Enterprise-level Site Testing and Optimization: 3 Tips to Drive Internal Adoption

Testing and optimization has been a hot topic in the search marketing space over the last several years. What’s not to love about a statistically sound methodology for testing content and functionality that leads to greater revenue? But, interest is one thing; creating and adopting an optimization plan is another. Too often tests become one-offs, or test marginal ideas and contribute little to the long-term success of the business. What’s needed is a dedicated focus, real objectives, and a commitment of resources to develop a continuous optimization approach.

Key takeaway: An optimization program takes time and focus. Start by proving value and build toward scalable and sustainable optimization by setting real business goals and getting buy-in from stakeholders – especially analysts, marketers and technology teams – to ensure your tests become indispensable to continuing improvement in digital channels.

1) Get Enough Resources Early

Optimization programs require many resources: project manager, analyst, strategist, designer, developer/technical resource, and multiple internal stakeholders that are responsible for the area you are trying to optimize. While each role is vital to the testing process, there are two areas that seem to present the biggest hurdles:

  1. Analysts–The foundation of optimization is data. Who better than your analysts to be directly involved in your optimization process? However, testing is often considered part-time work and given low priority. This lack of analytics support is a problem because it takes ongoing deep understanding of the data to find the best test areas. Analysts are also a big part of interpreting test results. Without these key players, the stakeholders can be left to their own devices, which can lead to weak (and low value) test choices. The poor results often kill an optimization program before its time.
  2. Developer/Technical Resource–No matter how good the strategy, tests can’t go live without the help of your development/technical team. These teams are often strapped for time and can be expensive to work with. Similar to the analyst role, testing is often considered a secondary priority for your development/technical team.

Analysts and developers should be able to dedicate time to the Optimization team. They should also be trained to understand how testing works and why it’s important. This will not only help them collaborate on the strategy side, but makes them part of the team and therefore, part of the success.

2) Gain Senior Buy-in to Allocate Budget

We’ve established why successful testing programs require dedicated resources, but how do we get the budget to support them? The answer is through internal buy-in:

  • Make Senior management aware of what optimization can do
    • The best way to get people excited about optimization is to make them understand that testing is a way to help them achieve their goals. Set meetings with different groups and come prepared with data-driven optimization areas and business cases with potential outcomes.
    • Educate stakeholders on how testing works and the benefits they can receive from A/B, multivariate testing and dynamic targeting. Testing should be about collaboration, and providing the foundation to give each team the tools to evaluate test options.
  • Do the numbers – before and after
    • Compare the results of your tests to the predictions (be honest!). Show the impact the tests had on the business results that managers care about, and ‘syndicate’ that learning so test results can be duplicated elsewhere.
    • Let the natural competitiveness of the team come through. When one manager hits targets using optimization programs, other managers will pay attention and want access to the team to get the results for themselves.
  • Add a little fun for the team
    • Set up an internal voting platform that makes testing a participative process. It’s fun to see which version of a test people think will win then show them which version caused a lift in performance. Most times the two won’t match up, but in the meantime the team will be learning while having fun.

3) Never Take Your Eye Off the Real Prize – Your Business Targets

Testing can be applied across all types of web site interaction, but it is generally easier for ecommerce sites to adopt optimization programs. Don’t despair, however, if your site’s main KPIs are around goals such as lead generation. The best way to get great results is to test smart – keep your eye on the prize.

  1. While evaluating areas of a site for optimization, start with team-incentivized areas. If that is revenue then start as close to the bottom of the ecommerce funnel as possible; if it’s generating sales leads, work with the forms and calls-to-action resulting in the right type of incoming leads, then work your way ‘up the funnel’ as results improve.
  2. Consider how hard it would be to expand the test to your entire site. If there’s an overwhelming technical barrier to an obvious area for improvement, do something else now and set the wheels in motion to remove the barriers.
  3. Don’t boil the ocean with overly complex tests at first. Instead of testing a completely different shopping funnel, test the weakest step.
  4. Stay data-driven. You will inevitably receive a lot of testing requests. Before you start drawing up test plans, make sure you vet these ideas with data. While it might seems like a good idea at first, understanding the impact will help prioritize what’s most important. Show the managers what the potential impact of a test is and they’ll follow your advice about prioritization; show them the risks and technical barriers to syndicating results and they’ll thank you for saving them frustration down the road.

An optimization program cannot be built over night. It will take alignment of resources, internal buy-in and real results to get everyone on board. Luckily, agency partners that specialize in testing can get you there faster, with a bigger impact on your bottom-line due to the following advantages:

  • Dedicated resources for each stage that specialize in testing
  • Experience with multiple industries that use a variety of KPIs
  • Established processes for engagement, prioritization, creative and reporting
  • Platforms for test voting and interaction
  • Flexibility to run the whole or part of the testing program

For more information on how you can create or grow your own optimization program, contact Acronym at BeBrilliant@acronym.com.