3 Steps to Optimization this Holiday Season

It may seem too soon to be discussing the holidays, but we all know what’s looming on the horizon in a few months. Last November, I wrote a newsletter to explain how Tag Management was your gateway to avoiding the holiday code freeze (read it HERE). I want to revisit that topic this month since it ties nicely with a webinar I am presenting with Maxymiser on August 5th (you can still sign up HERE!) and provide a few steps you can take to ensure you get the most ROI out of your digital presence this year. Hopefully, with any luck, you’ll be able to apply a few of these ideas and build out a testing plan for Q4 that can generate ROI for your business.
I completely understand the pressure: you never want to be the online retailer whose site crashes the day after Thanksgiving, just like you don’t want to be the next company that has to announce a data breach. These are stigmas that not only cost the company significant money, but they also cost people their jobs. The last thing your IT department wants to hear in Q4 is how you’d like to make a variety of changes to the website. Let’s face it, you had to fight just to convince them that it was OK to put Tag Management near the top of the page.
However, there are exceptions to every rule and in this case there are a few key steps you can take to gain clearance for some of those tests you were hoping to run on your website this winter.  
Hit Them Where It Hurts
Your business has competition and that competition is going to come out with a variety of ads, offers, and incentives that might be putting your business plan to shame. Your site having 100% uptime in Q4 doesn’t really matter if people are going elsewhere because there are better deals. This becomes your contingency plan.  
A well-placed test, or a well-targeted call-to-action on your site can be a very powerful tool for you this holiday season. Work with your executives to build in “placeholder tests” for some of the visual elements of your site on key landing pages. You can even set up some simple targeting along the lines of “if the visitor comes from X, show version Y of the call to action.” The work behind a test like this is minimal, with most of the time spent building the creative, and typically if you put these in the plan ahead of the freeze, you’ll be in the clear.
Not All Tests Are Created Equal
When we work with clients to advance or build an optimization program, the goal is to generate a balance across the types of tests slated in the pipeline. For example, you’ll want to evaluate some of the following characteristics:
  • Does the test involve a critical path (checkout, booking funnel, etc.)?
  • Does the test require creative development?
  • How much coding or customization is required for the test?
  • How many elements are being altered (A/B vs. MVT)?
At Stratigent, we have compiled an entire methodology for helping our clients triage tests to ensure that experiments are running continuously throughout the year while using a more formal approach to the example above. The point being, now is your time to work with executive leadership and IT to get certain types of experiments approved for Q4.
Sure, there is likely no chance at all for you to try different versions of your booking funnel during the holidays but working with non-critical pages and keeping the coding/customization to a minimum is something you can definitely make happen. Also, let’s not forget that if you’re using Tag Management and already have your optimization platform deployed on the site via TMS, then you’re not going to be making any code adjustments on the pages anyways for the tests you design since it will all be managed by those two technologies and their respective UIs.
On The Outside Looking In
If your organization simply won’t budge, thus leaving you with a powerful optimization tool collecting dust throughout Q4, then this option is for you. While you can’t attempt to optimize the customer journey once they have arrived on your owned channels (Web and Mobile), you can leverage experiments in your other channels to drive results up. Email, Social, PPC, 3rd Party Ads, and any of your other reach or acquisition channel should become the focal point for experimentation and action.
Social is the easiest way these days to combat your competitor messaging and try to reach new customers for your business -  and the ability to measure the impact is as simple as building a campaign measurement strategy for your business. You can also build different A/B tests in your email platform to measure the impact of various calls-to-action and offers while using that same campaign measurement strategy. We are currently working with several clients on the above, as well as plans for their PPC and Advertising in Q4 that will allow them to try different things to generate results. The point is: the code freeze doesn’t preclude you from optimizing and measuring the impact of changes across your external investments.
Whenever you try to build an effective personalization program, you’re going to have to overcome hurdles. There is always a way to strategically design a testing plan that will give you some leeway post-code freeze and hopefully some of the concepts in this newsletter have been enlightening for you. If you’d like to discuss some of these options further or learn more about my Optimization SWAT Team here at Stratigent, please leave a comment below or reach out to me directly!
By Bill Bruno
About the Author:

Bill Bruno is the CEO - North America, Ebiquity.

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