PTG Voice

Resources and thought leadership around marketing, commerce and crafting a better user experience.

A Guide to Developing a Testing Strategy

Posted by Patti Heath on March 11, 2016
Working Hard-1.jpgWeb testing is a difficult topic to discuss primarily because very few people know what it is or what it should accomplish. Let’s define it as an agnostic approach to implementing changes. In other words, testing is a method of generating and validating ideas.
This is nothing new to the world of science and engineering. So, let’s look at the steps of the “scientific method” – the same one we all learned about in 4th grade:
  • Ask a Question
  • Do Background Research
  • Construct a Hypothesis
  • Test Your Hypothesis by Experimenting
  • Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
  • Communicate Your Results
This is a simple and effective testing strategy that will work for any site. Let’s work through this as a short exercise, say, for example with a landing page that isn’t converting.
Ask a question: 
Why isn’t the landing page converting?
Do background research: 
A simple Google search here will bring us to thousands of people yapping about improving conversion rates on landing pages. Here’s where we need to be careful – this is the idea-gathering phase. Try not to be overly focused while doing this – the ideas might be too big or too small. See below general themes about non-converting landing pages:
  • The landing page is too busy, i.e. too many links or too much content
  • The landing page doesn’t focus on its conversion
  • Your lead capture form is too intense
  • Your headlines/value propositions/imagery/etc. are bad
  • The list goes on. And on...
Construct a hypothesis: 
Now, examine your own landing page and generate some ideas about why it may, or may not be working. Depending on your research, you might decide on a complete redesign, or you may try to change only a few aspects, e.g. revisiting the lead capture form or updating the headlines.
Your hypothesis will determine the scope of your test. A complete redesign may require design assets, wireframes, imagery, etc. While changing some elements on the page could be accomplished with a tool like Unbounce.
Test Your Hypothesis by Experimenting:
This stage of the testing process is where you can get creative. If you’re scrapping the entire landing page, now’s the time to try some radical design variations you may have had in mind. Feel free to copy other landing pages that look good; figure out what everybody else is doing and think about what you like and don’t like. Try some things that might seem silly or too far – it’s just a test.
Even if you’re doing a complete redesign, you’ll need to use an a/b or multivariate site testing tool. Optimizely, Unbounce, Google Analytics, etc. The particular testing tool will be different depending on what you’re testing – most tools are replaceable by others.
Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion:
This is pretty straightforward – which test variations got the best results? eCommerce and lead gen web properties typically only have one or two goals, so there isn’t much in the way interpretation that you might be doing.
Communicate your results:
 If that’s what you really want to do . . .
With all of that said, testing works as well for solving basic landing page issues as it does for addressing usability issues, information architecture concerns, and validating high-level marketing strategies. And when you’re through with all of that, you might even have something they call knowledge.
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Last mile of a project is the most important for client relationships

Posted by Patti Heath on March 7, 2016

Working Hard-2.jpgeCommerce agencies who offer fixed bid arrangements with clients have something in common - the warranty period. We have been doing some thinking about what an incredible opportunity warranty periods are — and with that opportunity comes  critical risk as well.

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Topics: Commerce, Marketing

Contextual Technologies: Introduction to NFC

Posted by Patti Heath on March 3, 2016

While not necessarily new, NFC has become one of the hottest technologies in the digital space and one of our favorites here at the Plum Tree Group. Its simplicity and functionality allows our clients to seamlessly connect their traditional and digital marketing in a meaningful–and trackable!–way.

Without further ado, here is a quick breakdown of what NFC is, why it has suddenly become so relevant, and what it all means for you.

What It Is

NFC, standing for Near Field Communication, is a form of passive technology that connects the real word with the digital world. It requires two things to work: a chip, which can be easily embedded within many forms of traditional marketing (like in-store and out of home signage, mailers, t-shirts, etc.), and a reader (for many this can mean an NFC enabled phone).

The technology works such that when the reader is brought within range, usually within an inch, to the NFC chip, the chip communicates with the reader. Once the two are close enough, the chip can send information, direct the reader to a specific site, or ask it to perform a specific command.

Why It Matters Now

While the technology has been around for some time, it has only recently begun to become popular. This is for a few reasons.

  1. The colossal failure of QR Codes.

Thought to be the future, QR Codes, for a multitude of reasons, never actualized its potential. NFC’s ability to deliver the desired results, without the added steps and required application, ultimately allowed the technology to gather momentum.

  1. Who’s going to carry a reader with them?

This problem was effectively solved for the moment Android began to include NFC technology within each of their phones. Android currently holds a massive share of the smartphone market, 78% as of 2013, which means that an NFC reader was now in the hands of the majority of the smartphone using public.

Apple, one of the last holdouts, also began including NFC technology in the iPhone 6. Which means that nearly all new smartphones on the market include this technology.

What It Means (& How Can I Use It?)

All of this is to say, it has never been easier to bridge the gap between your in-store or out of home experience and the digital space.

Bridging that gap is as easy creating the traditional media, with the NFC chip embedded, and figuring out what exactly you want the chip to do when it interacts with an NFC reader.

Are you launching a new product and want to send the user to a special microsite to learn more?

Do you have a how-to video that they’d find interesting?

Would you like to send them to the app store to check out your brand new app?

In addition to connecting your digital and traditional assets, NFC also allows you to track the value of your traditional marketing in real time. With this information, it becomes even easier to optimize your future campaigns, so that your users are provided with the content they find most engaging.

Another use of NFC, one you’ve probably already seen in your day-to-day lives, allows users to use the technology (with their card or phone) to pay for their purchase. Many credit cards now include NFC chips that let you tap your card against a reader to pay. This secure payment method continues to simplify the point of sale and expedite the entire process. It is for this reason that the city of Chicago transitioned their entire transit system to NFC, where riders can use both plastic and throw-away cards to pay for their rides.

Next Steps

Interested in exploring NFC and how it can help your traditional and digital marketing efforts? Let’s sit down and talk about this more.




To learn more about technologies that can change your business contact us today for a free consultation!

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Topics: Commerce

Five Things Missing From Your 2016 Digital Marketing Strategy

Posted by Patti Heath on February 29, 2016

Working Hard-8.jpg

1. A Focus on Mobile

Mobile consistently remains absent from most yearly digital marketing strategies. Year after year, the  number of people who own and use devices continues to increase, it is vital that business re-evaluate their mobile efforts. Thus, it is important to think about mobile as it relates to your customer’s journey.  Should mobile be the first touch-point on a more complex customer journey? Will a mobile friendly site be enough? Or does your business and customer require a more robust app?


2. User-Generated Content

User-generated content (UGC) already takes a special role in your business whether you know it or not. 2016 is the time to focus on developing and curating meaningful content. Whether you focus on reviews, community blog posts,  social media or igniting a Reddit community - now is the time to pay attention. Consumers consider UGC to be 20% more influential and 35% more memorable than branded messages. They also are 50% more likely to find UGC trustworthy as opposed to branded advertising.


3. Storytelling

They say content is king, but without a compelling story, it isn’t going  reach consumers. Take a look at your content strategy and identify how you’re telling your company’s story. Industry leaders say that content marketing is becoming overhyped – but we believe that’s because it’s rare to find an organization that does it well.
Find what’s interesting about your organization and start there. Build an entire campaign around an interesting idea, theme, or concept and you’ll have a compelling story that consumers relate to in no time.

4. New Pricing Strategy

Most eCommerce businesses never run a test on their pricing. While it’s a safe assumption that most customers always choose the lowest price, it’s simply an assumption. Studies have shown in certain merchandising situations consumers are more likely to choose a higher priced item.
Throughout 2015 run a few pricing tests: remove the dollar sign, feature products that end with 9, create decoy bundles, and place price anchors on landing pages.

5. Holiday Planning

The 2014 holiday season isn’t over yet, but it’s never too early to put some attention on next year. This year Black Friday / Cyber Monday mobile sales were up 28% this year. Not only does this make a bigger case for #1 of this list, but it also further shows consumers have even more options. Outline your holiday strategy now and tailor it throughout the year, so your store has the infrastructure to stand out.
Planning your 2016 Marketing Strategy? Download our free inbound marketing checklist.
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Topics: Marketing

Asking The Easter Bunny for a New eCommerce Platform?

Posted by Patti Heath on February 24, 2016

A new eCommerce software platform is at the top of many online merchants’ shopping lists for 2016. For some, the impending closure of Amazon’s Webstore eCommerce solution has forced their hands. While, for others, the time is ripe with updated technology that can help achieve multi-touchpoint mastery. Whatever the reason, close to one in five merchants say re-platforming is a top priority, according to technology researcher Forrester.

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Is Content Marketing Still King?

Posted by Patti Heath on February 17, 2016

In short, yes.

Content Marketing has established itself as one of the most effective ways for a company or business to brand itself. This is a result of a significant shift in the way companies (or should I say, “successful companies”) interact with consumers.

  • Why have those interactions shifted?
  • And, more importantly, how can it help you and your brand?

The How:

This is simple. Provide people with engaging and valuable content. I know, easier said than done.

  • Have a plan. Create a content strategy. Think about what you want to say, when you want to say it, and where you want to say it. And finally, identify your target audience.
  • Provide valuable information. But here’s a hint: The valuable information you provide isn’t that they should buy your product or use your services. Strong content marketing is, in a way, altruistic. Help people. Teach them something they didn’t know or, better yet, needed to know. And they will begin to trust you and your brand.
  • Engage. Engagement means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. But to me, it means, be interesting. Value is great, but boring is boring.
How do you engage, or at least, be interesting?


In terms of the content itself, speak with an authentic voice. Allow yourself, and your brand, to have a conversation with your audience. This will lead to a more enriching experience for those who interact with your brand and, in turn, will begin add value to your brand.

And finally, keep it short. Humans have attention spans dwindling by the second, so make sure to keep everything you do, or say, brief.

 Want to learn how content marketing can fit into your 2016 strategy? Let us provide you a free consultation!

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Topics: Marketing

How to: Assess eCommerce Vendors

Posted by Patti Heath on February 15, 2016

Expressions-16.jpgWith the online commerce landscape undergoing frequent seismic changes, agility has become a key criterion for assessing potential eCommerce platform vendors. The prospect of new mobile devices and formats and new social media outlets, along with ever-growing consumer expectations for a unified online/offline shopping experience, are among the reasons merchants seek to “future-proof” their sites and vendors promise to deliver infinitely-expanding capabilities.

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Topics: Commerce, Marketing

Checklist: eCommerce Migration

Posted by Patti Heath on February 9, 2016


If they’re doing it right, merchants gearing up to replatform in the first half of 2016 have already been hard at work for some time now. Between comprehensive assessment of current capabilities and future needs, and rigorous vetting of prospective vendors, merchants may feel that they’re nearing the end of their replatforming quest. But of course nothing could be further from the truth. The actual migration begins a new journey toward fresh and relevant offerings for shoppers -- one that includes both the initial launch and the continual improvements that must follow.

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Topics: Commerce

eCommerce Platform Must-Haves for 2016

Posted by Patti Heath on February 4, 2016

Gone are the days when the shopping cart was the most complex element of an eCommerce site. Now, consumer demand for rich and relevant shopping experiences requires merchants to explore the outer limits of eCommerce and its overlap with content, cross-device capabilities, localization technologies, social media and other frontiers.

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Should your eCommerce Vendor be Psychic?

Posted by Patti Heath on February 1, 2016

ecommercevendorpsychic.jpgMerchants evaluating potential new technology partners must not only assess the current capabilities of the offering, but also gauge how well vendors can scale to support brand growth and innovate to accommodate the continual change that is the norm for the industry.

Merchants must realize that change is a constant and that technology innovation isn’t about a one-time replatforming project, but rather is an ongoing process in which the right vendor can be a long-term partner – not a quick fix.

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Topics: Commerce

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