Use indirect data for experimentation

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This article is part of The Optimization Methodology series.

Indirect data is industry expertise about your market and site experience. Although organizations often do not think of indirect data as business intelligence, this data can provide valuable insights for ideation. By contrast, direct data tells you about a problem or opportunity to optimize your site experience.

Use indirect data to contextualize insights from your direct data so you can create strong hypotheses and a robust optimization roadmap.

For example, your web analytics (direct data) reveal a high exit rate from your sales funnel. Based on best practices from an industry blog (indirect data), you might test whether extra links on the page distract your customers from completing the purchase. Indirect data helps make your direct data actionable.

Below are the most common sources of indirect data. Add these data sources to your business intelligence report. You do not need to consult all of these sources equally. Use this list to understand how different data streams can inform you about how your visitors behave. 

Indirect data can be subjective. Strategies that work for one company do not always work for another, but they can provide a higher-level view of the customer experience on your site.

Competitor sites

Used in moderation, a competitive analysis can show you ways to optimize your site. Assess your competitors’ sites to understand the market space and generate hypotheses for experiments and campaigns. Evaluate what messaging they use and if they prefer a certain value proposition or conversion mechanism.

Compare the most important pages on your site to those on your competitor’s site, and identify opportunities to test different experiences or personalize for certain audience segments. You can use third-party tools like EyeQuant or UserTesting for your analysis and compare them to reports on your site.

If your web analytics show declining mobile conversion rates, compare your mobile experience with a competitor’s. Explore opportunities to have a better device-based experience.

Best-in-class experiences

Experiences delivered by companies in other verticals can help inspire you on how to optimize your site experience. Look at how companies like Amazon and Target facilitate a superior shopping experience or how Netflix presents choices to visitors.

Use your analytics to search for best-in-class experiences for ideation. Themes can help you focus your efforts, such as the best way to introduce your brand or the easiest way to sign up for something.

Blogs and webinars

Blogs and webinars often have information on source hypotheses and best practices from experts specializing in experience optimization, marketing, A/B testing, and your industry vertical.

Use Optimizely’s blog or Optimizely Experimentation webinars to learn about case studies, industry discussions, and testing ideas. Industry leaders such as Avinash Kaushik write extensively about best (and worst) practices in web analytics.

Consult these resources when designing experiments, performing usability testing, or conducting a competitive review. Use themes to focus your research by searching for terms like examples of ecommerce filter UX or ecommerce best practices.

User groups

Many professionals share knowledge at conferences such as MozCon or Opticon or online communities like the Optiverse. Look for case studies your program can emulate or trends that help your team brainstorm strategies. Use these insights in your intelligence report for your team and reference them regularly.

Academic literature

Academic studies and long-form writing about your industry and experience optimization can help build deeper expertise and provide a broader context for ideation.

These resources provide a foundation for experimentation teams: