Fighting brand fatigue through A/B testing
Here's how an e-commerce business tested different ad copy and images on Facebook to lower their CPA by 70 percent over three months.
From Google to Facebook and even Instagram and Bing, you are competing against other advertisers. This is normal and expected. What is usually not talked about is the competition that you face against yourself – namely brand fatigue.
Brand fatigue happens when your advertising begins to degrade in performance because your ads are being shown to the same set of people repeatedly. Two things can happen:
- You start to see your costs go up as the ad system has to work harder to show your ads to new people. This can increase your cost-per-acquisition (CPA) as conversions don’t increase in lock-step with costs.
- You start to see your target CPA rise as you see fewer conversions happen each day and week while your costs remain the same. This one happens a lot to brands. This is the silent killer in many ad accounts…especially on Facebook.
It’s normal to see ebbs and flows in an ad account and performance change over time. However, if you continue to see an increase in your CPA, then brand fatigue may be starting to set in.
What can you do about this? The best defense against brand fatigue is a good offense. That means A/B testing your way to a better CPA over time. Never rest on what is working today because it can stop working tomorrow.
Let me tell you how we helped an e-commerce client fight against brand fatigue with their site and mobile app. We did this work while lowering their Facebook CPA by 70 percent over the first three months of working together, starting in June.
Our process for any new client is doing an account audit, understanding their unique selling proposition (USP) and then launching campaigns. We look at analytics data to learn and help start our next test. This feedback loop is key to success because data helps chart the way.
When we take on any new client, the first 48 hours of getting access to their technology systems and ad account involves an audit. This audit looks at the account from top to bottom. We look for the following:
- Is conversion tracking set up correctly and is all of the data getting into Google Analytics?
- Are their rules, scripts and shared budgets impacting the account?
- What can the search query report and change history tell us about account performance?
- What does the account structure look like? Does this take into account context including business, contract obligations and industry needs (i.e., not being able to bid on competitors)?
- How are keywords, interests and other targeting set up?
- What does the ad copy look like? You want to make sure that your ad copy stands out in a sea of sameness online
- Is the client not using common features that make sense for their business?
Once we go through the audit and answer all the questions above (and many more), we chat with the client as we go through our list of questions. We want to make sure we understand business and historical context of the ad account before we start making changes.
Lastly, we make incremental changes and never make changes all at once. The worst thing is making massive changes and not seeing your strategy work out. Phase your changes in over a few months for a large account or a few weeks for smaller accounts.
What is their unique selling proposition (USP)
While the account audit is happening, we start to do customer research around what people think about the industry. We look at Reddit and TrustPilot (and other sites) to get a pulse on the industry.
What do people say in the pros and cons section of these review sites? What are the common questions, comments and concerns that come up? We take all this information and place it in a Google doc that links back to each comment or thread online. That way we can reference it later.
This data always helps craft a better USP and ad copy that sounds…well, human. The reason it helps is that we start to sift through the data and look for themes. It’s super interesting to see how people talk about one brand over another. It also helps make sure our copy is not vague.
Vague copy is useless.
What words do people use that a brand themselves would never say? Your brand truly is what people say online when they think you are not reading and watching. We generally come up with two or three themes and USPs for a brand to consider.
Each theme has three pieces of ad copy to test on Facebook (or any ad platform). Never get attached to one idea or USP. Let the market decide what they care about. For this client, it was about access to boutique brands all in one site.
Campaign launch in …3…2…1!
Based on each theme and USP, choose images that reinforce that messaging for Facebook and Instagram ads. Then launch ads and monitor them over the next three to five days. We may pause underperforming ads or give it a week to run.
Our Facebook testing period looks at a combination of client budget, audience size and analytics data to see what we should keep in an ad account. We don’t want only to find ad copy that works. We want to find ad copy that can consistently bring in customers over the long haul.
There is nothing worse than an ad account that you cannot scale. This client took six weeks from mid-June until August to find that right mix of brand copy they liked and a USP that worked in the market. Once we found that, we saw their CPA drop almost overnight.
With ad copy that worked, we continued to test. We tested similar copy and play-on-words in the ad. We tested different CTAs as well.
We tried different images to find something that won against our control group. One interesting test kept showing lifestyle images that involved people performed worse than product shots.
This was not something we expected, but no matter what we tried, product shots won out every time. This lead us to look at the best product images we could find and doubled down on this win. All these images got worked into our customer landing pages and were consistent.
By consistently testing out our ad copy and images on Facebook, we were able to lower the CPA by 70 percent over three months. All this knowledge was then used in our marketing for their app launched in September. All the A/B testing helped the client grow the brand across their site and app.
Testing and moving the needle on your business is a process. You never want to rest on what worked yesterday or last week as you continually need to test your images and ad copy on Facebook. If you don’t do it, your competition will.
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