Marketing simulation versus A/B testing
A/B testing involves creating different versions of your marketing materials. Consumers view only 1 version using a process of random selection to determine which version any consumer sees. Marketers then monitor to see which version performs best, usually based on consumer actions, such as buying the product, or subscribing, consumer emotions, such as liking, or consumer thoughts, such as knowledge about the brand.
Because it’s a powerful method for increasing conversion, A/B testing is kind of the gold standard for metrics-driven marketers (and should be for everyone doing digital marketing). Yet, problems exist.
For instance, you can only make a single change between versions of your marketing materials — such as a headline, color or text of your CTA (Call to Action), etc — which can result in a lot of different versions, which require a large number of consumers to effectively evaluate results. Ethical concerns also exist regarding using human beings as test subjects. But, the biggest concern with A/B testing is that return visitors may get confused or produce inaccurate results when they see different versions of the marketing materials.
In contrast, web designers commonly set up a sandbox to test performance before uploading the design to the internet for others to see. That’s because you don’t want visitors coming to the site in the middle and seeing things that don’t work right or look awkward. Such incomplete or bad designs discourage visitors from returning and give the brand a poor image.
Like the sandbox used by web designers, marketing simulation creates a sandbox to test your ideas. Unlike the sandbox created for web design, however, a marketing sandbox doesn’t just test whether a feature works or not, it tests HOW people respond to your marketing materials:
Does the orange or green CTA box generate more clicks?
Would consumers respond better if materials were directed at them, ie. let us help you versus let us help?
Does a white paper generate more response than a video?
Which consumer segment will generate the most profits?
Where would consumers be most likely to buy our products?
While you might use A/B testing to discover the answers, marketing simulation is often a better option for the reasons listed above. Plus, marketing simulation can determine response more holistically rather than 1 element at a time.
Types of marketing simulations
Marketers sometimes use consumer panels for marketing simulation. For instance, we did a shopping panel for a company making holiday gift wrap. We simulated a store and gave members of our consumer panel $25 to spend on gift wrap in our store. At the register, we not only charged for the purchases, but recorded the designs chosen. At the end of the simulation, we reported the highest grossing designs to the client who used the information to determine which designs to produce.
In the case of a consumer panel, you use real people in your simulation, which is expensive and time-consuming. An alternative is constructing a simulated consumer panel using advanced databases and modeling to predict how these pretend humans respond to marketing efforts.
That’s exactly what Thinkvine is all about. They create a simulated digital marketplace peopled by databases reflecting real consumers and modeled using sophisticated algorithms to deliver customer-driven insights that guide your marketing efforts.
Learn more about how Thinkvine helps you create better marketing campaigns from my interview with CEO, Mark Battaglia.
Whether you need a complete analytics strategy, some help with brand marketing, or some consulting to learn how to optimize post content, we can fill your digital marketing funnel. We can help you do your own social media marketing better or do it for you with our community managers, strategists, and account executives. You can request a FREE introductory meeting or sign up for my email newsletter to learn more about social media marketing.