Using Message Testing to Optimize Your Online Shopping Experience

6 Min Read Learn how to close more sales by using message testing to make sure your store is speaking directly to customer needs, challenges, and goals.

Written by UserInput Team
Last Updated: June 2023

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When looking to streamline and optimize the customer’s digital experience, it’s pretty common for UX to take center stage.

And, well…that does make sense.

(After all, your website needs to be functional, structurally sound, and user-friendly for your online customers to actually do business with you.)

But it’s not the only part of the equation.

In addition to optimizing the usability of your website, you also need to know you’re sending the right messages to your audience throughout their on-site experience — and beyond. Without this crucial step, even the most user-friendly of websites will fail to engage and convert their visitors.

This is where message testing comes in.

What is Message Testing?

Message testing is the process of assessing the effectiveness and impact of the messaging behind a given marketing asset.

Two important things to clarify here:

Firstly, messaging is not synonymous with positioning. While positioning refers to your brand’s overarching message, mission, and vision, messaging focuses on the literal messages communicated within your various marketing assets.

Secondly, messaging deals not just with word usage, but in using all parts of a given asset to communicate a specific message to your audience. We’ll get deeper into this in a bit.

That said, it’s these individual messages that are often the gateway to the more immersive and memorable experiences your brand has to offer — and it’s vital to keep this in mind throughout your message testing initiatives.

Why is Message Testing Important?

Okay, so you probably don’t need to be convinced of the importance of testing in marketing, overall.

Still, let’s quickly go over the key reasons intentional and strategic message testing is critical to your company’s success.

Identify What Works and What Doesn’t — and Make the Right Changes

Most obviously, message testing makes crystal clear what messages work to attract and engage your target audience — and which ones don’t.

Even if your analysis stops at “Version A works better than Version B”, you’ll still be leagues ahead of competing brands that take a more guesswork-heavy approach to marketing.

Message testing also helps you break down individual messages and assets to determine what parts of it did or did not work as you’d expected. Instead of chalking an entire asset up as a success or failure, you’ll be able to make more targeted improvements to each message you promote to your audience.

A cohesive analysis of your collective message tests allows you to make more uniform improvements to your overall approach to messaging. These more deep-seated changes simply would not be possible with a surface-level, isolated approach to message testing.

Understand Customer Expectations, Sentiment, and Triggers

While there’s certainly more to fully understanding your customers than message testing, how they respond to your communications is a pretty big piece of the puzzle.

Strategic, in-depth message testing gives you clear insight into your customer in areas such as:

  • Their expectations of your company as a provider
  • Their sentiment toward and perspective of your brand
  • Their behavioral triggers at different touchpoints

Again, it goes beyond “what does and doesn’t work”, and instead focuses on what worked, for this customer, at this moment — and why. With this more contextual information in hand, you’ll be better equipped to always deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time.

Improve Your Bottom Line

While comprehensive message testing may be an investment, it can bring tons of value to your business in return.

For one, more effective messaging means more engaged and converting customers…which is always the name of the game, right?

Moreover, as you streamline your message testing and improvement workflows, you’ll decrease the amount of time, money, and other resources needed to make it all happen. So, you’ll not only be converting more and more customers over time — but spending much less in the process.

What Does Message Testing Test For?

As mentioned, there’s more to message testing than black-and-white, yes/no assessments.

To some degree, message tests typically consider the following factors.

Value and Impact

Every one of your brand’s messages should provide value to your audience and impact their experience with your brand in some meaningful way.

Of course, not every message will have the same impact — nor should they.


Understanding the degree to which each of your messages impacts your customers’ actions and decisions is essential to your future efforts to improve.


All brand messaging should be relevant to the situation at hand.

Here, you’ll be assessing your message for things like voice, tone, and delivery — with “appropriate” being the main goal. This means considering not just the context of the customer touchpoint, but the global context of the times, as well.

You’ll also assess the relevance of your offer — again, along with the delivery of said offer. This alignment is much needed when it comes to prompting action from your engaged audience members.


You’ll also test for consistency, both within individual messages and throughout overall marketing initiatives.

Basically, your messaging should both set and meet your audience’s expectations, again in terms of voice, tone, delivery, and offer.

In short, your messaging should always be on-brand.

Though your voice (& etc.) will fluctuate in different circumstances, your messaging should contain threads of consistency, making it immediately recognizable as your messaging.

Clarity and Focus

You need to know that your messages are being received and understood exactly as you’d intended.

This is especially important when assessing more creative assets, as you need to ensure the message is clear and practical — and is never overshadowed by quirkiness or clever copy. When in doubt of where the balance lies, err on the side of clarity.


Every message you send out is meant for your audience to take some kind of action.

Even if the asset piques your audience’s interest, you also need to know whether it got them to do what you’d hoped, such as:

  • Checkin out a new blog post
  • Signing up for your newsletter
  • Making their first (or next) purchase

3 Core Message Testing Methods

Now, let’s look at the three overarching methods brands commonly use to test their messaging.

Direct Audience Engagement

In many cases, the best way to gauge the impact your messaging has on your audience is to hear what they have to say about it.

There are a number of ways you can do this, including:

  • Assessing relevant feedback provided directly to your company, and via third-party platforms
  • Surveying your customers with regard to your brand messaging
  • Engaging with customers candidly — analyzing their comments using the lenses discussed above

Simulated Message Testing

You can also test your messages against a simulated audience, using methods such as:

  • Voluntary polls
  • Focus groups
  • Automated services (e.g., Wynter, blank

With simulated testing, you’ll have more control over who to target, and what messages to focus on. However, results may not be 100% authentic when collected in a test-like environment.

Authentic Message Testing

Finally, you’ll want to analyze the effectiveness of your messaging in real-world settings and environments.

Key approaches and tools to use here include:

You can then follow up any interesting findings with more direct engagement with your audience.


Keys to Effective Message Testing

A solid and strategic approach is necessary to ensure your message tests yield useful, valuable results.

This means adhering to the following best practices:

Prioritize Impactful Messages

As you get your message tests up and running, you want to focus on the messages that are most impactful to your customers’ experience with your brand — and to your bottom line.

Yes, you’ll eventually work through all of your messaging (and revisit it all time and time again).

But optimizing the messaging surrounding your most critical touchpoints (e.g., your sales copy, onboarding correspondences, and calls-to-action) will have a much greater impact on your CX than, say, making slight changes to the copy on your About Us page.

(Still, make sure these less-than-critical assets get their fair share of attention at some point.)

Define the Message’s Purpose

When assessing a given asset or message, make sure you understand its purpose with clarity.

Really, your messages have two key purposes:

Its customer-facing purpose, and its business purpose.

On the customer’s end, the goal is to attract and engage customers by educating them, entertaining them, or otherwise providing value to them. Your messaging should make clear that diving deeper with your brand will be 100% worth it for your audience.

Internally, your goal is to get your audience interested enough to take “the next step” with your brand. Again, whether it’s joining your mailing list, making a purchase, creating user-generated content — or something else completely — make sure you’ve defined your goals before you start testing.

Define Your Audience

Not all of your messages are meant for your entire audience.

When testing individual messaging, identify who you’re looking to target — that is, who you’re optimizing the message for.

Of course, if you’re focusing on a given audience segment, you should only refer to data from this segment when testing and improving your messaging. Similarly, give volunteer respondents enough information about the initiative to self-select (and self-exclude) themselves as appropriate.

If you’re focusing on your audience as a whole, make sure your data is representative of all defined customer segments. This will help you avoid bias and develop a more rounded understanding of your audience as a whole.

Use Multiple Testing Methods

As we discussed, there are a number of ways to conduct message testing in different situations.

And you should make proper use of all of them. In fact, you’ll likely want to use a combination — and even a continuum — of methods in certain circumstances.

For example, you might identify an anomaly in your site analytics data that requires closer inspection. From there, you check your heatmaps and notice that your site visitors aren’t engaging with one of your main mailing list forms. In turn, you can develop surveys, set up A/B tests, and otherwise engage with your audience to get more insight into the issue — and what specific improvements to make moving forward.

To be sure, there is no silver bullet when it comes to message testing — but running multiple tests on a single asset will give you the comprehensive information you need to to make both immediate and long-term improvements to your brand messaging.

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