Applying the Scientific Method to Ecommerce Marketing

Using a process derived from the scientific method, ecommerce marketers may be able to make their ads and other promotions more effective, increasing return on advertising spend and encouraging growth.

The scientific method is a process to help researchers learn the truth. It relies on observation, asking questions, creating a hypothesis, experimentation, analysis, and refinement. Adopting some of the scientific method’s steps can help to improve ecommerce marketing.

A marketing process akin to the scientific method should help ecommerce marketers increase ad and promotion effectiveness.

A marketing process akin to the scientific method should help ecommerce marketers increase ad and promotion effectiveness.

Start With Problems and Questions

In a sense, ecommerce marketing is really about solving problems or meeting challenges.

You open a new online store, but you don’t have many customers. That’s a problem. Or you have an established ecommerce shop but your average order value is low. That’s a problem.

The scientific method starts with observing some phenomenon and asking questions about it. So try this with your ecommerce marketing problems. If you don’t have many customers, ask, “How do I attract shoppers to my store?”

Then try to make your question more specific. How do I attract shoppers to my store without buying ads? How do I attract shoppers to my store this month? How do I attract male shoppers to my store?

Develop an Hypothesis

Once you have a question, try to answer it.

You may start with what scientists call a working hypothesis, which is really a guess meant to help get you started with research. You read some articles, you ask questions in forums, or you make contact with a marketing professional on Twitter.

You learn how others have answered similar questions and eventually you develop a highly probable solution of your own.

If your question is, “how do I attract shoppers to my store without buying ads?,” you may develop a hypothesis that content marketing will, over time, attract potential customers.

Similarly, if your question is “how do I attract shoppers to my store this month?,” you may have decided that Facebook ads are the solution.

Come up with what you believe is the best answer to your question.

Test Your Hypothesis

Once a scientist has developed a hypothesis, he will design a series of experiments meant to test that hypothesis. Think of it this way: An experiment is a process that you design specifically to learn if you’re right or wrong.

So if your question was “how do I attract shoppers to my store this month?” and your hypothesis is that Facebook ads are the best solution, develop an experiment, or likely a series of experiments, to put Facebook ads to the test.

You may want to (a) create ads for specific products or brands, (b) test different sorts of product and lifestyle photography, or, perhaps, (c) test your ad copy.

Analyze Your Test Results

Scientists carefully review the results of their experiments. Ultimately, the aim is to either accept or reject your hypothesis. Were you right about Facebook ads?

Your analysis may lead to additional questions. This, too, is part of the process. The important thing is to genuinely look at how your marketing experiments turned out, draw some conclusions from those results, and take what you learned with you to the next step of the process.

Refine Your Hypothesis or Question

Perhaps your Facebook ad or content marketing or social media campaign did not turn out exactly as your hypothesis predicted. Nonetheless, you may have learned something that you can use to make your marketing more effective.

For example, perhaps, you learned that a Facebook ad brought lots of traffic, but not a lot of conversions. This didn’t make you very happy. So go back and adjust your question. Instead of asking how you can attract more shoppers this month, ask, “how do I make more sales this month?” or better still “how do I increase profit 20 percent this month?”

The idea is simply to take what you learned and return to either your hypothesis or question. Improve it, refine it, and begin to develop new ecommerce marketing experiments. You’ll be done with the process when you have effective marketing tactics that can answer your question repeatedly.

Don’t Fiddle With Your Results

Your campaigns will be more effective if you begin each of your marketing plans with a question and then develop a hypothesis. From there, experiment, analyze, and refine.

There is one small caveat. Be careful not to fiddle with your results.

Scientists who know what they expect from an experiment can sometimes see a result that doesn’t really exist, or only report data that supports their hypothesis whilst ignoring evidence to the contrary. In fact, in 2010, The New Yorker published an interesting article about scientific results called “The Truth Wears Off: Is There Something Wrong with the Scientific Method?.” It addresses some of the problems of reporting scientific findings.

The same thing can happen with your marketing experiments. Let the result speak, if you will, for itself.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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