When it comes to marketing analytics, the executive summary is king. Few decision-makers want a 10-page performance report, or to find themselves in the weeds. Most want the thirty-thousand-foot perspective and the top-line, need-to-know, hyper-efficient and invaluable dashboard—also known as the Executive Summary. There’s nothing wrong with this, time is money after all. However, it’s equally important, for marketing analysts to thrive in the weeds.

A banking industry client deployed our expertise to target potential clients and drive leads. We are constantly split-testing key components of their website to optimize the user experience, as well as increasing application conversion rates and minimizing any semblance of friction through their application funnel.

When viewers visit the bank’s landing page, they’re immediately routed to the site’s landing page where the brand’s positioning is made clear. As a brand, they align themselves well with the aspirational professional comprising their target audience, and the homepage conveyed that well.

One metric prompted an experiment to alter some of this introductory content. The client’s website offered an interactive calculator allowing people to input some of their basic information to get a better idea of the interest rates that could be offered to them upon completion of an online application. We knew the people who interacted with this calculator were much more likely to complete an application compared to people who did not interact with the calculator. 

This test evaluated the hypothesis that site visitors would be more likely to complete an application if the interactive rates calculator was featured more prominently on the homepage. It ran for a few weeks, and then we analyzed the results. As it turned out, featuring the calculator more prominently did not increase the likelihood of prospects completing an application. Not all of our tests are successful, and this one was sent to the archive of failed marketing experiments—an archive that would later be dubbed the “Gray Zebra Sanctuary.” 

The fundamental problem with this experiment was not the test itself, but rather our analysis of the results. All of the prospects participating in the experiment were categorized into two groups: those exposed to the featured calculator vs. those who were unexposed and left to view the existing brand-oriented content undisrupted by a calculator. The problem was these prospects were being viewed from thirty-thousand feet. The valuable potential in this analysis required some work in the weeds.

Six months later we revisited the results of this experiment. This time, we sliced and diced the results, not through the lens of two large groups, but segmented by multiple distinct subgroups. This time, what we found was significant. 

iPhone users converted at a much higher rate without being exposed to the featured calculator, while Android users converted at an even higher rate while exposed to the calculator. Men and women followed a similar and significant dichotomy as well. As it turned out, smaller groups of prospects showed dramatically different behaviors stemming from the one simple variable in this experiment. Each and every one of these findings were valuable and actionable, mainly because we’re able to customize almost every aspect of our digital properties based on the viewer’s attributes.

This once-failed, otherwise unremarkable experiment ultimately returned one of the greatest incremental improvements to the website conversion rate for this client, and it did so because we emphasized an in-the-weeds perspective while analyzing much smaller and more distinctive groupings of visitor personas. 

As an agency, we’ve conducted thousands of both successful and failed website experiments with the goal of uncovering a better approach to converting client prospects. The archive of these completed tests, previously filed away based on the analysis of averages of almost infinitely diverse groups, has now become the aforementioned Gray Zebra Sanctuary.

From thirty thousand feet, a herd of zebras averages to a gray blob. You need to be in the weeds to accurately understand their true appearance. The ability to personalize messaging and imagery is the single greatest advantage of our digital properties, but personalization can’t happen from thirty thousand feet. The effectiveness of personalization is only limited by our ability to draw insights from meaningfully unique persona categories. 

We no longer measure results or draw insights from overarching averages. Our archive of previous marketing experiments evaluated through that lens, our Gray Zebra Sanctuary, has produced hundreds of new personalization opportunities when placed under our new lens of analysis on individual personas.

Today, our drive to uncover and deliver meaningful personalization opportunities spans the entire user journey, from the first ad presented to a prospect, to the welcome email they receive as a new customer and beyond. Honing in on the myriad of personas comprising a greater audience and delivering the best possible experience to those prospects from start to finish has become invaluable; it’s one of the single most effective activities in driving up conversion rates and motivating prospects to become customers. 

Next time you spot a gray zebra, step in for a closer look there’s a wealth of opportunity to uncover.