matter your department, we’re all rowing in the same direction. WiderFunnel helped us kick off an inclusive growth experimentation program so we could play to all of our strengths, getting us a little closer to that future, one test at a time.

— Michele Pendergast

Envoy team WiderFunnel case study
The Envoy team has a shared vision for the future — and experimentation is a big part of it.

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Hello peak martech: 2019 Marketing Technology Landscape growth slows for first time

Hello peak martech: 2019 Marketing Technology Landscape growth slows for first time

SAN JOSE, CA — The number of companies encompassed in the famous Marketing Technology Landscape did not grow by double digits for the first time in eight years, with the 2019 Marketing Technology Landscape including 7,040 companies, an increase of just three percent from 2018.

Lead author and MarTech Conference chair Scott Brinker, unveiled the 2019 Martech Landscape during a keynote address at the conference in San Jose Thursday.

“The immediate reaction would be, This is it, we’ve reached peak martech,” said Brinker in an interview earlier this week. “But what it comes down to isn’t so much peak martech. It’s peak martech landscape.”

Brinker came to that conclusion after he began looking for martech in international markets and other sectors and found that the landscape misses a lot that’s happening in regional martech and the thousands of smaller solutions and apps available in various ecosystems of martech giants such as Salesforce, Oracle and HubSpot. “WordPress has an ecosystem of 54,000 plugins!” noted Brinker.

“We’ve hit the limits of what can be tracked down and included in one graphic,” he said, noting that the in proliferation of small point solutions and ecosystems is part of where he sees marketing technology heading.

Chiefly, in the new age of martech, Brinker sees the big ecosystems evolving into open platforms that are complemented by integrated, third-party apps; services firms offering more in the way of automated solutions; and the ability to create no- or low code solutions means marketers can create and customize point solutions to meet their specific needs. And all of these factors are propelled by the cloud.

Why you should care. “In some ways, forget about martech 5,000. Welcome to martech 50,000,” said Brinker, pointing to the hundreds of plug-and-play apps that are essentially mini martech products. “There are regional, vertical, ecosystems, services and citizen martech segments.”

The handful of behemoths — Adobe, Salesforce, etc. — that have made big acquisitions in recent years are also contributing to the explosion of what could be called micro-martech within their ecosystems. Not to mention the proliferation of services integrating with one another — consider Adobe’s recent partnerships with LinkedIn, Drift, Roku and ServiceNow.

More insights from the MarTech Conference

This story first appeared on MarTech Today. For more on marketing technology, click here.


About The Author

Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all of our publications. Ginny writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, she has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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Wall Street drops on paltry jobs growth, global slowdown worries

Wall Street drops on paltry jobs growth, global slowdown worries

(Reuters) – Wall Street declined on Friday after data showed U.S. job growth almost stalled in February, adding to concerns of a slowdown in global growth sparked by weak China export data and a prolonged slowdown in eurozone.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 7, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The U.S. economy created only 20,000 jobs in February, compared with expectations of non farm payrolls rising by 180,000 jobs last month, according to economists polled by Reuters.

“The poor number indicates that we are suffering alongside the rest of the global economy and that it is having an impact on the U.S.,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

“The U.S. has been the best house in a lousy neighborhood and maybe that is changing.”

However, other details of the closely followed employment report were strong. The unemployment rate fell back to below 4 percent and annual wage growth was the best since 2009.

The jobs report bolstered the Federal Reserve’s case for putting the interest rate hikes on hold, pushing the U.S. Treasury yields lower.

Shares of big banks dropped and pushed the interest-rate sensitive financials down 0.69 percent. Bank of America Corp, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc and Morgan Stanley dropped between 1.5 percent and 1.7 percent.

Worries about global growth gained ground after exports in China, the world’s second largest economy, tumbled the most in three years in February. Chinese imports also fell for a third straight month, which stirred talk of a “trade recession”.

The dismal economic report follows decision by the European Central Bank to cut its growth forecasts and unveil a new round of stimulus.

Adding to investor nerves was a comment from U.S. ambassador to China that the two sides have yet to set a date for a summit to resolve their trade dispute as neither side feels an agreement is imminent, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Tariff sensitive Boeing Co fell 0.7 percent and was the biggest drag on the bluechip Dow index, while Caterpillar Inc edged 1.3 percent lower.

Losses in heavyweight FAANG group of stocks increased after Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren said in blog post she would present a regulatory plan to break up some of America’s largest technology companies, including Amazon.com Inc, Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc.

Shares of Facebook, Amazon, Apple Inc, Netflix Inc and Alphabet were trading down between 1.2 percent and 2 percent.

At 9:47 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 137.41 points, or 0.54 percent, at 25,335.82. The S&P 500 was down 17.94 points, or 0.65 percent, at 2,730.99 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 60.88 points, or 0.82 percent, at 7,360.58.

Wall Street’s main indexes are set for their fifth day of declines and were on pace for their steepest weekly fall since December after starting the year on a strong note.

The energy sector fell 2.48 percent as oil prices slid and Norway’s trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund said it would drop oil and gas companies from its benchmark index and investment universe.

Oil majors ExxonMobil Corp and Chevron Corp dropped about 2 percent each.

The defensive real estate, utilities and consumer staples sector, were the only S&P sectors trading higher.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 2.62-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 2.58-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded five new 52-week highs and five new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 11 new highs and 32 new lows.

Reporting by Medha Singh and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur

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How The Motley Fool leverages experimentation as a growth strategy: A case study

How The Motley Fool leverages experimentation as a growth strategy: A case study

Case Study Executive Summary

Company: The Motley Fool
Industry: Media; Financial Services
Business Model: Premium Service Subscription
Experimentation Champion: Nate Wallingsford, Head of U.S. Marketing Operations and Optimization at The Motley Fool

Business Need:

  • Increase paid user acquisition to hit revenue targets
  • Increase user engagement with premium services
  • Increase member retention
  • Increase customer lifetime value

Solution:

  • Process-oriented experimentation featuring proper Design of Experiments
  • Collaborative experiment ideation between The Motley Fool and WiderFunnel
  • Internal socialization of experimentation at The Motley Fool
  • Staff augmentation (UX / UI Design and Web Development)

Results:

  • Millions of dollars in uncovered additional annual revenue
  • Key customer insights generated and leveraged throughout The Motley Fool’s funnel
  • Unified experimentation efforts across The Motley Fool’s marketing and product teams

Controlled experiments can transform decision making into a scientific, evidence-driven process—rather than an intuitive reaction. Without them, many breakthroughs might never happen, and many bad ideas would be implemented, only to fail, wasting resources.

The full story: How The Motley Fool uses experimentation to drive growth

When Nate Wallingsford stepped into the role of Director of Conversions, Acquisition Marketing at The Motley Fool 3 years ago, he knew that experimentation would be a primary focus.

Nate understood that the ability to provide data-backed recommendations for digital experience improvements is crucial. And for a multimedia company like The Motley Fool, whose website receives millions of unique visitors each month, even a slight increase in customer acquisition rate could have a massive impact on the bottom-line.

Today, Nate is the Head of US Marketing Operations and Optimization at The Motley Fool, and the company is testing across the entire customer journey and multiple teams.

While experimentation has always been celebrated at The Motley Fool, Nate’s work in partnership with WiderFunnel has led to increased visibility for the experimentation program, massive revenue gains, and—perhaps most importantly—actionable customer insights.

This case study explores how Nate and his team are using experimentation as a fool-proof (pun intended) growth strategy.

The business context

As mentioned, The Motley Fool is an established multimedia financial services company.

Their website consists of pages on pages of useful, free content for investors; the company generates revenue through various stock, investing, and personal finance premium services. The Motley Fool’s funnel consists of three primary areas:

  1. User acquisition or front-end marketing: The goal being to encourage non-paying members to sign up and become paying members
  2. Upsell or back-end marketing: The goal being to encourage members paying for lower-tier services to purchase more premium services
  3. Product: The goal is to increase member engagement with the service(s) they’re paying for and increase member retention

Each area of the funnel is the responsibility of a different team within The Motley Fool, but everyone is focused on creating the best customer experience and increasing customer lifetime value.

Across the teams, we’re all really focused on customer lifetime value (LTV) for every stage. Whether it’s someone’s first product with us—getting them into a higher tier. And on the product side, the more we get people to renew, the higher their lifetime value. It’s a win-win for both the customer and us—they get great stock advice and recommendations and we get to retain them as a customer.

Nate Wallingsford, Head of US Marketing Operations & Optimization at The Motley Fool

As the leader of the user acquisition team, Nate’s main focus was to hit his revenue targets by increasing paid subscriptions. And experimentation was his tool of choice.

Finding the right experimentation partner

From the outset, Nate had almost everything he needed to build a successful experimentation program within his team: senior-level support, high website traffic, plenty of ideas for improvement. But he was lacking a process.

Nate was running what he refers to as “good-idea tests” – you have what you think is a good idea, you test it, it wins, loses or is inconclusive. If it wins, hooray! You can implement changes. But if it loses, it’s back to the drawing board.

As a self-proclaimed process-oriented person, he knew there had to be a better method. It was in this moment—searching for experimentation processes on Google—that Nate stumbled upon WiderFunnel Founder Chris Goward’s book, You Should Test That! He bought it, read it, and loved it.

I thought, ‘This book is awesome.’ I’m going to start building out our optimization program for acquisition around the WiderFunnel methodologies.

— Nate Wallingsford

And he wasn’t kidding. Nate took everything he’d read in the book, as well as resources from the WiderFunnel website: The LIFT Model®, what makes a great hypothesis, the Infinity Optimization Process™, the PIE prioritization framework – and built a Trello board of the WiderFunnel process as he interpreted it.

Growth Case Study Example WiderFunnel LIFT Model
Nate built The Motley Fool’s experimentation strategy using several WiderFunnel frameworks, including the LIFT Model.

Nate understood experimentation from day one. It was fantastic. He was already familiar with the LIFT Model and experiment design principles. We were able to jump into collaborative experiment ideation and strategy right away. You know, the fun stuff.

James Flory, Experimentation Strategist, WiderFunnel

Ultimately, Nate decided to partner with WiderFunnel to ensure his program would be as successful as possible: To solidify his use of these processes internally. To gain access to additional design and web development resources. And to collaborate with expert experimentation strategists who are testing across industries every day.

The power of fresh perspective

With every new client, there is a discovery phase. In the early days of our partnership, Nate and the WiderFunnel team dug into The Motley Fool’s most important user acquisition goals and conducted initial analyses of fool.com.

One of the first things we noticed was the lack of a prominent call-to-action to sign up for The Motley Fool’s premium services. Users were landing on the site and engaging with content, but there was no clear path to conversion. In fact, there was almost no indication that there were professional services available.

Nate and his team have a ton of knowledge about their product, their marketing, and their customer, but they had overlooked a seemingly common-sense improvement. This happens to marketers constantly. We are so close to our day-to-day, so wrapped up in our way of thinking, that we miss simple solutions.

Which is why a partner with a fresh perspective can be essential.

The first experiment WiderFunnel ran with us was to add a call-to-action button to our desktop site-wide navigation. It was super simple and seemed like a no-brainer, but the impact was insane. After that, I knew this was a good decision. And I knew it was going to be really cool to work with [WiderFunnel].

— Nate Wallingsford

The experiment details

For this experiment, we added a “Latest Stock Picks” call-to-action in the navigation. This CTA replaced a dropdown menu labelled “Stock Picks”. The assumption was that Motley Fool users are looking for stock-picking advice, specifically.

WiderFunnel Motley Fool Experiment Example
The Motley Fool’s original site-wide navigation—aka “The Control”.

Hypothesis: Creating a clear “Latest Stock Picks” CTA in the site-wide navigation will cause more users to enter a revenue-driving funnel from all areas of fool.com.

The variations

Two variations were tested. Each featured the “Latest Stock Picks” call-to-action. But in each variation, this CTA took the user to a different page. Our ultimate goal was to find out:

  1. If users were even aware that there were premium paid services offered, and
  2. Which funnel is best to help users make a decision and, ultimately, a purchase

In variation A, the “Latest Stock Picks” call-to-action sent users to the homepage and anchored them in the premium services section. This section provides detail about The Motley Fool’s different offerings, along with a “Sign Up Today” call-to-action.

Widerfunnel Motley Fool Experiment Example
Variation A featured a new call-to-action button, which anchored visitors lower on the homepage.

With variation B, we wanted to experiment with limiting choice. Rather than showing users several product options, the “Latest Stock Picks” call-to-action sent them directly to the Stock Advisor service sign up page; this was Motley Fool’s most popular service.

Widerfunnel Motley Fool Experiment Example
In variation B, the CTA took users to a specific product page.

Both variations beat the control. Variation A resulted in an 11.2% lift in transactions with 99% confidence and variation B resulted in a 7.9% increase in transactions with 97% confidence.

Interestingly, because variation B was built on variation A using factorial design, we were able to see that this change actually decreased transactions by 3.3%.

What is Factorial Experiment Design?

Factorial Design is a method of Design of Experiments. Similar to multivariate (MVT) testing, factorial design allows you to test more than one element change within the same variation. The greatest difference is that factorial design doesn’t force you to test every possible combination of changes.

Instead of creating a variation for every combination of changed elements, you can design an experiment to focus on specific isolations that you hypothesize will have the biggest impact or drives insights.

Learn more, here.

What were the insights?

In The Motley Fool’s initial experience, users may have been unsure of how to sign up (or that they could sign up) due to lack of call-to-action prominence on the original site-wide navigation. Users also seemed to prefer some degree of choice over being sent to one product (as seen with the decrease in transactions caused by variation B).

Following the customer insights

One of the biggest problems with the “good idea” testing that Nate had been doing is that it prioritizes conversion rate lift over insights, over learning. If an experiment won, great. If not, it had zero value. All that effort to ideate, design, and run the test was wasted.

But a great experimentation program will generate insights with every single test. And that’s what Nate began to build with WiderFunnel.

One series of experiments was particularly fascinating. It generated a core customer insight that The Motley Fool is still leveraging and validating throughout their digital experience. The initial idea was to leverage an extremely common persuasion principle: social proof. Adding social proof to any customer experience is widely accepted as a “CRO best practice”.

The experiment details

A secondary top-of-funnel metric for The Motley Fool is email sign-ups for the company’s email marketing list. For the first experiment on this funnel, we focused on the email capture modal. In one of our variations, we added a social proof statement: “Join over 121,837,512 other Fools who have come to The Motley Fool for investing insights.”

This tactic has worked for other WiderFunnel clients in the past, encouraging more users to enter a revenue-driving funnel. In this case, however, the variation tanked. It resulted in a -11.2% decrease in sign-ups.

Widerfunnel Motley Fool Experiment Example
In this experiment, social proof tanked.

In this experiment, social proof resulted in an extreme reaction from users, indicating high sensitivity around this persuasion technique. One theory was as follows: Rather than being comforted by the fact that others trust The Motley Fool, prospective customers may actually be looking for exclusivity.

Nate and WiderFunnel Strategist, James Flory, wanted to understand further. They ran another experiment, this time on the primary landing page for the email capture funnel. But they leveraged a different form of social proof: a customer testimonial.

Widerfunnel Motley Fool Experiment Example
The original email capture landing page.

The Hypothesis: Adding testimonials will make users trust this page as a place to submit their emails and improve email capture rates.

Widerfunnel Motley Fool Experiment Example
In the variation, we added social proof in the form of a testimonial.

Again, Motley Fool users responded negatively. The social proof variation resulted in a slight decrease in conversions. Seeing this result, Nate thought about the testimonials splashed across the customer journey and wondered: Should we remove social proof throughout the funnel?

“We had started to test injecting social proof into our lead capture pages. And we saw a drag on conversions any time we did that. We tried adding social proof and trust elements on our video sales letter pages. That had a drag on conversion. And we thought it was strange. Adding social proof seems like a best practice, an industry standard,” explains Nate.

“So, we thought, let’s experiment with this on our order pages. These are at the bottom of the funnel, right before purchase. What happens if we remove the testimonials and social proof we have on order pages? Will we then see a lift because earlier in the funnel we saw a drag across the board?”

We ran another experiment, this time on the order page—the stage of the funnel that includes the point of purchase. In the variation, all customer testimonials were removed. This variation performed terribly, decreasing transactions, average order value and revenue per session. However, it generated several actionable insights:

  • Previous learnings indicated social proof had a negative correlation with conversion rate. This experiment challenged that insight.
  • It may be that, in the early stages of the user journey, users are not yet in a purchase state of mind and still crave exclusivity.
  • Early stages of the funnel don’t hint at a paid service or subscription, but adding testimonials may put the thought of an upcoming sales pitch into the user’s mind, possibly triggering an exit or increased wariness.
  • Inversely, when a user is exposed to a purchase decision, they respond positively to social proof which may reduce anxiety and increase trust and confidence in their decision.

That was really interesting to see. Even though we had a decrease in conversion rates across all three experiments, they generated this insight that social proof and testimonials are huge at the point of purchase, but may need to be avoided at the top of the funnel.

— Nate Wallingsford

This series of experiments points to the importance of experimentation in general. If Nate had simply made changes to fool.com based on best practices, he might have seen conversion rates drop with no understanding as to why.

And if he hadn’t been leveraging an experimentation process to understand where to retest and revalidate insights (in this case, the threshold and elasticity of social proof), he might’ve just removed social proof lower in the funnel based on the initial experiment results, assuming that social proof doesn’t work.

Socializing experimentation: The importance of gaining visibility

Every marketer and product owner has growth targets they are trying to hit. Which is why achieving positive experiment results is hugely important. But visibility is crucial to the longevity of any experimentation program—on both winning experiments and ‘losing experiments’ that generate learnings.

Nate’s goal has always been to promote a culture of evidence-based decision-making at The Motley Fool.

Early on, Nate realized that the insights gained through process-based experimentation were a firestarter for even better tests. He wanted to spread this knowledge throughout the organization, so he began compiling his experiments and insights into a monthly email newsletter.

At first, Nate was just distributing this newsletter to the U.S. acquisition team. But people began to forward it on, and more Fools became interested in joining his distribution list. So, he began to scale this communication to other teams.

This newsletter became a key resource for other teams at The Motley Fool—specifically teams with lower website traffic. These teams lack the traffic volume to test at the same velocity as the acquisition team, but are able to leverage Nate’s insights and results to implement new experiences on their sites.

Today, Nate and his colleague Lauren conduct a weekly standup on experimentation. Attendees come from across the company—from marketing, technical, and editorial teams. This constant communication generates buzz and momentum around experimentation at The Motley Fool and is a key piece of Nate’s strategy.

The future of experimentation at the Motley Fool

At the beginning of this partnership, Nate was looking to leverage WiderFunnel’s expertise in experimentation and augment his resources to scale The Motley Fool’s experimentation program quickly. The relationship has since morphed into a highly collaborative partnership. Today, Nate and James feed off each other’s insights and ideas to develop new tests and experiences together.

The test ideation, optimization conversations, and overall rapport [between us and WiderFunnel] is exceptional. I feel like I’m having these conversations with my colleagues, not an agency.

— Nate Wallingsford

Recently, WiderFunnel and The Motley Fool expanded their partnership to help drive testing strategy within The Motley Fool’s product experience. This aligns perfectly with Nate’s priorities for experimentation, which are:

  • To enable deeper collaboration between the Marketing and Product teams and unify the new member journey from purchase to product experience
  • And to optimize The Motley Fool’s mobile experience and improve monetization

“Things change quickly at The Motley Fool,” explains Nate. “I always try to prioritize the experiments that have the biggest potential business impact. It’s a big part of what has made our program successful, and will be a continued focus for our team.”

Author

Natasha Wahid

Marketing Manager

Watch this on-demand webinar and discover how Nate and his team are leveraging experimentation to uncover massive revenue gains and actionable customer insights. And learn how Nate has worked to gain visibility and create excitement around testing.

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