Three Levels of Optimization Maturity

When it comes to building an optimization program, it's very easy to get overwhelmed with the process. Let's face it, the idea of convincing your organization to let you adjust content on a site in real-time is daunting enough, let along putting your neck out there to add value with every test. With each test being an investment in people, process, technology, and content there is an inherent pressure to produce results.
Not all tests win, yet you can learn from every single test you run. That's the messaging, but proving that messaging is very difficult for organizations just trying to get the program off the ground. For that reason, we preach a "crawl, walk, run" approach when building an optimization program from the ground up.  
We aren't the first strategic advisor to preach that you start simple. But, what does that mean exactly? For us, it means to triage your tests and create a balance across the type of test, content/design needs, and location of the test.
You don't want your first test to be on a critical path (purchase funnel, booking process, etc.) and you don't want to front-load your tests such that it requires creative development every, single time. The purpose of the "crawl" phase is to ensure you have a test running at all times and that you are producing analysis and next-steps to keep the momentum for the program building each time a test completes.  You can't do that by building complex tests that require all hands on deck at the onset.
Recommendation: Have your first 5-6 tests focused on key landing pages with largely style and content changes (to avoid creative design and development). Complete a mix of A/B and MVT in order to educate the organization on the differences between each. Use a portal or internal system to allow people in your organization to view the results and even submit test ideas for consideration.
The true path to value in optimization is content targeting and segmentation. However, you don't have to get crazy with it to add value. For example, you could target off of customers that have three different traits or behaviors -- or you could simply start by targeting on people that come from an email, PPC, or social campaign.
The goal of targeting is to create a consistent message that resonates with your customers and meets the expectations they have upon arriving to the site. The easiest way to have an impact on that is to focus on the messaging they have seen from one of your many marketing initiatives and ensuring that message carries through to your owned channels.
Recommendation: Launch a few A/B and MVT throughout the critical paths on your site, but keep them simple and ensure you have QA'd them appropriately. Select a few campaigns for the targeting piece that are easy to identify (either by a URL parameter on the landing page or a cookie).  
The "run" phase is basically where all of your wildest optimization dreams can come true. Across the prior two phases, you have been able to create the right process and governance for your program while also exhibiting the organization's ability to not only execute all types of experiments, in addition to analyzing the results and sharing those with the organization.
The "run" phase is all about real-time personalization, while continuing to do all of the things outlined in the prior phases. For example, you still want to have an experiment running at all times and need to ensure the correct level of triage for the testing plan. Real-time personalization is best managed from combining other datasets with your digital data. This tends to be a major hang-up for customers, as they very quickly want to integrate ALL the data.
Recommendation: Focus on CRM attributes or another dataset such as a loyalty database.  Initially, spend time identifying key pieces of that data that could help you make better content decisions for your customers. Bring those KPIs together with your digital data in real-time to build a POC for the integration using a server-side injection into your strategic data layer or an API/Web Service integration with your website. Once you've made this connection and have POC'd it within a DEV environment, the fun can begin!
At Stratigent, the Marketing Performance Optimization division of Ebiquity – North America, we currently work with over 100 organizations to help them build a program that is focused around the customer and improving the experience each has with your brand regardless of channel. Here are a variety of recent posts from the team that you might find helpful that expand upon my newsletter and I’d also highly recommend you attend our upcoming webinar with Celebrus to better learn how to harness the data you are collecting across device and channel:
Have you reached optimization maturity? To find out how you can build your program, contact us at 
By Bill Bruno
About the Author:

Bill Bruno is the CEO - North America, Ebiquity.

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