Just ignore what they say

What customers say they like and how they behave are not the same thing. Don’t always trust what you are told, use data and real insights to drive decisions that have major commercial implications.

So there was a skyscraper, banner and numerous MPUs across the website.  A survey panel was set up and the results came back.  The agency briefed the team, “Your customers really don’t like all the ads you have on the page”.  The message was reiterated in focus groups.  Ditch the ads.  This would be a painful decision, despite customer’s not liking them they were still delivering reasonable revenue.

The organisation was striving to be more customer-centric; if the advertisements were degrading the customer experience then removing them would be a price worth paying.  And so they were switched off.

The result?  Nothing.  Except lost revenue.  Analysing the data, customer volumes remained the same.  There was no difference in the successful completion of customer goals.  Switching the ads off had no impact on customer behaviour on the site; when asked customers said they didn’t like them, but what they said and what they did were different things.

The moral: if you are going to use emotion and what customers say to make commercial decisions, consider A/B testing with real data before making wholesale changes.


  1. Prashant · Monday, 7 December, 2009

    Wow. you are fast becoming the master of acronyms and lingospeak. It would help if you could explain what you mean by skyscrapers, banners and MPUs. Also, what is A/B testing ?

    Back to the main story then – surely better customer experience takes time to bed in and before people can start talking about it. When was the data post implementation collected ? Immediately or after a gestation period ? That might explain the story better.

  2. Pablo · Wednesday, 23 December, 2009

    I believe what you say is generally true. It’s like when a person orders a new car or house and says, “I need this option and that kind of space and……”. Then, when they have to pay for it, all of a sudden many of the “must haves” turn into “not necessary”.

    To the previous poster, skyscraper, banners and MPUs are types of advertising on websites. It should be fairly obvious from the article what these were referring to. A/B testing is the process of testing multiple scenarios and analyzing results. A quick Google search would help further define these for you.

    Back to the main story then – I always enjoy reading a study on human psychology as it pertains to marketing. Thank you!

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