Experimentation is a word used a lot by large brands in terms of creating effective marketing campaigns that ‘speak’ to their audiences, creating high returns and viral branding opportunities – but how can you, as a small business tap into the thinking and approach used by some of these successful strategies?
I recently hosted an insight event, along with representatives from some of the UK’s biggest brands to share their thoughts and insights on Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO). This includes key elements such as: building a lean testing programme, applying testing to business challenges and, the buzzword of the moment, 'personalisation'.
Building a lean testing programme
For the majority of UK brands just starting their testing, obtaining buy-in from stakeholders was key to building a testing programme within their companies. For those brands with more testing experience, the biggest challenge in building this lean programme came with shifting their culture.
We know from experience working on these projects, the key to adopting a testing culture is acknowledging – and leveraging – the focus on short-term testing and validation over long-term planning. A short-term iterative roadmap is far better than a long-term rigid roadmap.
Here at Conversion.com, experimentation is at the heart of everything we do and who we are. We believe that building a lean testing programme and cultivating a testing culture relies on two key factors:
Educating your employees to understand your philosophy on experimentation and its benefits is key; this allows your employees to view experimentation as far more than just the potential value it yields with winning tests.
I believe transparency is the key, not only internally but externally too: for example when sharing experiment results with clients, it’s crucial not just to share what was tested and what the results were, but more importantly why we tested it and what it can teach us about their users.
This means that with every experiment, we learn more about their users, allowing us to refine and improve our testing strategy – while delivering measurable uplift.
Applying testing to business challenges (prioritisation of your testing roadmap)
Strategies for prioritising testing roadmaps vary extensively depending on both the size of the organisations, but also the sector and operational management: almost all the brands we have worked with favour a different approach or primary metric.
A major UK supermarket brand would be very data-driven, they prioritise ease of implementation, lack of organisational friction in getting the test launched, potential impact the test has and the data or evidence supporting the hypothesis.
Other primary metrics included cost impacts, due to one UK brand having a lack of development resource. This meant they favoured the ease of the test as a priority, as it allowed them to test despite this barrier.
In our experience, the data driving a test is most important when prioritising which test to use. This data informs us of the impact that the test is likely to have.
Secondary metrics, such as the ease of building the test and getting sign-off – as well as the other tests and hypotheses we have running in parallel – allow us to see how and when this test fits into our roadmap.
However, it is important to note that prioritisation can be limited. There are finite swim lanes to test and finite resources, meaning prioritisation and planning have to be coherent.
Understanding that testing roadmaps have to be flexible and adaptive is vital. This allows us to easily change our roadmap according to the performance of previous tests and as our understanding of users improves.
Personalisation is the buzzword of the moment in CRO! It’s not surprising, therefore, that many of the large brands we work with have actually banned the terminology altogether when developing conversion campaigns – instead opting towards creating more relevant customer experiences and concentrating on more targeted journeys.
Despite this being a highly topical subject, many of the organisations we have worked with have been at an early stage in their personalisation journey.
The most critical element they believe is always starting simple, and beginning to launch tests live in order to gain momentum. However, we believe that this could increase the risk of companies starting personalisation too early and as a result, missing valuable opportunities for increasing their conversion rate with all-audience A/B testing.
With personalisation being such a hot topic, it is critical that companies take the time to integrate this into their wider digital strategies as opposed to implementing it without consideration for other key areas of CRO.
Personalisation can be viewed slightly differently - as optimising conversion by increasing the relevance of experiences for specific audiences.
Although personalisation is a great and exciting new opportunity to test, we believe it is imperative to successfully assess when to start personalisation. By its nature, it forces you to focus on a subset of users, potentially diminishing the impact of experiments as well as complicating future all-audience experiments.
What we’d recommend is that you build your experimentation strategy on a series of carefully placed tester tactics that will give you an effective picture of what works, and more critically, what doesn’t.
Here are our key takeaways:
- Education of CRO needs to be highly regarded within SME businesses in order to promote a shift in testing culture, this needs to come right from the top and all the way down internally.
- Share your ideas and progress with the team - visibility of testing programmes via sharing of content allows employees to understand the value of testing past just the potential value of winning tests, and in essence, then reflect this information back to your customers and prospects as ‘added value’
- Plan – but loosely - Roadmaps should be as flexible and adaptive to allow for test and learn iterations to occur.
- Personalisation should be undertaken when its potential overtakes all-audience testing and should integrate with – rather than replace – typical A/B testing for CRO.
About Stephen Pavlovich
Stephen has become one of the most well-known CRO influencers thanks to his many client successes and industry insights achieved through Conversion. He remains client-focused and is often found working with the team in client strategy sessions and brainstorms.