Multivariate Testing: 7 Step Guide for Performance Marketers

In today’s highly saturated content landscape, a performance marketing strategy that involves running one or two ad creatives at a time simply won’t cut it. The digital realm is more crowded than ever before. Platforms eased the barriers to entry for competitors of all sizes and audiences are increasingly dispersed. 

As a performance marketer, you need to simultaneously solve for increasing competition from industry rivals and decreasing attention spans from your target audiences. To effectively reach your audience and drive them to act, you must continuously publish platform- and placement-specific creatives that resonate. 

Playing the performance game can sometimes frustratingly feel like random experimentation to see what sticks. But revamping your performance marketing with a strategic approach can turn trial and error into methodical testing. We’ll show you how a targeted testing approach to performance marketing will surface creative learnings while driving your KPIs.

Here’s a step-by-step process for multivariate testing, showing how you can generate and affordably execute a performance testing plan to zero in on the creative variables that work best for your brand.

Audiences on Performance Channels are Evolving

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of performance marketing testing plans, let’s take a high-level view of the value a testing approach offers in today’s content landscape. 

2020 was predicted to be a major year for digital content consumption, but the coronavirus pandemic catalyzed the anticipated trends and blew them through the roof. As social distancing sent all of us indoors and online, consumers flocked to social media platforms and CTV/OTT in search of information, connection, and entertainment.

Much of our lives have been reordered, and the advertising landscape is no exception. As social media became the default community space, marketers gained access to larger and more diverse audiences via performance channels than ever before. Traditionally tricky to target demos like Gen X and Baby Boomers are now consuming (and creating!) video online in large numbers.

These marketing trends are expected to last—even after the coronavirus pandemic is contained. Performance channels will continue to give advertisers access to a massive, demographically diverse audience that is video-fluent.

Diversifying Your Performance Marketing Strategy

It’s evident by now that the vast majority of consumers can be found on performance channels. However, because of the proliferation of an increasingly diverse set of platforms, effectively reaching your targets has become more challenging. 

Some users are platform-loyal. For example, according to TikTok, 1 in 4 users cannot be found on any other platform. Advertisers wanting to reach targeted audiences that overlap with TikTok’s core demographics will want to ensure that they have a visible presence on the platform.

But the vast majority of consumers are scattered across a number of platforms. Marketers must keep in mind that users seek different experiences from platform to platform. 

A person is usually not looking for the same kind of content on Pinterest as they are on Facebook, for example. Similarly, Hulu offers subscribers unique value (high-gloss content produced by major studios) that is markedly different from YouTube’s offerings (content made by independent creators).

Diversification is the name of the game if you want to make an impact with your performance marketing. In order to consistently reach your target audiences, you need to diversify not only the platforms you advertise on but also the video content you create. Each creative must feel like a native video advertisement, delivering the experience users are expecting within each platform’s hallmark environment.

This is all starting to sound very expensive, isn’t it? It really doesn’t have to be.

With thorough pre-production planning and a clear testing strategy, you can maximize your budget and generate dozens of platform- and placement-specific iterative video assets in a matter of weeks.

Need help making videos? See how our video production platform can help your business.

How to Plan and Execute a Performance Marketing Multivariate Testing Plan

Step 1: Identify Your Goals

Computer open to a performance marketing playbook, which depicts key information you need to identify about the scope of your campaign at the start.
Fully understanding the scope of your campaign at the top is key to ensuring you address all factors in your performance testing plan.

At the top of your campaign, you want to identify all of the different factors that will influence your creative concepting and the cost of video production. The more specific and organized you are at the beginning, the more likely you are to stay on track and on budget.

Things to specify include:

  • KPIs
  • Target audiences
  • Platforms you plan to run on 
  • Placements you intend to purchase (which will dictate video ad specs)
  • Learnings you want to generate

Your creative direction will be heavily influenced by these factors, so be thorough in your pre-production planning.

Step 2: Gather Historical Learnings

The next step in multivariate campaign testing is to take a look at your historical creative performance and identify top-performing and low-performing creative. See if you can identify commonalities amongst both sets of creatives.

You don’t need to have run video before in order to generate learnings—looking at the performance of still image assets will also surface insight.  

Having a robust understanding of your brand’s historical performance ensures that you’re not starting from scratch when structuring your testing plan. Take what’s worked for your brand in the past, and use that as a foundation for your future campaigns.

Executing your first-ever campaign or don’t have many historical assets to analyze? Focus on your competitors, instead. Do an industry audit to spot patterns and creative trends that seem to be delivering for your competition. Flag standout creative approaches to generate some starting points that you can build on in your own creative concepting.

Step 3: Structure a Testing and Production Plan

A flowchart depicting the structure you need to adopt for your performance marketing testing plan.
Start broad in your plan, focusing first on testing overarching concepts with your various audiences.

Build a multi-month testing plan that identifies several concepts and creative attributes that you’ll methodically test. QuickFrame recommends testing just a couple of concepts at a time and isolating one or two variables in each round. A typical round lasts 1-2 weeks. 

Examples of concepts you may want to test are:

  • Talent vs. No Talent
  • Live Action vs. Animation
  • Customer Testimonial vs. Lifestyle
  • Product Focus vs. Brand Focus

Creative variables/attributes you may be interested in exploring include:

  • Messaging/Value propositions
  • Number of talent
  • Talent look/age/sex
  • Order of shots
  • Inside vs. Outside
  • Location

Once you’ve identified the concepts and variables you are interested in testing, build an exhaustive shot list—this will be the building blocks of the video ads you’ll create for your entire campaign.

RELATED: The 4 Best Video Formats for Performance Marketing

Step 4: Capture Your Footage

3 phones depicting footage from performance marketing video ads, each with a different on-screen talent.
Capture a library of footage in a single shoot to make the most of your budget. If testing various talent, shoot them all the same day.

With concepts and creative variables identified—and a shot list built—you’re ready to head into production. Thorough pre-production planning can maximize your budget. Aim to capture all of the footage you’ll need for the entire multi-month campaign in a single shoot.

Step 5: Launch Your Campaign and Monitor Performance

2 phones depicting two unique performance marketing video ads for the same company. The first video is testing the concept of "Product Focus" while the second is testing the concept of "Testimonial".
Focus on testing creative concepts in your first round to see what resonates most with your various audiences on every platform in your campaign.

After your shoot, edit together your first set of creatives and launch your campaign. In the first round, test broad, focusing on high-level attributes like concept.

Let your creatives run for 1-2 weeks and track platform-specific performance. Identify the winners—these will be carried over into the next round.

Step 6: Iterate

Take the winning creatives from the first round and iterate on them. Using your multivariate testing plan, identify the variables you want to test in the next round. Then, edit your creatives to test for these variables.

Because you captured a library of footage in your initial shoot, you can swap out shots with ease just using post-production editing techniques. Since no additional shoots are required, new assets can be turned around in just 24-48 hours.

Once the next round of creative is ready, publish!

Step 7: Repeat

Each week as you monitor performance, you grow your library of data, learning which creative attributes work best for your brand on every platform. Week by week, test iterative creatives and home in on the concepts and production variables that work best with your audiences.

LAUNCH A MULTIVARIATE TESTING PLAN: Learn more about Performance Marketing with QuickFrame

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